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Giovanni "John" Zatara, aka simply Zatara, was a fictional magician appearing in various publications of DC Comics, beginning with 1938's Action Comics #1, which was also the first appearance of Superman.
As well as being an illusionist, Zatara also had genuine magical powers, which he focused through speaking backwards: he could do anything so long as he could describe it in sdrawkcab hceeps ("backwards speech", spelled backwards). This helped distinguish Zatara from the numerous Mandrake the Magician knockoffs that cluttered the comics and pulp magazines of the day.
His love of magic began early when he was given a magic kit by his uncle, himself a professional illusionist. Although he began learning the craft in childhood, his early attempts at performing professionally were unsuccessful until he realized that he needed to work on his showmanship.
To that end, he dug up old diaries of Leonardo Da Vinci, who was a direct ancestor. While reading the diaries, which Da Vinci wrote in backwards spelling as a security precaution, Zatara learned that his family had the command of magic. He discovered this inadvertently when he accidentally gave a command to a mannequin to begin waving an arm wildly. Zatara realized that he could command it to stop by giving the order in backwards spelling.
With this new knowledge, Zatara developed a successful show. During the premiere performance a fire broke out on stage, forcing Zatara to use his command of real magic to put it out. While the audience mistook the incident as part of the act, Zatara realized that this power could be invaluable in helping people and he resolved to use it as such between shows.
Now better known as the father of his more famous daughter Zatanna, John Zatara sacrificed himself to save the universe during the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Since then he has made sporadic appearances in the afterlife, including resurrecting Mason O'Dare in Starman #80, and the recent Zatanna Seven Soldiers miniseries.
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