Zatanna

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Zatanna
Zatanna, from the cover of Catwoman vol. 3, #58 (October 2006). Art by Adam Hughes.
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
First appearance Hawkman #4
(October–November 1964)
Created by Gardner Fox
Murphy Anderson
In-story information
Alter ego Zatanna Zatara
Species Homo magi
Team affiliations Seven Soldiers
Justice League
Sentinels of Magic
Justice League Dark
Notable aliases Primak
Abilities Skilled 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. She was ranked fourth in Comics Buyer's Guide's "100 Sexiest Women in Comics" list.[1]

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. Zatanna's search for her father was the subject of a storyline[2] which was featured in several titles edited by Julius Schwartz 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]

Zatanna assists the Justice League of America on a few missions[10][11][12][13] before being elected to membership in Justice League of America #161 (Dec. 1978).[2][14] During her tenure with the group, her power level diminishes, so that she can only control the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water.[15] This limitation is reversed in World's Finest Comics #277 (Mar. 1982).[16]

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,[17] 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. 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. 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.[18] 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.[19]

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.[20][21] 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.[22][23] With assistance from Hardware and Icon, Zatanna and her comrades are able to defeat Starbreaker in a battle in the Himalayas.[24][25][26]

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.[27]

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.[28] 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;[29] it is implied she was successful in banishing the Black Lantern, but was left psychologically crushed from having to kill her father again.[30] In the aftermath of Blackest Night, Kimiyo mentions that Zatanna is one of the members who has left the team.[31]

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,[32] but Zatanna defeats and imprisons the demon to aid her later.[33] 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.[34] 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.[35] 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.[36][37][38][39] 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.[40][41] 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.[42]

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.[43] The story centers around a 16-year-old Black Canary's first meeting with Zatanna.[44]

Relationships[edit]

Zatanna has had various romantic relationships with fellow DC characters, including John Constantine with whom she practiced tantra and Doctor Thirteen.[45] Zatanna had a brief flirtational relationship with her fellow Justice Leaguer the Flash (Barry Allen) shortly after the death of his wife Iris.[46] 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.[47] 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.[48]

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.[48] 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,[49] merged Aquaman's spirit with the entire ocean in the finale of the "Obsidian Age" story arc,[50] 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]

  • Annataz Arataz, Zatanna's evil Earth-3 counterpart, assists Superman-Prime to detain and torment Mr. Mxyzptlk in Countdown to Final Crisis #23. The imp refuses to provide Prime with information, and Annataz restores his powers. Reflecting upon her own prior cruel actions, she allows herself to be killed by the enraged villain. Her spells are recited "upside-down", rather than backwards.
  • Zatanna's evil Antimatter Earth counterpart, who unlike the Earth-3 counterpart is called Zatanna, is briefly mentioned in Trinity #35, as one of the few survivors of a purge on magic users.

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.[51]

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.[52]

