Welcome back! This week’s awesome comic character was suggested by both Raineedayze and Estee Thomas (thanks guys!). She’s among the world’s best magicians, both on stage and off. Meet Zatanna Zatara!
Full Name: Zatanna Zatara
Species: Homo magi (a race of mystical beings with magical powers)
Debut: Hawkman #4 (October/November 1964)
Home: Gotham/San Francisco/Various, USA
Abilities: Zatanna is an exceptionally powerful magician, who is able to cast spells by speaking (or less frequently, writing) the spell’s intended effect backwards.
Motivation: Zatanna’s father was also a superhero, and she has always wanted to use her magical abilities for good.
Zatanna is the daughter of magician Giovanni “John” Zatara. Zatara was established as a hero of the DC Universe at the time of Zatanna’s introduction. Like her father, Zatanna casts her spells by speaking or, less frequently, writing their intent backwards. She didn’t discover her abilities until searching for her missing father, and has since become one of DC’s most famous, and powerful, magic users.
When Zatanna was initially introduced in 1964, it appeared as though she and Batman had never met. In a 2007 issue of Detective Comics, DC made a light change to her backstory, as well as to Batman’s. Slight changes like these are commonly called “retcons” and they basically change something about the past in order for it to work or to fit with the current storyline. This particular change made Zatanna and Batman childhood playmates whose fathers were friends. The retcon also established that Batman sought out Zatanna when he wanted to learn the art of escape.
In addition to appearing in many titles in the main DC Universe, Zatanna also crossed over to their darker, more “adult” Vertigo line of comics. She and Constantine were involved for a time, and she made frequent appearances in his and other related titles.
In the New 52 Zatanna is still the daughter of Zatara, who is still a famous magician. Her origins in the New 52 are more tied to her past relationship with Constantine and fellow magician Nick Necros than her relationship with her father. In the New 52, Zatara died in front of Zatanna, due to one of Constantine’s failed schemes, which sets the stage for a darker Zatanna than previously seen.
Good/Bad/Morals for Hire?
Zatanna is a hero and has consistently fought on the side of “good”. However, one method she resorted to, on more than one occasion, is morally questionable (to put it lightly). She has used her magical powers to alter the personalities or memories of a number of characters – including a number of villains, Catwoman, and even Batman. This problematic aspect of her character’s past was removed in the New 52. It is worth noting that she did have considerable issues with what she had done, and spent the majority of Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers: Zatanna run wrestling with her guilt.
For a time Zatanna was the temporary guardian of Timothy Hunter, a young child who would one day be the most powerful wizard in the world. Zatanna was an on again/off again member of the Justice League and regularly teamed up with other heroes. She crossed over to DC’s darker titles as well. Her skill with magic brought her in frequent contact with Constantine, even dating him for a time.
What To Read:
JLA: Zatanna’s Search (Pre-Crisis)
This trade paperback collects the various issues that introduced Zatanna to the DC Universe. She began her career with the Justice League as a teenager, turning to them for help in her search for her missing father. There are certainly some dated aspects to the work, but it’s a cute collection and a fun introduction to someone who would become one of DC’s most powerful magicians.
Zatanna, 2010-2011 (Post-Crisis)
Paul Dini, who brought us Harley Quinn, wrote this 16-issue series featuring Zatanna after she moved to San Francisco. She continues working as a stage magician by trade and helps the police solve crimes as a hero. I’m personally a fan of the series, which was her last solo title.
Seven Soldiers: Zatanna (Post-Crisis)
This is a limited series that ran as a companion to the larger Seven Soldiers of Victory run. Zatanna was losing her skill as a magician, something that was tied to her confidence. She spends this run wrestling with her conscious over past misdeeds and going up against demons – inner and otherwise!
Black Canary and Zatanna: Bloodspell (Post-Crisis)
This is another Paul Dini story. Here, Black Canary teams up with Zatanna to help her figure out who is tracking down the former members of a heist team and murdering them under mysterious circumstances. It’s my favourite Black Canary story, and my favourite Zatanna story. Joe Quinones is the artist, and he is one of the best. The range of facial expressions in this one book alone is exceptional. Also, a fun game is to look for the panel where it seems that John Hodgman is featured as an angry motorist.
See Her Now:
I’m really going to have to start doing more of these Geek 101 articles on male characters, because it seems that I type some variant on “well, nowhere” each week. Sadly, Zatanna isn’t currently featured in any ongoing title. She will make an appearance in the ongoing Bizarro title in issue #4, and will also be appearing in the upcoming Bombshells, which begins running digitally in July and will be available on paper in August. She was a member of the Justice League Dark, and was featured in most story arcs from the series’ start in 2011 up until its conclusion earlier this year.