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Zatanna was an ongoing comic series focusing on the character of Zatanna Zatara, Mistress of Magic, a Stage Magician with actual magical powers who also works as a Superhero in the DC Universe. She first appeared in Hawkman vol. 1 #4 (October-November, 1964), created by Gardner Fox and Murphy Anderson. She is the daughter of Giovanni "John" Zatara, a Golden Age hero who first appeared in Action Comics #1 in 1938 (yes, that same one). A former member of the prestigious Justice League of America, the series takes place after Zatanna has resigned from the team following the Blackest Night and the trauma of being forced to fight and kill (After a fashion) her father, who had returned as a Black Lantern during the crisis.
Premiering in May 2010, her solo series was written by Paul Dini and drawn by Stephane Roux. Though still an active hero, Zatanna is also performing traditional magic on stages across America, earning her considerable status as a celebrity beyond her fame as a hero. Because she does not possess a Secret Identity or Code Name she has to deal with the intrusion of the evil and supernatural into her day to day life, but her excellence at the mystic arts (She was regarded as the single most powerful member of the 2005 incarnation of the Justice League) means that she is not overly concerned about such events. The series begins when officer Dale Colton, an ordinary human in the San Francisco Police Department, asks for her help in investigating the brutal murders of the ranking members of the city's organized crime families. These murders lead Zatanna to discover that the local mystical criminal organizations have decided it is time to muscle in on more mundane villainy. After she solves this initial crime, and deals with the repercussions, the series follows her as she combats other supernatural threats to herself and others as she tours across the country.
The series was cancelled prior to the relaunch of the DC Universe in September, 2011, leaving the plot unresolved. After the relaunch Zatanna was brought back in the angsty team comic Justice League Dark, reuniting her with John Constantine.
Paul Dini had previously written the character during her numerous appearances in the DCAU, with an appearance in Batman: The Animated Series and two appearances in Justice League Unlimited. It was something of a joke amongst the production staff, and also a little bit more true than the average joke, that he has a crush on the character. He eventually married real life stage magician Misty Lee, who is regarded by many as the closest he could possibly come to marrying the actual character. The character also appeared in seasons eight and nine of Smallville, played by Serinda Swan, and in Batman the Brave And The Bold. Currently, she's appearing in Young Justice as a teenager.
The Zatanna ongoing series contains examples of:
- Action Girl: She is a proactive hero who seeks out and combats metaphysical criminals, demons, and the normal supervillains of the DCU, using her mystical abilities to combat foes at every turn, and she has the hand-to-hand capability to protect herself when the need arises.
- Adult Fear: When Zatanna was growing up as the daughter of world-famous magician John Zatara she would frequently travel to Los Angeles with him as part of his rather successful film career. However, even as a child she hated LA because Hollywood was already creating feats of special effects that could equal whatever magic her father had, and she always dreaded that Stage Magicians would be made obsolete by the film industry.
- All Psychology Is Freudian: When Zatanna is in therapy, trying to find some way to deal with her crippling unease and dislike of puppets, the focus is on findng the key incident in her childhood which spawned her lifelong distaste. Of course, considering that it turns out to have involved extreme emotional trauma and magic, automatically looking for a childhood cause might make a lot of sense.
- All There in the Manual: This is her first solo series, but Zatanna has been an active character in the DCU for almost fifty years and has a lengthy history with some of the most important characters, organizations and events in the history of comics. Though a lot of this is hinted at and referred to, the only way to find the details of her personal life and her past as a superhero is in the other comics she appeared in.
- Aloof Older Cousin: Zatanna and her cousin Zachary were always close as children, but Zachary now is struggling to make it big as a performer and Zatanna has yet to see even one of his shows. This leads to resentment when it appears that Zatanna has skipped one appearance, what might have been his big break, not because of any sort of of global catastrophe or emergency with the JLA, but because she had a date. Of course, not everything is as it seems...
- Always Second Best: Zachary Zatara, Zatanna's cousin and fellow magician, is always living in her shadow both as a stage performer and as a hero. He is relatively accepting of this, he does not resent or despise her for her success, but he still struggles with living as a low-class entertainer when she is enjoying the high life.