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 appears in a Batman: The Animated Series episode "Zatanna" voiced by Julie Brown. She is an illusionist with no apparent magic powers. She developed a close relationship with Bruce Wayne (who was using the alias "John Smith") during the years in which Bruce was traveling the globe learning skills that later serve him as Batman. Zatanna visits Gotham City with her magic show, but finds herself being framed by a criminal magic debunker named Montague Kane. Her efforts to restore her name and stop the villain put her side-by-side with the Batman. Batman reveals his identity as "John Smith" to Zatanna during the episode.
  • Zatanna makes two appearances in the Gotham Girls flash animation episodes, voiced by Stacie Randall. In "A Little Night Magic", Zatanna walks home on her own after a magic show and has some adventures on the way: She turns a robber's gun into a snake, splits a truck in half when it almost runs her over, and turns some street thugs into toads after they take her hat. In "Hold the Tiger", Zatanna stops Catwoman from stealing the Cat's Eye Opals from a jewelry store. Zatanna does not arrest Catwoman but instead asks for help in finding her white tiger.
  • Zatanna made a short appearance in Batman Beyond episode "Out of the Past" (season three, episode five) in a collection of pictures that Bruce is looking at on his computer of past loves, alongside Lois Lane, Selina Kyle/Catwoman and Barbara Gordon.
Zatanna as seen in the Justice League Unlimited episode "This Little Piggy"
  • Zatanna appears in the Justice League Unlimited episode "This Little Piggy" voiced by Jennifer Hale. She helps Batman search for the villainess Circe who has turned Wonder Woman into a pig. Zatanna is apparently aware of Batman's true identity since her last appearance ("Bruce! I haven't seen you for so long...") and knows him well enough to perceive his romantic relationship with Wonder Woman. In her JLU depictions, her spells are often cast backwards, but almost equally often cast without words, and on one occasion, speaking normally. She appeared in the episode "The Balance" (voiced by an uncredited Juliet Landau) amongst the magic-based superheroes affected by the disturbance in the magical balance. In "Destroyer", Zatanna appears as one of many Justice League Members called to help fight the invading Apokoliptan forces. DCAU writer Paul Dini wrote both of Zatanna's appearances described above. In 1998, Alan Burnett told Wizard "Paul Dini wanted to use Zatanna because he’s secretly in love with her. It’s something we try not to talk about too much."
Teenage Zatanna in Cartoon Monsoon
  • Two episodes of a Cartoon Monsoon contest entry feature Zatanna as a teenage hero who is a cross between Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This saw her match wits with Klarion the Witch Boy, and featured her father (referred to only as "Zatara") as well as the new character of Zatanna's older, non-magic-wielding brother (named "Damon" in the second episode).
Serinda Swan as Zatanna Zatara in Smallville
  • Zatanna is a recurring character in the final three seasons of Smallville, portrayed by actress Serinda Swan, marking her first appearance in live-action. The character first appeared late in season eight, in the episode "Hex". She is described as the daughter of the deceased John Zatara, "the world's greatest magician". Zatanna is introduced at the Ace of Clubs, the scene of Chloe Sullivan (Allison Mack)'s birthday party. To enliven things, Zatanna uses magic to make characters' inner desires come true — Chloe is physically transformed to resemble her cousin, Lois Lane (Erica Durance), for example, and Clark (Tom Welling) becomes "normal". Zatanna later approaches Oliver Queen (Justin Hartley) and offers him a deal: she will grant him a wish if he returns her father's magical book to her. Once she acquires the Book of Zatara from Green Arrow, whom she recognizes as Oliver, she reveals her aim is to use it to resurrect her father. Because Clark is vulnerable to magic, and Oliver lacks the power to stop her, Zatanna has to realize for herself that her father sacrificed himself so she could live. She later goes to Oliver to explain herself, and decides to help him if he encounters any supernatural foes along the way by leaving him her phone number. Swan reprises the role in the ninth season of Smallville in the episode titled "Warrior". In season ten episodes which feature the government attempting to hunt down the Justice League, Zatanna's picture is shown among their targets. Although not portrayed by Swan, an actor in costume represents Zatanna in the episode "Icarus". In the episode "Fortune", Zatanna is used as a plot device; the episode establishes her as having sent an enchanted bottle of wine to Clark and Lois on the night of their engagement party, which sets the events of that episode in motion.
  • Zatanna appears in Batman: The Brave and the Bold in the teaser of "Chill of the Night!". Jennifer Hale reprises her role of Zatanna from Justice League Unlimited. She and Batman stop Abra Kadabra from robbing a museum exhibit displaying the history of magicians. Though she relies primarily on vocal spells, she is shown to be able to effectively wield Kadabra's magic wand after he binds her mouth closed and when she tries to remove it she pulls out a stream of handkerchiefs tied to her tongue. Zatanna gets Kadabra's wand and makes the handkerchiefs disappear, then snaps the wand. While Batman holds back the mind control slaves, Zatanna battles Kadabra, and traps him in her hat. She later pulls out a tiny bird cage with Kadabra in it, winning the magic battle. This version of Zatanna wears a slightly modified version of her original outfit, with her trademark fishnets replaced by purple tights.
Zatanna in Young Justice.
  • Zatanna appears in the Young Justice episode "Humanity",[53] voiced by Lacey Chabert. Zatara initially brings Zatanna to Mount Justice in Happy Harbor to meet the team, and asks the kids give Zatanna a tour of Mount Justice. They pretend to go along with that request, quickly use Miss Martian's ship to leave the cave and track down Red Tornado with Zatanna, referring to her departure with them as "Kidnapping". Zatara was displeased that his daughter went on a mission with the team. Robin seems to have an interest in her. She returns in the episode "Secrets", where she and Artemis head to Manhattan on Halloween night. They are ambushed and eventually kidnapped by Harm, a psychotic teenager wielding the mystical sword of Beowulf. While Harm interrogates Artemis, the ghost of his murdered sister, Secret, removes the tape from Zatanna's mouth and allows her to rescue Artemis. Together, the three girls defeat Harm and allow Secret's spirit to move on to the afterlife. Afterwards, Zatanna promises to erect a proper grave for Secret, who had previously been buried in Harm's backyard. In episode "Misplaced", Zatanna is with the team when all the adults disappear. She is able to use a spell to locate Klarion the Witch Boy on Roanoke Island. As her powers seem ineffective against Klarion (he refers to them as "baby magic"), she dons the Helmet of Fate as a last-ditch effort. After Klarion escapes, Nabu refuses to relinquish Zatanna as his host, until her father offers himself as Nabu's host. After making Batman promise to take care of her, Zatara dons the helmet and leaves Zatanna with the rest of the team. She then moves into Mount Justice with Miss Martian and Superboy and joins the team full-time. She is shown to be clearly devastated by the loss of her father.
  • Zatanna appears in Young Justice: Invasion, which is set five years after the original series. In the series premier, "Happy New Year", she and Rocket are now shown as adult members of the Justice League. In the episode "Depths," Nightwing implies a past romantic relationship between them to explain why she was willing to provide him with an enchanted amulet without asking for its purpose. In "Satisfaction", Zatanna and Miss Martian attend Rocket's bridal shower. In the episode "Cornered", Zatanna, Captain Marvel, and the team battle Despero in the Hall of Justice. She helps by possessing Mal and backfiring Despero's powers on himself.
  • Zatanna appears in Mad where she appeals to Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman about being called "Super Friends". She appears on a skit called "Potions 11" voiced by Tara Strong, where she teams up with Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger for their heist.
  • Zatanna appears only in the intro of the Robot Chicken DC Comics Special with the Justice League.

