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Batman: The Animated Series
by yo go re

For her next trick, this magician is going to show Batman how she can make something disappear.

The daughter of Zatara the Magician, Zatanna splits her time between fighting crime and entertaining crowds in Las Vegas as a stage magician. Fortunately, her magickal abilities, which she utilizes by pronouncing each word of her spells backwards, can easily be used for both.

Since Batman is a grounded character, any other DC heroes who would guest star on The Animated Series needed to be similarly down-to-earth. So while Zatanna definitely had her earth-shattering magic(k) abilities, she didn't use them in the episode in which she appeared. She was basically just an average stage magician, the sort you'd see in Las Vegas or Atlantic City or what have you - after all, if you're a dedicated illusionist, as she is, then using ungodly skills would simply be cheating, wouldn't it? She does things the hard way because she enjoys the challenge (though she may occassionally give her finale a bit of a mystical goose).

Zee only appeared in a single episode of BtAS - named after her, of course - and since this line doesn't yet cover Justice League Unlimited, there's no question what she should look like. The face is perhaps a bit too soft and rounded, but that changed a bunch during the episode anyway. Why do we even have model sheets if you're not going to stick to them, Dong Yang?

The figure was sculpted by Irene Matar, DCD's go-to artist for the animated line. She (Zatanna, not Irene) is wearing a black bolero jacket with long tails, a white shirt with a bowtie, a purple corset, and blue panties. Since the only way they could have possibly handled her famous fishnets in the animation would be to create some kind of CGI mapping program (as BtAS was too classy for an unmoving pattern), her legs are bare. Even if they'd gone for the JLU design, it would just mean a sort of grey nylon color, same as they did for Black Canary. Her top hat is a permanently molded part of her head, not a separate accessory, but at least she won't lose it. The styling makes the ankles look severely warped, but that's not a production error, just the way she's designed.

Unlike Catwoman and Batgirl, Zatanna wears high heels, which means she doesn't get any joints in her feet or ankles. What she does have are hinged knees, H-hips, swivel/hinge wrists, elbows and shoulders, and a balljointed head. It would have been superb if they'd given her a chest joint: the line between the corset and the shirt would have hidden it perfectly, and it would have allowed her to get into that sort of sexy contrapposto Bruce Timm draws. The left knee on mine is a little wobbly, but it doesn't keep her from standing; her weird little feet are what keep her from standing.

Luckily, like all the rest of the figures, Zatanna comes with a display stand. She's the first we've reviewed who really needs it to stay upright: yes, you can get her to stand on her own, briefly (how else would we have taken the picture at the top of this review?), but it doesn't last, and she'll soon be taking a dive. The stand features a white plastic base printed with model sheet turnarounds of Zatanna, showing off why a chest joint would have been helpful - look at the way she's got her hip cocked out to the side! A clear post rises from the base, and supports a moveable clamp that will fit around the figure's waist. And like we said, she really, really needs it.

Her other accessories are simple: she has three pairs of hands - relaxed, gripping and fists - her cane/magic wand, and a signed poster. It's not a lot, but after watching the episode, what else could she have come with? The bouquet of flowers she tossed Bruce? The flowers with the snake coming out of them would have been cool, but those were in her hat, not her hand. The poster isn't quite accurate to the show: it reads "John - I hate goodbyes too. Love Zatanna. PS: don't forget to write." However, in the episode, she signed it "Z'anna," the name Bruce called her while training with her father; did they think fans wouldn't understand the nickname, or that we'd assume it was just a typo?

Zatanna and Batman had no connection in the comics before she appeared on The Animated Series, making their relationship (and the fact that he studied under her father) yet another element adopted from the cartoons into the comics. In fact, when Paul Dini pitched the idea to DC president Paul Levitz, Levitz said it was better than anything the company had ever done with her. The toy has room for improvement (a chest joint, more accessories, the ability to stand unaided), but she's certainly not bad.

-- 10/13/16

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