The Wonder Twins, from Super Friends
|First appearance||The All-New Super Friends Hour|
|First comic appearance||Super Friends #7 (October 1977)|
|Created by||Norman Maurer|
|Alter ego||Zan and Jayna|
|Place of origin||Exxor|
|Team affiliations||Super Friends|
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 Hanna-Barbera's American animated television series The All-New Super Friends Hour. The pair can activate their superpowers by touching hands and saying the phrase "Wonder Twin powers, activate!" Jayna can transform into any animal, and Zan can become water in any state. The pair also have a pet monkey, Gleek, who assists in their crime-fighting activities.
They subsequently appeared in comics based on the animated series, and were later introduced into the main DC Comics Universe. They have since appeared in other media, including the animated series Teen Titans Go! and the live-action TV series Smallville.
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 from 1977-1983, and B. J. Ward in 1984) 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." Jayna's distinctive hairdo was based on that of an animation checker at Hanna-Barbera, 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.
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.
The characters were introduced to comics in issue #7 of the Super Friends tie-in series (cover-dated October 1977, but published in July, 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. Because of the different production lag times between animation and comics, the first comic book appearance is chronologically before the first television appearance.
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. Following the cancellation of Extreme Justice, the Wonder Twins showed up only sporadically in the DC Universe, with their last significant appearance being in 2003.
DC published a six-issue Wonder Twins miniseries in 2019, written by Mark Russell and drawn by Stephen Byrne. The series was a critical and commercial success, and was extended into a 12 issue maxi-series.
In November of 2019, the first 6 issues of "Wonder Twins" were collected as a trade paper back, and released under the title "Wonder Twins - Activate". In following August, the second six issues of the maxi-series are being released in another trade paper back titled "The Fall & Rise of the Wonder Twins".
Fictional character biography
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 and were born on November 6.
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. Their parents died when they were 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. However, 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.
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. The pair are later emancipated by the Justice League and join Captain Atom's team in issue #16 (May 1996). That same year, they appeared in the crossover storyline Final Night and in the series Total Justice.
In a 2002–2003 storyline by Peter David and Todd Nauck in Young Justice, they help avenge the murder of Empress' parents, wearing uniforms which resembled T-shirts and jeans. 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 "Smallville: Titans", a 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."
In the 2013 comic Justice League 3000, the handlers of the new Justice League who work for Cadmus Labs were introduced named Teri and Terry, and nicknamed The Wonder Twins.
In February of 2019, the first issue of a 6-issue mini-series was released on Wonder Comics, titled "Wonder Twins". It was well received and did so well in sales that it was expanded to a 12-issue maxi-series. The Wonder Comics imprint is considered part of the current DCU, so this places the Wonder Twins in current DC continuity.
In September 2019, the Wonder Twins had a cameo appearance in Action Comics #1015, which also guest starred new Wonder Comics hero Naomi.
Wonder Comics appeared in the crossover storyline that begins in Young Justice issue #12, which features Naomi and the Wonder Twins as guest stars.
The Wonder Twins appeared on the cover of Superman: Heroes #1.
Powers and abilities
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The Wonder Twins powers are activated when they touch each other and speak the phrase, "Wonder Twin powers, activate!" Physical contact 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 (1,500 m) humanoid ice giant to a cage for a criminal to complex machinery (such as a jet engine, as he did in the episode "Eruption"). In the episode "Pressure Point", he changes into a gelatinous form. In "Terror from the Phantom Zone", he was able to transform 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, as he did in the episodes "The Water Beast", "The Beasts are Coming", and "Stowaways".
Jayna can transform into any animal, whether real, mythological, indigenous to Earth, or indigenous to some other planet like Exxor. Since she must vocalize her choice of form to assume, she must know the common name. As revealed in "The Mummy of Nazca", 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 a mosquito to a whale, as in "The Water Beast" episode.
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. Similarly, Zan was able to transform into anything tangentially related to water or ice, including a frost giant in the "Demons of Exxor" episode.
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, as revealed in the episode "The Village of Lost Souls".
