I was reading the recent Batman vs Robin mini-series, one that involved Damien Wayne’s corruption at the hands of a couple of dark magicians, and lo and behold, there was Black Alice. Black Alice was a character that popped up in a lot of places, but I don’t think she’s recognizable enough to, say, get her own movie or do more than a guest appearance on a TV show. Plus, her moral alignment is a lot more…nebulous compared to others.
I’ve used flimsier excuses than that to justify a character’s inclusion here.
Lori “Black Alice” Zechin first appeared in Birds of Prey #76 in January of 2005. The issue in question was written by Gail Simone, and as anyone who has followed Gail Simone’s work, especially during that era knows, Simone is not above flipping characters she really liked and in many cases created into other work of hers, and Black Alice, whose name wasn’t even Alice apparently, was just such a character. As such, it is something of a question about whether or not Black Alice can be classified as a hero or a villain. Truth be told, she is what the story and situation call upon, but her powers make her particularly formidable: she can borrow or siphon the mystical or magical powers of, oh, any magical being and use said powers herself. She may not be as good at using them as the being she borrowed them from, but she can use ’em.
Originally, Black Alice was a teenage metahuman who could steal magical powers. She didn’t necessarily consciously choose whose powers she was borrowing. She may not have even had much control at first over when she did it. She just did it. Originally from the town of Dayton, Ohio, Lori started off mostly using her powers to borrow magical gifts and then use them to murder drug dealers. Her mother was hooked on prescription painkillers and committed suicide, leaving Lori’s father in a depressive funk and Lori herself mad as hell. This and her new “kill drug dealers” plan actually makes her something of an outcast, even from her Wiccan group at the local high school.
The Birds of Prey, a group that never actually called themselves that until the DC Rebirth era as near as I can make out, had lost their clocktower headquarters in Gotham City and hit the road, looking to find, protect, and train new metahumans. Black Alice was among the first, but Oracle didn’t know what her powers were, and Black Alice was able to easily escape when Black Canary intervened to prevent the murder of some drug dealers. The team is only able to more or less subdue Alice when she gets really mad and learns her boyfriend is two-timing her, and even then, the Birds manage to stop Black Alice by showing the other girl is legitimately sorry to have hurt her. That must have worked. Black Alice was using the power of Black Adam at the time to destroy a shopping mall with all of those folks inside of it.
Now, Black Alice’s more casual feelings about, say, murdering opponents didn’t make her the best teammate. She was particularly harsh to Birds of Prey member Misfit, the other teenager on the team and someone who probably deserves an entry in this series more than Black Alice does. That can also explain why she’s jumped around as either hero or villain depending on the story. When the Infinite Crisis build-ups began, Black Alice was recruited by the future Shadowpact to stop the rampaging Spectre from destroying all magic and magical users. They figured the Spectre would be easy to defeat once Black Alice stole his powers, but it turned out with his power, the Spectre was just an intangible ghost and was completely immune from harm, so that plan didn’t work. Turned out stealing the Spectre’s power meant even the Spectre’s power couldn’t hurt him.
As for more evil turns for the character, she had been approached by the Secret Society of Supervillains about joining up if Talia could use their resources to resurrect her dead mother and to get the girl some training. Black Alice actually accepted the offer, but her mom isn’t quite her old self, her father slid into alcoholism, and Black Alice even give up the power of Doctor Fate and forgave the Birds of Prey when her life got too difficult. She would even eventually rescue Misfit from the Dark Side Club’s teen metahuman brawling pits since some medication Black Alice was on actually made her immune to Darkseid’s will-suppressing drugs. Also, it turned out Misfit was her cousin, and Black Alice if nothing else will do whatever she can for her family even if she doesn’t like them very much.
Black Alice did eventually join the Secret Six, the antihero group made up of former supervillains, whose book was also written by Gail Simone. On that team, she’d clash with team leader Scandal, learn to fear Bane, and declare the uninterested Ragdoll was her boyfriend. She even at one point channeled the power of Etrigan the demon and called herself Estrogan.
So, about the only thing I can for certain about Black Alice, whether she’s a good guy or not, is she will hit back hard against anyone she feels has wronged her, she’s had a tough life, and whatever she does might just make things tougher. But that was before the New 52
See, the New 52 version had her thinking she was the sole survivor of a car crash that killed her parents, but in reality, she had died and a dark elder god had just resurrected her. As for the aforementioned Batman vs Robin story, that saw Black Alice’s being forced by the Devil Nezha character to syphon magical beings like the Queen of Fables and the Phantom Stranger into Fate’s helmet. Nezha called her a syphon there, implying to me at least she could borrow magical powers from others, but she didn’t need to use them herself. She could also put them elsewhere.
Anyway, that’s Black Alice, a character that doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon but probably doesn’t have the name recognition of, say, lots of other characters she’s spent time with. Except for that Misfit person.
I think I know who the next column will be about.
Weekend Trek “Ship In A Bottle”
Vikings: Valhalla “Pieces Of The Gods”
Noteworthy Issues: The Amazing Spider-Man #52 (September, 1967)