Monday, June 8, 2009

A hit is hard to resist, And I never miss, I can take you out with justa flick of my wrist

1. Botany and Motherhood

Dinah Lance is a natural mother.

Now, when I say that you need to understand my own view of motherhood, as influenced by my own mom. Yes, a mother is there to nurture, care, love and do all the little things like tie your shoes and kiss your scraped knee and generally make things better. But she is also there to teach you how tie your own shoelaces, toughen up and to generally smack you upside the head when you get out of line.

In those terms, Dinah excels at both aspects of motherhood. John Stewart said as much when he described Dinah as the best leader the JLA had ever had – because Dinah could show the compassion of Superman to her teammates without coddling them and be as pragmatic as Batman without being harsh.

This dichotomy has been influencing Dinah for her entire life. It was her desire to nurture that made her grow up quickly, becoming a mother to her own parents as they worked the late shift (as a private eye and a vigilante respectively) and she stayed up, hoping they’d be home for breakfast with no complications. But she could also give them an earful when there were complications, which was often.

So why did Dinah long resist the idea of becoming an actual mother instead of a metaphorical one?

The life of a vigilante was a part of it. Dinah remembered all too well the pain of all the endless nights of waiting. She remembered how many times she was up all night worrying that the people who meant the most to her wouldn’t be coming home. Dinah didn’t want to put any child of her own through that pain. ‘

There was also the fact that as much as she loved the idea of having children some day, Dinah loved being a hero too much to ever contemplate giving it up – even to become a mother. And because of her own experiences as the daughter of a superhero, Dinah knew that in order to properly be a mother to her children in the way she wanted to be a mother, it would come down to her making the choice between career and family. As she told Oliver Queen when he pressed the issue, she loved children too much to have any and she would love to make babies with him but she wouldn’t make orphans.

That opinion changed in time. For Oliver Queen’s near death at the hands of a criminal out for revenge convinced Dinah that it would be far worse not to try for the life she wanted than to have it denied her by cruel fate. And after years of training under the tutelage of greater martial artists, Dinah’s confidence in her own abilities as a hero and the connections she had made convinced her that even if the worst should happen, any children she had could easily be taken care of by her brother and sisters in arms.

Another way Dinah expresses her nurture’s soul way she expresses that is through her love of plants.

She likes the fine art of being able to take care of something living and see it grow. It’s a love that her mother, a florist by trade when she wasn’t busting heads, taught her and encouraged from a young age. Later, she pushed Dinah into college to follow in her footsteps as a botanist, hoping to guide her into a safer life than her own.

Of course Dinah didn’t exactly go about following her mother’s example in THAT aspect of her life. Not full time, at least. But still – that love of beautiful growing things is there.

2. Rebel

It’s ironic that as much as Dinah is a nurturer, a mother and a natural born leader, she also has a rebellious heart.

Dinah kept it repressed for most of her childhood – somebody had to take care of Mom and Dad after all. But after Larry Lance died and the elder Dinah forbid the younger Dinah to follow in the footsteps of either of her parents because she wanted her to stay safe… that is when the rebel began to emerge.

The elder Dinah, like most parents, wanted to give her daughter something better than she had at the same age. Hence why the younger Dinah was encouraged to go to college, marry a good man and take over the family florist shop. But when college didn’t really agree with the younger Dinah and the “good man” her mother liked turned out to be a compulsive gambler… well, that’s when Dinah decided to take the final step past secret boxing lessons with Uncle Ted and asking her other uncles for advice.

Despite this, mother and daughter did come to a peace of sorts before the elder Dinah died but Dinah is still very much the rebel at heart. As good as she is at leading in the field, there is still a part of her that is impulsive. Playful, almost. A small part of her that rankles at the thought of a safe life. At being the good daughter her mother wanted.

And it is that rebellious part of her that found Oliver Queen so appealing. And vice versa.

(Well, okay – those legs in the fishnets probably got his attention first. But it was the rebellious spirit that kept him around.)

Whatever else may be said of Oliver Queen, he was not repressed when it came toward speaking truth to power. And in a thousand little ways, he just waved his finger at everyone who thought experience, a uniform, a badge, a name or “because I said so” was reason enough to do as they said without question.

Dinah’s spirit was much the same, although the pressures on her were entirely different than Ollie’s self-imposed quest for redemption. Her uncles (especially Hawkman) took exception to seeing a “nice young girl” like Dinah spending so much time with a disreputable older-man like Green Arrow. Even Barry Allen – who she had something of a brief flirtation with in the early days of the JLA - asked her privately why someone as nice as Dinah would even bother with a jerk like Ollie.

They didn’t get it on a lot of levels. But out of all of the things they missed, two points were the biggest.

First, they didn’t see what Dinah did; that when he wasn’t shooting off his mouth or his bow, Oliver Queen could be the kindest, most caring and most thoughtful man in the world. She saw a kindred spirit; someone who was angry at the world but only because their loving heart despaired at how awful it was and how much better it could be.

Second, they didn’t see that Dinah wasn’t nearly as nice as everyone thought she was.

