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9 things the Birds of Prey movie should take from the comics

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Sep 9, 2019

DC’s Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) flies into theaters in just a few months, which means we’re finally seeing some early looks at this highly anticipated (and, if you’re me, highly feared) addition to the list of Warner Bros. live-action DC adaptations.

The film has a huge and heavy-hitting cast. In addition to Margot Robbie reprising her Suicide Squad role as Harley Quinn, the film also includes Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Dinah Lance/Black Canary, Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Helena Bertinelli/Huntress, Rosie Perez as GCP Detective Renee Montoya, and Ella Jay Basco as Cassandra Cain. And they’ll be facing off against villains Black Mask (Ewan McGregor) and Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina).

That is a TON of comic book characters in one film, many of whom will be making their way to the big screen for the first time. We know a few details about how they’ll be portrayed in the film, but with decades of comic history to draw from, we have a bit of a wish list.

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Black CAnary

The aesthetic of the 2015 Black Canary comics

Mary Elizabeth Winstead has said in a previous interview that the film has a '90s feel. While we don’t know whether she means that the film will look like the '90s or offer up a sort of Clueless-meets-Charlie’s Angels vibe, that would fit with one of the most striking character redesigns of the last decade or so: 2015’s Black Canary, written by Brenden Fletcher with art by Annie Wu.

The series was vibrant and full of grunge and post-punk inspired looks that were edgy without being grimdark. The entire series oozed a laidback, loose, and cool aesthetic that you don’t generally see in Gotham’s underground while still fitting the combination of rock and vigilante that the story brought to the page.

The looks we’ve seen so far from the film seem like they might be pulling from this same character design, with more crop tops and leather than skin-tight spandex costumes. Hopefully, the rest of the film carries that through.

Black Canary 2015 cover

Black Canary’s band

Speaking of the 2015 series, it would be great if the film brought Black Canary’s band along with it. It just makes so much sense for the character to sing in a band, given her voice-related meta human powers. The earliest image from the film showed Smolett-Bell’s Canary at a microphone, so fingers crossed it’s not just an animated-series-inspired musical distraction (not that we’d mind if the Birds brought that entendre filled number to live-action).

Maybe they could even get the real-life band they put together for the comic series to return?

Harley Quinn #25

Harley’s cathartic emancipation

The subtitle of the film, and the first line of the recently released teaser, more than hint that Harley will be dumping her Puddin’ following the end of Suicide Squad. Harley has done the same in the comics in recent years, joining up with the newer Suicide Squad, hanging out with some new friends, and simultaneously learning her worth outside Joker’s orbit. Harley has had a lot of great moments since the New 52 broke them up, but it’s her comic book emancipation that has been the most satisfying. In her self-titled series, Harley confronts Joker in his cell, beating the crap out of him as he taunts her, finally refusing to kill him because honestly, he’s not worth the effort and he doesn’t deserve the satisfaction.

While I’m loathe to suggest the return of Leto’s awful iteration of the Joker (or any version, honestly), it would be great to get some element of this, even if it’s just a mention in dialogue or a blurry flashback. Just a little taste of the cathartic release that comes with breaking away from an abusive relationship once and for all.


Make it gay, you cowards

With Harley’s emancipation, there’s also a hope that she might someday find her way to our anti-hero OTP with Poison Ivy. While that might be too much to add to an already stuffed film, that doesn’t mean Harley can’t get her queer on with the multitude of other women with whom she’ll share the screen. 

Harley isn’t the only hero who should be expressing her sapphic desires. Renee Montoya is one of the most iconic lesbian heroes in DC’s canon, having been outed 15 years ago during Gotham Central. If she’s not an out and proud lesbian badass in this film it will truly be a waste.

Honestly, while we’re at it, who needs men at all? Make them all gay.

Cassandra Cain Batgirl

Cass Cain’s strange and violent upbringing

Cassandra Cain is a fan-favorite character and objectively the most interesting (and perhaps best) character to ever don Batgirl’s cape and cowl. Much of that comes from the fact that she started as a bad guy and, upon meeting both Batman and Barbara Gordon, she decides to put her talents to work for the good guys (and struggles with her past along the way).

In the comics, Cass is a young woman who was raised in seclusion to be an extremely effective assassin. She is deprived of speech and human contact and as a result, she is deadly, but mute, illiterate, and lacking in some basic social skills. All of this she learns from Babs, creating a captivating story about love and respect and the power of good mentors to heal the trauma of a poor childhood.

Now, the age of the film’s Cass and the fact that some early information indicates the Birds will be protecting the character from Black Mask means she might play a role more similar to that of Sin from the 2006 Black Canary mini-series, but why not both?

Huntress Birds of Prey

Huntress’ messed up family and questionable morals

In that same interview mentioned at the start of this list, Mary Elizabeth Winstead mentioned that her version of Huntress is a woman raised since childhood to be an assassin. Let’s hope she’s an assassin for the mob, though, because the comic book version of the character drew much of her motivation from her complete mess of a family. It’s always interesting to watch a character who became a vigilante with the straightforward motivation to take down her father’s crime syndicate, especially because her deep-seated anger and criminal upbringing created a character whose questionable morals often put her at odds with the other members of the Birds.

Dinah Drake Black Canary Secret Origins #50

Black Canary’s heroic childhood

Dinah Lance has always been interesting because she’s one of the few heroes who has eclipsed the first person to wear her costume. If you ask me, the fact that Dinah was raised around heroes and ultimately followed in her mother’s footsteps is a huge part of making her the natural leader she tends to be. She’s young, but old hat. She knows the hero business like the back of her hand and it makes her the kind of person who can present an experienced, authoritative personality necessary in the crowded world of Gotham City heroics.

That said, it would also be great to see a big-screen version of Wildcat, Dinah’s mentor and her mother’s old friend, even if he’s just a sparring partner.

Birds of Prey lineup

The rest of the flock

One of the things that made the Birds of Prey comic so unique and interesting was the fact that the cast could, and often did, change pretty often. While this cast does not need to add any more main members, it would be great to see cameos from other members like Lady Blackhawk, Manhunter, Spy Smasher, Katana, Poison Ivy, and Judomaster.


BONUS: Oracle

Look, I know there’s nearly no chance of Barbara Gordon making an appearance at all in this film, let alone as Oracle rather than Batgirl, but a girl can dream, right? Plus, with no information about the planned Batgirl film so far, and the fact that they share a writer, it would make some sense to make the titular character into the Cass Cain version instead of Babs.

Picture it: a closing scene in which Cass wonders what she’ll do next. A voice off-screen saying she’s got somewhere she can stay if she wants. A wheelchair rolling into frame. Cass smiling and zipping up the Batgirl costume. Fade to black. TO BE CONTINUED.

Hollywood, call me.

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