- Attractive Bent Gender: Mikey used to look like a stereotypical burly teamster, but now is a beautiful young woman who even looks good in Zatanna's stage costume.
- Author Appeal: This is the real life Mrs. Paul Dini in her work clothes.
- Bad Boss: Mammon, as a demon, is prone to disciplining his minions when they disappoint him, but will also punish them even when he never expected them to succeed in the first place.
- The Bechdel Test: Passes. Zatanna has a supporting cast composed of her performance crew, which contains numerous women, and features various female guest-stars.
- Body Horror: Brother Night opens his war on the mundane mobs by murdering the upper echelons in horrific and twisted fashion, mutating them into bizarre shapes and animals before they die.
- Bound and Gagged: A good method of leaving Zatanna powerless, though not an absolutely foolproof one. As it turns out, a written backwards spell will do in a pinch, though even then she'd need a free hand and something to write with.
- Brainwashed: The second arc features Zatanna herself brainwashed into marrying a man so that he can substitute her soul for his when the demon Mammon comes to claim him. This is not the first time he has done this, either, as the previous women he plunged into hell serve as the bridesmaids at the wedding.
- Code Name: She does not have one, she is addressed publicly and privately only as "Zatanna," her legal proper name.
- Commuting on a Bus: The month after her solo series was cancelled, Zatanna was made into one of the lead characters in the high profile Justice League Dark book.
- Continuity Nod: Ralph and Sue Dibny appear in the audience at Zatanna's "wedding," and she remarks how wonderful it is that they are not dead anymore.
- Creepy Doll: Zatanna, it turns out, has a serious and crippling phobia with regards to puppets. Not voodoo dolls or wax effigies, those she can handle with no problems, but with actual puppets with their hanging strings and painted-on eyes. Her fears extend back to her childhood and a traumatic incident she experienced with her father.
- Cut Short: When the series was cancelled in the lead up to the Post-Flashpoint DC Universe, Paul Dini left the series and was replaced by other writers for the final issues. These issues did not follow the ongoing plot of the series, leaving the Brother Night arc unresolved.
- Deader Than Dead: After finally being caught by his Deal with the Devil that he had managed to avoid for decades, Benjamin Raymond is only a few minutes away from being dragged down to Hell for eternity. He pleads for Zatanna's help but, as she rightly points out, this is a situation of his own making, and he had earlier tried to substitute her soul in his place, why should she fight a demon on his behalf? He becomes so desperate that, if she will not rescue him, then at least kill him; not just kill him, but rend his soul asunder and remove it forever from existence, since even not existing would be better than what will happen to him if Mammon should be able to claim him. Taking pity on him, Zatanna consents, and transforms him into a soulless, inanimate lump of gold.
- Deal with the Devil: The second arc of the series revolves around a decades-old deal with the demon Mammon, who lays claim to the soul of Benjamin Ramond, the man who built Las Vegas. Raymond has kept himself out of hell by feeding Mammon the souls of innocent women in his stead.
- Demonic Dummy: Complete with requisite kitchen knife and homicidal tendencies.
- El Cid Ploy: After Zatanna has freed her assistants and crew from Brother Night she has to remain and deal with him for good. However, she explains that somebody needs to perform at their scheduled show and she dresses Mikey in her outfit and and sends them all back to the stage.
- Enfant Terrible:
Zatanna: "Teddy. Don't get me started on Teddy."
- Erotic Dream: In #16 (the final issue of the 2011 series), a seriously sleep deprived Zee is woken from a dream involving two hunky men and a tub of cocoa butter when Uriah breaks into her library. She spends the rest of the issue trying to deal with the pest as quickly as possible so she can get back to the dream.
- Extremely Short Timespan: So far, both arcs of the ongoing series took place in less than twenty-four hours.
- For the Evulz: Fuseli, the Lord of Nightmares, enjoys twisting people's psyches just for the hell of it.
