DC Comics Pitches 2: Gone Daddy Gone, a Zatanna Story

I never heard back on my Arkham High pitch. Did they not like the fact that the chapters were inexplicably named after Carpenters songs? Was the drug dealer as protagonist a little much for them? Did they find it too derivative of Boaz Yakin’s 1994 movie Fresh? (This one would have been pretty fair, and if you haven’t seen Fresh, I highly recommend it.) I’ll never know!

I thought I’d take one more crack at this. I decided to pitch a pretty obscure character, figuring I’d have way less competition for a Zatanna book than with something involving one of DC’s Big 3.

By this time, my literary agent was doing that thing that literary agents do when they don’t want to work with you anymore but don’t want to be the one to end the relationship: suddenly hating everything I sent them in hopes I’d get the message and fire them.

So they were dismissive of my kickass Zatanna pitch, but I had the DC editor’s email, so after I fired my agent, I sent Zatanna directly to DC. Never heard back, and it’s been seven years, so I’m assuming they’re not going to do the book. But you can enjoy my pitch below!

Gone Daddy Gone: A Zatanna Story


Brendan Halpin


Zatanna Zatara: a sixteen-year-old white girl with dark hair and no interest in magic.

Giovanni Zatara: a forty-five-year-old, gray haired white stage magician and sorcerer

Eldon Peck: Thirty-five-year-old white man who is the technical director of Zatara’s Magic Show.

Nimue Ravensong: Twenty-eight-year-old white woman who works as Giovanni’s Lovely Assistant

Vivian Nguyen: sixteen-year-old Vietnamese-American girl with a goth look.

Angel Hernandez: sixteen-year-old pale-skinned puerto-rican boy with glasses and a large halo of curly hair.

Waylon Vasquez: short, stocky, Mexican-American trans boy who favors cargo shorts and polo shirts.

Chapter One

Breakfast at the Zatara house. Giovanni and Zatanna eat breakfast, and Giovanni broaches the subject (again) of Zatanna working as his assistant. Zatanna is outraged: they’ve had this conversation before. She thinks the “lovely assistant” role is inherently sexist and asks whether he’d want her to wear the current Lovely Assistant’s costume, with her breasts half revealed by the low-cut top and her legs clad in fishnet stockings and very high heels. Giovanni stammers, and Zatanna says, “If you wouldn’t put your daughter in that costume, why would you put someone else’s daughter in it?”

More importantly, though,she has no interest in stage magic—she enjoys theater. And she has no talent for real magic. They’ve tried, as we see in several panels of comical flashbacks to his attempts to train her. “It’s time to give it up, Dad,” she says. “I’m just not you.”

Later that day, Zatanna walks out of school with her friends Vivian, Angel, and Waylon. They sit in the courtyard at the Boston Public Library and discuss who’s going to play what role in the production of She Kills Monsters they auditioned for. Angel says he’s a natural for the Dungeon Master Role. Vivian tells Zatanna she should be Tillie, wheras Zatanna is convninced Vivian should have that part. Zatanna tells her friends that her dad’s been asking her about the assistant role again. She feels bad—she loves AND likes her dad, and she knows this is important to him, but it’s just not what she wants to do. “At least your dad wants to spend time with you,” Vivian says. “Mine is constantly working.” Waylon just stares at her. “Did your dad kick you out because you told him you were a boy and not a girl?”

“I—ugh, of course not. I’m sorry, Waylon. I’m an idiot,” she says.

“True!” he says. “But so’s Angel, and I still like him, so—”

Zatanna feels bad, and decides to drop by the theater to patch things up with her dad. Backstage, she talks with Nimue, the current Lovely Assistant, who is taking her solo show to the Edinburgh Fringe,thus creating a vacancy in the current show, and Eldon, the technical director, who tells her he’d be happy to volunteer with the tech part of She Kills Monsters. Zatanna thanks him profusely—Vivian’s good at drawing, but nobody in their meager theater troupe can build cool-looking stuff. Giovanni comes in and Zatanna apologizes for snapping at him. “No, sweetie,” he says. “I should apologize to you. It’s hard for a father—well, for this father—to let go. I see you becoming your own person, and it’s fantastic, but soon you’ll be gone and you won’t need me any more. It scares me. Also, you’re right about the Lovely Assistant costume. I had a new one made up.”

“Spangly leggings,” Zatanna says. “Classy.”

“It’s misdirection! The Lovely Assistant has to draw the audience’s attention! So we’ll do it with spangles rather than—”

“Boobs?” Nimue asks.

“Yes,” Giovanni says.

