Zatanna: Where Do I Start?


Come one, come all… for the greatest magician of them all — Zatanna!

Created back in 1964 by Gardner Fox and Murphy Anderson for Hawkman #4, Zatanna Zatara is the daughter of the Golden Age DC character Giovanni Zatara who debuted alongside Superman in Action Comics #1. Just like her father, she’s a stage magician by day and a real magician by night. Using the same backwards-talking spell-casting as her father, Zatanna’s come to be the preeminent magic-based hero in the DCU. Frequently dressed in a superhero costume that looks straight out of a Las Vegas magic show, Zatanna’s just as well known for her looks as she is for her skills.

In this week’s Where Do I Start?, we open the spell book on Zatanna and piece together the essential stories that will give you an idea of what makes her tick. From her childhood friendship with Batman to her on-again, off-again relationship with John Constantine and on through to her solo adventures, the Mistress of Magic isn’t one to miss. She’s currently appearing in both Justice League Dark and the main Justice League titles, and while her appearances there are great it’s these five stores that will show you who she really is.

61820_20060907164619_largeJLA: Zatanna’s Search: This collection pieces together Zatanna’s earliest adventure, searching for her missing father. Working as a crossover in the late 1960s between Hawkman, Green Lantern, The Atom, Detective Comics and Justice League of America, Zatanna transverses the DCU piecing together clues about the whereabouts of her father. The storytelling is very plot-heavy with point-of-fact style leaps, but gets across the early days of Zatanna and her strong ties to her father.

Zatanna: Everyday Magic: This slimline 48 page graphic novel by Paul Dini and Rick Mays does a great job at establishing Zatanna’s power level inside the DCU and also her on-again, off-again relationship with John Constantine. In this story Zatanna is reluctantly pulled back into orbit with Constantine when she learns that he’s in need of some help, resulting in a rather catty showdown between Zatanna and her ex’s adversary.

Zatanna, Vol. 2: Shades of the Past: This collects the second half of the 2010-2011 Zatanna ongoing series, and I’m recommending this over the first volume and with good reason. Although Paul Dini writes the entire run, this second arc with Cliff Chiang really gets rolling as Zatanna faces off with some childhood enemies, puppets, a spurned student in Klarion the Witch Boy, witch-hunters and a repeat bout with Brother Night.. This volume also fills in aspects of Zatanna’s supporting cast from her young cousin Zachary, her manager Mikey and a potential flame named Detective Dale Colton.

Seven Soldiers ZatannaDetective Comics #833-#834: This two-part story-arc entitled “Truth” reveals that Zatanna and Bruce Wayne were childhood playmates, and repairs some of the damage in their relationship from the Identity Crisis brouhaha that’s better left uncovered for this Where Do I Start?. In this neat little crossover, Zatanna asks for Batman’s help to investigate the murder of one of her former stage assistants. This little whodunit? turns into a showdown with the Joker, forcing Zatanna to use some outside-the-box thinking to defeat him after he takes her voice away. This is collected in the larger Detective Comics: Death and the City TPB  but you can track down these two single issues relatively cheaply on the second-hand market.

Seven Soldiers: Zatanna: Written as part of Grant Morrison’s immense Seven Soldiers event from 2005, this revisionist take on the Princess of Prestidigitation finds the titular star in a support group for superheroes. Her fault? She’s a self-diagnosed “spellaholic.” It shows her recounting a terrible incident where an errant spell summons a demonic shape-shifter that kills her colleagues. Summoning up some strength of year own, Zatanna eventually reigns in the shape-shifter just in time to fend off a renegade time traveler who seeks to unleash an even more dangerous threat to the world. The latter half of this series brings in the various threads from the other Seven Soldiers titles, but for the most part this can be read on its own. This four-issue series is collected in the larger Seven Soldiers of Victory, Vol. 1trade, but as with the previous entry it can be tracked down rather inexpensively if you know how to fumble through back-issue bins.


  1. I remember really enjoying Everyday Magic when it came out. That was a fun little story.

  2. The 2010-11 Zatanna run was very underappreciated, well worth checking out. Cliff Chiang and Stephane Roux did some great artwork

    • I second this. That was a great little run. Paul Dini started it and Matt Sturges did the last few issues. Both did a good job with the character.

    • Add me to the list too. Zatanna, Power Girl, and Batgirl are the books from before the new 52 that I miss the most.

    • @colossus

      you just had to bring up PG and Steph Brown didn’t you?

    • @colossusofrhodeisland I was just gonna say practically the same thing! I was just getting into Zatanna before the New52, and do miss Power Girl & Batgirl. I don’t read the current Batgirl but BQM’s run was a solid 24 issues. I’m starting to not miss Power Girl cause I enjoyed the last cpl Worlds Finest’s issues along with the #0 issue, only few I’ve read but am gonna continue with that series as of now. JLDark is a good series & a good place for Zatanna, a different shade of the same color but not the same charm her solo run had.

  3. Keith Giffen’s “Reign in Hell” was dense as … heck… and not entirely great, but it has some of my all-time favorite Zatanna moments. Certainly some of her best moments regarding her most meaningful relationship: that with her father. Also, seeing her surrounded by all the other DC magic characters makes you appreciate her quite a bit. The recently re-released Day of Judgment, by Geoff Johns, is fun in the same way.

  4. I evah yllaer dekil annataZ rof a gnol emit. ehS sah neeb taerg ni ecitsuJ eugaeL kraD os raf. I dluow yojne gniees reh nwo seires niaga emitemos ni eht erutuf.

  5. You got this list right. So glad Seven Soldiers Zatanna was included, a great take on the character.

    And yea, like others, Zatanna (and Madame Xanadu) were two missed casualties of the New 52 for me.

  6. I loved “Batman:Death and the City”, great use of Joker and Zatanna. That was probably the story that made me vote Zatanna as the girl Bruce should settle down with, which he’ll never do but I can hope. She’s been great in JLD with the tension between her and Constantine.

  7. Is that Alex Ross piece from any particular comic? Its effin adorable

  8. “Death and the City” sounds like a back issue bin hunt!
    Glad Seven Soldiers was mentioned, surprised really cause out of continuity type stories rarely see mention in columns that are definitive reads on a character.
    I love that cover to JLA too, everything..the layout, the detail in the villains face..her father encapsulated in a sepia tone, the not so A list supporting cast of great characters,Ralph Dibny & Ray Palmer..the Hawks! C’mon!
    I did not know Zatarra’s 1st app was Action Comics #1 or Zatanna’s is Hawkman #4, yet Hawkmans 1st is Flash #1,so cool stuff. Reminds me of a briefly started hunt for classic nostalgia issues, Atom & The Hawkman (Showcase Presents, Brave and the Bold).

  9. I miss Zatanna’s old outfit.