Born from a union of a magical race of humanoids and a powerful human wizard/stage magician, Zatanna Zatara is possibly one of the most powerful people in all of the DC Universe, magical or otherwise. Wielding the power to make reality change at her whim by merely saying her commands backwards, Zatanna can shape the world in a myriad of ways. She’s become more popular in recent years, and she’s more than earned it, so it seems fitting that she have a spotlight here at Comic Attack.
Zatanna is the daughter of Golden Age superhero Giovanni Zatara, stage magician and spell-caster, and Sindella of the Homo-Magi, the magical parallel of humanity much in the way Homo-Superior is the mutant parallel in the Marvel universe. This grants Zatanna power from both sides of her family, the natural gifts of her mother, and her father’s training.
Raised by her father and trained since she was a small child, even in braces Zatanna was learning how to use magic. Taking on her father’s tradition of stage magic and magical super-heroics, Zatanna has been working with the Justice League and other super teams and individuals since her premiere back in 1964. Her first story had her searching for her missing father, though she wouldn’t find him for three whole years. Eventually her father would pass on, leaving Zatanna to become the head of the Zatara family.
Zatanna would join the Justice League and even got a costume fitting of the era in which she joined (the 1970s). To make her less of a Deus Ex Machina as a team member, she was powered down to only be able to effect the classic four elements of earth, wind, fire, and water. That’s right, to make Zatanna less powerful they gave her the limitations of the Avatar, which is still nothing to sneeze at. She’d go on to become a chair-member of the League.
After appearing on the acclaimed Batman: The Animated Series, Zatanna’s background was rewritten so that she and Bruce Wayne had known and trained in escape artistry together under her father’s tutelage. This would go on to become a semi-romance that she and Batman shared while on adventures where Batman required magical assistance. She would also have a relationship with John Constantine as the two practiced Tantra together.
In the controversial Identity Crisis story line, it was revealed that Zatanna used her magic to mind wipe many villains, making them go from vile to incompetent. This was made worse when it was discovered she also mind wiped Batman when he protested and was outvoted by other members of the League, putting a strain on their friendship when he was able to remember.
The superhero community was stunned at such events and was terrified at Zatanna’s use of power. This lead to Zatanna losing some of her power and joining a support group to try and set herself right. During this time Zatanna would become one of the 7 Soldiers of Victory.
Eventually she’d become fully powered again, make amends with Batman, and start performing stage shows in San Francisco, where Paul Dini’s 16 issue run would come into effect. This is a series I can’t recommend enough, the suggested reading list doesn’t do it enough justice. Zatanna would go on to have to deal with her cousin Zachary Zatanna, who is as talented as much as he his a showboat. Zatanna would fight demons, maniacs with magic swords, and cursed ventriloquist dummies, among other magical threats.
The DC Reboot would have Zatanna get a new look and have to deal with a new Justice League, Justice League Dark, the magical division of the super-team. Here she is working alongside John Constantine and other DC magical or supernatural superheroes, like Deadman. This series takes on the “Dark” aspect of its title and delves more into the issues of its occult heroes.
Zatanna can also be seen on television as a teen version of herself on Cartoon Network’s Young Justice. Here, her father is a member of the Justice League, and she eventually gets herself into the teen team. I like this version of her, and the tragic twist, that I won’t spoil, is one of the saddest fates I’ve seen.
So there you have it. Zatanna has a lot more to her story I don’t mention here. From nearly 50 years as a somewhat prominent character to becoming a popular superhero, she’s got plenty of stories to read, and that’s what reading comics is for. Speaking of reading comics….
Hawkman #4 Vol. 1
JLA: Zatanna’s Search
Seven Soldiers of Victory: Zatanna
Detective Comics #833, #834, #843, #844
Zatanna: Everyday Magic
Zatanna: Mistress of Magic
Zatanna: Shades of the Past