Wonder Twins

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Wonder Twins
The Wonder Twins, from Super Friends.
Publication information
First appearance "Joy Ride" The All-New Super Friends Hour (September 10, 1977)
In-story information
Alter ego Zan and Jayna
Species Exxorian
Place of origin Exxor
Team affiliations Super Friends
Justice League
Ten Elements of the Universe
Abilities Zan can transform into any form of water
Jayna can transform into any animal.

The Wonder Twins, Zan and Jayna, are a fictional extraterrestrial twin brother and sister superhero duo who first appeared in the American animated Hanna-Barbera TV series Super Friends. They subsequently appeared in comics based on the TV series, and were later introduced into the main DC Comics Universe. They have since appeared in other media, including animated series such as Justice League Unlimited and Teen Titans Go, and the live-action TV series Smallville.

Publication history[edit]

The duo made their debut in The All-New Super Friends Hour and went on to appear in The World's Greatest Super Friends, Super Friends, and Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show. Zan (voiced by Michael Bell) and Jayna (voiced by Louise Williams) are siblings from the planet Exxor (also spelled Exor) who were being informally trained by the superheroes. Unlike their predecessors, Wendy Harris and Marvin White, this pair was able to participate in combat with abilities of their own.

Hanna Barbera animator Darrell McNeil recalls the twins were created by Norman Maurer, the Super Friends series developer/story editor. They were originally called Dick and Jane, and their sidekick was Mighty Monkey, before finally becoming Zan, Jayna, and Gleek. The names "Zan" and "Jayna" derived from the Edgar Rice Burroughs characters Tarzan and his romantic interest Jane. According to McNeil, "Originally Zan (Dick) had 'Plastic Man' powers and Jayna (Jane) could transform into anything, not just animals, but they were scaled back to their present powers as it made the other Super Friends (even Superman) seem almost superfluous."[1] Jayna's distinctive hairdo was based on that of an animation checker at Hanna-Barbara, while the pointed ears were inspired by the character Spock from the Star Trek franchise. The twins' personalities were heavily based on Donny and Marie Osmond, who were extremely popular at the time and had their own show on ABC as well.[2]

The Wonder Twins were the most prominently featured characters in their first season on Super Friends. However, by the final seasons, the twins were largely marginalized in favor of well established DC Comics teenage superheroes like Firestorm, and were wholly eliminated in the final season in favor of Cyborg.[2]

The characters were introduced to comics in issue #7 of the Super Friends tie-in series (October 1977), by E. Nelson Bridwell and Ramona Fradon. The Super Friends comic book provided considerably more details of the Wonder Twins' background and how they came to join the team than was provided in the television series.[2]

In the 1990s, they were introduced into the main DC Universe in Extreme Justice #9 (October 1995), by Ivan Velez, Jr. and Al Rio. The series rewrote and updated their origin story. Velez, an avowed die-hard fan of the Wonder Twins, intended to begin a revival of the characters, but was taken off the series after the first issue with the Wonder Twins. Though the twins remained with the series until its cancellation with #18, they were used only sparingly after Velez's departure.[2]

Fictional character biography[edit]

Super Friends[edit]

Main article: Super Friends

Little background is provided for the Wonder Twins in the Super Friends cartoon, save that they are superheroes-in-training that are friends of the Super Friends.

According to the Super Friends comic book by E. Nelson Bridwell (writer) and Ramona Fradon (artist), Zan and Jayna are Exorian metas, genetic throwbacks to an ancient race of Exorian shapeshifters.[3] Their parents die when they are still babies during a plague, and, because of their origin, no Exorians want to adopt them. They are adopted by the owner of a Space Circus who only wants to use them as sideshow freaks. Fortunately, the circus' clown (or "laugh-maker") is a kind man and raises them. He also gives them Gleek as a pet. Eventually, as teens, the pair escape the circus and hide on a planet where a space villain called Grax (an enemy of Superman) has established his headquarters. Spying on him, they learn that Grax is planning to destroy the Earth using hidden superbombs. The twins decide to travel to Earth and warn the Justice League, which is how they come to replace Wendy and Marvin (who were planning on retiring as heroes anyway) as their sidekicks. The heroes arrange for the kids to live with an old scientist named Professor Carter Nichols and they even take secret identities as Johan and Joanna Fleming. "Johan" and "Johanna" were supposedly transfer students from Esko, Sweden, disguised with blonde hair (Zan wore a wig, while Jayna uses her powers to transform into a human to change her hair color and ear shape), to allow them to attend Gotham City High School.

Powers and abilities[edit]

The Wonder Twins powers are activated when they touch each other and speak the phrase, "Wonder Twin powers activate!" This phrase is unnecessary and just a habit of theirs. Physical contact, however, is required. If the two are out of reach of each other, they are unable to activate their powers. As they are about to transform, they would each announce their intended form. "Shape of...", "Form of..."

