Zatara is one of those characters that haunts the corners of the DCU, usually showing up just in time to sacrifice himself for the greater good. As such, I’ve never had a real feel for the character.
“Oh hey, it’s Zatara! I bet he’ll get some magic-style ass-kicking done soon and… oh, he exploded. For the greater good.”
Obviously the guy is the sort of super-power dynamite that you have to write out of your story a quickly as possible to keep him from mucking things up, but just what is it about him that makes him so threatening? Seems all I needed to do was to start reading Golden Age comics, such as Action and World’s Finest, where Giovanni Zatara got his start - I am now convinced that Zatara is awesome. It’s not just that he combines his magician’s showmanship with his nigh-unlimited powers to do everything in the most mind-bendingly entertaining way possible:
No, it’s the fact that despite the fact that he has no secret identity (easily spotted), no invulnerability or extraordinary strength (easily knocked out) and widely-known weaknesses (just tie the guy up and gag him), he is essentially unstoppable. I’ve seen him knocked out, tied up, turned into things and catapulted into alternate dimensions and whatever scrape he’s in he always gets out of it, usually by pulling something like this:
I think that Zatara might be Magic Batman – the guy is completely unstoppable. Not only can he escape your Death Maze using only a piece of twine and some pocket lint but he will then animate the maze, have it chase you down the street while shouting labrynth-based puns and then throw you in jail.
What’s more, because he always wears a tux, sometimes his solutions get a bit… suave. Like the time that he was stranded on an alternate world on which two nations were locked in war and his solution was to, well, get their queens to forge a binding peace, if you know what I mean.
Oh for the life of a magic man.