Zatanna

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Zatanna
Zatanna, from the cover of Catwoman vol. 3, #58 (October 2006).
Art by Adam Hughes.
Publication information
PublisherDC Comics
First appearanceHawkman #4
(October–November 1964)
Created byGardner Fox
Murphy Anderson
In-story information
Alter egoZatanna Zatara
SpeciesHomo magi
Team affiliationsJustice League
Justice League Dark
Sentinels of Magic
Seven Soldiers
Young Justice
AbilitiesSkilled and powerful user of magic
 
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Zatanna
Zatanna, from the cover of Catwoman vol. 3, #58 (October 2006).
Art by Adam Hughes.
Publication information
PublisherDC Comics
First appearanceHawkman #4
(October–November 1964)
Created byGardner Fox
Murphy Anderson
In-story information
Alter egoZatanna Zatara
SpeciesHomo magi
Team affiliationsJustice League
Justice League Dark
Sentinels of Magic
Seven Soldiers
Young Justice
AbilitiesSkilled and powerful user of magic

Zatanna Zatara is a fictional character in the DC Comics universe. Created by writer Gardner Fox and artist Murphy Anderson, Zatanna first appeared in Hawkman #4 (October–November 1964). The character, both a stage magician and a real magician like her father Giovanni "John" Zatara, is known for her involvement with the Justice League, her retconned childhood association with Batman, and her crossing of the Vertigo line with characters such as romantic partner John Constantine and protégé Timothy Hunter.

Fictional character biography[edit]

Zatanna is the daughter of magician Giovanni Zatara who appeared in Golden Age comic books and Sindella, a member of the mystical Homo magi race. Her younger cousin, the teenager Zachary Zatara, is also a magician in the DCU. Zatanna makes her living as a stage illusionist prior to discovering her magical abilities while investigating the disappearance of her father. Her original costume is based upon her father's costume but substituting fishnet stockings and high heels for slacks. Zatanna's search for her father was the subject of a storyline[1] which was featured in several titles edited by Julius Schwartz,[2] and in it, Zatanna interacts with Hawkman and Hawkgirl;[3] battles Batman and Robin while in disguise as a witch and under the control of the villain the Outsider;[4] and teams with the Atom,[5] Green Lantern,[6] and the Elongated Man.[7] The series culminated in Justice League of America #51 (Feb. 1967).[8] This Justice League adventure took place during the Batman television craze where Batman was featured prominently on the cover. The premise that the witch in Detective Comics #336 was Zatanna was perceived as an attempt to get Batman participating in this issue of Justice League of America no matter how vague the connection to Zatanna's quest was.[9]

She briefly was featured in backup features in Adventure Comics and Supergirl from 1971 to 1973.[10][11] Zatanna assists the Justice League of America on a few missions[12][13][14][15] before being elected to membership in Justice League of America #161 (Dec. 1978).[1][16] Soon after Zatanna joined the group, the identity of her mother was revealed in a multi-issue storyline.[17][18][19] Zatanna teamed with Superman in DC Comics Presents[20] and with Batman in The Brave and the Bold.[21] A ten-page short story in DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #5 (Nov.-Dec. 1980) revealed new details about Zatara's origin and how Zatanna's quest to locate her father began.[22] During her tenure with the Justice League, her power level diminishes, so that she can only control the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water.[23] She starred in a backup feature in World's Finest Comics #274-278[10] and the limitation of her powers is reversed in World's Finest Comics #277 (Mar. 1982).[24] She assists Wonder Woman and several other superheroines in fighting an extraterrestrial threat.[25]

In Neil Gaiman's The Books of Magic limited series, Zatanna becomes friends and even temporary guardian to Timothy Hunter, a boy destined to become the greatest wizard in the world,[26] and his girlfriend Molly who at the time was cursed by the Queen of the Fairies and unable to touch anything in the human world including the ground. After a brief stay she sent Molly home and Tim wandered off on his own adventures.

In the 2004 limited series Identity Crisis, Zatanna is a member of the Justice League at the time the villain Doctor Light rapes the Elongated Man's wife, Sue Dibny. When apprehended, he threatens the JLA members' families. Although Zatanna is prepared to erase Light's memories of the incident as she had done to other villains with knowledge dangerous to the League, tampering with Light's mind sparks a debate among the League members: should the villain's personality be transformed to prevent him from repeating his crime? Zatanna, Hawkman, and the Atom (Ray Palmer) vote for such action, while Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Green Lantern vote against. The Flash (Barry Allen) breaks the tie. Zatanna mind-wipes Light, and the process results in his intellectual abilities being lowered.[27] In the midst of the process, Batman appears and tries to stop it. Zatanna freezes him, and the members vote unanimously to erase Batman's memories of the incident as well.

Her working relationship to Batman sours after he discovers the alteration to his memory. When Zatanna helps Batman with reconnaissance at one of Ra's al Ghul's Lazarus Pits, she asks him why he came to her. "I needed someone I could trust," Batman says. "But I had to settle for you." After Infinite Crisis, their relationship appears to have warmed; in Detective Comics #824 he calls her for information on a card-counter involved in scamming the Penguin. He makes no mention of their conflict, and casually calls her by her nickname, "Zee".

Catwoman discovers that Zatanna's mind-wipe of Dr. Light in Identity Crisis is not an isolated occurrence; Catwoman's journey from villain to hero and her resulting efforts to lead a moral life are retconned as being the result of Zatanna's mental intervention. Catwoman comes to distrust her memories, motives, and the choices she has made since that incident. In retaliation, Catwoman covers Zatanna's mouth with a piece of duct tape and shoves her out a window.

A 2005 four-issue Zatanna limited series was published as part of Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers event.[28] In it, at a support group for superheroes, she recounts a failed magical ritual to search for her father's tomes, during which one of her past spells summons a shapeshifter named Gwydion, who kills her companions. This trauma, combined with her guilt from her former mind-wipes, robs her of her powers. With the help of her new apprentice, Misty Kilgore, she captures Gwydion to use as her own. She eventually regains her confidence and powers, and uses them to defeat Zor, a rogue Time Tailor who released the Sheeda as a plague to infect and degrade the entire universe. As a reward, the other Time Tailors allow her one last meeting with her father, who reveals that his books were written for her, his "greatest spell and gift to the world." In the final battle against the Sheeda, Zatanna casts a spell to move time and space, retroactively positioning the Seven Soldiers to overthrow the Sheeda.

In Detective Comics #833 (August 2007), it is stated that Zatanna's father was a friend of Thomas Wayne. Zatara trained Bruce Wayne in the art of escape, and Bruce and Zatanna were childhood friends although Batman believes that he has never met in her Justice League of America #51, and her only memory of meeting him is while she was disguised. Bruce helps Zatanna investigate the death of one of her former assistants; all clues point to a performer named Ivar Loxias. Loxias is revealed to be the Joker in disguise; he shoots Zatanna in the throat and incapacitates Batman. Zatanna is able to heal herself by writing a curing spell in her own blood, and she is instrumental in foiling the Joker's scheme. Bruce puts Zatanna's betrayal behind him, allowing the two to renew their friendship.

On the "Roll Call" of Justice League of America #22, Zatanna is listed as a part of the team. Called upon to help with Red Tornado's restoration in his android form, she aids the League when they are attacked by a new, powerful iteration of Amazo. During the battle, Zatanna has her mouth magically removed with her spells, and once again uses her blood to write out spells and restore it.[29] She is silenced again after Amazo uses his power ring to create a gag for her mouth that she is unable to remove, rendering her useless for much of the fight. After Wonder Woman throws off Amazo's concentration and causes the gag to vanish, Zatanna defeats Amazo once and for all by using Red Tornado's soul. Following this battle, Zatanna rejoins the team.[30]

Zatanna later accompanies Firestorm, Black Lightning, and Batman to Metropolis after they come to believe Kimiyo Hoshi has been kidnapped by agents of the covert metahuman team known as the Shadow Cabinet.[31][32] After a brief conflict, Zatanna and the others are informed by teenaged superheroine Rocket that Kimiyo's perceived abduction was actually a misunderstanding caused by the Shadow Cabinet's mission to seek out her help in dealing with the cosmic vampire known as Starbreaker.[33][34] With assistance from Hardware and Icon, Zatanna and her comrades are able to defeat Starbreaker in a battle in the Himalayas.[35][36][37]

