There are 4 characters in DC Comics continuity who have taken on the mantle of Black Orchid. This page is for the 1st Black Orchid, Susan Linden.
- For the 2nd Black Orchid, see: Flora Black
- For the 3rd Black Orchid, see: Suzy
- For the 4th Black Orchid, see: Alba Garcia (from New 52's Justice League Dark)
Susan Linden had been a friend (and childhood sweetheart) of the botanist Dr. Phillip Sylvian, who was a botanist along side contemporaries such as Jason Woodrue, Alec Holland and Pamela Isley. Susan ended up marrying a man named Carl Thorne who she met working in Monaco, a marriage which would later turn abusive. She turned to Dr. Sylvian for protection but was unable to prevent Carl from finding her and eventually killing her. Dr. Sylvian was able to revive her however, using cloning techniques and his botanical knowledge to turn her into a plant/human hybrid and gain the powers that would start her espionage and crime fighting career.
The Black Orchid first appeared as a mysterious vigilante in Adventure Comics #428, from writer Sheldon Mayer and artists Tony DeZuniga.
She was a crime fighter who would capture criminals by disguising herself as someone close to them in order to find incriminating evidence. Often, her involvement would not be discovered until the end of the story, when the person Orchid had replaced would be found bound and gagged with a black orchid left near them.
Despite being dubbed as an origin issue, The Black Orchid never received a definitive origin or a real name in any of her early appearances. An issue of Blue Devil Annual #1 gave several differing explanations but none of them intended to be the true origin.
It was later that Neil Gaiman's Black Orchid mini-series, in his earliest work for DC Comics, would provide a back-story and real name for the character, only to kill her off moments later.
Major Story Arcs
The Phantom Stranger Back-Ups
The Phantom Stranger #31
Susan is traveling to a tiny atoll island, previously marked as uninhabited, the Island is home to a man known as Brute Barstoe, who is using forced labour camps to mine the Gold from the Island itself. When a woman is discovered trying to write a letter to the outside world, she is strung up to be made an example of by Barstoe. However, Black Orchid swoops in to save the day. Warned off by the threat of the woman’s husband and children being killed, she drops the woman, and retreats, only to return later when Barstoe has the wives of the men lined up, convinced one of them is the Black Orchid herself. As the men are led to their wives, by Barstoe’s commander, Carla, Barstoe accuses one mans wife of being the Black Orchid. At that moment the Black Orchid strikes again, swooping down and knocking some of the guards over. The wife, mistaken for Black Orchid, beats Barstoe around the head, and the entire force labour group escapes on his boat, leaving Barstoe with Carla, who turns out to be a dummy made from Boat-putty.
The Phantom Stranger #32
Then a woman disguised as the Black Orchid, who apparently possesses all of her powers breaks into a Bank, stealing the contents of it’s vault. It is later revealed to all be a caper cooked up by a young couple to try and get rich and move to Rio. Using her mastery of disguises and hitting a number of her known haunts, Black Orchid found the young couple, and while the woman, Myrna, prepared her the jewels in the back of the plane, replaced her, and bugged the cockpit, revealing the true culprits and clearing Black Orchid of any involvement.
The Phantom Stranger#32
The next adventure Black Orchid was involved in was a large scale frame-racket. A man, Joel Dubbish, was set up for a murder he did not commit. After he was framed, the actual murderer made his escape, only to be caught by the Black Orchid and given an opportunity to give himself up and make things right. However, he was gunned down by other members of the same organisation.
Black Orchid offered the group an Ultimatum, come clean or be arrested. When the group continued to commit conspiracy, attempting to life an old ladies prized gems, they were quickly found and arrested. Black Orchid had once again gone under cover in disguise to trick them into her trap. All members of the group were arrested.
Black Orchid next infiltrated a group of diamond thieves, trying to pull off a heist by stealing the diamonds from a car on a country pass. She disguised herself as the ring-leaders girlfriend, then later, during the heist itself, she captured the group.
The Phantom Stranger #38
Later, a race-car driver, and rich woman known as Ronnie Kuhn, stated her admiration for the Black Orchid and even made herself a costume. Later she was contacted by someone who appeared to be the Black Orchid, however, when they arrived at the “Orchids” home. It was revealed that this Orchid was a member of a Legion of Black Orchids, who used technology to render themselves invulnerable to bullets, give themselves super strength and flight. The members of this legion, later revealed to be a criminal organisation were Karen Jensen, Stefanie Tower, Barbie Henderson, Janet Grant, and Lisa Patrick.
