The history of sexy women in comics via Black Canary

All week DC Women Kicking Ass has been running polls to pick the favorite artists on various DCU heroines, such as Wonder Woman and Batgirl. It’s fun to see the great artists who have drawn these characters over the years. It is also fun to observe how community standards have changed with regards to superheroines. Take Black Canary. It’s a pretty safe assumption that even when the character was created by Carmine Infantino and Robert Kanigher in 1947, a woman in fishnet tights was assumed to be hot stuff. However, first general prudishness, and later the Comics Code, kept her sort of modest. In recent years, she’s been unchained.

We’ve gone from this
tumblr lya1y0HpcY1qbujox The history of sexy women in comics via Black Canary

to this….

tumblr lya0n9EssO1qbujox The history of sexy women in comics via Black Canary

Of course, I’m sure you could find racy Dinahs from the ’60s and less sexualized poses from today. But looking at the entire post is a quick lesson in comics evolution.

See also my old Wonder Woman post.

Comments

  1. GaryArmstrong says:

    i think you’re also missing a key point on the archetype of black canary. when she first appeared dinah drake was very proper, black hair pulled tight into a bun and always dressed in collared dresses–very virginal and school marmish…then pow! the blonde harlot appeared to take on the evil men…long flowing, blonde sexy hair…the character’s core was that inside every proper woman was a street fighting sexpot that could take on men!

  2. Gail Simone says:

    Holy crap, what a meaningless bit of weirdness.

  3. So…basically she doesn’t wear a jacket anymore?

  4. Yeah, I won’t deny that some of the sexyness/pin-up stuff gets a little ridiculous, but the today drawing you used really doesn’t scream “racy” to me.

  5. First Black Canary stories I read were drawn by Ed Benes. Those Birds of Prey issues were damn good.

  6. So… they figured out the right color for fishnets is what you’re saying?

    Also, technically, we went from that to this.
    http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lyatof0Msy1qbujox.jpg

  7. Gail Simone says:

    There’s no context to it. It’s just…pointless.

    Why not equally post a panel of Dinah being a lovesick idiot from the Silver Age, or a serial hostage, and compare it to the competent, fun-loving and intelligent leader of the Birds of Prey and Justice League?

    Maybe this makes sense in some way, but man, I can’t see it.

  8. The Beat says:

    Gail: I think that’s a different, equally valid evolution. If you look at my Wonder Woman post you can really see how the portrayals have changed with time.

  9. Gail Simone says:

    But ‘sexy women?’

    Her costume is even less revealing now.

    Never mind, it just strikes me as odd. Still love you and the Beat, Heidi.

  10. The Beat says:

    Hey, I think Black Canary is a sexy woman in the most awesomely POSITIVE sense of the word. She’s always held her own, been smart, sassy, balanced fighting with a relationship…and wore groovy fishnet tights. It doesn’t have to be a put down.

    Anyway, I didn’t mean this as a dis on Black Canary or even Ed Benes. It is part of an overall evolution, however.

    The rise of photoshop and internet pornography have both altered our views of women (and men, too, to a much lesser degree)and what makes them attractive. Various forms of hair removal and changing fashions in plastic surgery all attest to this.

    Or look at it this way, what Peter Paul Rubens thought was sexy as hell would be a candidate for The Biggest Loser these days. Imagery changes.

  11. Wonderer says:

    Also to consider is what a picture doesn’t tell. Like character-evolution beyond the looks.
    There’s a pretty big difference between the 1985-1990 character who was, in large part, something that (storywise) “belonged” in Oliver Queens bed – to the last decade of her being (field-)leader of her own team (and the justice league, I beleive, both at the same time for a while?).

    Also how is the comparison valid when Black Canary has now ditched the fishnet/swimsuit (although unlike huntress’, canarys new suit looks terrible imo).

  12. Wonderer says:

    And someone already posted that while I was eating dinner :facepalm:

  13. OtisTFirefly says:

    >>> But looking at the entire post is a quick lesson in comics evolution.

    OR, a quick lesson in SOCIETAL EVOLUTION in the last 70-odd years…

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