If you watch the show "Arrow," then you've seen Sara and Laurel Lance both take their turn kicking butts as the Black Canary. But the comic book character they're both based on, Dinah Laurel Lance, has been beating up bad guys in DC comics since 1969 when she first helped to found the Justice League of America.
Starting in June, Dinah will be putting on her old fishnets again and giving up her life of crime fighting (or, a least, TRYING to) when she takes on a new job -- as the lead singer of a touring rock bang in the new "Black Canary" comic book series.
To get us hyped for the Canary's new gig, comic writer Brenden Fletcher ("Batgirl," "Gotham Academy") and artist Annie Wu ("Hawkeye," "Batgirl Beyond") spoke to MTV News over the phone about Dinah's new story, her awesome bandmates, and their own rad taste in music. Plus, we've also got exclusive never-before seen art from the series, including some preliminary images from the first issue.
MTV News: Tell me a little about how you guys got involved with this title.
Brenden Fletcher: I've been writing the "Batgirl" comic book with Cameron Stewart for the last eight or nine months, and the Dinah Lance character was one of the supporting characters in that comic. And that character had a history with Barbara Gordon, Batgirl, for years -- going back to the '90s, they were on a team called the Birds of Prey together. So when the new 52 reboot came about in 2011, they were kind of paired up again in a new form.
We took that and ran with it and little bit, but we wanted to give Dinah something different to do. She had always been known as Black Canary, a crime-fighter, but to have her fighting crime alongside Batgirl made it a team book. So we needed to give her another kind of life, and it just made sense that when your character has an incredible voice that can literally level buildings, then maye she'd be great in a rock band! So we kind of steered the charcter towards that, and that kind of became its own thing. It gathered life of its own and became a natural outgrowth to give her her own series. My pitch for it was, "It's a kung-fu, Rock 'n Roll road trip." That's kind of what Annie and I were trying to get to.
Annie Wu: And then I guess, in the early stages Brenden approached me about possibly joining him and launching this book, and of course I wanted to say yes immediately. You know, we talked about it and it sounded like a really good fit, like we're both really interested in this thing, in certain aspects of performing and music, this new direction for this character. So I jumped on board and it's been really fun.
MTV: In the tour poster we see some of who I’m assuming are Dinah’s bandmates. Can you tell us a little more about what they’re like as characters?
Fletcher: They're not the rock band that you see Dinah performing with in the Batgirl series. This is a whole new band that she's got with a whole new name. the band itself is called Black Canary, and there's a reason why she's in a new outfit now. She was performing with a band called the Ashes on Sunday in Batgirl. So this is Black Canary, these are her bandmates.
The heart and soul of the band is Lord Byron and she mostly plays drums, but she's a multi instrumentalist. She co-writes most of the songs, and this has always been her dream, so she's really the guiding force of the band. Her partner in crime is Paloma Terrific; Annie and I refer to her as our Johnny Greenwood. She's also a multi instrumentalist, he's a co-writer, but she's really a gear-head. Not only does she collect gear but she builds her own noisemaking devices, or noise manipulation devices. Rounding out the crew is a mysterious young lady named Ditto, the ban has dubbed her Ditto because she can echo any sound that she hears. She plays lead guitar, but she doesn't use a lot of electronics to manipulate the sound of her guitar. She's able to somehow do it without electronics. She's quiet, withdrawn, but is an incredible musician, probably the best musician of the band.
Wu: I am so pumped for everyone to meet these bandmates because I've had so much fun working on their look and their attitude and their body language. So I guess we'll start with Lord Byron -- for all of them, they're kind of '80s, sort of Frankenstein'd together creations of all my favorite performers and musicians. Lord Byron is sort of a mix of David Bowie's "Thin White Duke" era and Grace Jones, minus some of that severity but still some of that really super cool kind of androgynous sort of look. So she's really stylish in that way, she's very structured.
Then our Johnny Greenwood-type, I totally just made a female version of Johnny Greenwood because I love that whole slouching behind equipment and all of his hair all over his face while he's rocking out. I think that's so cool. And Ditto, I wanted some mysterious, quiet quality, but there is this element of intensity to her, so I tried channelling grind a little bit and then various performance artists. It's all my favorite stuff, but I get to put into these character. Hopefully people can really read that from the page, that I'm trying to make them be amalgamations of all these things that I love.
MTV: Can you tell us a little more about who her antagonist in the series is and how that's going to play out?
Fletcher: What we can tell you is that Dinah might be a young woman, but she has a dangerous past. Though this is sort of a new day for her, a new career, a new start, she can't really escape her past. And it's a dangerous one, and it crops up at the most inconvenient times -- like, say, when you're in the middle of a set. So she often finds that the music has to take a backseat to protecting her bandmates and protecting the crowds. It's maybe why the band is getting a bad reputation as the "most dangerous band in the world!" But she doesn't know if there's anything she can do about it, and what we're going to do in this first arc is explore exactly what that means. And I can't reveal who the antagonists are exactly outside of a host of extremely upset musicians who probably want revenge for ruining their gigs and destroying their equipment.
Wu: It's also been kind of interesting drawing her fighting all the musicians in alleys and bar brawl-style fights, because she's a superhero and these are just angry punk rockers! So they're not really much of a match for her.
MTV: Yeah, it seems like she's got these guys down.
Fletcher: She used to be known as the DC universe's number one martial artist, on par with Batman. And nobody's really been talking about that lately, so we're gonna bring that back as one of the main elements of who Dinah Lance is. And as Annie says, she can't really show her stuff facing off against angry musicians, but her [main] antagonists in this will most likely be a lot more skilled than the bass player from a death metal band.
