Zatanna Zatara (/zəˈtænə zəˈtɑːrə/) is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. The character was created by Gardner Fox and Murphy Anderson, and first appeared in Hawkman #4 (November 1964).
Zatanna is both a stage magician and an actual magician, like her father Giovanni "John" Zatara. As such she has many of her father's powers relating to magic, typically controlled by speaking the words of her incantations spelled backwards.
She 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.
Zatanna on the cover of the graphic novel Zatanna: Everyday Magic (Oct. 2003)
Art by Brian Bolland
|First appearance||Hawkman #4 (November 1964)|
|Created by||Gardner Fox (writer)|
Murphy Anderson (artist)
|Alter ego||Zatanna Zatara|
|Team affiliations||Justice League Dark|
Sentinels of Magic
Seven Soldiers of Justice
|Abilities||Skilled and powerful user of magic|
Created by writer Gardner Fox and artist Murphy Anderson, Zatanna first appeared in Hawkman #4 (November 1964). When she is introduced, she is on a quest to find her father Zatara who made his first appearance in Action Comics #1 but had not been published regularly for several years. The storyline crossed multiple comics published by DC at the time, culminating in issues of Justice League of America, also written by Fox.
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 which was featured in several titles edited by Julius Schwartz, and in it, Zatanna interacts with Hawkman and Hawkgirl; battles Batman and Robin while in disguise as a witch and under the control of the villain the Outsider; and teams with the Atom, Green Lantern, and the Elongated Man. The series culminated in Justice League of America #51 (February 1967). This Justice League adventure took place during the Batman television craze where Batman was at the height of his popularity. 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.
She briefly was featured in backup features in Adventure Comics and Supergirl from 1971 to 1973. Zatanna assists the Justice League of America on a few missions before being elected to membership in Justice League of America #161 (Dec. 1978). Soon after Zatanna joined the group, the identity of her mother was revealed in a multi-issue storyline. Zatanna teamed with Superman in DC Comics Presents and with Batman in The Brave and the Bold. 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. 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. She starred in a backup feature in World's Finest Comics #274–278 and the limitation of her powers is reversed in World's Finest Comics #277 (March 1982). She assists Wonder Woman and several other superheroines in fighting an extraterrestrial threat.
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, 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.
When the Justice League vanish in the past as they attempt to rescue the missing Aquaman, an emergency protocol set up by Batman assembles a new League, with this team including Jason Blood as its magical expert. However, when the current threat is identified as Gamemnae, an ancient Atlantean sorceress who seeks to conquer the world, she uses a quagmire spell to absorb Zatanna and Tempest into herself, When new League leader Nightwing attempts to order Blood to transform into Etrigan to help them against Gamemnae, Blood insists that Zatanna is the one they need, sacrificing himself to Gamemnae's quagmire spell in order to free Zatanna. She subsequently joins Nightwing, Firestorm and Hawkgirl in travelling back to ancient Atlantis, where Aquaman has been trapped in a pool of water as a water wraith, Firestorm creating a channel between the pool and the sea before Zatanna casts a spell that allowed the water-based Aquaman to control the entire ocean as his body, allowing him to sink Atlantis in the past and present and disrupt Gamemnae's power.
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 team's 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, gagging her, 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 her in 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 (August 2008), 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. 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.
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. 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. With assistance from Hardware and Icon, Zatanna and her comrades are able to defeat Starbreaker in a battle in the Himalayas.
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. 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; it is implied she was successful in banishing the Black Lantern, but was left psychologically crushed from having to kill her father again. In the aftermath of Blackest Night, Kimiyo mentions that Zatanna is one of the members who has left the team.
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, but Zatanna defeats and imprisons the demon to aid her later. 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. 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. 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. 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. The Zatanna series ended with issue #16 (October 2011).
In September 2011, The New 52 rebooted DC's continuity. In this new timeline, 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.