Zatanna welcomes her father to the twenty-first century. She gives him a big hug and says, “You know I’ll always need you. No matter what I do, you’ll always be my dad.” She goes home and does homework while Giovanni performs. Zatanna goes to bed at eleven. Giovanni’s not home, but that’s not unusual.

In the morning, she awakens to find her father never came home. Frantic, she texts and calls—no response. She calls Nimue and Eldon, waking each of them up, but they don’t know anything about her dad’s wherabouts. Zatanna goes into her dad’s study and gazes into the magic mirror. “I don’t suppose there’s any chance you can show me where Dad is?” The mirror appears to be just a mirror. Zatanna goes to school and is distant and distracted with her friends.

They ask if she wants to hang out after school, and she tells them she can’t, but not why. She all but runs away from them, leaving them looking after her quizically.

“Maybe we should go to her house and check on her,” Angel says.

“How?” Waylon answers. “We have no idea where she lives!”

Back at home, Zatantna is frantic. She calls the theater and tells them her father isn’t feeling well and will have to cancel tonight’s performance. Standing in front of the mirror, she breaks down. “Where are you? Where are you!?” she cries.

She looks into the mirror and sees a shadowy figure that looks like her father on the other side of the mirror. Looking behind her, she sees nothing. Then the figure—it’s got to be her dad, right?—walks up to the mirror and writes “Trust No One,” but since he’s on the other side of the mirror, it’s backwards to Zatanna’s eyes. It’s definitely Dad. He blows her a kiss and disappears.

Now what? Zatanna is on her own and her father is, at best, trapped on the other side of the mirror. At worst, he’s dead. And she doesn’t know any way to help him. After all, she’s not her father.

Chapter Two

Rehearsal, the next day. Zatanna hasn’t slept and looks awful. Vivian asks if she’s okay. Zatanna says she’s “fine.” Vivian presses, and Zatanna gets annoyed and snaps, telling Vivian to mind her own business. She feels bad, but after all, she’s not supposed to trust anyone. The director tells the cast they’re going to read through the play. “After Agnes’ sister Tillie dies, Agnes reads through her journal to find out who Tillie really was—” is as far as he gets before Zatanna rushes from the room, saying she doesn’t feel well.

In the girls’ room, Zatanna cries. She looks into the mirror. “Dad!” she cries. “Dad!” but she sees nothing but herself. And then Vivian comes in. “So, this is what you call fine?” she asks.

Zatanna wipes her eyes with her sleeve. “No. I...I’m sorry Viv, I just can’t talk about it. But no. I’m not fine.”

“Well,” Vivian says. “you know where to find me. And Angel. And Waylon. We’re all worried about you. We care about you.”

Zatanna goes home and calls the theater to inform them that her dad needs an indefinite leave of absence. She calls Nimue and Eldon too, telling them that their payroll will continue but that Giovanni is out of action for the immediate future. They both ask if she’s okay, if there’s anything they can do. “I’ve got it,” Zatanna says. “But thanks.”

Thinking about She Kills Monsters, Zatanna goes into her father’s library and finds his journal. She begins to read.

The day of Zatanna’s birth and her mother Sindella’s death: “I do not know how to feel. I have lost more and gained more in one day than I ever believed possible. I am bereft, devastated. I would follow Sindella into the darkness were it not for the brilliant light Zatanna shines into my life. Every day I will endeavour to be the father she deserves. Her life is the best, most magical thing I will ever be a part of.”

Zatanna flips pages up to the present. “Zatanna says she’s not interested in magic, but magic is interested in her. I work very hard to get the light of magic to shine through me; it pours out of her all the time. I’m a lightbulb. She is a star.”

“More like a black hole,” Zatanna says.

The doorbell rings. She’s puzzled: the magical wards on her house make it impossible to notice. She looks through the peephole and sees Wonder Woman standing on her doorstep. She remembers her father’s injunction to trust no one.

“How did you find the house?” she asks through the intercom.

“Your father told me how to do it after the last time he helped us.” Dad worked with the Justice League?

“Well, he’s not home. I mean, he’s feeling really bad. He’s had to cancel shows.”

“It’s very important that I speak with him. The Phantom Stranger told us there’s been a big disturbance in the magical sphere. Something evil is gathering power, and it represents a powerful threat. I need your father’s help.”

“Why can’t you ask the Phantom Stranger for help?”

“It’s not that kind of relationship. He’s a phantom. And strange.”

Zatanna promises to tell her dad when he wakes up.

Cut to Wonder Woman talking to Batman. “You have to talk to her,” she says. “I can’t get through to her. Some girls prefer to talk to men.”

“What makes you think I can get through to her? I’m not exactly known for being easy to warm up to.”

“You’re right. We should send Clark.”

“Okay, okay. I’ll go.”

Zatanna is awakened in the middle of the night by a disturbance in the street. Looking out her window, she sees a man with red eyes and gray skin floating above the street. Debris whirls around him. “Zatanna Zatara!” he cries. “It is time for you to join your father! Surrender, or I will destroy the city you live in! Brick! By! Brick!” Bricks shoot from the dorm across the street, and a window topples from its frame. An alarm goes off an terrified college students flee into the street.

I’m a star, Zatanna says to herself. “Repair bricks!” she cries, focusing all her mental energy on the dorm across the street. Nothing happens.

“I’ll be back!” Brother Night calls. “Enjoy your last day on earth”

Chapter Three

Zatanna spends the rest of a sleepless night in the house’s cavernous library, looking through books of magical lore and occasionally trying to cast a spell. Nothing works.

Another knock at the door. The peephole reveals Batman standing on her stoop. “Hey, my dad’s not feeling well,” she says through the intercom.

“I don’t know what you’re dealing with in there,” Batman says, “But I promise you we can help. We’re the Justice League.”

Zatanna is torn. A magical villain threatened to either kill her or destroy her city. This is beyond what she’s able to deal with. But her Dad did say trust no one. Or, more accurately, tsurt on eno. There is a long silence. “He...he told me not to trust anyone.”

Now there’s a long pause from Batman’s side. “I tried that too,” he said. “It gets old.”

“It already has.”

Batman sighs. “I’m leaving a card in your door. It’s my private number. Do not share it. Call anytime, night or day.”

“Okay.” We look down at Zatanna, tiny in the cavernous house, as she slumps against the door, head between her knees.

Biology class—the teacher explains how the eye works. “So the image that’s projected onto your retina is actually upside down and backwards, and your brain reorients it..” Angel leans over to rouse a sleeping Zatanna. “Zee,” he says. “We’ve got a test on Friday. You gotta pay attention!” She shoots him an annoyed, angry look, and he shrinks back in his seat.

Rehearsal. Zatanna looks haggard. Waylon pulls her aside. “Zee. Please tell me what’s going on with you.”

“I’m fine,”

“You’re obviously not. Look. Nobody’s been more supportive of me during my transition. I owe you.”

“You don’t owe me. That’s just what friends do.”

“Right. Friends also let their friends help.”

Wavering, Zatanna says, “I—” She’s interrupted by the director. “I have great news everyone! We have a new tech director, whom many of you know already. Eldon Peck! His show is currently on hiatus, so he’s volunteered to bring his professional expertise to bear on this production!”

“I’m gonna build you one hell of a dragon,” he says. He smiles at Zatanna, who waves.

“Wait,” Vivian says. “your dad’s show is on hiatus? Why?”

“He’s...not feeling well,” Zatanna says.

“Oh! Oh. Is it...I mean, is it serious? I mean obviously it’s serious if the show’s on hiatus, but—”

“Yeah,” Zatanna says. “I have no idea what’s going to happen.”

Vivian gives her a big hug, and Zatanna cries. All her friends gather around. “I’m sorry,” she says between sobs. “I’ve been terrible. I just don’t...I don’t know what to do!”After she’s cried out, Zatanna makes a decision. Dad told her not to trust anyone, but Batman is right—it gets old. “Can you guys come over tonight?”

“Over...like, to your house?” Angel asks.

“Where none of us have ever been?” Waylon says

“Where you won’t even tell us where it is?”

“Yeah. I mean. I’m gonna have to meet you in Kenmore Square. It’s complicated.”

“We’ll be there,” Vivian says.

Later, Zatanna stands outside her home with her friends. “So where is it?” Vivian says.

“Tell me what you see,” she asks.

“Just some college administration buildings. Bursar, Registrar...”

“What’s here?” Zatanna says, pointing at her house. The sign reads “Yeoman Purser”

“Nothing important,” Vivian says.

“Wait, where were we supposed to look? I forgot,” Waylon says.

“Follow me,” Zatanna says. She walks up and opens the door, and her friends follow. “Whoa...” Waylon says, looking at the enormous, impressive house.

Later the friends sit around a table in the libarary. “This is like my dream home,” Vivian says, gazing at all the books.

“I need your help,” Zatanna says. “So, magic is real, which is why you couldn’t make yourselves pay attention to where the house is when you were outside. My dad is missing, I don’t know where he is, and some magical bad guy came here last night and said he was going to destroy Boston if I don’t meet him out there tonight so he can kill me. And I don’t know what to do.”

“Wait...magic is real?” Angel says. “Can you...can you, like, do some?”

