Power of Fishnets 3: Zatanna’s Search Part 1

Ryan Daly reviews Zatanna’s first appearance in Hawkman #4 (1964), and examines her publication history, and why she’s not a bigger deal in the DC Universe.

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Music: “Two Divided by Love” by the Grass Roots

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15 responses to “Power of Fishnets 3: Zatanna’s Search Part 1

  1. I think I first met Zatanna when she joined the JLA in issue #161. Not long after that I picked up her first-ever origin in DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #5, and that’s where I learned of her quest. It was decades before I got to read those stories in the JLA: Zatanna’s Search tpb.

    You make some interesting points about how innovative Zatanna’s initial storyline was. It makes you wonder, why DID it take them so long? I can see spreading it out over a year, but three? That’s really kind of nuts. Schwartz didn’t mind playing the long game, for sure.

    I agree that her introduction as a recurring character in separate titles may have hurt her standing in the DCU, and why she’s still not as prominent as she should be today. Heck, she didn’t even rate the cover of Hawkman #4!

    It never occurred to me that Zatanna may have made a better Post-Crisis Wonder Woman substitute over Black Canary. I think the reason Dinah got the nod was her history was now nearly blank. Her appearances before JLA #75 would be attributed to her mother, and that batcrap crazy retcon they did a few years before Crisis couldn’t be used. She was in need of a backstory, and the JLA needed a female member. Done.

    Great episode, and I’m looking forward to the following chapters, especially the Batman story that was a retcon itself!


  2. I discovered Zatana in Justice League of America 161. Which should be the last chapter in the Zatana’s Search TPB. I missed the clue about how she was casting spells wrong because I didn’t know how she was meant to be doing it. Nine year old Bradley felt tricked, enough he still remembers. I also thought she was meant to be dressed that way. Despite this rough introduction she and her backwards talking magic have always been one of my favorite things in comics. She is (particularly when on light of her first story arc) the best unifying support cast member in the DCU. Who else has drawn willing blood from Superman and smoked weed with John Constanine?

  3. Another great episode, I was a bit freaked out when you were doing your Zatanna spell voice, it was all a bit Idol Head of Diabolu.

    I’ve never ranked Zee costumes so here goes:
    1) The top hat and tux
    2) The Perez scorpion topper
    3) Burn the rest

    I hate all the New 52 looks with their tacky basques and ridiculous fishnet gloves. Zee is classy, an Italian American Atlantean … she shouldn’t look like a low-grade underwear model. And zee is not a Goth.

    The link with Constantine always felt wrong – she’s a jet setting stage magician, a superhero, not the doxy of some wideboy Scouser.

  4. Thanks fort he great review and commentary.

    I have never read this first appearance in any form but have seen flashbacks panels of the Hawks shoving the Two Z’s together plenty. So nice to see the original. Hoping you are going to cover all the chapters since I haven’t read those either.

    Like others, I also first met Zatanna in JLA 161. In fact, I wanted to claim dibs on cohosting if you cover that issue but now I wonder if a round table might not be a better idea. Since that was my first take on her, the Sindella version of her costume ranks high for me, probably #2 below the top hat version.

    Lastly, the idea of Zatanna being a founder is an interesting one for all the reasons you say, specifically from a power level. The thing is I skew her younger, too young to be there at the beginning. I always think of her as a tweener. She isn’t a young hero like the original Titans. She isn’t established like the big 7. She exists in that gap. If Batman is 29 and Robin is 18 then I my head Zatanna is 23.

    There are lots of Zatanna stories I love, from the backups/teamups with Kara to the Morrison mini to her recent solo title. So look forward to hearing more.

  5. Zatanna’s debut was like one of the very first crossover events, wasn’t it? Today, all those issues would have some kind of “Zatanna’s Quest” banner or something.

    1. Yeah, it was probably the first crossover, except the component parts were published years apart.

      Also, they were all collected in the trade paperback “Zatanna’s Search”, which I forgot to mention last episode.

      1. Well they didn’t know how those worked yet. They hadn’t even figured it out by Crisis, which ran for years, from New Teen Titans #21 (1982) to Hawkworld #3 (1989).

  6. I had to read an actual comic book before I could keep listening to this podcast, so six weeks later, I can finally leave a comment. I think I picked up JLA: Zatanna’s Search a few years ago at a shop’s half-off sale intending to cover it for the mostly defunct Justice League Detroit blog, so at least I had it handy for this. I have to say Zee’s debut is very disappointing, being a short non-cover story in which her role is as a device and mostly non-speaking cameo role. Not having read it before, I was surprised by how basic it was. “This stuff came from these two places, so let’s split up and beat up criminals and then smoosh a magic girl together like she was sandwich bread.” To what end? “Hi, I’m a second generation hero with an info dump for your final panels. Your princess is going to a different castle. Buh-bye.” At least she got a solid splash page image that could be repurposed into an homage cover and really nice Murphy Anderson art.

    As previously debated (JLA Secret Origins Podcast?) Zatanna taking Wonder Woman’s spot in the Post-Crisis League would have massively altered the flavor of the team, in no small part due to their primary vulnerability being magical threats. Black Canary actually takes the place of both Wonder Woman and Batman by being a low powered, street level, dark clad vigilante who’s also a female warrior with ties to the Golden Age JSA and a complex relationship with her overbearing mother. Zee’s a traveling entertainer partnered with her dapper mentor father who would be well familiar with half of the early League’s foes, whom she could then stand around talking backward spells at. DC took ten years to do much of anything with their replacement five member League. That was okay because leaving out the Trinity and adding in Dinah in a flashback panel or a short anthology story didn’t leave you with a completely different Justice League the way Zatanna would. I agree that Zee deserves better than to be The Girl in Justice League’s boutique brewery dark malt beverage blend. I also think DC needs a bunch of teams that aren’t just offshoots of the Justice League, because without a Suicide Squad, Warner Brothers’ DC slate would be very bleak. How about having Zatanna form her own team to take advantage of her unique role as a bridge between the mainstream and occult veins of the publisher’s universe? Remember when one of the selling points of X-Men was its strong female representation? How about a team with Zee, Starfire, Batgirl, Booster Gold and the current Blue Beetle? I’m picking semi-popular names out of a hat, but the point is to have a group that is neither the JLA, JSA, Titans or quasi-Vertigo Grab Bag with girl power and sales power.

    I liked the concept of Martian Manhunter as a member of Stormwatch. Too bad he only guest-starred in the first year of another failed Authority relaunch before rejoining a Justice League.

    The prospect of a Hawkman podcast without Luke Jaconetti makes me feel sad.

    We’ve both fan-cast Zatanna for a modern movie, which would be great and they should make that, but I wanted to note that my all-time mental model for Zee is Jill Schoelen.

    I’ve listened to this episode 3+ times because I keep getting distracted by my ideas for a DC ground floor reboot as a weekly 52 issue maxi-series charting the early careers of Superboy, Wonder Girl, Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson and Zatara during The Great Recession. I think it would help Zatanna become iconic. Just not as much as Bradley Null’s closing line “Who else has drawn willing blood from Superman and smoked weed with John Constanine?” Who indeed?

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