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DC Universe Classics
by yo go re

Here's a thought for you: if all Zatanna's magic is based on talking backwards, what would happen if she tried using a palindrome?

Zatanna is the daughter of magician Giovanni "John" Zatara and Sindella, a sorceress of the mysterious homo magi. Like her parents, Zatanna is predisposed to magical powers, including elemental manipulation, transmutation, and teleportation. Her spells are spoken backwards, just as her father once did as an arcane adventurer. Zatanna first wielded her powers in an attempt to find and rescue her father from the evil witch Allura. In doing so, the young sorceress teamed with several heroes of the Justice league of America, eventually leading to her membership.

A lot of comic creators seem to have a soft spot for Zatanna. We told you before how Alex Ross based his version on his wife, but Paul Dini pretty much found Zatanna in the real world and married her. Seriously, his wife is Misty Lee, professional magician. She's not cosplaying Zatanna on that page - that's how she really dresses for work. It's part of the reason the current ongoing Zatanna book is so good - Dini has a connection to the character.

Zee looks very good as a DCU Classics figure. She reuses a few bodyparts from Black Canary: the shoulders, upper arms, upper legs and panty area are shared with Dinah, but the rest of her is new. She's wearing her crisp white shirt under a form-accentuating yellow vest, and has a cute little red bowtie. Her jacket has longer sleeves than Canary's did, and tails that reach to the back of her knees. It's slightly unusual that the vest actually comes up over the front of her breasts: usually she wears it (ie, male artists draw it) to go under her breasts, in order to better frame them and push them up. Doesn't keep this figure from looking hot, though.

Like Black Canary, Zatanna is wearing real fishnets, which means the same strengths and weaknesses we talked about before. For instance? There is no toy company on Earth that is good enough to make sculpted fishnets look good on a production figure. The sculptors can sculpt them, but the factories just can't paint them reliably. Look at NECA's Predators for an example. Therefore, softgood tights are a superior choice; they move with the figure, and look realistic. On the other hand, we always end up with giant, ugly seams running up the backs of her legs, which ruins the illusion (and for a magician, that's especially damning!)

Zatanna's face is good, though like many DCUC women, it's smashed flat. What's up with that, Horsemen? Why do none of the ladies get a properly three-dimensional head? The paint is just as good on the face as it is on the rest of the body, and even though she has long, straight hair, her neck retains at least a small range of motion. Very small.

The figure is very busty, so it's hard to find her center of gravity to keep her balanced. She's got most of the standard DCUC joints, the one noteable exception being the hips; they're only swivel joints, with no side-to-side motion. Black Canary was the same way (since they share the same legs and hips, duh); it's a sacrifice made to help hold the fishnets on. Of course, it works much better for Zee than it did for Dinah, because while Black Canary is all about the martial arts and ass-kickings, Zatanna is perfectly fine standing around calmly.

This is one rare case where you might want to hold onto the figure's packaging. You know how Mattel likes to mold designs into the plastic trays that hold the figures? Well, Zatanna gets one of those fancy trays, and hers is part of her magic act. She's posed holding her top hat and waving her magic wand, and the tray is molded with a bury of rabbits. Aww! Magic hat-bunnies! There also appears to be a variant in the way she's posed in the package: one has her turned far to the side, while the other is more front-facing. The easiest way to tell them apart at a glance is to look at how her legs are posed. [Also the "front" version doesn't have any of the warning stickers or the Wal*Mart logo for some reason --ed.]

As we said, Zatanna's accessories are a magic wand and a top hat. The wand can be held in either hand, and the hat has a lump of plastic inside the brim that's designed to fit under her hair and help hold it on. It doesn't work very well - at least, not as well as DC Direct's attempt - but it's better than nothing, right?

Zatanna of course also comes with a "DC 75th Anniversary" collector button. Hers reproduces a portion of the cover to Justice League of America #25, giving us a nice central shot of Zee as drawn by Ed Benes and as inked by a Sharpie. Seriously, the inking on that book was atrocious. You can also spot Flash, GL and Red Arrow around her.

Like Obsidian, Zatanna comes with one of Ultra-Humanite's arms. She gets the right arm of the DCUC14 Build-A-Figure, and this arm also has its own accessory: it's some sort of technological keypad, so apparently Ultra-Humanite is doing his taxes or programming his VCR or something. It's rare that a BAF can get an accessory, so apparently reusing Gorilla Grodd's arms worked out for the best.

Zatanna is a good figure, despite her flaws - no, she's not perfect, but the things that are wrong with her are mostly minor. We can understand why the hips were designed the way they were, and why the head doesn't move very far; the fishnets are the best they can be, given current manufacturing limits, but more work could have gone into making sure her hat stayed in place. The fact remains, however, that Zatanna doesn't seem like a figure Mattel would have gotten around to, and the fact that they did is very cool.

-- 03/10/11

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