Comics/Graphic Novels

Comics A–Z: Heroes Uatu–Zatanna

S.W. Sondheimer

Staff Writer

When not prying Legos and gaming dice out of her feet, S.W. Sondheimer is a registered nurse at the Department of Therapeutic Misadventures, a herder of genetic descendants, cosplayer, and a fiction and (someday) comics writer. She is a Yinzer by way of New England and Oregon and lives in the glorious 'Burgh with her husband, 2 smaller people, 2 cats, a fish, and a snail. She occasionally tries to grow plants, drinks double-caffeine coffee, and has a habit of rooting for the underdog. It is possible she has a book/comic book problem but has no intention of doing anything about either. Twitter: @SWSondheimer

I’ve had a lot of time to think lately. Like many of you, I’m not a huge fan of too much mental downtime, and as this whole COVID-19 thing has stretched into its fourth month, I’ve felt an increasing need to fill some of the empty spots between my ears. I’ve done so, at least in part, my giving myself little challenges that feel productive, if only to me. I’ve improved my bread baking skills. I’ve taken on knitting projects for which I had to learn new stitches. I made taiyaki for the first time. I wrote and submitted a horror novella.

Some of these challenges have gone well. Some have been less successful (why does this lace pattern scarf suddenly have 107 stitches? I don’t…damn it). As I was contemplating the sum total the other day, however, I realized I hadn’t yet done any sort of comics challenge.

And thus Comics A–Z was born.

We’ve finished up our first challenge: pairing comics/graphic novels. This week, we’re finishing part two of challenge number two: a hero for every letter of the alphabet.

Remember, I’m attempting to use naming conventions from the country of origin (Japanese heroes, for example, will be listed first name, surname as the surname is given precedence where as American/European heroes will be listen surname, first name). I’m also going to do my best not to use two heroes from the same series unless I’m really stuck.

U: Uatu the Watcher

The Watchers, a technologically advanced group of beings, decided billions of years ago it was their duty to observe and record the history of less advanced peoples. They established a strict code of non-interference, to the extent that “even if another being were dying at the Watcher’s feet, the Watcher could offer no aid.” Uatu, however, after meeting the Fantastic Four, became fond of the heroes and not only allowed them to keep their memories of having encountered him but began to warn them of impending dangers and then to intervene directly to assist them in protecting Earth. He was ultimately caught, tried, and convicted for ethics violations, though his brethren released him when he promised never to interfere again. Epic fail. After being caught the second time, Uatu was stripped of his powers. He was ultimately murdered by Nick Fury, who needed his eye to solve a murder. Such…eyerony.

V: Varix

Poor Varix has really been screwed over by the universe. His planet Nakos was decimated by a yellow energy plague and his sector 0069 predecessor Ghrelk was forced to relinquish his ring early due to a mysterious neurological disorder, leaving Varix with the reputation of Corps hypochondriac. Honestly, though, can you blame him? Varix lives for “justice and justice alone” which makes him an ideal Alpha Lantern (Corps Internal Affairs Officer), and it’s Varix who saves John Stewart’s life when the latter is on trial for murder (Stewart murdered another Lantern who was about to reveal vital information under torture).

W: Washburn, Emma

Okay, I’m cheating a little but I have no doubt Emma Washburn would grow up to be a hero given her parents are Zoë and Hoburn Washburn. Born approximately nine months after her father’s death, Emma “appears” in four different comic arcs; two in which Zoë is pregnant, one that features Emma’s birth, and one in which River is telling Emma a bedtime story (ermmm…)

X: X’ian Chi Xan

After X’ian manifested his mutant ability (breaking down the molecular structure of anything he touches with his left hand) his parents handed him over to a genetics lab; he escaped en route and spent several years as a member of various gangs in Vietnam. Turning his life around, X’ian returned to the U.S. and founded the X-Men 2099. Things…did not go smoothly: X’ian was almost immediately accused of murder and shot, though the injury did allow him the opportunity to discover a secondary mutation—the ability to form a cocoon in which he could heal and the ability to heal others by touching them with his right hand. He went bad and then kind of good and then chaotic neutral and…look, “x” choices are limited.

Y: Yuan, Wen

Adopted by Wei Wuxian after he saves the last members of the Wen clan, Wen Yuan is raised in Burial Mounds until tragedy takes his family and adoptive father from him. Wei Wuxian’s soulmate and pillar of of the Lan Clan, Lan Wangji, finds him in the aftermath of the terrible battle that leaves Wen Yuan orphaned a second time and takes the child to Cloud Recesses. There, Lan Wangji raises the boy as his own, changing his name to Lan Sizhui to protect the child from those who would murder him simply for being a Wen. Lan Sizhui grows up to be a talented cultivator and a kind, generous young man, quick to risk himself to save the lives of others.

Z: Zatara, Zatanna

Is it an illusion or is it magic? When Zatanna is the one on stage, it’s probably a little of both. She is, after all, a direct descendant of Leonardo da Vinci and related to Nostradamus, Cagliostro, Nicholas Flamel, and Lord Arion of Atlantis. She’s put her powers to good use assisting the Justice League, eventually earning a seat at their fancy table as a full member. Zatanna has also worked with Batman’s Justice League Dark team. She’s had the (mis?)fortune of being one of the few people John Constantine has both screwed and actually cared about and also one of the chosen owners of the House of Mystery.

Whew. X and Y were a little rough but we made it. Where to next? Villains? Art? Cities? So many comics…all the time in the world…