Sunday, March 1, 2009

Earth-349: Zatanna

Disclaimer 1:  This story is based on a story in Superman #349, but is
not limited by that story or any other.

Disclaimer 2: This story features characters based on copyrighted
characters owned by DC Comics and Marvel Comics, but is not intended to
infringe or disparage those copyrights.

Disclaimer 3: This story is not recommended for persons under 18 or the
easily offended, especially those who are not comfortable with themes
of gender transition.

The television talked to itself while John James Zatara adjusted his
shirt front and straightened his tie. As he looked over his reflection,
he considered how male dress had changed over the years: once, a black
swallowtail coat, boiled shirt front, white tie and top hat had been
the nighttime formal uniform. His father, Giovanni Frederico Zatara,
had performed in evening dress to show that, like the guests he
entertained, he was a gentleman.

As the heir to a famous name and the proprietor of a famous act, John
Zatara wore white tie and tails because people expected it of a
magician. Some of the younger ones even thought of them as "magician
clothes", having never seen anyone else dressed that way. He liked it
that way, and he liked even better that standards of fashion were now
so relaxed that he could wear evening dress in broad daylight and be
thought merely colorful, rather than boorish. As far as John was
concerned, every man owed a debt of gratitude to the hippies for that.

Still, perhaps evening dress was getting a little too traditional as
magician wear. He wondered how he might look, performing in some other
outfit, like the fringed buckskin jacket and beaded headband worn by
that beginner at the last meeting at the Magic Castle. He'd used his
shoulder-length hair for some clever misdirection.

Zatara glanced at the television, where a group of colorful dressers
were being interviewed: The Human Torch, a huge woman holding a mallet,
and a robot -- no, not a robot, it was that armored mercenary, Iron
Maiden. They were announcing the formation of a group of superheroes
to respond to crime and disaster as a team.

That was a reminder of the other career he had inherited: the use of
real magic in the cause of justice. Since his father had departed on a
long tour of otherdimensional realms, there seemed to be more and more
call for Zatara in that line, too, using his last name as his nom de
guerre, just as he did for the stage show. Maybe he should even
consider joining these "avengers", or one of the better-established

Zatara smoothed his thin moustache, inspected his slicked-down hair,
placed his equally shiny top hat on his head and inspected himself.

"Rorrim esrever," he said softly, and the mirror's image turned about,
showing Zatara himself as others would see him from every angle.
Everything looked all right that way, too.


Zatara whirled about. Nobody should have been able to enter without
tripping at least one of several wards. But here was this small, slim
man in blue tights and loose blue blouse, smiling maliciously, a gaudy
red cloak spread behind him.

"Make it quick," Zatara snapped, trying to sound casual. "I still have
to practice for tonight's --"

The stranger's hand rose in a classic sorcerous gesture.

"Redurtni eb sselrewo-"

A steel clamp seemed to close around Zatara's mouth. As he struggled
with the silencing spell, the stranger began a longer and probably more
powerful one.

"By the power of the dread Dormammu, let John Zatara be enclosed by the
Crimson Bands of Cyttorak!"

Something began wrapping itself around Zatara, something that was not a
red ribbon, nor a curving beam of red light, but more like a long strip
of red space.

He knew now who this was. Other magi had encountered this man, who
wrought spells of immense power, invoking the names of beings which did
not exist in this universe. He called himself Doctor Strange, and he
was apparently a sorceror from some other universe. He was dangerous,
and probably mad, and wizards more powerful than Zatara feared him.

"And now, in the name of Satannish and the Vishanti, may the Nullity of
Agamotto fall upon this wretch! Let him join the ranks of the Unmanned!"

Zatara's jaw was free again, and at once he began trying to break
Strange's spells. But "Sdnab evlossid" proved as useless as "Egnarts
llaf peelsa"; Strange kept on reinforcing his spell, and Zatara felt a
disturbing sensation from his crotch.

He understood what was happening. Some wizards gained power through
sex; others built up power by denying themselves sex. But a man who
had been castrated, or made impotent, had almost no chance of working
any sort of powerful magic. And Zatara could feel that his fate was
not merely to lose his genitals, but to be stripped of all sexual
identity and nature at the most basic level. The space within these
bands was inimical to maleness, so Zatara's manhood was being erased
from existence, and there seemed no way to stop it.

"Doctor Strange! Why are you doing this?"

Strange chuckled. "Power, of course. There's a limited supply of
magic in any given universe, so by...neutralizing other magi, I make
myself more powerful."

That was nonsense. Like when Father Reynolds had told the "Boys'
Health" class that masturbation would use up your supply of sperm. But
Strange clearly believed it, and Zatara was going to pay the price for
his stupidity.

Zatara felt his organs shrinking in his pants, and knew that his
manhood and his power would soon be gone. He raged silently against
his fate, trying desperately to find an out. He was in a space where a
man, where masculinity, simply couldn't exist. He couldn't get out of
the space, and he couldn't survive as a man inside it, but...

He threw back his head and screamed, "Arataz emoceb elamef!"

Strange threw up his hands, not to cast a counterspell, but simply from
shock and fear. "No!" the otherworldly sorceror cried.

"I MA NAMOW!" Zatara shouted vehemently, and the sensation between the
wizard's legs changed dramatically.

"Sdnab enogeb!" a new voice called, and the alien bands obeyed,
shattering and dissipating. Strange gestured frantically, and an oval
doorway opened behind him. He stumbled through it, followed by the
command, "S'egnarts sllab kcik sevlesruoy!" Zatara heard a satisfying
cry of pain as the doorway closed, too fast for pursuit.

