After a lengthy southern hemisphere winter hiatus, I’m back with the first of a new series of guides for Patrons of CK! This wasn’t the next guide on my list before last week, but thanks to a brilliant new #1 issue from Kelly Thompson, Leonardo Romero, Jordie Bellaire, & Clayton Cowles last week I decided it was time for this new guide to fly: Guide to Birds of Prey!
Birds of Prey is a comic with a dedicated fanbase, in large part to Gail Simone’s star-making turn writing it for the better part of seven years prior to DC’s 2011 Flashpoint event. And, it got a raised profile with the Harley Quinn & The Birds of Prey flick in 2020.
But, if I had to boil down the title to a single summary or mission statement for my new Birds of Prey Guide, what would that be?
As originally conceived and launched by Chuck Dixon as a one-shot in 1996, Birds of Prey was a team-up between Black Canary and Barbara Gordon as known as Oracle. Black Canary was the field agent, and Oracle was her mission control.
While “Black Canary + Barbara Gordon” is typically a solid summary for the book, it hasn’t always been the case.
When Gail Simone took over scripting duties in 2006, she broadened the team to include Huntress – and, later, removed Black Canary when she graduated to her own solo title. At that point, the definition of Birds of Prey was something more like “DC’s Oracle-Anchored, Gotham-Adjacent Girl-Power Team.” (Simone herself would muddy that definition by including Hawk in her return run in 2010).
Then, with 2011’s New 52 relaunch, DC added a new wrinkle to the definition of the Birds of Prey: Huntress was a different character and there was no more Oracle… because Gail Simone had relaunched Barbara Gordon back into her own comic as Batgirl! That put Black Canary back at the centre of the team, though DC kept it “Gotham-Adjacent” with supporting characters like Poison Ivy and Katana – plus, DC relented and added Barbara as Batgirl back into the cast after the first arc.
With Rebirth in 2016, Julie Benson & Shawna Benson relaunched a Simone-inspired trio, with Black Canary joined by Barbara as Batgirl and the current iteration of Huntress. However, that status quo lasted only a year, and was further shaken up by DC jettisoning Barbara for the film version, replacing her with Harley Quinn as the headliner (plus Cassandra Cain – Batgirl in the comics, but not the film). That was echoed briefly in the comics, but only in a pair of Black Label series of dubious continuity.
Finally, just last week one of my favorite writers (not just in comics!) – Kelly Thompson(!) – relaunched Birds of Prey in a way that echoed Simone’s latter-years status quo: a “Gotham-Adjacent Girl-Power” team, only with Black Canary as the anchor rather than Barbara Gordon, with Harley Quinn intact, and Cassandra Cain as the Batgirl!
So, how can we boil that down to a single summary for the Birds of Prey Guide
I think it’s fair to say at this point that Birds of Prey has definitively become the “Black Canary Team-Up” title, given that her absence from the cast was a brief hiatus and not a recurring status quo. I think we can also definitively say the book is often “Gotham Adjacent” and will have at least one member of the extended Bat-Family in the cast.
Here’s my single-sentence summary: Birds of Prey is a Black-Canary team-up always featuring a member of the Bat-Family.
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