Zatanna sighs and explains that her dad says she’s a bright beacon of magic, but she’s not even a phone flashlight. She needs their help looking through the books for answers. They start looking. Hours pass.

“Yo, Zee you have to find out how to turn somebody into a toad. Then we could get out of our Bio test tomorrow,” Angel says.

“Yeah, my dad says—said—I’m a bright light of magic or something. But I can’t do anything with the light.”

Angel offers that maybe she’s like the human eye and her light is backwards, explaining that she slept through that in bio. Well, it’s worth a try. “esolc koob,” she says. We see Zatanna glowing with magical light as the book in front of Waylon slams shut.

“etativel em!” Zatanna cries, and she rises into the air. She laughs with joy. She can do magic!

“Okay, now do the toad thing,” Angelsays. “Or, like, do you wanna wait until the test?”

“pu tuhs legnA!” she cries, and Waylon moves his mouth, but no sound comes out. Zatanna laughs. She releases Angel. More fun as she tries her powers on various household objects.

Suddenly a BOOM! from the street, and Brother Night’s voice echoes through the neighborhood. “Zatanna Zatara,” he says. “Come and face your death. Or watch as the city dies around you. Your choice.”

Angry, Zatanna storms toward the door. At the door, she pulls a top hat from the hat rack next to the door and puts it on her head.

“gnidnilb thgil!” She cries, and she lights up the street like daytime. Brother Night shields his eyes, and Zatanna cries out, “dnib rehtorB thgiN!” Nothing happens. He laughs. “You’ll need to do better than that!” He raises his hands and Zatanna says, “em dliehs!” He shoots a bolt of magical energy at her, and it’s absorbed into her shield.

“Fine!” Brother Night says. “I’ll destroy the city instead!”

“dliehs mih!” she says, and a a magical shield appears around Brother Night. He can’t use magic against the buildings.

“Well played!” he says. “But this is not over! You should have surrendered when you had the chance! Now I’ll have to make you suffer!”

Chapter Four

Zatanna walks into the house and collapses, and her friends tend to her. Later they drink tea at the kitchen table. Zatanna explains what she saw, and the “trust no one” message, and the visits from Wonder Woman and Batman.

“Wait, so you have the Justice League’s number, you knew a magical supervillain was going to attack you, and you called us?” Waylon says.

“Yeah,” Zatanna says. “I mean, I trust you.”

Her friends agree that calling them instead of the Justice League was not the smartest move, but they are very flattered.

She doesn’t tell them about her father. She knows they’d want to help, and it might be very dangerous.

The next day, Zatanna stays home from school. She looks into the mirror commanding it to show her father. Nothing happens.

Come to rehearsal, Vivian texts.

Not up to it, Zatanna sends back.

We’ll come over after, Vivian sends, and Zatanna sends a thumbs up.

After a long day of study, Zatanna goes to the mirror again. “wohs em ym rehtaf,” she says, and she sees her father! He’s hanging by a thread from the top of the Prudential Tower. “Help...me.” he says.

Zatanna zaps herself to the top of the Prudential Tower, and finds...an obvious dummy with her father’s face magcially projected on the face. “Help...me..” it says over and over again. Misdirection! What should she be looking at when she’s looking at this?

She needs her friends’ help. She decides to go to rehearsal. She teleports to the theater but can’t get in without magical assistance. When she arrives she sees the entire She Kills Monsters cast and crew— 13 teenagers—bound and laying on their backs in a circle on the stage. Candles and magical runes surround them. Brother Night stands in the center of the circle.

Zatanna attempts to cast a binding spell on him, but it doesn’t work. He laughs and explains how the magical force he drew from her father’s death will be amplified by the deaths of thirteen children, making him the most powerful sorcerer on earth. He draws a large ceremonial sword.

On the floor, Waylon is moving his neck back and forth, looking like a chicken. Zatanna is puzzled, but then she gets it—Peck! She casts a spell of binding using his true name, Eldon Peck, and unties her friends. His Brother Night face changes into his Eldon Peck face, but he looks distinctly older than he did just a few days ago. Necromancy really takes it out of you.

Zatanna unties everyone and calls Batman. “Yeah, hi. I have a magically bound supervillain here, and I don’t really have a lot of experience disposing of those so...”

Later, at the door of her house, Zatanna talks to Batman. He asks if she’s going to be all right. “No,” she says. “I’ll never be all right again.”

“True,” Batman says. “But you’ll be better than you are now.”

“How?” she says. “How do I build a life out of this...wreckage?”

Batman smiles a wry smile. “I’m probably the wrong person to ask,” he says. Then he points behind her back, where Vivian, Waylon, and Angel stand. “But...let them help you.”

He disappears, and Zatanna closes the door and walks toward her friends.