DENNIS O’NEIL: Two-Fers, part one
Mr. Robert Joy, of DC Comics, informs me that Green Arrow and Black Canary are getting married this summer. Allow me to assume a Victorian mien and sniff, “About time.”
How long have they been “going together” anyway? I guess that depends on whether we’re talking about the first Black Canary, Dinah Lance, or her daughter, Dinah Laurel. I confess: I’m no longer sure who was involved with whom, or when, which may mean that senility is knocking at my door, or that the continuity has become a tad confusing.
Well, I am sure of one bit of Black Canariana, and that’s that the hot mama, Dinah Lance, the original Canary, was an alien – even more alien than Superman or the Martian Manhunter. At least The Man of Steel and the green detective from the red planet were of this universe. Not so, Dinah: In one of Julius Schwartz’s annual teamings of the forties superheroes, whose club was called the Justice Society, and the new superheroes, whose club was The Justice League, we saw Dinah’s husband, Larry Lance, die. So grief-stricken was the Canary that she followed the Leaguers into another dimension to insure that she would be free of anything that could remind her of her late spouse. I mean, think about it: another dimension! That makes Superman’s migration from (I guess) another galaxy seem pretty paltry. And the Manhunter’s trip from Mars? Another planet, not only in the same solar system, but one of Earth’s nearest neighbors? Pah! Hardly worth mentioning.
Those annual teamings of the superdoers of different eras is what’s really interesting (and, incidentally, the point of this blather, if it has one.) The reason is this: the stories ran over two issues. If you were born before, oh, say, 1966, you might be asking, so what? Because if you’re that young, you don’t remember a time when continued stories were rare. But until Stan Lee made them standard procedure at Marvel in the 1960s, they were next to unheard-of. The reason, someone back then told me, was that publishers couldn’t be sure that just because a certain newsstand had this month’s issue of Detective Comics, there was no assurance that it would carry next month’s. Comic book distribution was a hit-or-miss affair in which those involved paid attention to the number of comics entrusted to a given retailer, but none at all to individual titles. Funny animals, superheroes, wacky teenagers – made no difference. It was all just product.
How, then, was Mr. Schwartz able to perpetrate his annual continued stories? I once asked him this and his answer was that he just did it, and no one ever complained. Stan’s answer would be different. I remember that he said somewhere – in his autobiography? – that doing continued stories saved him the trouble of having to think of so many plots – and there, my friends, speaks a true professional!
I don’t think we’ve exhausted this subject so – you guessed it! – you can consider what you’ve just read as Part One, to be continued…
RECOMMENDED READING: God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, by Christopher Hitchens.
Batman, The Question, Iron Man, Green Lantern and/or Green Arrow, and The Shadow, as well as all kinds of novels, stories and articles.
Dennis O’Neil is an award-winning editor and writer of comic books like