Beginners Guide: Zatanna

Sometimes you get a character that comes out of nowhere as a guest, with not much background, but steals peoples hearts. This is the case with the subject of Episode 11 of the podcast. Here’s a beginners guide to Zatanna Zatara.

The Search

Our story starts with Giovanni Zatara, who first appeared in Action Comics #1. Zatara was a powerful magician of the Homo Magi; a parallel race to Homo sapiens who posses magical powers. During his travels he met his future wife, Sindella, a fellow magi. Together they had their daughter, Zatanna Zatara. Tragically, Sindella did not survive childbirth, leading Zatara into deep depression and alcoholism. This led to Zatanna being taken away to be raised by strangers.

Zatara appeared as a support in multiple storylines through the ’30s to the ’50s but then wasn’t seen for quite some time. This disappearance culminated in Hawkman #4 of 1964.
Hawkman and Hawkgirl came across two women on either sides of the planet, both immobilised and talking gibberish. They bring the two aboard their star cruiser, only to realise they are the same person. Pushing them together, the two mystery women merge to one, their gibberish words merging into full sentences.

Making Friends

Able to speak again, she explains she is Zatanna, daughter of the great magician Zatara. Her father is missing and to aid her search she had performed a spell to split herself in two. Unfortunately it had gone wrong, leaving her immobilised and unable to speak. Hawkman and Hawkgirl offer to use the absorbascon to search for him, but they find no results. She presumes he is dead, but Hawkman offers hope, as he may just be suffering from amnesia. Hoping for the best she thanks them and leaves to continue her search.

This search brings her across multiple titles, meeting some of the biggest names of the time. She scraps with Batman and Robin while dressed as a witch, teams up with The Atom and fights side by side with Green Lantern. Her search comes to its end when she calls together all the allies she has made (including a slightly confused Batman) in Justice League of America #51. The evil Allura had captured and cast a spell on Zatara; If he and Zatanna are to meet again, it will kill them both. Zatara was no fool, however, and had been slowly working his own spells on Allura to aid the rescue.

Although I wont fully give away how he did it, suffice to say the two are re-united.

A Powerful Ally

Following her epic search, she continued to appear in many different titles. She would support Supergirl, Superman, Batman and Wonder woman to namedrop just a few. Eventually, in issue #161, she was elected a member of the Justice League. Other than a small number of One-Shots and a very short series, most of her appearances continue this way, appearing as a guest in more and more titles. In recent years she has became a permanent member of Justice League Dark, the supernatural partner to the Justice League.

To say she appears mostly as a guest is certainly not to diminish her, she is widely regarded as one of the most powerful characters in the DC Universe. Despite still learning her craft she has exhibited healing, mind control, teleportation, superhuman strength and stamina, control of the elements, energy manifestation, manipulation of time and space, and many many more. It would be fair to say that so far, there has been no sign of any limit to what she can do.

Her main restriction is one she has cast upon herself, like her father she speaks all her spells in reverse, both a homage and a form of self control. This is by no means a requirement, however, as she has in the past used spells by speaking them normally, and indeed without speaking them at all. In one instance her larynx was crushed, yet she was able to heal herself by writing out laeH eM in her own blood.

In a male dominated world of superheroes, Zatanna is a role model that is both highly prevalent, but under-used. Her impact has been felt by many titles and leading characters, but is yet to have a long lasting title of her own.
If you would like to know more, remember to listen to our full episode, and hit up the reading list below. If more people read her current stories, who knows what the future will bring.

Steve‘s reading list:

JLA Zatanna’s Search
Saga of the Swamp Thing: American Gothic
Identity Crisis
Paul Dini’s Zatanna
Seven Soldiers of Victory
Justice League Dark
Black Canary & Zatanna

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