Crimefighting has been natural for the character of Black Canary for over 70 years. Her first appearance, in a 1947 issue of Flash Comics, introduces her as a solely hand-to-hand combatant sans superpowers. Her famous Canary Cry, renowned martial arts expertise, and romantic involvement with Green Arrow all debut at a later date in the character’s history. These three aspects of Black Canary typically remain constant in whichever form her stories are told. One facet of the character, however, that often experiences change is her costume design. Sure, sometimes the classic blue jacket and fishnet-stockings are reimagined for modern iterations. But even redesigns of the classic look often add a new dimension to what’s come before.
The following list will examine and rank 15 of Black Canary’s costume designs from the character’s extensive history in comics, animation, and television. Compared to characters such as Superman or Batman, Black Canary has not been as deeply explored in other time periods — for the purposes of this list, Black Siren of Justice League and Arrow fame is not up for consideration. Therefore, her various appearances are never rendered as wildly outside of the norm. Still, though, the changes that have occurred are worthy of recognition.
15. ALAINA HUFFMAN ON SMALLVILLE
Alaina Huffman dons the fishnets and leather in Black Canary’s first live-action appearance on Smallville. Yes, the fishnets make it past the pages of comics, serving as her only means of protection for her lower-half, save for a pair of leather shorts and black heels. The look is stylish, sure, but calling it impractical is an understatement. Interestingly, this is not the only modern interpretation of Black Canary to feature the fishnets. Thus far, though, it is the sole live-action iteration that has her donning the Golden Age-era feature.
Huffman’s Smallville costume also consists of a black and gold leather jacket. It’s fitting and looks great on screen. Instead of a domino mask disguising her facial features, black paint covers the area around her eyes. All in all, the design is fine. However, it is one example of style getting in the way of functionality.
14. GOLDEN AGE
There is hardly anything quite as special as a character’s first appearance. The same goes for Black Canary’s Flash Comics debut in a Johnny Thunder arc. Initially premiering as a crimefighter disguising herself as a criminal, it wasn’t long before Black Canary received a solo venture of her own. When artist Carmine Infantino first began realizing the character on the page, he went for a strong and sexy look. Without question, he nails the sentiment quite well with Black Canary’s blue and black attire.
Beneath a blue jacket, she wears a black top. The theme of blue continues to both her pants and her boots, the former of which are covered in black fishnets. Black Canary’s Golden Age design is simple, yet it works. What’s fascinating is that the core aspects of her costume never get too much fancier than this. She was truly ahead of her time.
13. DC SHOWCASE: GREEN ARROW
Black Canary didn’t receive a DC Showcase short of her own, but she does have an integral part in Green Arrow’s short. The character only features in the last couple of minutes of the Showcase. During this amount of time she makes quite the impact. Black Canary saves the day with her signature Canary Cry and accepts Oliver’s marriage proposal. She does all while suited up, wearing a black leather jacket, a gray leotard, and boots.
Not too dissimilar from other costume designs for the character, this version of her is pretty simple. From the looks of it, anyone could dress up as Black Canary and begin crimefighting. Undoubtedly, this is but one reason why the character remains so appealing. However, the simplicity also accounts for the DC Showcase design appearing low on this list; nothing stands out. When considering all Black Canary designs, this probably won’t be favorably remembered.
12. INJUSTICE 2
Injustice 2 allows players to equip their favorite DC combatants with whatever attire they choose thanks to the Gear System. Each character still has a default look, though, the design they don in the story mode and in marketing material. Black Canary’s default costume does not stray too far from the character’s normal design. In fact, it is somewhat hard to believe more didn’t come out of her NetherRealm makeover. Where the studio usually over-armors DC characters or gives them a costume befitting the world of Mortal Kombat, Black Canary’s design is rather tame.
A black and gold leather jacket and top covers her torso, as her lower-half is covered in a fishnet/leather-pant combination of sorts. Boots and fingerless gloves round out the martial artist’s basic Injustice 2 costume. The design doesn’t particularly push the envelope, yet it isn’t bad for Black Canary’s video game debut.