That is why Dinah does the things she does sometimes. Because Ollie may have a reputation as a rabble-rouser but Dinah is as bad when it comes to doing things for the hell of it… like kissing Batman just to see if she can break the stone-cold composure of The Dark Knight. Or pulling the wings and twisting around the eyeholes on Barry Allen’s cowl, to prove the point that he had no room to talk about impractical costumes when her costume featured high-heeled boots.

3. Feminine

Speaking of the high-heeled boots, a lot of heroines ask Dinah just how she can wear the costume she does and expect to be taken seriously.

Does she keep the costume for the sake of tradition and honoring her mother? Of course. But there’s also something about leather and fishnets that make a certain kind of woman feel so very very good and so very very bad at the same time. And Dinah Lance is that kind of woman.

Dinah is also confident enough in herself and her fighting abilities to justify that fashion choice – or any other choice she makes – to anyone. There’s an old line about how difficult Ginger Rogers had it since she had to do everything Fred Astaire did backwards and in heels. And there’s a certain truth to that because Dinah – in attempting to emulate her mother – DID learn how to walk in heels and – more importantly – how to fight in heels.

But as much as her mother’s costume had been a statement of the times, it had other purposes as well. It did act as something of a distraction against her mostly male opponents, who watched other parts of her besides her fists and feet. And it also encouraged her enemies to underestimate her – considering her less of a threat because no woman dressed all sexy like that can possibly be a threat. But Dinah also claimed it in the rebellious, improper spirit it suggested. Because it makes her feel good to wear that outfit on so many levels – it honors her mother, it has some strategic value and yes – sometimes a woman just likes to look sexy and turn heads.

Of course Dinah has abandoned her traditional costume when needed – mostly during her days as a covert operative for Oracle when greater protection was needed and fishnets and leather would stand out. But for the most part, Dinah will dress how she damn well pleases. Because there’s just something about dressing up all girly that just makes her feel so good.

That was another thing that brought her and Oliver Queen together. Because while she was fiercely independent, she still like being treated like a lady. And while he was as much a modern enlightened feminist man as any son of privilege can be, he still had a chivalric streak a mile long.

4. Warrior

Of course just because she is feminine, a lady, a natural mother and a lover of life and beauty does not mean that Dinah Lance will not give your ass the kicking it sorely deserves.

It’s a funny thing but for all the reputation Ollie has for being a short-fused, quick-tempered firebrand, it is Dinah who has the greater temper… and who is far more dangerous when her buttons are pushed.

Case in point; In the Double Date episode of Justice League International, both Dinah and Ollie were assigned guard duty to protect a crime boss who was turning State’s Evidence against his fellow criminals. The crime boss in question was a disgustingly obese excuse for a human being and wound up making several derogatory comments about Black Canary and the “fun” they could have – all while eating raw oysters and making a great show of licking them clean.

Naturally, Ollie was ready to kick seven kinds of crap out of the guy – assignment or no. He’s of the old school of chivalry that says you do not talk that way to a lady and you damn sure don’t talk about HIS lady like that. Dinah coolly tells Ollie that it’s alright and that he shouldn’t let a punk like that get his goat.

And that’s when the crime boss asks Dinah why she’s with a loser like Green Arrow and if all the men in the Justice League were spoken for.

We don’t get to see what Dinah’s reaction was. It must have been reasonably restrained because the house is still standing as she and Ollie are sent to do their guarding “outside”. But it did involve at least one punch. And it is telling that while Dinah doesn’t mind her own sexuality being commented on, she won’t brook an insult to her man.

At the heart of the many other facets of Dinah’s soul, Dinah is a fighter. She is a warrior born who will not back down from a confrontation. She will not tolerate any threat to what she values and those she holds dear. She is the mother wolf, loyal to her pack and her cubs… ready to abandon all else in the face of danger.

In a nutshell, Dinah is complicated. She’s an outspoken feminist who loves to be treated like a lady. She’s a born rebel who is also a natural leader. She’s a lover of beauty and nature who won’t hesitate to get her hands dirty and deal with the ugliness in the world around her.

She is woman. Hear her cry. And don’t piss her off because she WILL kick your ass.


  1. Great description of her, more people should realize that. I think in the post-Simone era, McDuffie is probably the only one who got that, hence the GL line (which I also liked).

  2. *nods* Which is why I'm sorely annoyed that he's been fired off of JLA after telling the public what we already knew; he was being jacked around by Editorial for every single damned crossover.
    I'm so annoyed I'm pondering not buying the stupid Justice League book that brought all this on in the first place.

  3. By way of Scans Daily...
    Dinah's basically the archetypal "cool aunt." She's funny. She's sexy. She's caring. She does stuff that'll turn your parent's hair white.

  4. Re: By way of Scans Daily...
    A fair description. I'd have said "your friend's really cool mom, who you have THOSE dreams about". But that's just because I want to emphasize the motherhood angle with Dinah.
    When did I get linked off Scans_Daily?

  5. Re: By way of Scans Daily...

  6. Re: By way of Scans Daily...
    Ah. Cool.
    Hello, all you happy Scans-Daily fans! :)