When you ask anyone to name a female superhero, most normally start and stop at Wonder Woman. Prod them with "Batgirl." Some will say, "Oh, yeah." Ask them: "How about Supergirl?" They may scratch their head and just go along with it. (Of course, Superman might have a mighty Maid of Might cousin.) "Black Canary?" Cue the crickets. Blank stare. She's not a household name, but the good thing about Black Canary, the leather & fish net stocking wearing martial arts, sonic canary cry screaming heroine is that she is finally coming into her own.
She's been around since 1947. She's always been in the Justice League, home of the hero greats like Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and Aquaman. (You might recognize them as the Superfriends.) Recently, Black Canary (aka Dinah Lance) exploded onto the scene in the brilliant Justice League Unlimited cartoon. She was in the short lived Birds of Prey tv series on the WB. Now, she's even in the CW's Smallville (played by Alaina Huffman) fighting alongside the young Clark Kent (a gorgeous Tom Welling). In the comic series, Birds of Prey, she was re-developed by DC Comics scribe Gail Simone and actually became a force to be reckoned with. Now, she and her husband, Green Arrow fight side by side in their own monthly book. Then, there's the dolls. Also known as MERCHANDISING!!!! DC Direct put out several action figures. Now, there's a 13 inch multi-articulated, fully clothed doll with interchangeable heads. One screaming. One non-screaming and gorgeous. Oh! Also, with a removable mask. Now, the Tonner Doll company is releasing their very own 16 inch doll, putting her alongside Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Batgirl, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy and Mera.
Finally (cue the trumpets) there's Mattel. Home of Barbie. The leader in all toy-making. Along with Wonder Woman, Batgirl and Supergirl, Black Canary was a gorgeous addition in the Barbie line. She was even proudly displayed in their catalog as one of the very first releases. Of all the merchandising, I was most impressed with Mattel. And, I think Mattel was, too. Until ... people (that's what we'll call 'em) started to complain, comment and criticize. People who didn't know Black Canary decided that she was a completely inappropriate toy for a child. First, it's on the Black Label. These dolls are normally priced around $40 for the "adult collector." (Pink Label for the kids. Gold Label for the hardcore collectors.) My e-mail called it a "backorder." Mattel seems afraid to release her. Black Canary, chastised for her leather and fish nets, has been called everything: Prostitute Barbie. Adult Barbie. Streetwalker Barbie. Dominatrix Barbie. Bondage Barbie. S&M Barbie. She's even been labeled "filth." Lighten up, people. It's a doll. If you don't want it, don't get it. Don't make the rest of us suffer because you can't handle a little leather and fish nets in your daily superhero activities. Black Canary saved the world with her sonic canary cry too many times to be punished this way. She's being commemorated. And, Mattel, if you ever want to beat the Bratz dolls (who are kicking your ass right now and you're sore about it), then don't be afraid to be cutting edge. Barbie came onto the scene as a teen fashion model and --- this is fashion.
Let's talk about Teacher Barbie for a second. One day, I was in Toys R Us, doing my usual doll collecting. There was a couple, running up and down the aslie, tilting boxes, looking up Barbie's skirt. Somebody had complained. Teacher Barbie didn't have on underwear. Mattel pulled the doll and gave her painted on underwear. Yes, folks. Teacher Barbie didn't have on underwear. But, let's face facts. Teacher Barbie didn't even have a vagina. Come on. Then, there's the "lingerie line." Bought on by Mattel, a fabulous product called Silkstone (part plastic/part porcelain), helped develop a new fashion model doll series. They're top line dolls. They liken Barbie back to her original years when it was all about fashion. Somebody decided the dolls were vulgar because Barbie was wearing a corset and garter. It's fashion. Barbie was paying homage to it. But, Mattel got scared. They cleaned it up. No more garters, corsets or underwears. (They go for a lot of money on Ebay.) Come on, Mattel. Let's not lose out again.
So ... when I look at the Black Canary doll, all I see is the Black Canary. So ... it might be me. But, I have a sneaking suspicion it's not. My mother? She didn't think it was any different than anything else Barbie put out. So, I asked a few of my fashionable co-workers. One, thought it was hot. Two others? Well ... they hesitated. They decided that Barbie had (a-hem) "come a long way." But, once I explained Black Canary's history and showed them pictures of her ... it was a little different. She may be too much for some people to handle and that's too bad. We need more PROMINENT female superheroes. Black Canary is actually one of them!!! Let her be one!!! What other greater privilege can there be than being recognized by Barbie!!!
I came across an e-mail in which a few observations had been made. No one said anything when Electra was made into a Barbie doll. And, she's an assassin. SHE KILLS PEOPLE. Catwoman came with thigh high leather boots and a whip. Most people recognize her as a villain. The Halle Berry Catwoman came with ripped up leather AND a whip. Poison Ivy apparently had even less clothes on, fish nets AND heels. So, what's the deal? At $40 bucks, would YOU give your child a doll that's going to end up naked and with a new, choppy and completely unfashionable hair cut properly rendered with blunt scissors? Sigh. I just hope Mattel toughens up and manages to put out this doll rather than let a select few who PROBABLY WOULDN'T HAVE BOUGHT THE DOLL IN THE FIRST PLACE stop everybody else from having it. We collectors are clamoring for it. And, what's a little controversy? It will make the doll even more alluring. I want that doll! In the meanwhile, Supergirl and Batgirl are on my drawing table. They're waiting for her. They can't figure out what the hold up is. And, neither can I.