The group tricked Ronnie into giving them the plans to the World Bank, who was safe guarded by her Father. Under the pretence of defending the Bank, the Orchids knocked out Ronnie and attempted to blow the vault open. It was at this point where the real Black Orchid interceded, rescuing the bound and gagged Ronnie and capturing the remaining Legion of Orchid members. Ronnie was even allowed to take the credit for it, as the real Orchid escaped, and the police wouldn’t give her identity away.
Blue Devil Annual
During an adventure with a number of mystically inclined heroes to prevent Felix Faust from taking over the world, the mystery of Black Orchids origins and identity were compounded further. Madame Xanadu stated to the Creeper, than Black Orchid was a student known as Matilda Moorcock, until she saved a woman from a crashing florist truck. She was hit with Black Orchids, which had been irradiated by fallout from the island of their origin.
Black Orchid once again steps in later in the adventure, knocking Faust off a mountainside into a ravine, while Creeper, Blue Devil, and Etrigan all fight. The Phantom Stranger then relates another alternate origin for the Black Orchid. She was science student Paula Porter, who witnessed an experimentation on irradiating Orchids. On her way out of the science experiment, she slipped, stabbing herself on the thorns of the Orchids, and giving herself amazing powers. Black Orchid remained with the group to defeat the demon Nebrios, and eventually went her separate ways with the rest of the grouping.
Black Orchid was next seen impersonating Mr. William Hellers (AKA William Hell) limo driver, and promptly turned the information she discovered over to the Suicide Squad, who defeated and shamed William Hell.
Black Orchid continued to work with the Suicide Squad, bringing Captain Boomerang back into the fold and fighting part of the Russian superhero team, The Peoples Heroes, known as Hammer. She later departed the area, after tackling the Military Helicopters sent after the Squad.
Continuing her relationship with the Squad, Orchid was part of a mission to secure a drugs shipment and prevent it from coming into the united states. However, it led Black Orchid and the Squad into direct conflict with Vixen, and Green Arrow. While the drug runners kept Orchid, Vixen and Boomerang captured, Boomerang thought he might be in love with Orchid. She later rescued the pair of them from an exploding building.
Orchid later took part in the interplanetary Invasion event, where she fought alongside the Squad for a final time.
The original Black Orchid, revealed to be Susan Linden Thorne, was killed by a shot to the head in Lex Luthor’s board room. She was undercover trying to discover what exactly Lex was up to next. It was discovered there were two other clones of Susan, who continued as the new Black Orchids.
Justice League: Another Nail
In Another Nail, Black Orchid, along with Star Sapphire and Power Girl, who seem to have had a past history of working together as a team, first kidnapped The Chief from the Doom Patrol, then stole an inanimate Amazo from The Metal Men. While the group had the reputation for being criminals of some sort (the specifics of that were never explained), in this case they were working with Black Canary to save a dying Oliver Queen's life by getting the Chief to implant his brain into Amazo. By the end of the story, Orchid, Sapphire, and Power Girl all ended up joining the Justice League.
In the magic manipulated world of Trinity, Black Orchid appeared as a member of the renegade Justice League members, who were eventually caught and recruited into the battle against the evil Morgan Le Fey and Enigma.
In the Flashpoint universe, Black Orchid was a member of the original Secret Seven, but was killed years earlier in an incident that left Shade, the Changing Man as the team's sole survivor. Black Orchid seemingly returned years later, but was later revealed to be, in an ironic twist, a shape-shifting monster that had simply stolen her identity.
Powers & Abilities
She has also demonstrated the ability to fly, super strength and the ability to project force fields. Black Orchid is also a master of disguise and has used this ability to infiltrate underground criminal gangs on more than one occasion. She was later hinted to have plant based powers connecting her to the green.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold
Black Orchid appeared in the teaser segment of the episode "The Mask of Matches Malone!" She infiltrated Poison Ivy's all-female gang by taking out and replacing one of her guards, and used her disguise to get close enough to Ivy to rescue the kidnapped Batman. After Ivy and her hench-women were defeated, Black Orchid vanished without a trace, leaving Batman baffled. In keeping with the character's mysterious nature, she had no lines or credited voice actress.
Fallout: New Vegas
In a strange cameo appearance, Black Orchid's cover of Adventure Comics #428 appears as a comic book named ¡La Fantoma! which the player can read for skill points.