Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Black Canary Fan Film Project - Blog 008: BC- Male/Female?

((Yes, this is Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor & not Black Canary, but I'll get into why I'm posting that here in a bit...))

Before even shooting one frame of this project, doing 'research' has been extremely interesting, and has taken me to different creative corners- and dissolved some very deep set assumptions I've had on male/female hero archetypes. But before I get ahead of myself, let me introduce a few bits that have made me take a step back in my own approach at adapting Black Canary to the fan film youtube screen. ;)


Jennifer Ford, creator of the Black Canary/Birds of Prey website and unofficial expert on Black Canary lore (check out her excellent website- linked on the side of this screen) generously let me pick her brain a bit on what she thought made Black Canary great.

With her permission, I'll share my questions and her answers here:
Question #1:
What version of the character has had the best appeal to you/ what qualities of this particular version feels 'right'?
(Or which writer do you feel had the best interpretation of BC?)

Her early Bronze Age appearances in Justice League, Adventure, and Green Lantern/Green Arrow (Hard-Traveling Heroes) were the ones on which I imprinted, and Gail Simone’s run on the series came closest to matching and updating *that* version of the character. “Sensei and Student” arc is definitive for the modern era. And while I love the classic costume, I like her current one best (or Amanda Connor’s original redesign of it from the 3-part Terry Moore arc [BoP #47-49]).

Question #2:
What are the top 5-10 things that attract you to THIS character, as opposed to other characters in comics?

I think what I liked about her from way back when I was a kid reading Justice League, etc., was that she was different – not a female version of a male character but her own woman. She dated, she was in the JLA, she was very modern and independent and unapologetic about it back when that wasn’t a very common thing (Supergirl in that era, for instance, was constantly trying to quit being a superhero; Wonder Woman was never as accessible). In her GL/GA appearances, she was in a comparatively realistic world as a strong superheroine which was even cooler. Canary is like a Batman – a “normal” human (she rarely uses her superpower and relies on her martial skills) who has worked to become amazing at what she does.

Question #3:
Is Black Canary more appealing as symbolic role model or more as human being?
(i.e. Superman or Spiderman?)

Gail’s portrayal of her underscores what also made her a great character back in the 70s – she’s this amazing kickass martial artist and superhero who’s knows everyone and has saved the world a zillion times, but she’s also a normal human woman – she worries about people, she notices things, she pays attention to details, feelings, emotions, nuance – and that is never portrayed now *or* then as a weakness. That’s one of her strengths, that she can save the world and talk to you about what’s bugging you and help you figure it out.

Question #4:
Is there an 'ultimate' Black Canary solo story or storyline that stands out to you personally above all the rest?

Bronze age two-parter by Alex Toth (Adventure #418 & #419, also in the BC Archive collection) is a great solo adventure from that era

JLA/JSA: Virtue & Vice is a great story for her as a super-team member (and just a great JLA story)

And most of Gail Simone’s run on the Birds of Prey title, (I would say Sensei & Student is the stand-out arc)

((Birds of Prey: Sensei and Student))
Again, thanks to Jenna Ford for granting me permission to share this!

BTW, I have to say, that I did pick up Gail Simone's "Sensei & Student" ((As well as between "Dark & Dawn")) trade paperbacks- and the story IS great- though a lot resonates far more, if you are familiar with the guest DC characters (Cheshire, Lady Shiva, among others) and their history in the DC comics' universe.

Anyhow- this, plus: Gail Simone's own words (wait towards the end when she talks about her favorite character ever and why) ---

Kinda convinced me that maybe what I saw in Black Canary and what aspects I thought were there and inspirational as a hero were possibly a bit different than what Jennifer and Gail see---but maybe not- anyhow I knew that I needed to figure out (for myself) just WHO is the 'correct' Black Canary before going forward.

Similiarly, it reminded me of a conversation I'd had with a feminist (that what she wanted to be called, not me labelling. I hate labels) friend years ago about Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in "Terminator 1" versus "Terminator 2".

To me, Black Canary is parts Sarah Connor (from T2) and Lara Croft, only BC came first a LONG time ago.

((Linda Hamilton/Sarah Connor from "Terminator" the classic James Cameron movie))

((Linda Hamilton/Sarah Connor from "Terminator 2" the almost as classic James Cameron sequel))

What's the difference?
According to my friend, she felt: "Sarah is a woman in "Terminator 1". In "Terminator 2", she's a man."

Huh? What? I didn't get it.

I thought she was someone that transformed from being an average person who would wiped out by a robot in T1, but that she was able to transform HERSELF into someone (male/female didn't matter to me) that could be strong enough to repress fear and insecurity when necessary and kick butt when need be.

To me, that's the appeal of a human super-character in comics. It's an empowerment myth, and when times are tough, and the spirit is low, stories of heroes (male/female) help us escape our every day world and uplift our inner ones to face it.

But my friend thought she 'just became a man' in the sequel. That she became a cold machine and that she wasn't really a woman in the sequel.

I dunno. I thought she was cool and I never thought of Sarah as having an internal sex change in T2.
But I always thought it an interesting point of view.

In talking about Black Canary, I don't think that she's AFRAID to have feelings or to show them- but when someone puts on a suit to be a powerful symbol to send a message to thugs, as a character, I imagine that if she were real, then it's a bit of role-playing, if you're going to brush your teeth, put on a wig, and go outside to beat bad people up. Just as people role-play to go to work (or look for work), or to give a speech before an audience, it's not just putting on an exterior suit/costume- it's putting on an interior coat of invincibility as well, I would think.

Does that mean that burying (some) feelings of very realistic human fears of death or capture make one male or female?
Does my friend mean that being a man=no feelings, being a woman=feelings?
I would hope that's not true, though of course society frowns on expressions of emotions out of control on either end.
("There's no crying in baseball Shouting and punching, that's much more civilized!")

In what proportions? It's a whole other discussion. But-
Back to conception of Black Canary and creating a correct view of her:

I like what Jenna said about her having feelings and being able to help others sort it out as well-
I'm reminded of a work acquaintence I knew who did social work for awhile: she talked out how her bosses trained her to
empathetic((understanding of the distress of others)) not sympathetic ((sorrow for the distress of others)) with those need- because if you did, then you could become 'pathetic' ((well, I think anyone can know what that means)) by becoming so identified with others' pain that you cripple yourself mentally and emotionally.

Like Jenna said, I don't think BC is afraid to have and show feelings, but I'd also like to think that there's a streetwise sense to her, too, that knows when to be nice. And when not to.

I don't think that makes her male or female. Just pretty cool. Much like Sarah Connor in T2.
(Well, at least the part AFTER she realizes that trying to assassinate someone for the sake of the future may be going a little too far)

Well... anyhow. Figuring out the specific personality and not only who Black Canary is, but should be, has been more than a bit elusive--- but Jenna's and Gail's answers have made it a little bit easier.

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