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It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a Persian carpet! – DC Comics Presents #18

May 14, 2011

Zatanna seems to have her share of looks that are tough for regular women to pull off. The fishnets and top hat attire is hard enough, but this clinging white leotard with exposed décolletage simply cries out for an impossible physique and giant bazongas. I tip my cap to any real-life babe that can get this one done.

One of the delights of DC Comics Presents was the odd pairings it would produce on a monthly basis. It was a great forum to showcase lesser characters with the biggest of big guns, and folks could step back and have fun with it all, or at least a little more fun than normal. That goofiness made the book one of my favorites as a kid, though I didn’t have long to enjoy it before it was cancelled. But this entry, pairing Superman with DC’s mistress of magic, is a sterling exemplar of what this series was all about.

“The Night It Rained Magic!” (Gerry Conway, Dick Dillin & Frank Chiaramonte) opens with Superman preventing a generic version of the Scooby-Doo gang’s Mystery Machine from careening over a bridge:

Unbeknownst to Supes, Zatanna, sitting nearby in a car with her pops Zatara, lent a helping hand in the rescue:

“Like, duhhhh, daddy…”

Also nearby and watching the heroics is a rundown actual illusionist (Caligro the Great), one that isn’t too happy to live in a world with real magicians and superpowered aliens:

More on him later. Superman heads to the Fortress of Solitude to coincidentally contemplate his one weakness — magic:

He pulls a copy of the Necronomicon off his shelves and puts it under a magic-o-meter, one that registers different kinds of energy on a scale that looks suspiciously like a child’s watercolor palette:

So magic is energy? If midichlorians come into play, I’m bolting.

Zatanna and her father are pursuing a parallel inquiry at a magic-savvy friend’s house in Upstate New York. After recounting her own origins (her mother was of the magically-endowed race homo magus, which sounds like a slur) and doing her own book learnin’ (ah, doing research in books — characters after my own heart), Zatanna comes to her own conclusions:

Magic is energy and genetic — we’re all learning so much here!

She decides to get in touch with those homo magus folks on a parallel Earth to further explore all this, and to do so opens up a dimensional portal. But things go awry as they always do when a dimensional portal is opened (when will they ever learn?), and everyone who doesn’t have magical powers suddenly gets them and vice versa.

This brings us back to that downtrodden illusionist, who now suddenly has honest to God magical powers. He uses them to summon Zatanna and Superman so that he might gloat and have his revenge, and when Zatanna is menaced by giant birds, Supes gets a bit of a surprise:

Superman is (unsurprisingly) not all that adept a magician, so Zatanna has to give him some intense coaching to help him out, relaying her trademark backwards spells like an offensive coordinator to a quarterback:

With this poor pissant defeated, Superman closes the dimensional rift (sesolc eht lanoisnemid tfir?) and all returns to normal.

I enjoyed this one. Though I’m not nuts about the art (it looks a bit like weak, early Jim Aparo), it’s serviceable and the story is a good, light, fluffy read. I realize this answer to “why Superman is vulnerable to magic” question has been ignored, contradicted and forgotten over the tears, but it’s still nice to get at least one solution to that riddle. And the bits with Superman riding a flying carpet and conjuring with backwards-talk are unique. Off the top of my head I can’t think of any other instances of him doing either (and I don’t know that I want to — once is enough), though there could very well be some. Feel free to edify me if any spring to mind.

Litnu txen emit, Eurt Sreveileb…

9 Comments leave one →
  1. May 15, 2011 10:33 pm

    The art for DC Comics Presents # 18 was handled by Dick Dillin on pencils, Frank Chiaramonte handling the inking, and Jerry Serpe doing the colors.

    This info is from

    • May 16, 2011 12:20 am

      Thanks for the info, though I did list Dillin and Chiaramonte along with Conway within the post (in the standard Writer/Penciller/Inker order). I thought that would be enough, but perhaps for clarity I should always be more explicit (that sounds dirty…) about the tasks they’ve handled. I’ll take that under advisement.

      I’m afraid I’ll rarely mention a colorist, mainly because I’ve yet to encounter one whose work I can recognize. Like cameramen in movies, their toil, though respected, shall remain largely anonymous. Unless, of course, something stands about the coloring in a particular book.

      • May 16, 2011 12:37 am

        I’m really sorry about that. I didn’t mean to sound like a know-it-all. I was doing something else while reading your post, and I guess I missed that line.

        Just goes to show that apparently I’m just not cut out for multi-tasking.

      • May 16, 2011 11:54 pm

        No worries. Lord knows I make enough flubs on here, so don’t be hesitant to call me out on any in the future.

  2. Scott Nesmith permalink
    May 16, 2011 9:05 am

    Ummm – not to be creepy or anything, but don’t Zatanna and Zatara seem a little TOO friendly in that panel where Zee figures it out?

    • May 16, 2011 11:56 pm

      I really hope we don’t have a Mackenzie and John Phillips thing brewing here…

  3. Thelonious_Nick permalink
    May 16, 2011 2:06 pm

    In the latest issue of Zatanna, it shows her practicing backwards words with flashcards. I always did wonder how she immediately always knew how to say “dimensional rift”, or whatever, in reverse.

    • May 16, 2011 11:57 pm

      Makes sense. I have to say, even typing them out is a pain in the ass. It’s like shaving with your non-dominant hand, but without the blood.

  4. April 25, 2012 6:17 pm

    Well zatanna first magician costume fishnet look wasn’t hard to pull of for actual magicians. It was a costume regular magicians did wear, I seen 2 of them in my lifetime with the actual costume zatanna has one. Though this costume might be a bit taxing for females.

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