Welcome to the 2021 A to Z Challenge! My theme this year is DC Comics. And that’s mostly because of my undying affection for the comic book characters and stories that I grew up reading in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s. So stay tuned all month to (maybe) learn a little something about 26 corners of the DC Multiverse.
And now we come to the end. For Z, I could only think of two possible characters. There’s Zoom, a Flash villain, or there’s Zatanna, one of DC’s more magical characters.
My first introduction to Zatanna came in an episode of Batman the Animated Series. No, she’s not like Harley Quinn or Renee Montoya in that she first appeared as a cartoon and was brought into the comic book world. Zatanna has been around for quite some time. She was even an integral part of the Justice League for a number of years.
She only appeared in one episode of Batman, and she was someone who clearly had a crush on a young Bruce Wayne. See, following the murder of Bruce’s parents, he traveled the world, working hard to become the best at anything and everything that would assist him in his war on crime. Part of that training came at the hands of Zatanna’s father, Zatara, a world-famous illusionist. Under Zatara’s tutelage, Bruce became a master escape artist.
But Zatara, and his daughter after him, was no mere illusionist. He had real magic power at his disposal. It’s a power he passed along to Zatanna.
Zatanna’s magical power basically consists of the ability to cast spells by speaking backwards. For example: if Zatanna wanted to transform a criminal’s gun into a bouquet of flowers, she might shout, “Nrut nug onti srewolf!” Or maybe it would be “Srewolf onti nug nrut!” I can’t remember if the whole phrase has to be backwards or if it’s individual words.
Zatanna’s origin is a little different when she appears on Young Justice. She’s still the daughter of Zatara, but she’s still a teenager who is just learning how to use her power while her father is an active member of the Justice League. Zatara is hesitant, at first, to allow Zatanna to join the kids’ team, but she becomes kind of important toward the end of that first season. To say more would provide spoilers and I told you yesterday that it’s a show you should just watch. So what’s stopping you already?
I don’t know a whole lot about Zatanna’s comic book history. I do know that she was deeply involved in a scandalous retcon that occurred in the Identity Crisis storyline. I won’t get into the details because that would expand this post to about three times longer than it already is. But Zatanna’s scandal involves her use of magic to wipe the memory of the villain knowns as Dr. Light. She also turned him into a moron who went from being a dangerous threat to being a joke that the Teen Titans would regularly handle. When Batman stumbled onto the scene in the middle of the mindwipe, the rest of the Justice League members who were there and were in on the decision convinced Zatanna to eliminate Batman’s memory of that moment as well. See? Scandal.
In the most recent version of DC’s continuity, Zatanna has played a major role in a version of the Justice League known as the Justice League Dark, alongside other mystical characters like John Constantine, Swamp Thing, and Deadman. But that’s about all I know about Zatanna’s history.
Zatanna has appeared in live action, to my knowledge, only a couple of times. Both of those appearances where on Smallville, where she was played by Serinda Swan. There has been talk for years of a Justice League Dark film, but it’s kind of been in development hell for a very long time.
So did you know who Zatanna was before reading this post? Did I leave out anything important? Do you wish you could make things happen magically just by speaking backwards? Yeah… me too… Let me know your thoughts down in the comments!