56 years ago - Susan Linden is born.
45 years ago - 11-year-old Susan befriends Philip Sylvain.
34 years ago - 22-year-old Susan marries Carl Thorne after they meet in Morocco.
32 years ago - 24-year-old Susan's husband Carl Thorne begins to abuse her.
30 years ago - 26-year-old Susan runs away and hides from her husband, staying with Sylvain. She begins working as his assistant.
28 years ago - 28-year-old Susan is found by her husband Carl Thorne who kills her. Sylvain uses his plant hybrid experiments to bring her back. She uses her new abilities to bring Thorne to justice as Black Orchid.
18 years ago - 38-year-old Susan is killed along with Sylvain when his greenhouses are destroyed in a fire. Two of her clones manage to survive.
Black Orchid is a fantastic little nugget of comic coolness. It shouldn't come as much of a shock that women spent much of comics history not really having much in the way of empowering representation. While this mostly meant that the only female characters you ever saw were the girlfriends of the actual heroes, but even characters considered to be trailblazers of female representation suffered long periods where their empowerment was needlessly diminished (Wonder Woman, for example, was famously made the Justice Society's secretary.)
This is why the very existence of Black Orchid was so cool, because she never suffered a period of diminished empowerment. Her design and the way she operated as a hero were all unapologeticly feminine, and yet her status as a strong, capable character was never diminished. In every issue, a new crime story would unfold, all featuring a female character somewhere in the mix. That female would often be a victim, or a witness to some other cruelty... and that female would wind up having been Black Orchid in disguise, a strong, mysterious, empowered hero. Her powers were often left ambiguous and her identity was left a mystery, but all of that served a central idea that this was a unique character that occupied her own space within the DC mythos.
An argument might be made that it was that very mystery that allowed her to never be undermined the way so many female heroes had been, but even if that was the case, the fact remains that she should absolutely be remembered as a trailblazing character.
Of course, her origins and story were eventually told, but told in such a groundbreaking way that the wonderful mystique of her character continued. A small three-issue Black Orchid series was crafted by one of the most unique voices in the entire medium: Neil Gaiman. This predates his unprecedented Sandman series, but exhibited a lot of the thematic ideas that have become trademark in his gorgeous work... his ability to craft elegant tragedies and then holding our hand as he finds the beauty within that sadness. His series essentially began with the main character's death, and then introduced the idea that the character had been a plant hybrid clone of a sadly abused woman.
In the hands of a less skilled writer, this could have been a horrible act of undermining the strength of the original character concept, but Neil is an absolutely unique creative force, and forged something truly beautiful. We've taken much of his work and incorporated it into our take on Black Orchid.