Aside from “Who would win in a fight?” nothing gets comic fans more heated than the question of whether or not superheroes should be marry. In this mini-feature, Bride-to-Be Rebecca Henely and her Maid of Honor Kayleigh Hearn take a trip down memory lane to the most significant times comic companies took the plunge and got their characters hitched! Did we like the couple? Did we like the dress? And more importantly…why did (or didn’t) the marriage last? Today we cover the wedding of Green Arrow and Black Canary.
The Couple: Dinah Lance and Oliver Queen
The Issue: Green Arrow and Black Canary Wedding Special #1
Published: September 19, 2007
Today: Dinah ended her marriage to Oliver after learning he killed Prometheus, the destroyer of Star City, although DC’s regular rebooting erased their marriage in general.
Rebecca: Kayleigh, I don’t know about you but after this issue I want to lie on the ground and declare heterosexuality to be dead. I just hate so, so much about this.
Kayleigh: Reading this felt like every “mismatched couple” sitcom of the mid-00s smashing my face into a wedding cake. If our last wedding issue was batshit insane, this is just hackneyed junk.
Rebecca: I was definitely on Team Marvel growing up, so I know Black Canary and Green Arrow more from cultural osmosis than personal experience. I think the only stories I’ve read of them as a couple were Alan Moore’s backup comics reprinted in a trade paperback of his smaller, in-universe pieces for DC and, well, Alan Moore’s written good female characters but I didn’t find his take on Black Canary impressive. She’s good in the Birds of Prey stuff I’ve tried — even when that comic didn’t land for me I Iiked her occasionally contentious friendships with Barbara Gordon and Helena Bertinelli. My Oliver Queen knowledge is … bad. I’ve never seen Arrow and despite being a former Kevin Smith fan I never got around to his still-actually-critically-acclaimed Green Arrow run.
That being said, I do know that they’re fairly prominent in terms of DC couples. I’m guessing at their best Dinah and Oliver would have something of a Beatrice and Benedict from Much Ado About Nothing or Han Solo and Princess Leia from Star Wars appeal. They’re both these super-tough, quarrelsome people, but I don’t think Judd Winick pulls it off here.
Kayleigh: This was my first real introduction to Green Arrow and Black Canary as a couple. I’m not a regular DC reader and I’ve never seen Arrow, or even their Justice League Unlimited episodes. Apologies to any Ollie/Dinah shippers reading this, but my first impression of their relationship was a visceral, “oh no, they’re terrible.” Ollie and Dinah come off as miserably toxic instead of sexy or funny. I was agog at the Black Canary Wedding Special (”Did she seriously throw his laptop out the window?!”) and my distaste only grew with the wedding issue itself. Their “fight, then fuck” dynamic is mired in queasy gender roles (“He called her a slut, but she really likes it; she hit him in a rage, but he’s turned on,” etc.) and it’s A HUGE CLICHE. I hope my mistreatment of the capslock key conveys how hard my eyes rolled reading this.
Rebecca: If the Storm-Richards marriage issue was a massive superhero fight that happened to end in a wedding and the Grey-Summers marriage issue was a character study that delighted in going through the motions of a ceremony, the Lance-Queen marriage issue tries to be both and doesn’t really succeed at either. After a scuzzy beginning where the couple fights, Dinah hits Ollie in the face, and then they rip off each other’s clothes and almost have sex before deciding to save it for the big day, the comic races through sending out invitations and the bachelor/ette parties, culminating in a ceremony at the Hall of Justice that’s interrupted by an army of supervillains led by Deathstroke. Then after that, Oliver attempts to kill Dinah during the honeymoon sex and Dinah stabs him in the neck with an arrow, but the final splash page promises the story will be continuing in the new Green Arrow/Black Canary comic series, so you know Oliver’s not really dead. I get that Winick and artist Amanda Conner were trying to do a lot with this issue, but it all adds up to a really sick, unpleasant feeling rather than sexy and fun action. And I didn’t even mention the double-splash page summarizing their relationship which suggests that Oliver getting raped by Shado was a betrayal of Dinah.
Kayleigh: My takeaway from that big splash page was “Black Canary and Ra’s Al Ghul had a thing? Weird.” Up until the cliffhanger, Judd Winick writes a very predictable, cliche superhero wedding story, complete with broad and lazy characterization. I wanted to yell “CHECK!” out loud at every plot point, from the bachelor/ette parties with strippers to the supervillains crashing the wedding to the, uh, “joke” that Black Canary is a Bridezilla who cares more about her lost wedding ring than the chaos around her. Dr. Sivana’s “Eh, we’re supervillains, we gotta try to crash it, right?” was kinda funny, though.
