Publisher: DC Comics
First Appearance: Blackhawk #133 (February 1959)
Created By: Jack Schiff and Dan Dillin
What do you do when you when your one dream is to join an elite international squadron of crack pilots, but you’re a woman and it’s a boys-only club? Oh, and it’s World War II?
Well, if you’re Zinda Blake, you train yourself in flying, combat, and weaponry, then show up and demand entry. And if you’re Zinda Blake, you’re so damn badass that eventually, they have to let you join.
Zinda flew and fought with the Blackhawks a number of times back in World War II. For a time, she fell under the thrall of a Nazi named Killer Shark, who used a potion to brainwash her into becoming his consort, Queen Killer Shark (shouldn’t he have been King Killer Shark, then?), but she was eventually freed by her Blackhawk comrades.
When the various DC timelines went all hinky during Zero Hour, Zinda found herself stranded in the 90s, now the only surviving member of the Blackhawks. Never one to wallow, Zinda hung out with Guy Gardner’s ragtag group of weirdoes before being recruited by Barbara Gordon as the Birds of Prey’s new pilot. She quickly bonded with the other women on the team and was in fact the first person to actually call them “Birds of Prey.” Despite a couple of bumps in the road – like being kidnapped by Killer Shark’s insane grandson or briefly resigning defiantly when Spy Smasher took over the team – Zinda stuck with the Birds until the reboot, showing that as long as there are planes, booze, and handsome fellers, Zinda can adapt to any time period.
So What’s So Great About Her?
Superhero comics abound with folks who decide to train themselves to be black belts and experts marksmen and peerless detectives and whatnot. And all of those are very difficult things to teach yourself to do, but all you really need is yourself or a bow or some Agatha Christie novels. None of them require getting your hands on, you know, a plane.
But somehow, in the 1940s, in the middle of a war, Zinda Blake managed to teach herself to fly not just one type of plane, but pretty much anything with wings. God, can we get a Lady Blackhawk: Year One up in here? I want to know how she did it!
Her flying skillz perfected, Zinda then brazenly demanded entry into the Blackhawks’ boys’ club, even though she didn’t have a comical ethnic stereotype to fall back on. (Oh, for the days when comics could be cheerfully xenophobic! No, wait, old Blackhawks comics are gross.) Anyone would call that enough badassery to last a lifetime. (We’re going to ignore the Queen Killer Shark nonsense, because it gives me the screaming horrors.)
But no, that wasn’t enough for Zinda. Timewarped half a century into the future (later updated to be closer to 70 years), Zinda shrugged her shoulders and decided to make the best of it. She presumably learned to fly all over again – I’m no aviatrix, but I assume planes are a wee bit different now than they were in 1945 – and quickly made herself indispensable to two superhero teams in a row. Hawkah!
All that said, as much as I admire Zinda for her incredible resolve, the first thing I think of when I think of her is how damn fun she is. I love that she still wears her adorable Lady Blackhawk uniform and her 1940s pinup waves and calls her teammates “Sis.” I love that she can drink burly dudes under the table and is a crack shot who enjoys nothing more than a good bar brawl. I love that despite being born in (I’m guessing) the 1920s, she completely owns her sexuality and will happily proposition a man she finds attractive (even if her gaydar needs work). Basically, she’s Christina Aguilera’s “Candyman” come to life, and who doesn’t love that song?
I don’t believe the “Lady Blackhawk” in the recently-canceled Blackhawks series was Zinda (anyone know?), but I know the Birds of Prey can’t get anywhere without their wings. Sign Zinda up, ladies! You won’t regret it.
Blackhawk #133, 140, 143, 147, 151, 155, 161, 163, 166, 170, 182, 186, 188, 191, 200, 204, 216, 225, 228, 229, 231-233, 236, 239, 240, 242
Guy Gardner: Warrior #24, 29, 36, 38-43
Birds of Prey v1 #75-127
Batman Confidential #36-39
Birds of Prey v2 #1-14