In 1999, foundational comics creator Fred Guardineer recalled the inauspicious genesis of the character Zatara for the San Jose Mercury News, "My friend and editor Vin Sullivan said, 'Make it as much like Mandrake as you can without getting sued.'" Perhaps not the sort of origin that lends itself to a decades-spanning character, and in a sense that's true — Zatara, the magician who first appeared in Action Comics #1 in 1938 had faded away along with much of the rest of the DC Comics golden age line by 1951. But the 1964 debut of his daughter Zatanna in Hawkman #4 would eventually lead to a character whose popularity would far surpass that of her father's. There's a Hawkman #4 CGC 7.0 up for auction in today's session of the 2021 April 18-19 Sunday & Monday Comics, Animation & Art Weekly Online Auction #122116 from Heritage Auctions.
Zatara disappeared from comics with the end of his runs in DC Comics flagship titles Action Comics (with #141 cover-dated February 1950) and World's Finest Comics (with #51 cover-dated April-May 1951). Interestingly, his daughter Zatanna's debut — in a Hawkman story 13 years later written by Gardner Fox and drawn by Murphy Anderson — features Zatanna trying to find out exactly why her father has seemingly disappeared from the face of the Earth.
As Zatanna explains to Hawkman and Hawkgirl in this issue, "Ever since my father, Zatara the Magician, mysteriously disappeared several years ago, I've been trying to find out what happened to him! I've even followed in his footsteps — fighting criminals between engagements o the stage! I do it in secrecy, so you're the only two who know about it! I also use my magic to search for my father."
Hawkman and Hawkgirl eventually use their Absorbascon, "A remarkable electronic device that enables the winged wonders to gain all knowledge that is known on Earth," to try to find Zatanna's father. Sadly, they ultimately report, "No one on Earth has any knowledge of him." Zatana's quest to find Zatara would continue in The Atom #19 (cover-dated June 1965), in which she would enlist The Atom's help in her search for her father.
From these beginnings, Zatanna's popularity would slowly increase over the decades to the present day. There's a Hawkman #4 CGC 7.0 up for auction in today's session of the 2021 April 18-19 Sunday & Monday Comics, Animation & Art Weekly Online Auction #122116 from Heritage Auctions.
Hawkman #4 (DC, 1964) CGC FN/VF 7.0 Off-white pages. Origin and first appearance of Zatanna, whose debut feature film is currently in development. Murphy Anderson cover and art. Overstreet 2020 FN 6.0 value = $360; VF 8.0 value = $960. CGC census 4/21: 100 in 7.0, 267 higher.