The Wonder Twins have a pet Space Monkey named Gleek, who has 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 clutched by Jayna in her eagle form.
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 other media
- 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 flood, 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.
- In the late '90s, Zan and Jayna appeared in a promo for Cartoon Network where they demonstrated their powers. Zan expressed disappointment that he only transforms into "lame" things like water and ice. Michael Bell reprised his role as Zan for this promo.
- Zan appeared in season one episode of the Adult Swim series Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law. Here, Zan (voiced by Michael Bell) is on the stand being questioned by Harvey Birdman. 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.
- In the Family Guy episode "A Fish Out of Water", Peter Griffin and his dog Brian put their rings together and simultaneously say "Wonder Twin powers, activate", after which Peter states what he wants to be changed into. Brian tells him they got the rings as a Franken Berry prize. In another episode, "Fast Times at Buddy Cianci Jr. High", Peter reveals that he was once one of the Wonder Twins. In his flashback, it is revealed that after activating their powers, Peter turned himself into Jayna's tampon. Jayna was voiced by Rachael MacFarlane.
- Zan and Jayna appeared in the Smallville season nine episode, "Idol". 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 indicated to be aliens, they are implied to be from another world and claim to be of Swedish descent in order to explain their odd-sounding names.
- In The Flash episode "Crazy for You", Barry Allen rescues a man and woman by the names of Jayna and Zay from a burning car. Unlike in the comics, it appears these versions are a couple rather than twins.
- The Wonder Twins appear in the Teen Titans Go! episode "You're Fired" with Zan voiced by Khary Payton and Jayna voiced by Tara Strong. They appear among the heroes at the audition for the replacement of Beast Boy. .
- The Wonder Twins appear in The Lego Batman Movie. They are seen at the 57th Annual Justice League Anniversary Party.
- The Wonder Twins make a brief appearance in Teen Titans Go! To the Movies.
The Teen Titans Go! incarnations of the Wonder Twins appear in Lego Dimensions. They appear in a sidequest where Jayna requests the player to find a bucket to catch Zan with in case he tries to escape again like he did in the "You're Fired" episode. The Lego Batman Movie incarnations also cameo in the Lego Batman Movie story pack.
- Marc Tyler Nobleman (2011-07-29). "Noblemania: Super '70s and '80s: "Super Friends"—Darrell McNeil, animator". Noblemania.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2013-09-10.
- Schwirian, John (February 2010). "Purple Prose: The Perplexing Popularity of the Wonder Twins". Back Issue!. TwoMorrows Publishing (38): 59–64.
- DC Database: Super Friends Vol 1 7. . Retrieved March 6, 2020.
- Dominguez, Noah (October 6, 2018). "Wonder Twins Activate on First Issue Cover". CBR.com. Retrieved November 21, 2018.
- Super Friends #7 (October 1977)
- Extreme Justice #9 (October 1995)
- Beatty, Scott (2008), "Extreme Justice", in Dougall, Alastair (ed.), The DC Comics Encyclopedia, New York: Dorling Kindersley, p. 117, ISBN 0-7566-4119-5, OCLC 213309017
- Kesel, Karl (w), Immonen, Stuart (p), Marzan, Jose, Jr.(i). "Dusk". Final Night #1 (November 1996). DC Comics.
- Priest, Christopher (w), Bernado, Ramón José; Morgan, Tom (p), Giordano, Dick (i). Total Justice #1–2 (October - November 1996). DC Comics.
- David, Peter (w), Nauck, Todd (p), Various (i). Young Justice #49–51 (November 2002–January 2003) DC Comics.
- Rogers, Vaneta (October 3, 2013). "BRYAN Q. MILLER Brings the TEEN TITANS To SMALLVILLE". Newsarama.
- "Cave Carson Has A Cybernetic Eye" #1 (October 2016). DC Comics.
- Super Friends #42 (March 1981)--Jayna defeats Superman in a training exercise by becoming a Kryptonian Tanthou Flez ("Winged One")
- "I Was the Bathwater - Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law - Adult Swim Video". Video.adultswim.com. 2007-06-22. Archived from the original on 2012-12-31. Retrieved 2013-09-10.