- Functional Magic
- Funny Animal: Two instances here:
- "Zap-Panda," a Funny Animal panda counterpart of Zatanna who lives on the parallel world Earth-C-Minus, which mirrors the mainstream DCU. Zap-Panda is a member of her world's "JLA" (the "Just'a Lotta Animals").
- Zatanna met Captain Carrot at the end of the late 2000s Zoo Crew miniseries, albeit with Cap having been stranded on the mainstream DC Earth and transformed into a non-talking realistic rabbit. Fortunately, he got better.
- Fun with Palindromes: A 2011 issue has Zatanna (who, recall, pronounces the words in her spells backwards) going up against a villain with time-reversal powers that allow him to negate her spells by having them sound like normal words. She gets around his powers by casting spells in palindromes (such as "Nurses Run" causing him to be stampeded by an army of running nurses).
- Gender Bender: Mikey is the result of an as-yet-unspecified application of the trope. We see her in a "three years ago" dream sequence as a burly male. Word of God from Paul Dini says "Zatanna didn't do it & can't reverse it; Mikey brought it on him/herself. Now Mikey's in an interesting place where she has to sort out her feelings about this." While there's a lot more to Mikey's story, with the book's cancellation, it doesn't seem likely that her story will be told any time soon, if ever.
- Good Is Not Dumb: When Oscar Hampel claims that he was turned into a puppet because of a tragic series of events almost out of his control, and that his actions were an isolated event, Zatanna accepts that her father, for all his wisdom and power, was only human. She gives Oscar the benefit of the doubt and agrees to help him become human again...after she runs him through a magic Lie Detector, that is. After all, just because her father was not perfect does not mean he was wrong this time, and she is going to make sure before she takes any actions.
- Hoist By Their Own Petards: Almost every villain of the series is defeated when Zatanna outdoes them in magic and trickery, often inflicting on them the very punishment they meant to do to her.
- Homage Shot: In Brother Night's nightclub, Morn is seated at the bar.
- Hot Chick in a Badass Suit: The outfit has been modified from standard, but her stage outfit is essentially a tuxedo, complete with top hat, that is also her default uniform when engaging in hero work. The biggest changes that have been made are the replacement of pants with fishnet stockings and the presence of an Impossibly Low Neckline (sometimes).
- Hot Witch: Zatanna herself, natch.
- Humans Are Flawed: When Zatanna is faced with the results of her father's temper, the victim claims it was all a tragic misunderstanding that sprang out of desperation. Zatanna, despite the love and respect she has for her father, recognizes that he was only human. Just because he meant well did not mean he was infallible, and she is willing to investigate further. Okay, the guy did deserve it, but the point still stands.
- Impossibly Low Neckline: Not always, but often her costume (Which is a variance on her standard outfit when performing on stage) is cut low to reveal a large amount of her cleavage.
- Improvised Weapon: Zatanna is a logomancer. That is, despite having been shown in the past using simple spell without employing her trademark Backwards speech she needs to have a clear voice to focus her powers with. As previously stated, this forces her rogues to gag her a lot. Also, even when she has still her charmcasting abilities intact, some villains may exploit some loopholes to protect themselves from her magic. Zatanna in both cases mostly improvises.
- In a story taken from her childhood a temporarily muted Zatanna (due to really uncomfortable dental braces) choose to use a Speak'n Spell toy as an artificial voice box of some sort. She also turned her braces into a cage, trapping her foe.
- Unable to harm directly an iteration of Amazo based on her own magic, she mystically recalled Red Tornado's soul, rich in mystical might, to use it as a weapon.
- In few instances where her opponent decided for something more permanent and less feticistic than a gag (as landing a crippling injury to Zatanna's throat) Zee has been shown to use Blood Magic. Exactly What It Says on the Tin: incantations written in blood are somewhat stronger, more dangerous and more powerful even than her average logomancy.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Mammon is willing to grant Benjamin Raymond eternal life, youth and freedom from hell in exchange for Zatanna's soul. It would be the prize of his entire soul collection
- I Thought It Meant: No relation to Marvel Comics' Satana (who is also a Hot Witch) or any other demonic character.