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. The story centers around a 16-year-old Black Canary's first meeting with Zatanna.
Zatanna makes her first appearance in Detective Comics #958 assisting Bruce in taking out a robot chasing after a cult member. Later on, it is revealed Bruce would like to see her in hopes that she will teach him more about magic that would revive Tim Drake.
Recently, it was announced a new Justice League Dark series with Zatanna being part of the team, featuring a new design for the character, without the classic fishnets.
Zatanna has had various romantic relationships with fellow DC characters, including John Constantine (with whom she practiced tantra) and Doctor Thirteen. Zatanna had a flirtational relationship with her fellow Justice Leaguer Barry Allen / The Flash shortly after the death of his wife Iris. 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. 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.
In the TV series Young Justice, Zatanna has a flirtatious and possibly romantic friendship with Dick Grayson / Robin during season one. Dick later says that they have a "history" in season two (five years after Season 1).
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 from speaking, 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 (leaH em).
Her magical powers increase if not used, but overuse can deplete them to the point that further use strains her physical well-being; as with other magical users, the only way to restore her waning powers is an extended period of rest.
While not as adept as Madame Xanadu, Zatanna has proven herself able to call upon tarot reading for insight or divination. 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 Circe, Madame Xanadu, John Constantine, Enchantress, and Doctor Fate, while on another occasion Jason Blood sacrificed himself to free Zatanna from a trap as he felt that she was better qualified to face the current threat than he was. 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, merged Aquaman's spirit with the entire ocean in the finale of the "Obsidian Age" story arc (albeit after the sorcerer Gamemnae had already merged Aquaman with a pool of water), 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 monte called the "Zatara shuffle", in which she is 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.
Zatanna is also a skilled hand-to-hand combatant, being trained by her father during her childhood.
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.
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, Batman throws a gas pellet down her throat.
She appears in JLA: Another Nail, which shows her teaming with Hawkwoman in Midway City.
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, is transformed into a motorcycle when Zatanna is riding on him. Zatanna is killed while trying to cast a death spell on Enchantress.
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 the DC Bombshells continuity, Zatanna was the daughter of a Jewish father and a Romani mother during World War II, but was prevented from being sent to the concentration camps thanks to the Joker's Daughter, who in return, forced her to perform magic to aid the Third Reich. Her lover, John Constantine, confronted her during one of her shows in an attempt to rescue her, but knowing they were surrounded, Zatanna transformed John into a rabbit and kept him under her care to prevent his death. He eventually convinces her to use her magic to aid the Allies, which she does by transforming her soul into a large, spiritual dove that aids Batwoman in freeing a refugee camp. Their attempts are discovered by the Nazis, and the two are depowered of their magic (with John being turned back into a human) and sent into the ghettos. Zatanna slowly gains her powers back over time, and finds a kindred spirit in another magic user imprisoned by the Joker's Daughter, Raven. They eventually defeat and depower the Joker's Daughter after allying herself with the Bombshells.
Zatanna has made multiple appearances in the DC Animated Universe:
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.
Her first appearance, presented by scribe Gardner Fox and artist Murphy Anderson, ultimately conjured up the era of the crossover, and emphasized the effectiveness of continuity in comics. It was rather ironic that a beautiful mage in fishnets who cast spells by speaking backwards would be responsible for such progressive storytelling.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
Guillermo del Toro: 'Right now the only sort of shared universe project I’m working on is Dark Universe for Warners, you know, for DC, which is Swamp Thing, Demon, Deadman, Zatanna.'
The basis for Dark Universe – the comic book series Justice League Dark – features supernatural characters from the DC lore, including Zatanna, Deadman, Frankenstein, Swamp Thing, and notably, John Constantine.
For those who aren't fans of Young Justice that's Wondergirl, Artemis, Zatanna, and Miss Martian watching Wrestlemania on the TV. None of their voice actors reprised their roles given this was just a small cameo.
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