Sunday, September 02, 2007


A book and ten reasons to love it:

JLA: Zatanna's Search
DC Comics: 2004
Written by Gardner Fox (with an additional story by Gerry Conway); art by Murphy Anderson, Bob Kane, Joe Giella, Gil Kane, Sid Greene, Carmine Infantino, Mike Sekowsky, Romeo Tanghal, and Vince Colletta

1. While the claim that this saga is the first major crossover event in comics is overstated (even without researching it, I would say that the Spy Smasher/Captain Midnight and Sub-Mariner/Human Torch meetings from the Golden Age qualify), it is clearly of historical importance. This book collects six stories from five different comic titles published over two and a half years, which taken together all form one narrative. Gardner Fox, that stalwart of the Silver Age, wrote all of the stories with his usual puzzle-solution structure; each teams Zatanna, the backwards-talking magician, with various heroes. While each story works as a done-in-one for the individual heroes, each is but one chapter in Zatanna's quest to find her missing father. The denouement comes, of course, in a JLA story featuring all the heroes Zatanna has previously met in her search. Such specific, tight, cross-story continuity was almost unheard of at DC in the mid-sixties. (And now that I think of it, this tale seems to foreshadow the wandering of Steve Engleheart's Mantis/Willow/Lorelei through various strips (and publishers) some years later.)

2. The introduction is by Steven Utley. He hasn't written an earth-shaking intro or anything, but it is nice to hear from a knowledgeable commentator who isn't one of the usual suspects. Besides, any collaborator of Howard Waldrop's is okay with me.

3. The TPB includes extras. Besides the six main stories, there is a cover gallery and a sort-of prequel published in 1980.

4. The stories have narration captions, thought balloons, and editorial notes. I like to see comics that are self-consciously comics; too many contemporary books seem to be movies-in-disguise, and I think creators are often overlooking the textual component of comics in an often misguided attempt to be cinematic.

5. If you are of a certain age (like me) this collection will transport you to a former time and place. You may have read all of these comics upon their original publication (I think I did, even the lame Batman/Outsider story); you may only recall two or three of them and have never known the full narrative. In either case, you will feel once again like you have scraped together a whole quarter for an eighty-page giant, and lose yourself in simple wonder again.

6. The art. Here's Zatanna and Hawkman by Murphy Anderson:

7. The art. Here's Zatanna by Gil Kane and Sid Greene:

(This team did the Green Lantern story, too.)

8. The art. Here's Zatanna by Carmine Infantino:

9. The art. Here's Zatanna and the JLA by my man Big Mike Sekowsky and the ubiquitous Sid Greene:

10. The cover has got go-go checks across the top! How can you resist?!

Lat week, I talked about picking up Superman For All Seasons at the library, and being glad that I could get to read it without having to purchase it. I also borrowed this book on that same visit, but this one I think I will eventually buy for the bookshelf. I had missed this when it was first published, and would likely not have tripped over it except for the library.


The Fortress Keeper said...

That is a great trade, with story and art that exemplify what I love about Silver Age DC.

Of course, it helps that I always had a little crush on Zatanna - especially as drawn by Gil Kane!

RAB said...

For me it was the Sekowsky version, but it's all good.

And I agree with every word of this post!

Anonymous said...

Where's Colletta's Zatanna?

Anonymous said...

Hello, I would like to see the Vinnie Colletta Zatanna as well.

Dan said...

OK, you can now consider this an official petition.

We want the Vinnie!

Dan McFan

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