Zatara continues to fight crime in sartorial splendour throughout this period. For a while, his stories carry the Guardineer art credit, though this is blatantly untrue. At least three different artists work on Zatara in this era, none as skilled as Guardineer. This really is a shame, because the stories are often quite good, but seem less so due to the poor art.
Zatara’s powers are largely confined to his backwards speaking spell-casting, though he is able to read minds in one story. He uses his magic to render himself invisible frequently, but also sometimes takes on a “shadowy form,” and in a number of stories sends out his astral form while his body stays behind. Oddly, the invisibility, shadowy form and astral form are all drawn exactly the same way, as a silhouette.
Zatara frequently brings inanimate objects to life. Many times they will give him information about the criminal, but he will also have them attack the bad guys, and twice has them manifest in human-style bodies, once with a brick wall, and another time he creates a coat-hangar man.
Zatara will also use a kind of short form for complex spells, stating what all he wants to happen, and then proclaiming “Eb Os Ti!”, which certainly saves the reader the time of working out a long backwards spell.
Tong’s appearances become sporadic, with World’s Finest 5 being his final appearance. The Tigress returns in a handful of stories, often working with other thieves. Zatara admits that he is reluctant to see her behind bars, but still sends her to prison on occasion.
In these stories, he is often shown performing, and participates in many USO tours and bond drives.
His appearance in the 1940 New York World’s Fair is one of his best tales. Because many pickpockets are working the Fair, Zatara creates his own exhibit, the Magic Mansion. His audience is treated to a magic show, a battle with the pickpockets, a journey to the apex of the Trylon, a hunt for stolen jewels, even a trip to Mars as part of the show.
In most of his stories Zatara is pitted against thieves, murderers, gamblers, and con men, but he does get a bit more of a challenge in some cases. He faces a scientist with a tornado making machine in World’s Finest 2, some renegade Atlanteans in Action 47, a musician who puts people under his control in Action 49, a human magnet in World’s Finest 7, and faces off against a hood who duplicates Zatara’s backward spell-casting in Action 61.
In Action Comics 46 some children encourage Zatara to help out in Europe, and he crosses the ocean and takes on the Nazi army, even making it to Berlin and forcing Hitler to surrender. One can only assume Hitler went back on his word immediately after Zatara left.
Action 69, “East Meets West” has a curious element of racism, as Zatara and other magicians deal with the practitioners of Eastern magic, which they consider black magic. The story shows the western magicians as noble and heroic and the eastern ones as liars, thieves and murderers, and dismisses their skills as “black magic.”
Action Comics 65, “The Riddle of the Tired Thespians,” may be the first appearance of the Medusa Masks, employed later by the Psycho-Pirate. A university professor is using the masks to drain his students of emotions. The masks are not used the way Psycho-Pirate would use them, but the long row of emotion masks certainly appears identical.
Zatara continues in the Late Golden Age
Zatara: Action Comics 20 – 74 (Jan 40 – July 44)
New York World’s Fair 1940
World’s Best Comics 1 (Spring 41)
World’s Finest Comics 2 – 14 (Summer 41 – Summer 44)