Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Top 10 Zatanna Covers

Super-heroes failed out before the "Golden Age" truly ended, replaced by crime and horror comics. The Silver Age wasn't so much about reviving some fine heroic tradition as mining a formerly rich vein in the fallow period after Dr. Wertham ruined all that was good and salacious about '50s comics. The new wave of DC heroes worked off the premise that the original set had faded away for a reason, so any updates of Flashes and Green Lanterns needed to be separate, contemporary entities. Because of this, Zatanna was pretty much the first true "legacy" character, as she was the daughter of the outdated Mandrake knock-off Zatara, and followed his m.o. more closely than most of her fellows. Just as young collectors had slowly begun to seek out back issues and draw lines between "their" DC heroes and their predecessors, Zatanna searched for her father, who had been missing from the funny pages for ages. Also, rather than being given her own title, Zatanna linked a number of the updated heroes together as part of a shared universe through her guest appearances in various titles. Unfortunately, finding Zatara meant Zatanna would begin her own disappearing act until the late '70s, when nostalgia and the need for super-heroines in the post-feminist era kicked in. Even returned as a member of the Justice League, Zatanna remained undervalued, as she played a fairly negligible role for nearly a decade. I can't tell you how many covers hit the dust bin because I was tired of seeing the heroine played as a frail thing in need of male assistance, or depicted as though she'd stepped out of a lad mag. Only in recent years has Zatanna truly begun to be recognized as one of DC's most powerful heroes, and the bearer of a Golden Age lineage besides. Because of this, you'll be seeing a lot more modern covers than you might have expected for a forty-six year old creation.

10) Zatanna: Everyday Magic (2003)

Just an attractive cover that introduced the "little star" iconography to her spellcasting.

9) DC Super Stars #11 (January, 1977)

Zee's first solo story, and although she's in a too typical "damsel in distress" mode, at least she's the only one there to save herself.

8) Catwoman #72 (December, 2007)

This cover teaches us that Zatanna is powerful enough to have changed the course of the life of one of DC's most famous characters with one spell.

7) Identity Crisis #2 (September, 2004)

I think Mike Turner was a terrible DC artist, and a lot about this cover is simply awful, but the image foreshadows the story that has redefined Zatanna. Surrounded by the satellite-era League, she's the one to worry about.

6) Green Arrow #52 (September, 2005)

I know this must seem random, but how many covers can you think of where Zaranna is aggressive and heroic? Plus, Ollie cocking back an arrow does not look like he's going to be the one carrying the weight in a fight against this crowd.

5) Justice League of America: Zatanna's Search (2004)

What's nice about this cover is the way it incorporates aspects of all of Zee's appearances to date, as well as making room for daddy. What hurts is that it's still the other heroes in action while Zee stands around, and it's just so damned red.

4)Justice League of America #51 (February, 1967)

I like classic, iconic covers for these lists, but Zatanna's early appearances did not often cast her in the best light. Here, she's lit up by a mystical candle while other heroes struggle to help. I appreciate that she's the character to draw your eye, but the others really fill out the cover, and she's still in  need of assistance.

3) Seven Soldiers: Zatanna #1 (June, 2005)

I struggled with this one in the top spot, between those glorious bunnies and the contrast with Zee's costume. However, Zee's passivity and the unnecessary hints of goth/fetish held it back.

2) Seven Soldiers: Zatanna #4 (December, 2005)

I'm sure this has the potential to be controversial, but it's a strong image of a pro-active Zee with plenty of elements to let you know she's a powerful magician. That's a rarer combination than you'd think. She still has a lightness about her, but works comfortably in the dark.

1) Zatanna #1 (July, 2010)

I've had problems with Zatanna's costumes for years, since she looks conventional and out of place amongst super-heroes in magician clothes, but boring and generic in her super-suits. I think this is the first costume that gets the balance right, so that she looks like a magician super-hero, instead of one or the other.

Honorable Mentions:
Adventures of Superman #644
Blue Devil #4
Catwoman #50
Catwoman #58
DC Comics Presents #18
DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #5
Impulse #17
JLA #118
Justice League of America #161
Justice League of America #164
Justice League of America #191
Secret Origins #27
Seven Soldiers of Victory Volume One
Seven Soldiers: Zatanna #2
Seven Soldiers: Zatanna #3
Shadowpact #16

No comments: