The news that Jurnee Smollett’s Black Canary is getting her own solo movie on HBO Max means that DC is looking to explore more of the Black Canary lore, independent from her role within the Birds of Prey. Considering the long comic book history between them, that likely means the Green Arrow is set to be introduced. But the movie would be smart to focus more on developing Dinah Lance as a character than in a possible romance between these two iconic characters.
Black Canary, after all, is a character with a lot of history. First appearing in The Flash #86, in 1947, the identity of the Black Canary has been donned by two different superheroines, Dinah Drake and her daughter, Dinah Laurel Lance. Despite her long history, however, the character hasn’t as much development in the way of live-action adaptations as one would expect, with four different actresses playing the role: Danuta Wesley in two NBC’s Legends of Superheroes specials, Rachel Skarsten in the 2002 Birds of Prey TV series, Alaina Huffman in Smallville, and more recently Katie Cassidy on Arrow. Jurnee Smollett is the first to portray the character in a feature film.
Most comic book readers who are familiar with the Black Canary are familiar with her relationship with the Green Arrow. They’re one of the most iconic couples in DC comics, and fans have been clamoring for a live-action version of the couple for years. The cries became even louder after the last live-action version of the characters, in Arrow, strayed very far from the comics, and didn’t even focus on the romance. However, in a movie that’s presumably set to explore Dinah Lance’s backstory and how she became the Black Canary, the smart thing would be to stay far away from exploring a relationship. In fact, the new Black Canary movie doesn’t even truly need to introduce Oliver Queen, and if it does, it doesn’t need to give him a large role. Not yet.
Oliver Queen is, after all, one of those characters who takes up a lot of space. That comes with the persona. Comic-book accurate or not, Oliver Queen got an entire show dedicated to him very recently in Arrow. Stephen Amell’s portrayal, for better or worse, is still very fresh in people’s minds. Black Canary, on the other hand, is still waiting for her time to truly shine on her own.
It’s taken all this time to get a Black Canary movie, and hers is not the only female-led movie DC has in the pipeline. Leslie Grace is set to portray Barbara Gordon in a Batgirl movie, with a Zatanna movie also waiting in the wings. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn has proved popular enough that fans might get to see her again, hopefully in Gotham City Sirens. If these movies do well, it’s likely DC will take another crack at Birds of Prey, this time hopefully featuring the original lineup. And these ladies don’t need, have never needed, a leading man.
Which doesn’t mean Dinah Lance shouldn’t have one. Romance is a big part of her storyline in the comics, and hopefully, the DCEU will continue to grow in a way that allows future movies where the romance can be explored. It just means that her entire story shouldn’t revolve around one. And the beginning of that story, after the character was introduced in an ensemble movie that focused mostly on Harley Quinn, shouldn’t be about someone else.
A Black Canary movie can and should explore Dinah’s family history – perhaps even bring in the original Black Canary, her mother, Dinah Drake. It should certainly spend some time establishing not just her powers, but her training, for people who might not be as familiar with her background. It could, considering this is set after Birds of Prey, bring back Huntress or even provide us with our first glimpse of Barbara Gordon, as a lead up to a possible Birds of Prey 2. But most importantly, it should focus on who Dinah Lance is, what turned her into the character fans first met in Birds of Prey and explore who she wants to be going forward. All the fancy comic book tie ins, all the names’ fans are throwing out, all the possible cameos are great. They’re just not what the movie should be about.
Black Canary is the kind of character who deserves to stand on her own. She’s the kind of character who deserves to be recognized as a role model. For that, the Black Canary movie needs to, first and foremost, focus on her. Forget the possible romance – that’s for another movie down the line. Don’t spend too much time establishing dynamics with established or future team members. The new Black Canary movie needs to be about the Black Canary, not the Green Arrow and certainly not anyone else.