- Language of Magic
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: It is revealed that, when she was a child and saw her father transform a man into a puppet when he tried to kill her, John Zatarra wiped Zatanna's memories of the incident to calm her down. Zatanna herself is shocked when she discovers this as an adult, but Fuseli remarks that such actions must run in her family.
- The Mafia: The first arc revolved around a supernatural Mob War, with the mystical criminal underworld attempting to wrest control of San Francisco from the traditional Mafia.
- Magic Feather: Averted in the ongoing series where speaking her spells backwards is an essential component of her magic. Some previous writers had claimed that the speaking spells routine was just a focusing technique and that Zee could cast spells without it.
- Magical Girl Warrior: Her powers are often at the forefront of cosmic conflicts for the fate of the universe.
- Magical Incantation
- Magician Detective: She uses her magical skills and master of normal sleight-of-hand to deal with demons, goblins, ghosts and also traditional human riff-raff.
- Magicians Are Wizards: She is a famous and wealthy stage magician with a successful show in Las Vegas, but she is also a powerful master of the mystic arts that often serves as our worlds best defense against intrusions from beyond.
- Mind Screw: In the second arc, when Zatanna is being brainwashed into an eternal torment in Hell, her perspective is of a joyous wedding ceremony attended by all her friends. Including Ralph and Sue Dibny.
- Missing Mom: Sindella, Zatanna's mother, was presumed dead for years so Zatara raised her. Turns out she was enslaved by her own people, the Hidden Ones, a race of natural magic-users. She dies shortly after Zatanna meets her.
- Moral Dissonance: When Zatanna arrives at her hotel room after an exhausting show she finds that her cousin, Zatarra, is throwing a wild party filled with people she does not know. When several women mistake her for a waitress and ask for their drinks Zatanna, already extremely frustrated, turns them into birds and has them fly away. Nothing bad happens to the women while they were birds, and Zatanna returns them to human form soon afterwards, but nobody sees any real problem with her mutating innocent bystanders just because they did not recognize her.
- Most Common Superpower: She is a very powerful woman.
- Ms. Fanservice: Zatanna is a gorgeous, busty, leggy woman whose outfit is composed of fishnet stockings and top hat. Nobody has ever found reason to complain over Paul Dini's appreciation of the character.
- Muggle: Detective Dale Colton had no prior experience with the supernatural before he came to Zatanna, and was not even sure if he really believed it existed. The only reason he came to her at all is because the mystical criminal underworld has decided it was time to move in on the Muggle underworld, which has no way of dealing with such otherworldly events.
- My Grandson, Myself: Benjamin Raymond, the villain of the Vegas arc, knew Zatanna's father several decades ago, and is now posing as his own son to strike up a "friendship" with Zatanna herself.
- Nice Hat: Damn straight.
- Noodle Incident: The exact circumstances that led to Mikey now being a beautiful woman.
- Occult Detective: As a person with legitimate supernatural powers and no Secret Identity, she is one of the few characters in the DCU that can be casually approached to deal with issues beyond the ken of mortal authorities. The series starts with a local detective hopping backstage after a show to ask for her input on a batch of grisly other-worldly murders.
- Painful Transformation: Brother Night killed his targets with their transformations into horrific inhuman things.
- Paparazzi: Zatanna is not a fan of the media, and one of the reasons she hates traveling to Los Angeles is because there are paparazzi everywhere. When she stops a high-speed chase that happened to pass her by she is already dreading the countless pictures that will surface of the event, followed by articles, media theories (Primarily focused on if she has gained or lost weight), and videos uploaded to "Youface" that have been edited to make her look like the villain.
- Really Seven Hundred Years Old: Benjamin Raymond sold his soul to Mammon years ago in exchange for wealth and youth, and every few years he marries an innocent woman and gives Mammon her soul in order to extend his life. By the time he moves on to Zatanna he has been doing this for quite a while, and knew her father back when he was his own father.
- Rogues Gallery: Zatanna refers to Brother Night's mooks as "a veritable rogues' gallery of the mystic underworld."
- Sdrawkcab Name: Not her name very often, but Zatanna and her cousin Zachary cast magical spells by speaking them backwards.
- Secret Identity: She does not have one, and is publicly recognized as a practicing magician and former member of the Justice League.
- Sesame Street Cred: Zatanna tried to star in an episode of Sesame Street within the series, but her crippling phobia of puppets meant that she did not even get through her act before she wound up throwing up in Oscar's garbage can. This actually leads her to seek therapy to try and deal with her fear of puppets and instigates the third arc of the series.
- Series Continuity Error: In issue #14, by guest writer Adam Beechen, the resolution to the story hinges on Zatanna's power not being able to affect living things. Not only has she used her powers on living beings many times in her history, but in this series alone she has turned a guy into a rat, turned three women into birds, turned a guy into a lump of gold (destroying his soul in the process) and her father used the same magic she does to turn a man into a puppet. Zatanna did once have a limitation on her powers of only being able to manipulate elemental matter for several years, but facet of her character was re-written several years before this series came out.
- She's Got Legs: Boy, does she know how to use 'em.
- Shotgun Wedding: Zatanna is drugged and brainwashed into walking down the aisle with a man she barely knows (But he did know her father pretty well). However, in this case her body is, at best, a secondary consideration, as he really wants her soul, which he is planning to give to the demon Mammon in lieu of his own.
- The Show Must Go On: After she frees them from Brother Night, Zatanna explains to her cast and crew that they still have a scheduled appearance, dresses Mikey in her costume, and sends them back to the stage to perform.
- Show Within a Show: Apart from Zatanna and Zatara's own magical performances, the beginning of the third arc of the series recounts when Zatanna tried to guest-star in an episode of Sesame Street, but could not perform because of her fear of puppets.
- Slasher Smile: Brother Night, the villain of the first arc, bears a sickeningly wide grin that is inhuman (Literally) and highly disturbing.
- Slave to PR: Mammon will punish his assassins for failing in a mission, even though he never expected them to succeed, because to let them slide would set a bad precedent.
- Stage Magician: Zatanna has considerable skill in standard sleight of hand in addition to her authentic mystical abilities, and she has quite a bit of fame and fortune stemming from her traditional performances in theaters and stadiums around the world.
- Star-Spangled Spandex: Well, star-spangled gala dress, but still counts.
- Stocking Filler: Her costume includes fishnet stockings.
- There Are No Therapists: Averted. It turns out Zatanna has a pretty crippling phobia with regards to puppets, and it has gotten so bad that she could not even guest-star on an episode of Sesame Street without vomiting on-set before her scene was through. However, she is currently undergoing therapy to help deal with this issue and has discovered the source of her unease in an unpleasant incident from her childhood.
- True Companions: Zatanna's cast and crew are closer to friends than employees, and after she frees them from Brother Night they refuse to run away and leave her to face him alone. It is only by explaining that they have a show to do and assuring them of her safety that she gets them to leave.
- Viva Las Vegas: The Vegas arc takes place in Las Vegas. Zatanna is there performing her world-famous stage act, and her cousin Zachary is trying to break into the big time himself with his own show. Ultimately, Zatanna comes into conflict with the demon Mammon, the personification of greed and wealth, who bought the soul of the man who helped build Las Vegas decades ago as a monument to greed.
- Weirdness Censor: Dale Colton explains that most normal people have a lot of trouble accepting the truth about magic and such, even when they hear about it on TV and have to deal with the aftereffects, which is why magic is still a "secret" in the DCU, despite Zatanna's own fame.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Zatanna has a phobia about puppets.
- You Don't Want to Know:
Zatanna: (Observing the results of Brother Night's massacre ) "It's like The Spectre went on a bender."
- You Have Failed Me: Mammon plunges his elemental assassins into the fires of perdition for failing to kill Zatanna, even though he never really expected them to succeed in the first place. Letting them slide would set a bad precedent.
- Zatanna #13 (2011)