11. BATGIRL AND THE BIRDS OF PREY
DC Rebirth continues to bring in a slew of changes to modern DC continuity. With the advent of Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, Black Canary’s costume is shown to have undergone an update as well. Her design in this comic run pushes things in a fresh direction, while simultaneously paying homage to past appearances.
The fishnet-stockings return in full force and are complimented by a blue corset-like top and a black leather jacket. There’s nothing wrong with the design, per se. However, the look is arguably more befitting a Halloween party and less so a night of crimefighting. This notion is accentuated by her jacket and the belt she wears over her shorts bearing studs. When compared side-by-side with the costumes Batgirl and Huntress don, this Black Canary attire appears out of place. As always, though, the character proves she can fight crime in anything.
10. BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD
An homage to the Golden and Silver Ages of comics, Batman: The Brave and the Bold didn’t shy away from harkening back to the past with regards to character design. Of course, Black Canary is no exception. Save for a few minor changes, this version of Dinah looks as though she’s ripped straight out of a Flash Comics panel. To that end, this animated iteration of the Black Canary costume is nothing if not a triumph.
The facets of her Golden Age attire that make it to Batman: The Brave and the Bold are her signature blue jacket, black top, choker, and blue boots. Surprisingly, the show does not pay homage to the fishnets or blue pants. In their stead are a pair purple leggings, which actually work to compliment the rest of the costume. It’s a nice take on a classic look and serves her well in the series.
9. KATIE CASSIDY ON ARROW
Katie Cassidy as Arrow’s Laurel Lance/Black Canary is a continuously divisive topic amongst the fandom. Essentially, she turns the Arrowverse’s iteration of the vigilante into a legacy character, which isn’t dissimilar from the comics. From the costume her sister Sara dons, Laurel borrows the all black leather look and domino mask. The few changes made are minor, but fairly noticeable.
One difference is that it seems as though the corset was tossed all together. For a top, then, only a zipped leather jacket is visible. Heavily buckled pants, boots, and a domino mask round out her attire. Undoubtedly, the suit is functional and serves its purpose. When taking into consideration the various costumes that came before it, this version of her design appears a little uninspired. Unfortunately, she doesn’t maintain the mantle long enough to iterate on her look.
8. JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED
When it comes to Black Canary’s on-screen attire, there’s hardly anything simpler than her appearance in Justice League Unlimited. Draped over a blackish-blue leotard is the character’s signature blue jacket. For bottoms, she dons gray leggings; blue boots and a choker complete the classic outfit’s design. Again, things are kept simple.
Within the context of the DC Animated Universe, Dinah’s Black Canary costume could not possibly be any more fitting. Most of her fellow heroes, including Batman, Superman, and The Flash, all have suits that are apparently made of fabric. Thus, Black Canary, as is normally the case, does not look underdressed when standing next to her colleagues. Unquestionably, Justice League Unlimited’s style of animation allows the design to be pulled off with relative ease, as well.
7. BIRDS OF PREY (2004)
Gail Simone’s Birds of Prey run in the early ’00s, illustrated by Ed Benes, features a few select changes to the look of Black Canary. One of the more prominent alterations is the character wearing her hair pulled back into a ponytail. Another notable difference from other designs that warrants attention is the all black leotard she dons. For her bottom-half, the crimefighter wears her fishnet-stockings.
It’s a form fitting suit, one that is reminiscent of what Tomb Raider lead Lara Croft would have donned at the time. Is this outfit ideal for the kind of work Black Canary typically partakes in? Without a doubt, an argument can be made for or against it. However, at the very least, the suit appears functional for the missions she takes with Huntress and Oracle.
6. NEW 52
The New 52 launch in 2011 came with new character designs for the heroes and villains of the DC Universe. Black Canary’s makeover consists of her suit taking on a different form from what fans usually expect of the martial artist. Instead of her typical blue and black attire, her New 52 look receives a new color variant: black, yellow, bluish-green.
A black leotard with yellow designs covers Black Canary’s torso; yellow light-armor pieces complete her upper-body wear. Covering her legs are bluish-green pants with fishnets laced over them. This design stands out about as well as her classic blue and black attire; the yellow specifically works in this regard as it also compliments her hair color. To an extent, this suit appears to homage the Golden Age and her look from the aforementioned 2004 Birds of Prey comics.
