Oh jeez that's right, I have a blog, don't I? I was right in the middle of something ... what was it ... ah yes:
At one point or another, you’ve probably found yourself in the middle of a hostile situation between friends, family, or co-workers, right? You want to keep your relationship with both parties intact, and that means not picking a side, which therefore often means playing both sides. And when you play both sides, sometimes it feels like you’re not on anyone’s side at all. It’s awkward and unpleasant, and you feel insincere and cowardly.
This is Zatanna’s unhappy state of being.
See, magic users and superheroes don’t really get along. Superheroes see magicians as aloof and haughty; too mysterious for their own good (not to mention that a lot of them don’t like magic because it doesn’t seem to have any “rules”). Magicians see superheroes as naïve goofs who tend to ignore the big picture. Don’t get me wrong, everyone’s mature enough to recognize each side does things the other one can’t, but it's hard to coordinate your efforts when you're suspicious of each other.
Zatanna is a magician and a superhero. We’re very fortunate that there’s someone like her around; there are times when the two camps really need to work together, and nobody can facilitate that like Zatanna. When the Toyman invades Metropolis on Memorial Day with an army of toy soldiers, it looks like a job for Superman. But when it turns out the spirits of soldiers from every American war are inhabiting those toys, you call in Zatanna; it’s not like Doctor Fate has a bloody clue what the Toyman’s deal is, after all, or who he might have struck a deal with to pull this off.
But the rest of the time? She’s friends with Oliver Queen and the Phantom Stranger, and those guys do not get along. So to the Stranger she’s saying, “Yeah, sorry about Ollie, he’s just really short tempered and, y’know, he’s an immediate-response sort of guy, and you kind of have to respect that,” but to Green Arrow she has to explain, “Look, I know it seems like the Stranger doesn’t care about the common man, but he’s working on a bunch of different levels you’re not seeing all the time, you know?” Invariably, everyone ends up mad at her, and that’s just great, isn’t it?
Threats … threats … One thing I got out of the existing Seven Soldiers Zatanna series and the usual sort of daddy-stuff to be found in Morrison’s work is this idea that Zatanna sometimes still feels like that little girl who gets things wrong – an adult who still feels like a kid. So I think a lot of the threats would occur at that intersection between childhood and adulthood, where all those childish whimsies turn sour.
There’s the Toyman bit I’ve already mentioned, but that’s only a precursor to the arrival of the Cosmic Toyman, an entity called the Puppeteer, and he lures his victims with childhood things reanimated and ruined – your fifth grade teacher telling you you’ll never make anything of yourself, children’s show hosts encouraging you to take crack, beloved cartoon characters getting old and senile and sick and dying; the Puppeteer poisons your nostalgia, and while he’s at it, he’ll bring back Barnabus the Teddy Bear King to really rub it in.
Along the same lines, picture a bitter, dejected twentysomething who reconnects with his childhood imaginary friend. But instead of a simple playmate, this individual now wants an accomplice, someone who can help him get all the money, power, and women he’s always wanted. Imagine Calvin and Hobbes as a precursor to a horrible nightmare (but oh God don’t really think of it as Calvin and Hobbies, I mean really).
Imagine discarded children’s art projects – broken clay pots and egg-carton dragons, scribbled stick figure families emerging from their typing paper world – lashing out because they’re confused and unloved. They may not be very good, but those kids tried hard just the same, and that ought to count for something, right?
But it won’t be all uncomfortable reflections of childhood. Zatanna should be a funny comic, too – funny and meaningful in the way that Buffy was. A jealous sorcerer can force Zatanna to relive every bad date she’s ever had, although it only shows her how much she’s learned from the unpleasant experiences. And when adults are suddenly being visited by the ghosts of their teenage selves, most people feel bad after being chewed out by their younger selves for settling for their boring adult lives; Zatanna, on the other, has to contend with the absolutely dreadful 16-year-old she was, but there’s something to take from that as well.
One more thing – I’m interested in the stage magician, performance aspect to Zatanna. For that reason, of all the Seven Soldiers books I am proposing, hers is the only one that will have first-person narration. But it won’t just be an excuse to dump some exposition, or show and not tell character traits – Zee will be, in some sense, putting on a show for the readers, talking them through each issue the way a stage magician talks you through a magic trick. And what’s important to take from that is that stage magicians are very often untruthful in their monologues; at the very least, they’re trying to mislead you, so you’d really have to look at what her narrative captions say and whether or not they can be taken at face value. Because very often, I would have Zatanna try to throw you off the trail, just to see if you’re paying attention.
Ecneidua, kniht rof sevlesruoy!
Oh, by the way, the Bulleteer/Guardian/Zatanna crossover I mentioned … all will be revealed next time in the last series proposal – Manhattan Guardian.