Then the only child of Giovanni Zatara looked into the mirror to survey
the damage. "Emutsoc hsinav," she said, after a long look at how
absurd she looked in John Zatara's evening dress. She swallowed hard,
and ran her hands down her naked body, over her breasts and belly,
toward her crotch.

There was no going back, of course. Strange's spell had made the
survival of John Zatara's manhood impossible, and it was gone, gone,
gone, forever. She would have to make a new life as...Anna Zatara, she
thought. Her grandmother's name.

Anna Zatara was good looking, aside from a little too much in the belly.
It had looked all right on John, but standards were different for women;
she'd have to go on a diet immediately. She took after her Turkish
mother more than John had; her skin was even a little darker, and
John's strong black eyes had become devastating. Her breasts were
small and firm, her legs absolutely perfect.

"My name is Anna Zatara," she said aloud. For good measure, she
repeated it backwards.

If she tried to be John Zatara hiding behind a woman's face, she would
never make it. She had to make a new start, a new life, and that life
would begin with that name.

She would work a spell to create new records that would show John
Zatara had a twin sister. She had been very ill as a child, and had
been forced to live at a Swiss clinic for years. Afterwards, she had
stayed at a boarding school to be near her doctors, until at last she
was completely cured.

She would confide in the people closest to her. For the others, a
subtle spell would give them the feeling that they'd always known, in a
vague sort of way, that John had had a sister.

An accidental death for John, followed by a quick cremation (it would
be simple to cast the illusion of a corpse over a mannequin), would
finish the job, and Anna Zatara would begin her new life as...what?

A magician, certainly.

"Emutsoc no!" Once again, she was covered by John's ill-fitting
evening suit.

"Emutsoc emoceb eninimef." Anna felt the fabric shift and warp,
fitting itself to her, John's undershirt shrinking and thickening into
a brassiere. Boxer shorts become briefs, socks turned into taupe
pantyhose, and his trousers turned into a knee-length skirt. His black
patent dress shoes reappeared as similar slip ons. She no longer looked
absurd. But she did look dowdy. Try again.

"Emutsoc emoceb...yxes?" The skirt became very short satin shorts, the
hose became black fishnets, the vest brazenly
thrust her breasts up and forward, the shirt front became very light
and thin. Her aspect suddenly changed then, as her shoes became dress
black pumps with elegantly shaped high heels.

"I do not mind looking like this, not one bit." She would look good on
stage. Her career would survive.

She would look good to men. Was that what she wanted?

She looked at her watch (which had become a lady's watch without her
even thinking about it) and decided there was time for a quick

"Tod dna Dot raeppa."

Dot and Tod, the near-identical blonde teenagers John often conjured up
as stage assistants, emerged from a puff of smoke, just as they did on

"Come here, Dot." The girl obeyed, smiling.

Anna took the girl in her arms and kissed her. Dot obeyed, putting her
arms around Anna, keeping her lips together until her tongue responded
to its cue from Anna's, breaking away as soon as Anna relaxed her
embrace, stepping back, still smiling emptily.

Anna smiled sheepishly. It had been a pleasant enough kiss, but only
pleasant. But perhaps that was simply because Dot and Tod were
constructs. They seemed a little more real every time she called upon
them, but she knew they weren't "really" real.

Then she kissed Tod, and knew for certain that Anna was as heterosexual
as John had been. Kissing Tod felt very good. Feeling his body
against hers felt better. Feeling the hint of a growing erection
against her belly felt better still, and her head swam when she thought
of what it would feel like to have him inside her.

But Anna was a virgin (literally; she had checked), and she didn't want
her first time to be with a lifeless, probably soulless, certainly
brainless creation of her own mind. She thanked them, and they bowed
in unison and vanished in another puff of smoke.

She noticed that the magic seemed to flow more easily than it had for
John; three changes of clothing (four, counting the dissolution of her
clothes at the start) and the summoning of Dot and Tod had been almost
effortless; it looked as though Anna would be much more powerful than

She wondered if that was because of the same influence that seemed to
concentrate so much supra-normal power in women like Superwoman, the
Flash, Green Lantern, and so on. True, there was Wonder Warrior and
a few others, but there did seem to be some force at work
giving the most power to women. Perhaps it had even been fated that
John Zatara should give way to Anna one day.

Which reminded her of another power she possessed that John hadn't.
Parenthood had appealed to John more than marriage had; he'd thought
occasionally about adopting children. Now she had the option of
becoming a mother, and the prospect was far more thrilling -- and
intimidating -- than fatherhood ever had been.

And children born to a magically-powerful mother were likely to inherit
the trait. John had been concerned for the future of the family,
unless he could find a compatible mate among the female mages.
Perpetuating the power would be much easier for Anna.

Such matters would have to wait for later, though; it was almost
showtime. She hurried through the maze of corridors backstage, ducking
under pipes and stepping over cables as even the biggest stars were
forced to, using a near feline grace even in her new heels. In the
wings, she whispered, "BoB, raeppa."

A gorgeous golden cloud burst on center stage, and a silver-haired
gentleman addressed the audience. "Good people, I regret to inform you
that Zatara the Magician will be unable to perform for you tonight."

A murmur rose form the audience, composed of groans, yelps of outrage,
and cautious pleasure from those who suspected this was a setup for a

"In his place, I hope you will welcome the mysterious, magical and very

Anna found herself blushing at Bob's words, which she had not composed
for him. As he disintegrated back into golden fog, Anna stepped out
onto the stage, and her new life began. Yes, Zatanna sounded perfect.

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