Film[edit]

Video games[edit]

  • Zatanna is a playable character in the console videogame Justice League Heroes voiced by Kari Wahlgren.
  • Zatanna appears as a non-playable character in DC Universe Online, voiced by Claire Hamilton.
  • Zatanna is a playable character in Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes.[55]
  • Zatanna is a playable character via downloadable content in Injustice: Gods Among Us. Lacey Chabert reprises her role from Young Justice.[56] In Zatanna's ending, she and Doctor Fate combine their powers to create the Tower of Fate. It was used as a stronghold for Regime-leader Superman's enemies since Superman is vulnerable to magic and it had saved many lives. Following the defeat of the Regime, it was used as a prison for the remaining Regime forces despite the jury at their trial demanding the immutable defendants to have a death penalty.
  • Zatanna appears as a playable character in the video game Young Justice: Legacy. Lacey Chabert reprises the role. She plays an important part near the end of the game, where she uses a locator spell to track down Klarion and the piece of the Tiamat statue in Bialya.
  • Zatanna will appear as a playable character in the upcoming MOBA video game Infinite Crisis, voiced by Jennifer Hale.

Collected editions[edit]

  • JLA: Zatanna's Search collects The Atom #19, Hawkman #4, Green Lantern #42, Detective Comics #335 and 355 and Justice League of America #51, 128 pages, February 2004, ISBN 978-1401201883
  • Zatanna: Mistress of Magic collects Zatanna #1-6, 160 pages, March 2011, ISBN 978-1401230074
  • Zatanna: Shades of the Past collects Zatanna #7-16, 144 pages, November 2011, ISBN 978-1401233006

References[edit]

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