Zan can transform into water at any state (solid, liquid, gas) and add to his mass by incorporating water in his immediate area. In the case of becoming solid ice, he can also become any form he chooses, from a 5,000 foot humanoid ice giant to a cage for a criminal to complex machinery (such as a jet engine, as he did in the episode "Eruption"). He changes into a gelatinous form at one point. On another occasion, he transformed into liquid nitrogen. In addition, he can transform himself into atmospheric disturbances (usually very localized) involving water, such as a blizzard, a monsoon, waterspout or a typhoon.[episode needed]

Jayna can transform into any animal, whether real, mythological, indigenous to Earth or to some other planet, like Beast Boy. Since she must vocalize her choice of form to assume, she must know the common name. Naming the wrong animal will cause her to assume the wrong animal's form. She has been known to take the form of anything from an ant to a whale.[episode needed]

In the Super Friends comic book, their powers were shown to be more extensive. By transforming into an animal of Kryptonian origin, for instance, Jayna could gain both the creature's natural abilities and the super-powers that all Kryptonians possess under Earth-like conditions; she was even capable of overpowering Superman in the form of a Kryptonian animal.[4] Similarly, Zan was able to transform into anything tangentially related to water or ice, including a frost giant.[episode needed]

In addition to their powers of transformation, the two share a telepathic link, enabling one to alert the other over a distance when in dire circumstances.[episode needed]

The Wonder Twins have a pet Space Monkey called Gleek who had a useful prehensile tail and who could act as a conduit for the twins to activate their powers should they be out of reach. Gleek also served as a courier when the twins needed to travel: Jayna would typically transform into a large eagle, and Zan would transform into water, "jumping" into a bucket which Gleek would be holding while riding atop Jayna in her eagle form. (This led to the joke by some fans[citation needed] that Gleek's superpower was to make a bucket appear and disappear at will. See hammerspace.)

A rarely seen aspect of their powers is the ability to break mind control. On at least two occasions ("Pied Piper From Space" and "Circus of Horrors"), while the twins were under the influence of mind control, Gleek caused them to make contact and the activation of their powers freed them instantly from the mind control.

In comics[edit]

The new, revamped Wonder Twins. Art by Todd Nauck.

In 1996, the twins were introduced into post-Crisis DC continuity in the series Extreme Justice as escaped slaves of an alien overlord. Unable to speak English, they inadvertently attack some civilians and the Justice League. During their fight with the JLA, Zan becomes an ice golem, a water monster, and a demonic-looking whirlpool, while Jayna becomes a griffin, a werewolf, and a sea serpent.[5] The pair are later emancipated by the Justice League and join Captain Atom's team in issue #16 (May 1996).[6] That same year, they appeared in the crossover storyline Final Night[7] and in the series Total Justice.[8]

In a 2002 - 2003 storyline by Peter David and Todd Nauck in Young Justice, they help avenge the murder of Empress's parents, wearing uniforms which resembled t-shirts and jeans.[9] In late 2003, they appeared in the fourth issue of the Marvel-DC intercompany crossover miniseries JLA/Avengers, which was written by Kurt Busiek and illustrated by George Pérez.

In 2007, they appeared in Teen Titans' #70, and in 2011, they appeared in DCU: Legacies #9, a story by Len Wein and Rob Leigh.

In "Smallville: Titans" a 2013 story arc in the series Smallville: Season 11, Zan and Jayna are members of the team with Conner Kent/Superboy, Speedy, Blue Beetle and Miss Martian at Jay Garrick's school for the "gifted."[10]

In the 2013 comic Justice League 3000, the handlers of the new Justice League are named Teri and Terry, nicknamed The Wonder Twins and working for Cadmus.

In other media[edit]

Justice League/Justice League Unlimited[edit]

  • In the Justice League episode "Injustice For All", statues of the Twins are briefly seen in a museum devoted to super-powered heroes. Later in the same scene, the two statues are destroyed during the battle between the heroes and villains.
  • In Justice League Unlimited, two characters called Downpour and Shifter appear in the episode "Ultimatum" where they were both voiced by Grey DeLisle. They are members of the Ultimen, a group of superheroes created by the government and Project Cadmus with Maxwell Lord as their sponsor. The group is a pastiche of the heroes that were created for Super Friends, with Downpour and Shifter specifically a pastiche of the Wonder Twins. Downpour and his twin sister Shifter have albino white skin, pink eyes and pointy ears. Downpour would say the name of a liquid in order to turn into that liquid (like water and tidal wave) while Shifter would say the name of a creature (like a sea serpent, a lion, a rhinoceros, a cape buffalo, and a Tyrannosaurus) in order to become that creature. Later on in the episode, Downpour and Shifter were with the Ultimen when they learned on their own that the Ultimen were clones created by Project Cadmus. After Wind Dragon had used his wind attacks to bring Maxwell Lord to the roof that they were on, Downpour became water that entrapped Maxwell Lord while Shifter became a lion asking which is worse: drowning in water or being eaten by a lion. Maxwell Lord convinced them to let him explain over the fact that Project Cadmus had created them in order to be better heroes with the clones having implanted images and interact with actors that portrayed their parents. When it came to attacking the building they lived in while hunting for Maxwell Lord's boss Amanda Waller, Downpour and Shifter fought Aquaman and were defeated. Clones of the characters later appear in the episode "Panic in the Sky" where they join the other Ultimatum clones into attacking the Watchtower. Some clones of Shifter formed a water trap around Fire until she managed to heat herself to the point of breaking free.