Rebecca: Weirdly enough, that “superhero fight or ceremony funtimes?” dichotomy is also reflected in the prequels to this issue. The Justice League of America Wedding Special is 95% build up to a confrontation between the JLA and a bunch of supervillains led by Lex Luthor, The Joker and Cheetah that takes place in the margins of the characters’ bachelor/ette parties but has nothing to do with the wedding itself and concludes in another comic entirely. So it’s really not worth the reader’s time although I did enjoy Hawkgirl putting a knife in Doctor Light’s leg given the ugly events of Identity Crisis. The Black Canary Wedding Planner is a “comedy” issue where Dinah tries to plan the wedding and fails because it’s too hard and girly and superhero stuff gets in the way and she won’t get a planner despite Ollie’s wishes — although why he won’t just plan the wedding himself is never explained. Anyway, it’s sexist and terrible but given that at seven months from my Big Day I at least have a venue picked, it made me feel better about my own wedding planning. Also, it’s kind of bizarre that both comics have an instance where Bruce Wayne has to bail someone out of doing something stupid via his massive piles of money. Did you have any thoughts on these issues? Although if you don’t, it’s cool, because I’m positive Winick and Conner didn’t read them.
Kayleigh: The Justice League Wedding Special, by the late, great Dwayne McDuffie, is the best written of the three issues, which is a bad sign because it has the least to do with the actual wedding. Batman paying for the strippers at Ollie’s bachelor party was my big “Am I actually reading this?” moment. The Black Canary Wedding Planner is more blandly sexist sitcom shit, with Dinah suggesting she and Ollie honeymoon on an island, somehow forgetting her fiance’s traumatic origin story was being stranded on an island.
Rebecca: Anyway, as unpleasant as this comic was … I liked Dinah’s dress? Well, let me clarify what I mean by “Dinah’s dress” because she actually has two. In the Black Canary Wedding Planner Dinah picks out an actual wedding dress. It’s a sweet, strapless mermaid cut with a rose pattern on the waist, although the tiny pink belt is confusing and kind of tacky. I actually like the white, veiled take on the Black Canary costume that Conner drew in the actual wedding issue a lot better. It’s at least visually striking — I love the bows on the back of the boots — and works well when the battle starts. Plus, since all of the superhero guests (aside from Barbara in her chair festooned with roses) are in costume it makes her look less out of place.
Kayleigh: I wasn’t a fan of the wedding dress Dinah tries on; it’s unmemorable and unworthy of Wonder Woman’s “You’d be the envy of Aphrodite” comment. I think artists Lee Ferguson and Karl Story were much more interested in designing the elaborate lingerie she wears later in the issue. (Also, Vixen and Wonder Woman try on lingerie too, just to give the male readers who probably hate all this wedding stuff something to gawk at.) Amanda Conner’s redesign of Black Canary’s classic costume is very cute, and it’s a nice change of pace when our previous brides have worn traditional wedding dresses or just their regular costumes.
Rebecca: In terms of everything else going on at the wedding, I think Mister Miracle making moon-eyes at his wife Big Barda was my favorite part. I also liked that even though Conner has a cheesecakey aesthetic, she’s equal-opportunity about it. The Justice League of America Wedding Special is really lazy in how much it caters to the male gaze — witness the cover of Superman jumping out of a cake that has him fully clothed but puts Wonder Woman’s half-wedgie front and center — but Conner draws the chippendales at the bachelorette party actually half-naked and has a lot of shots of Ollie shirtless. I mean … it’s something, at least.
Kayleigh: Amanda Conner’s art is cute and cheeky (in more ways than one) and by far the best part of the issue. Many of the jokes probably would not have landed without her talent for elastic, relatable facial expressions–her art is what really sells the Justice League’s reactions to the wedding invitations, for example.
Rebecca: I think what frustrates me so much about this issue is … look, there are far worse couples out there than Black Canary and Green Arrow. Terry Long was notorious for being an icky perverted douche in his relationship with Donna Troy, but in the bits of their wedding issue I’ve happened to see online it seemed like the authors were at least trying to sell them as a couple. I get that some of the cynicism is built into this issue. It’s called “And They Said it Wouldn’t Last,” many characters doubt that Dinah and Ollie should be together for various reasons, and it ends with a murder fakeout. Still, to me this issue is less indicative of how bad Dinah and Ollie are for each other (with DC constantly hitting the reset button do any of these things matter?) than how frustrating mainstream comics can be in utilizing their star couples. I get that romantic conflict breeds drama, but this comic relies so hard on the conflict that it doesn’t sell us on the romance. I actually like the bickering couple trope but I want absolutely nothing to do with this.
Kayleigh: Again, apologies to Ollie/Dinah fans who have illustrated Tumblr essays ready to school us on the greatness of their love, but this wedding issue made me want to call a divorce lawyer. It does a terrible job of showing us why Ollie and Dinah want to be married, other than “they’ve been together a long time, the sex is great, and DC will sell a lot of copies.” They barely seem to like each other, let alone love each other. Hell, one of the best scenes in this book is Wonder Woman arguing to Superman that Ollie and Dinah shouldn’t get married, because it’s healthier to be in relationships outside of the dangerous world of superheroics. (This scene has interesting significance in 2016, considering the Nu52 unsuccessfully tried to sell Clark/Diana as its new supercouple before bringing back the beloved Clark/Lois marriage.) I’m sure there are much, much better Ollie/Dinah stories out there, but to quote an old ABC song: “Shoot that poison arrow to my heart.”