Saturday, August 6, 2011

Zatara in Action Comics #16 (September, 1939)

"Walking in the country one night, Zatara and Tong pause to look at a man who stands in the moonlight..." They noticed that any part of the farmer that came in contact with a moonbeam was turned to mist, and suddenly the fellow was being swept off the Earth against his will. Zatara conjured magic hands through backward speech to catch the farmer, then questioned the man. The farmer was disoriented, having been immaterial, but never losing his senses during the change. Zatara decided that they should consult his scientist friend Djersinsky, who was aware that Harron in England was experimenting with such a principle. The idea was to convert a man to "cosmic molecules" and transfer the weightless being across planets, but it was only theoretical. Zatara thought this was unreal, "but adventurous," and vowed to investigate fully.

Back at the farm the next night, Tong was shot in the shoulder by a would-be assassin looking to deal with these "meddlers." Zatara caused his arms to freakishly extend and "sic" the gunman. Zatara then made the goon see visions of ghouls surrounding him as a means of extorting information. Zatara was magically able to see what happened as the man spoke. The gunman had been confronted by a glowing triangular being that communicated directly with his mind. "You want to be given food- or else you'll burn me to a crisp by a touch of your queer body!" The gunman directed Zatara to the observatory where the alien had first arrived, and from which he had sent food to some elsewhere.

Zatara met with Gorla, the triangle creature, who demanded obedience. The Master Magician tried to read its mind, but was left reeling as if struck by a physical blow. For centuries, Gorla's planetmen had been forming a small pool that would help the aliens transmit themselves anywhere in the universe. Zatara was placed in this pool, and sent to the mother planet Saturn, where he would serve as a sample Earthman for their ruler Ool. The method of transport was beyond Zatara's knowledge or ability to affect, so he passively traveled to Saturn.

Once there, Zatara was bound by a green alien with "A lasso! This is something I can understand, at least." Zatara commanded "Ossal flesruoy," and the alien was himself lassoed, rather than the magician. Poora was surprised Gorla had sent such a dangerous Earthling back home, but agreed to take Zatara to Ool. "He will know how to handle you!"

Poora revealed that Saturn had once been covered in water and navigated by great sailors, but since drying up was left as nothing but sandy sea bottom. Tests were being conducted to determine if Earth was inhabitable, and if so, all of Saturn would migrate there. The "grand and noble" city of Ool yet stood. "Look how its walls and towers gleam in the sun!" Zatara released Poora so that he could command the city's guards to clear a path to his father. Poora was concerned about Ool's anger should they catch him in the midst of one of his experiments.

Ool was in contact with Gorla, and although surprised by his strange appearance, was pleased the scout could confirm Earth's habitability. A guard then alerted mighty Ool of his son's arrival with Zatara, and the ruler looked forward to meeting a foolish Earthling. Zatara tried to negotiate a peace pact, but Ool mocked the magician and proclaimed, "Know that I, Ool, command- and you obey!" The Saturnians are really big on dominance and S&M imagery, something that would turn up again in Jemm, Son of Saturn.

Zatara continued trying to make nice with Ool, but upon threat of imprisonment, turned the tables on the ruler of Saturn. When reversed words caused the city of Ool to disappear, the leader yet refused to relent. "I- I'll have your blood for this, Earthman!" Zatara showed Ool visions of a revived Saturn, and Ool tried to stab the magician to death. Zatara simply vanished, and Poora attempted to sooth his father's fury. Ool cursed Gorla for sending such a powerful opponent, and when Zatara and the city reappeared, Ool continued his attempts on the magician's life through a guard's chucked spear.

Zatara had enough of this nonsense, and proceeded to initiate a protracted regimen of humiliation and demonstration to finally cow Ool into accepting his defeat, ending with a vision of Saturn's destruction. Ool ordered Gorla's return from Earth and the cessation of all activities there. Upon returning, Gorla reverted back to his normal form. Ool saw Zatara as a "god like friend" after the magician constructed an "irrigation canal system" to help Saturn produce vegetation anew, as well as instruction on how to build more. Zatara then bid Saturn adieu, returning to his wounded manservant Tong, who was still laying in the grass. Zatara figured Djersinsky would never believe his tale, but thought he might share it with his more accepting readers in "Action Comics!"

"Zatara the Master Magician and the Terror from Saturn" was produced by Fred Guardineer.

More Blasts From The Past


will_in_chicago said...

This story does show some of the concepts that made it into the Martian Manhunter. There is a visual similarity between Ool and J'Onn. I also like the fact that Zatara works on a solution to the food problem on Saturn.

Diabolu Frank said...

That was cool. Zatara reminds me of a more humane/less insane version of Fletcher Hanks' Stardust the Super-Wizard. I wonder if Guardineer was an influence?