The classic stage magician is a well-known image in pop culture, with the black coat, white shirt and rabbit coming out of a top hat. Few characters embody that image better than Zatanna Zatara. One of the most powerful magic users in the DC Universe, Zatanna has been a member of the Justice League and Justice League Dark. She’s also known for her connection with Batman, which actually happened through a retcon. The Comic Vault is examining her history and what makes her such a memorable character.
Zatanna was created in 1964 and first appeared in Hawkman #4. The daughter of magician Giovanni ‘John’ Zatara, Zatanna was established as a member of the Homo magi race. She discovered her magical potential while investigating the disappearance of her father and it led her to interacting with Hawkman and Hawkgirl. When not being a superhero she made her living as a stage illusionist.
As a tribute to her father, Zatanna’s trademark is chanting spells backwards. She’s proven capable of casting spells by talking normally as well. Her magical ability makes her a powerful sorceress and she’s been able to control the elements, heal wounds and manipulate minds. However, there are limitations to Zatanna’s abilities, such as her being reliant on her voice. Overusing her powers can cause them to wane because they are tied to her physical and mental well-being.
Zatanna’s powers were the focus of the 2004 Identity Crisis arc, where she was prepared to erase Doctor Light’s memories of the Justice League. Light had raped the wife of the Elongated Man and threatened family members of the JLA. Despite Light’s crimes, the question was raised of whether changing his personality would stop him from being a criminal. Zatanna erased his memories and it resulted in his intelligence being lowered, which acted as a metaphor for lobotomization. During the process, Batman had tried to stop her, but she froze him and the JLA voted to erase his memories of the incident. When he found out what she did, it put a strain on their relationship, but they eventually worked it out.
Batman and Zatanna’s first meeting occurred in Detective Comics #336 when she fought against him and Robin while she was mind controlled by a villain called the Outsider. In future stories it appeared as if they didn’t know each other, but this was changed in 2007’s Detective Comics #833. It was established that Giovanni Zatara and Thomas Wayne were old friends. Bruce and Zatanna were childhood playmates and her father taught him the art of escape. The two of them have shared a strong friendship and they discussed the possibility of being romantically involved as well. Yet they decided to remain friends because Batman was too devoted to his cause.
As well as featuring in her own limited series, Zatanna has worked well in a supporting role. She’s acted as a hub of knowledge for all kinds of magical disturbances. She’s a fascinating character with a lot of inner strength and provides a great twist to the classic stage magician trope.