Hello. I’m Alex Jaffe, better known in our Community as HubCityQuestion. My personal mission: to take on any question you have about the DC Universe -- no matter how granular, obscure, or strange -- and present you with an answer. As a faithful steward of the truth, I offer my time in this weekly column to address these inquiries. If you’d like to submit one of your own, you can stop by my office at any time in our lively Community to state your case, which I will address in turn to the best of my ability. All YOU need to do is ask… The Question.
FULL METAL JACKET
“I’ve been rewatching Smallville, and there’s an awful lot of talk of all the metals ‘unlike anything on earth’ that Clark’s ship and all its accessories are made of. What exactly are the Kryptonian’s preferred building materials?”
The DC Universe abounds with fantastic minerals and materials. That fact is the very premise of 2017’s Dark Nights: Metal. But the lost planet of Krypton had a fantastic proprietary material all their own, one which they developed the ability to manipulate on a subatomic level. Young Kal-El’s rocket, the warships of ancient Krypton, and even the crystalline Fortress of Solitude are all made from the same material: Sunstone.
Sunstone is an extremely adaptable, nearly indestructible material which could be found exclusively on Krypton. First referred to as “sunstone” in 1966’s Action Comics #336, the name didn’t become commonplace until 40 years later, in the post-Infinite Crisis storyline “Superman: Up, Up, and Away!” That same year, Lex Luthor used a salvaged sunstone crystal in an attempt to grow his own continent in Superman Returns. The properties of sunstone were limited only by the imagination and ingenuity of its original programmers, the scientists of Krypton. Sunstone crystals could multiply from single shards into enormous structures, and contain vast libraries of data like an alien hard drive.
Because the remnants of Krypton were irradiated into Kryptonite by its destruction, all extant sunstone in the universe is that which was exported off-world before the planet exploded, making it quite rare indeed. Furthermore, because unprocessed sunstone is so easily exploitable in the wrong hands, Superman maintains a standing policy of destroying whatever samples he finds on sight — only keeping a small reserve of it within the Fortress of Solitude itself.
“Whatever happened to Zatara in the comics? How did Zatanna come to take his place?”
Zatara was one of DC’s premiere magical heroes throughout the Golden Age of Comics, appearing regularly in back-up stories in Action Comics and World’s Finest Comics from his 1938 debut in Action Comics #1, up until he was dropped from Action’s lineup in 1950, and then World’s Finest in 1951. During that time, Zatara functioned as a hero who mainly kept to himself, never really interacting too much with the rest of DC’s icons, so his absence went uncommented upon.
For thirteen years, Zatara remained unseen — until an ambitious three-year crossover from 1964 to 1967 winding through The Atom, Hawkman, Green Lantern, Detective Comics, and ultimately Justice League of America, introduced his daughter Zatanna, scouring the DC Universe -- much as you are now, TheLastGL -- for answers about what happened to her father.
With the aid of Batman, Elongated Man, Green Arrow, Hawkman, and the Atom, Zatanna ultimately journeys to retrieve her father, where he had been trapped years before in the mystical realm of Kharma by the sorceress Allura. With a working relationship established with some of the most outstanding members of the Justice League of America, it wasn’t too long before Zatanna was inducted as a member herself.
As for Giovanni Zatara, DC’s original magus took a back seat to the escapades of his daughter for many years, providing guidance and mentorship as needed, until Alan Moore’s “American Gothic” storyline in Swamp Thing. To ward off an overwhelming manifestation of primordial evil known only as the Great Darkness, John Constantine assembled a conglomerate of the greatest mystics of the DC Universe to keep it at bay, Zatara naturally among them. Sadly, Zatara does not survive Constantine’s gambit — a loss which Zatanna holds Constantine personally accountable for to this day.
THE FEW. THE PROUD. THE PINKISH VIOLET.
“Hey, so when did the Star Sapphires change from a single character to an entire Lantern Corps? Was it an instant change, or was it a slow change over the years into becoming what it is today?”
With the exception of the Golden Age incarnation of Star Sapphire who appeared in the 1940s, Star Sapphire has always been an agent of the Zamarons, an all-female society introduced in 1962’s Green Lantern #16. The Zamarons are the female members of the Maltusian race, the males of which became the Green Lanterns’ own Guardians of the Universe. (Though, later, some female Maltusians would be counted among the Guardians.) As the Guardians chose their corps of Green Lanterns, the Zamarons chose their own champion -- their Star Sapphire -- to serve as a single host body for their queen, the Star Sapphire entity.
The most notable of these hosts was Hal Jordan’s own love interest, Carol Ferris, though there were a number of them over time. It was only in 2007 that Geoff Johns wrote the “Mystery of the Star Sapphire” — the conclusion of which leads the Zamarons to realize that a single body cannot properly handle the stress of the Star Sapphire entity, and instead channel it into a multitude of hosts. In this way, the Star Sapphire Corps is born… though it would be longer still before they could freely operate beyond the Entity’s influence.
As for me, the only Entity to which I am beholden is the collective inquiring minds of my column’s readers. For an agent in the DC Universe to plumb its mysteries mundane and monumental, you need only ASK… THE QUESTION.