The New 52 Zatanna's costume. Art by Michael Janin

In Gotham City Sirens Zatanna is visited and restrained by Poison Ivy, who interacts via a tree and asks her if her encounter with Catwoman changed Selina in any way.[38]

Zatanna takes a leave of absence from the JLA, only to reappear during a battle with Despero. Once he is defeated, Zatanna informs the League of the apocalyptic events of the Blackest Night taking place across the globe.[39] After taking the team to the Hall of Justice to find Firestorm, she is forced to fight the undead form of her father, continually pitting the black magic he wields against her own;[40] it is implied she was successful in banishing the Black Lantern, but was left psychologically crushed from having to kill her father again.[41] In the aftermath of Blackest Night, Kimiyo mentions that Zatanna is one of the members who has left the team.[42]

In May 2010 Zatanna received her own solo series, written by Paul Dini and drawn by Stéphane Roux. No longer an active member of the JLA, Zatanna is asked by officer Dale Colton to help solve a murder case at a restaurant frequented by mobsters. Zatanna informs Dale that the murderer was a powerful sorcerer known as Brother Night, who rules the supernatural crime scene in San Francisco. After Zatanna shows up at Night's demonic nightclub and threatens him, he responds by calling upon a powerful nightmare demon for help in battling her,[43] but Zatanna defeats and imprisons the demon to aid her later.[44] A crooked casino owner who had made a deal for eternal youth with the demon of avarice by selling the souls of his brides to the demon attempts to use a love potion to win Zatanna's soul.[45] When her cousin Zachary breaks the spell, the casino owner begs Zatanna to turn him into a soulless lump of gold in order to escape torment in Hell.[46] Aside from Brother Night, Zatanna faces other threats, such as Oscar Hample, a man who tried to murder her when she was a child and was turned into a puppet by her father.[47][48][49][50] She is kidnapped by a new villain named Siphon, who tries to steal her abilities. Power Girl rescues her and together the two heroines defeat Siphon.[51][52] The Zatanna series ended with issue #16 (October 2011).

The New 52[edit]

In this timeline of The New 52, Zatanna is one of the main characters in Peter Milligan's Justice League Dark series. She sports a new costume, though she still wears her classic magician's outfit during shows. In the first issue, she learns that Superman, Wonder Woman and Cyborg have been defeated by the Enchantress and volunteers her services to the League.[53]

The Black Canary and Zatanna graphic novel Bloodspell written by Paul Dini and drawn by Joe Quinones was to be released in 2012 but was delayed until May 2014.[54] The story centers around a 16-year-old Black Canary's first meeting with Zatanna.[55]

Relationships[edit]

Zatanna has had various romantic relationships with fellow DC characters, including John Constantine with whom she practiced tantra and Doctor Thirteen.[56] Zatanna had a brief flirtational relationship with her fellow Justice Leaguer the Flash (Barry Allen) shortly after the death of his wife Iris.[57] She has a strong friendship with Batman due to their shared (retconned) pasts. In Detective Comics #843 and #844, Zatanna and Bruce briefly discuss the possibility of having a more meaningful relationship. Both later concede that Bruce is too devoted to his cause as Batman to give her the relationship she wishes for, but the pair reaffirm their bond as close friends.

Catwoman appears to consider Zatanna a more dangerous contender for Bruce's attentions than Jezebel Jet his fiancée at the time.[58] A pep talk between the two women confirms how Zatanna really meant, during the fateful discussion with Bruce, to explore the possibility of a true romance, but turned out quietly resigned to the role of best friend and confidant. Claiming to act on Bruce's best interest, she pushes Selina into confessing her feelings to Bruce, thus stealing him from Jezebel Jet before it's too late.[59]

Powers and abilities[edit]

Zatanna is one of the most powerful sorceresses in the DC universe, whose abilities are apparently genetic. As a tribute to her father and as a focal point, she usually casts spells by speaking verbal commands backwards. She has proven capable on many occasions of casting spells by speaking normally, and, in rarer occasions, the ability to use magic for simple tasks without speaking. Like Black Canary, Zatanna's reliance on her voice often led to her being bound and gagged by villains in Silver Age stories, thus rendering her 'powerless'. On very rare occasions, Zatanna has cast spells by writing them in her own blood rather than speaking them aloud. It is used as a last resort, only to heal from severe physical damage preventing her to speak, like having her larynx mangled by a bullet, or her mouth magically erased by her own powers. The only magic command issued in both cases, Heal me, had to be spelled backwards, as if she were speaking (laeH em).

Overuse of her magical powers can deplete them to the point that further use of them starts to put a considerable strain on her physical well-being: as with other magical users, the only way to restore her waning powers is an extended period of rest.

Even if not as adept as Madame Xanadu, Zatanna has proven herself able to call upon tarot reading for insight or divination.[59] Apparently, such a task does not require verbal incantations, spoken or written, at all, nor is it tied to a specific tarot deck.

The limits of her powers have never been clearly established. She is often depicted working alongside the most powerful magic-users on Earth, including Doctor Fate, Madame Xanadu, John Constantine, and Captain Marvel. She has used her powers to command elemental forces, heal, transmute and transmogrify objects, manipulate minds, and attack her opponents with energy blasts. She has resurrected the city of Metropolis from ruin,[60] merged Aquaman's spirit with the entire ocean in the finale of the "Obsidian Age" story arc,[61] and manipulated time and space. During a portion of her initial tenure with the Justice League, her powers were more limited, consisting in the manipulation of fire, air, water, and earth. Furthermore, her powers seems tied to her self-confidence, as the long series of blunders described in Seven Soldiers left her both emotionally and psychologically shattered, powerless, until she was able to restore her lost confidence.

Zatanna is a skilled illusionist, showgirl and stage magician even without resorting to her innate magical powers. In fact she considers part of her "training" exercising sleight of hand tricks, and she claims to have invented a variation of the three card shuffle game called the "Zatara shuffle", in which she's so fast and precise that, even without resorting to cheating, only skilled gamblers like Selina Kyle are able to follow the movements of her hands.

Other versions[edit]

DC Super Dictionary[edit]

The 1978 DC Super Dictionary invented a character, Conjura, who had the same magic ability as Zatanna, in addition to possessing a time-traveling amulet.

Earth-3[edit]

Amalgam Comics[edit]

In the Amalgam Comics universe, Zatanna is merged with Scarlet Witch of the Avengers to form a character known as Wanda Zatara, the White Witch.[62]

Batman: Holy Terror[edit]

In Batman: Holy Terror, a world where Oliver Cromwell's Church never fell and the world is ruled by a totalitarian religious group known as the Privy Council, Zatanna is an agent of the council, using her 'sin' in the service of the state to capture other superhumans, but she is defeated by Batman while focusing on defeating Barry Allen when he throws a gas pellet down her throat.

JLA: Another Nail[edit]

She appears in JLA: Another Nail, which shows her teaming with Hawkwoman in Midway City.

Flashpoint[edit]

In the alternate timeline of the Flashpoint event, Zatanna is a member of the Secret Seven and is a member of a motorcycle gang, her father Giovanni "John" Zatara was transformed into a motorcycle when Zatanna is riding on him. Zatanna is killed while trying to cast a death spell on Enchantress.[63]

Smallville: Harbinger[edit]

Zatanna stars in the four-issue mini series, Smallville: Harbinger. Looking for her father's Book of Magick in England, she meets John Constantine for the first time. They team up to rescue Rachel Roth and retrieve the Book of Magick from Brother Blood. Similar to the TV show, her spells are spoken entirely backwards.

In other media[edit]

Television[edit]

Zatanna as seen in the Justice League Unlimited episode "This Little Piggy"
Teenage Zatanna in Cartoon Monsoon
Serinda Swan as Zatanna Zatara in Smallville
Zatanna in Young Justice.

Film[edit]

Video games[edit]

Collected editions[edit]

References[edit]

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