5. JULIANA HARKAVY ON ARROW
The Arrowverse’s doubling down on Black Canary’s being a legacy character means that when Dinah Drake adopts the mantle, she, too, receives an updated suit. Ditching the all-black design donned by past Arrow Canaries, the top for Harkavy bears gold stitching, a seeming nod to the character’s New 52 outfit. In addition, her short-sleeves are patterned in a diamond-like fashion that mimics the look of fishnets. Filling out the remainder of the suit’s top-half are gloves whose length overtakes her elbows.
Her pants echo the top’s design, with a gold stitching and diamond pattern. Concealing Dinah’s identity is a domino mask. This version is special in that it strays from what’s established by previous Black Canary suits on Arrow. Interestingly, the differences inform her separation from her predecessors, as Dinah is neither a Lance nor does she have ties to Team Arrow’s origins.
4. DC BOMBSHELLS
Beginning as a DC Collectibles line of figures, DC Bombshells eventually earned its own comic series. The Bombshells motif is simple: What would DC’s heroines look like in retro ’40s garb? Black Canary is but one of the various characters to be retrofitted for the line, and she has by far one of the more appealing redesigns.
Styled in a fashion reminiscent of ’40s pin-ups, this Black Canary is dressed to impress with a plaid button-up over a black top, black gloves, a matching skirt and the ever-important fishnet-stockings. To complete the look, her hair is appropriately fashioned for the period; the choker she dons is fitting, as well. Moreover, the tattoo on her arm intimates that even an alternate ‘40s version of Black Canary is not keen on following the status quo.
3. GOTHAM CITY GARAGE
Gotham City Garage is another ongoing series that owes its inspiration to a DC Collectibles line of statues. The series depicts Black Canary in a manner she’s never been seen, yet maintains many of the character’s core tenets. Of the more notable alterations is her overall design. Half of her head is shaved, and while her attire isn’t dissimilar from what she’s worn in the past, the color scheme certainly alters the norm.
Black Canary wears a gray leotard beneath what appears to be a gray and red cape and shawl. Meanwhile, her hands and forearms are wrapped in a black cloth. Unsurprisingly, fishnet-stockings cover part of her legs, while the area below her knees mirrors the wrapping of her forearms. This certainly equates to one of the more creative designs for the character. It’s shocking she hadn’t been drawn in such garb prior to Gotham City Garage.
2. CAITY LOTZ ON ARROW
Arrow’s original Canary, played by Caity Lotz, set the stage for the character’s Arrowverse legacy. This version is a far cry from what’s on display in Smallville. Draped in black from head to toe, Canary wears a corset-like top under a leather jacket. The rest of the suit consists of leather pants, boots, gloves, a domino mask, and a blonde wig. Her mask and wig are probably two of the more admirable features of the suit’s overall design.
Prior to Canary’s debut, has a domino mask, especially on a television budget, ever looked so good in live-action? And it reasonably hides her identity. Canary’s identity concealment relies heavily on her wig, though. Several shades brighter than Lotz’ hair color, the hair piece serves a similar purpose to the Arrow’s hood. Most importantly, the suit’s functional, permitting her to perform acrobatics and martial arts seemingly without compromise.
1. YOUNG JUSTICE
True to other animated iterations of Black Canary’s costume, the character’s look in Young Justice doesn’t veer far from her classic appearance. Her blue leather jacket over a low-cut leotard is present as expected. Instead of fishnet-stockings, however, she wears gray pants and boots. Is this the most inventive of costume designs? No, but it is probably why her Young Justice garb is worthy of being considered the best.
In the show, she’s both a Justice League member and a mentor to the team of sidekicks. Therefore, she’s seen in a role mainstream media, until the birth of the Arrowverse, didn’t often depict her as having — the role of leader. And, here, she certainly looks the part. Arguably, no other DC character has as strongly maintained the sexy but serious look that she was modeled after in the 1940s. Young Justice embodies the evolution of this sentiment perfectly.
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