Adult Swim[edit]

Main article: Adult Swim
  • In 2007, the Adult Swim website ran a series of five webisodes entitled "The New Adventures of the Wonder Twins." These shorts were not canon, but rather a dark-humor parody. Zan and Jayna were portrayed as well-meaning but inept, with their attempts at heroism always ending in tragic failure.

Smallville[edit]

David Gallagher as Zan and Allison Scagliotti as Jayna in the episode "Idol".

Zan and Jayna appeared in the Smallville season nine episode, "Idol", which aired on November 13, 2009. Zan was played by David Gallagher and Jayna by Allison Scagliotti. They both carry cell phones that have an image of Gleek on the back and that make the sound of Gleek laughing as a ringtone. Though not explicitly labeled as aliens, the two are implied to be from another world[citation needed] and claim to be of Swedish descent in order to explain their odd-sounding names. The Twins are portrayed as being obsessed with "The Blur" (the name given to Clark Kent before he officially adopts the Superman identity), and attempt to impersonate him in order to build up his positive reputation. They send a crate to young reporter Lois Lane containing several bound and gagged drug dealers who turn out to be undercover cops that Zan and Jayna abducted by mistake, thus ruining a calculated police drug sting. When an attempt at stopping a robbery accidentally causes a citywide blackout in Metropolis, the Twins are ambushed and abducted by Clark and his partner Chloe Sullivan. After being threatened into giving up their vigilante activities, Zan and Jayna prove their worth when Lois is thrown from the rooftop of the Daily Planet building by a crooked politician who wants to expose "The Blur's" true identity. Jayna transforms into an attack dog and captures the politician as he attempts to flee the scene, while Zan transforms his body into a massive cloud of mist, providing the cover Clark needs to lower Lois safely to the ground unobserved. After this, the Twins are encouraged by Clark to continue their super heroics outside of Metropolis, albeit on their own reputations rather than attempting to emulate him.

Arrow[edit]

Main article: Arrow (TV series)

In the Arrow episode "Home Invasion", Detective Quentin Lance calls Thea Queen and Roy Harper the Wonder Twins.

Teen Titans Go![edit]

The Wonder Twins appear in the Teen Titans Go! episode "You're Fired"[12] with Zan voiced by Khary Payton and Jayna voiced by Tara Strong. They appear amongst the heroes at the audition for the replacement of Beast Boy. Although Robin was impressed with Jayna, Zan was hired as a receptionist with Jayna stating that she needs Zan to activate her powers. Beast Boy works with Zan to sabotage Jayna's attempts. After Zan comes clean, he turns into water and escapes into the toilet. In the form of a pelican, Beast Boy catches Zan before he can land in the ocean. Zan and Jayna later leave with Zan in the form of an ice unicycle and Jayna in the form of an octopus.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Marc Tyler Nobleman (2011-07-29). "Noblemania: Super ‘70s and ‘80s: "Super Friends"—Darrell McNeil, animator". Noblemania.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2013-09-10. 
  2. ^ a b c d Schwirian, John (February 2010). "Purple Prose: The Perplexing Popularity of the Wonder Twins". Back Issue (38) (TwoMorrows Publishing). pp. 59–64. 
  3. ^ Super Friends #7 (October 1977)
  4. ^ Super Friends #42 (March 1981)--Jayna defeats Superman in a training exercise by becoming a Kryptonian Tanthou Flez ("Winged One")
  5. ^ Extreme Justice #9 (October 1995)
  6. ^ Beatty, Scott (2008), "Extreme Justice", in Dougall, Alastair, The DC Comics Encyclopedia, New York: Dorling Kindersley, p. 117, ISBN 0-7566-4119-5, OCLC 213309017 
  7. ^ Kesel, Karl (w), Immonen, Stuart (p), Marzan, Jose, Jr.(i). "Dusk". Final Night #1 (November 1996). DC Comics.
  8. ^ Priest, Christopher (w), Bernado, Ramón José; Morgan, Tom (p), Giordano, Dick (i). Total Justice #1 - 2 (October - November 1996). DC Comics.
  9. ^ David, Peter (w), Nauck, Todd (p), Various (i). Young Justice #49–51 (November 2002 - January 2003) DC Comics.
  10. ^ Rogers, Vaneta (October 3, 2013). "BRYAN Q. MILLER Brings the TEEN TITANS To SMALLVILLE". Newsarama.
  11. ^ "I Was the Bathwater - Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law - Adult Swim Video". Video.adultswim.com. 2007-06-22. Retrieved 2013-09-10. 
  12. ^ Lynch, Alex (2013-06-21). "TEEN TITANS GO! Promo Clip & Images; "You're Fired"". Comicbookmovie.com. Retrieved 2013-09-10. 

External links[edit]