MTV: Black Canary’s had a long comic book history, and now people also have the version from “Arrow” in their heads as well. How does your version of Dinah fit in to all this?
Fletcher: I think it comes in the personality. You can look to the "Arrow" TV show and see how the character is played there, and sure the circumstances are different but the personality should be the same. Some of the looks should resonate. Annie and I are leaning more towards the traditional, iconic look of the character with the leather jacket and fishnets, as opposed to the "Arrow" all-leather street fight-ready battle outfit. But I think the soul and the spirit of the person underneath the outfit and in the different circumstances should feel similar. In time, I think there will be familiar elements in the story that make things kind of even out a bit more.
Wu: Things that are iconic to the character, we're trying to pay respect to that while also delivering a more youthful and rough around the edges version of her. But at her core, her values, the way that she works with other people, I think we're trying to stay true to that.
Fletcher:Our primary goal here is fun, and we're trying to put her in really fun and new and exciting circumstances. Stuff that you've never seen before, and watching how that character rolls with it. she's not a stage performer, she's an ex-military martial arts expert slash crime fighter and she's thrust on stage because she just happened to have a killer voice. She's got a dangerous past and how does she roll with all this? Probably by kicking butt! That's what she does best.
MTV: So it's kind of moving away from the style we're used to?
Fletcher: I wouldn't say that it's moving away from [anything] so much as it's expanding into a variety of styles and genres. The North American comic book industry is becoming more like the comic book industries in other parts of the world, where it's more acceptable to tell stories about people who play tennis or work at a hospital for a living. It's not all superheroes, it's not all guys all the time. And this is just the beginning -- I think that we're in a kind of renaissance right now and we're gonna see amazing, amazing work over the next few years.
Wu: I feel like people have really made an effort to let these companies know that there is an audience for all sorts of books, and so people are definitely opening up to different kinds of stories with different kinds of characters. It's really amazing. Even different styles -- I feel like we're in an incredible time for that.
MTV: Are we going to see any guest stars in the series?
Fletcher: You're not going to see anyone in the first few issues, but Annie and I have been talking to Chris Conroy, our editor, and there all ideas for really fun crossovers later on.
Wu: Actually, in #1 there's a fun appearance by someone who I think a lot of readers of our book will recognize, who works very closely with the band.
Fletcher: Oh yeah! That's a whole character that we've brought from a whole other book to our book! I was like, "what are you talking about?"
Wu: Let me remind you, you're the writer of the book!
Fletcher: Creator of said character! [laughs] See, that's what happens when you spend your morning on a train. I'm the Dinah Lance of our comic at the moment, touring around. I just beat up a couple bad guys on my way back to my Montreal Apartment.
Actually, it's funny. Annie and I come from these performance backgrounds, so this book is kind of based in our lives in a way. We had this really hilarious conversation where we both realized that we did performances of "Rocky Horror Picture Show," so we've both worn fishnets ourselves.
MTV: Wait, as WHO? That's amazing.
Wu: I was Magenta -- so not the main fishnets person, but I definitely had to wear fishnets. This was in a past life, it's so long ago, I don't think most people know.
Fletcher: Mine too, nobody knows about this yet, but now it's gonna be on MTV! I played Frank N. Furter. I went all out! I wore fishnets and high heels.
Wu: I think this was after we agreed to work on the book together, right?
Fletcher: That's true. Our first conversations were all about Bowie. So I'm really surprised that our entire cast of characters aren't just analogs of the different eras of Bowie.
MTV: So given that this book is all about bands and music, if you guys were going to start a band, who would you want in it with you?
Wu: Oh god, such a can of worms! Is this like a magical world where I'm actually musically talented and not a complete nightmare at karaoke? I guess my supergroup would have to include Jarvis Cocker way out in the front 'cuz I just love watching him, and then Azalea Banks, I want to throw her in somewhere.
Fletcher:Are you just making a band full of front people?
Wu: And nobody performs or plays any instruments, it's just front people! Maybe it'll just be a three person group with them and me, 'cuz there's no reason for us to ever collaborate but I would love to work with them in some way. Maybe I can play the tambourine.
Fletcher: Mine would be a lot of noise makers, like Johnny Greenwood. I really want to be in a band with Tim Hecker. I want Tim Hecker to create this soundtrack for my life with me, that's sort of my dream gig. But I know that he would just turn me down. I think I have a better shot at getting in a band with Johnny Greenwood.
Wu: Wait, can I change my answer? My band would just be Prince and the Revolution, his band in "Purple Rain," but I'm there. That's my dream band. It's just that band, plus me on tambourine.
Fletcher: Oh, you know what? I want to be in Annie's Prince and the Revolution band just for Wendy and Lisa, who are geniuses. Yeah. I could just be in a band with Wendy and Lisa, that would be amazing.
Check out the full info on "Black Canary #1," which hits shelves on June 17, below!
Black Canary #1
Written by BRENDEN FLETCHER
Art by ANNIE WU
Cover by ANNIE WU
Variant cover by BABS TARR
On sale JUNE 17 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US
Dinah Lance hits the road! After years as a soldier and vigilante, the LAST place Dinah saw herself is on stage…but she’s quickly learning she’d die to protect the gang of misfits she’s fallen into. And she just might have to – for some reason, the newly rechristened band Black Canary seems to be a magnet for trouble…and Dinah’s not gonna believe it when she finds out the reason why! Martial arts, super-spies, and rock ‘n’ roll combine, from Brenden Fletcher (BATGIRL) and Annie Wu (Hawkeye)!
Plus, as a special treat, here's the covers to issue two - and the exclusive cover to issue #3: