SM817-0001 (a) (48)
John Zatara
Family Zatanna Zatara (daughter)
Occupation Stage Magician
Powers and
Status Deceased

John Zatara was considered the world's greatest magician, and the father of Zatanna. His spellbook was known as the Book of Zatara.

Early life

Very little is known about John Zatara's life save that he was considered by most to be the world's greatest magician. At some point in his life, he married and had a daughter, Zatanna, who he would train in both stage magic as well as the real thing. For reasons unexplained, both John and his daughter were blessed with immense magical abilities that on their own allowed for them to grant people their deepest wishes. However, this ability could not be used on themselves. With a certain book that John owned however, their abilities could be fully unlocked to where anything they said backwards, would become a magic spell.

During World War II, John was a member of a shadowy anti-occult unit called "Shadowpact", alongside Bones and Felix Faust, but he left the unit after their first mission.

Prior to his death, he owned a family estate called Shadowcrest, which supposedly has been passed down throughout the Zatara family line.

At some point, John gave his life to save Zatanna from an unknown danger. The result of his death left Zatanna so distraught that she began to go to desperate means to bring him back.

After his death, John left Zatanna a book that has been passed from generation to generation with their heritage inside, but at some point after his death, his book of spells was sold at an auction and acquired by Lex Luthor.

Season Eight

Racked by guilt over John's Death, his daughter Zatanna went to extreme lengths in order to regain his old magic book, which within it, contained a spell that could undo death. Zatanna had intended to sacrifice her own life, so as to bring back her deceased father. Zatanna had started the spell on the Daily Planet rooftop, but was stopped by Clark and Chloe. Before the spell was ended, Zatanna could see the faint outline of her father.


In the Comics


John Zatara as he appears in the comics.

John Zatara and his daughter Zatanna and nephew Zachary Zatara, are the descendants of the Homo Magi, as well as being an illusionist, escape artist, and had genuine magical powers, which they focused through speaking backwards: they could do anything so long as they could describe it in sdrawkcab hceeps ("backwards speech", spelled backwards).

John's love of magic began early when he was given a magic kit by his uncle, himself a professional illusionist. Although he began learning the craft in childhood, his early attempts at performing professionally were unsuccessful until he realized that he needed to work on his showmanship.

To that end, he dug up old diaries of Leonardo da Vinci, who was a direct ancestor. While reading the diaries, which Leonardo wrote in backwards spelling as a security precaution, Zatara learned that his family had the command of magic. He discovered this inadvertently when he accidentally gave a command to a mannequin to begin waving an arm wildly. Zatara realized that he could command it to stop by giving the order in backwards spelling.

With this new knowledge, Zatara developed a successful show. During the premiere performance a fire broke out on stage, forcing Zatara to use his command of real magic to put it out. While the audience mistook the incident as part of the act, Zatara realized that this power could be invaluable in helping people and he resolved to use it as such between shows.

During this time, Zatara became friends with Thomas Wayne, and through Thomas, John introduced Zatanna to a young Bruce Wayne, who would later go on to become Batman. After Bruce's parents died and he began his journey to be Batman, John trained Bruce in illusionism and escape artistry.

John Zatara, his daughter Zatanna, John Constantine and Sargon the Sorcerer, among others, come together to help demonic and divine forces in other hellish dimensions battle the Great Evil Beast. The Beast takes notice of their group twice. The first glimpse burns Sargon, whom Zatara convinces to "die like a Sorcerer" and not break the holding of hands. Sargon burns to death nobly. The second glance literally heats up Zatanna but Zatara willingly takes the effect onto himself, dying but sparing his daughter's life. The Beast is ultimately neutralized by other forces.

Since then he has made sporadic appearances in the afterlife, including resurrecting Mason O'Dare. Most recently he appeared as a zombie, when the Black Lantern Corps resurrected him during the Blackest Night event. Zatanna was forced to combat and destroy her father, much to her immense heartbreak.

His nephew, Zachary, now uses the Zatara name as a stage magician. Unlike Zatanna and John however, Zachary's powers are far more limited and he is unable to use his powers on other living beings. Only inanimate objects.


  • Zatara made his debut alongside Superman in Action Comics #1; the two technically share status as the first superhero. His first name was not revealed for decades, and has been variously recorded as either "John" or "Giovanni".
  • A non-powered stage magician John Zatara and his daughter Zatanna, taught Bruce Wayne how to become The World's Greatest Escape Artist in Batman: The Animated Series. In the spin-off series Justice League Unlimated, his daughter is portrayed as having actual magical powers, which could imply he did as well, but opted not to use them.
  • The actor of John Zatara was only shown on a promotion picture and not in the episode, save for a vague shadow during Zatanna's resurrection spell.

Other faces of John Zatara


Zatanna: My father left me an estate in Shadowcrest, so money isn't an object.
Oliver: Shadowcrest... John Zatara, the maestro of magic... He was your father? Well, I'm sorry. I know what it's like to lose family.
Zatanna: Yeah. I lost more than my father.
Season Eight, Hex

See also

External links