The duo made their debut in The All-New Super Friends Hour and went on to appear in The World's Greatest Super Friends, Super Friends, and Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show. Zan (voiced by Michael Bell) and Jayna (voiced by Louise Williams) are siblings from the planet Exxor (also spelled Exor) who were being informally trained by the superheroes. Unlike their predecessors, Wendy Harris and Marvin White, this pair was able to participate in combat with abilities of their own.
Hanna Barbera animator Darrell McNeil recalls the twins were created by Norman Maurer, the Super Friends series developer/story editor. They were originally called Dick and Jane, and their sidekick was Mighty Monkey, before finally becoming Zan, Jayna, and Gleek. The names "Zan" and "Jayna" derived from the Edgar Rice Burroughs characters Tarzan and his romantic interest Jane. According to McNeil, "Originally Zan (Dick) had 'Plastic Man' powers and Jayna (Jane) could transform into anything, not just animals, but they were scaled back to their present powers as it made the other Super Friends (even Superman) seem almost superfluous." Jayna's distinctive hairdo was based on that of an animation checker at Hanna-Barbera, while the pointed ears were inspired by the character Spock from the Star Trek franchise. The twins' personalities were heavily based on Donny and Marie Osmond, who were extremely popular at the time and had their own show on ABC as well.
The Wonder Twins were the most prominently featured characters in their first season on Super Friends. However, by the final seasons, the twins were largely marginalized in favor of well established DC Comics teenage superheroes like Firestorm, and were wholly eliminated in the final season in favor of Cyborg.
The characters were introduced to comics in issue #7 of the Super Friends tie-in series (October 1977), by E. Nelson Bridwell and Ramona Fradon. The Super Friends comic book provided considerably more details of the Wonder Twins' background and how they came to join the team than was provided in the television series.
In the 1990s, they were introduced into the main DC Universe in Extreme Justice #9 (October 1995), by Ivan Velez, Jr. and Al Rio. The series rewrote and updated their origin story. Velez, an avowed die-hard fan of the Wonder Twins, intended to begin a revival of the characters, but was taken off the series after the first issue with the Wonder Twins. Though the twins remained with the series until its cancellation with #18, they were used only sparingly after Velez's departure.
Fictional character biography
Little background is provided for the Wonder Twins in the Super Friends cartoon, save that they are superheroes-in-training that are friends of the Super Friends and were born on November 6th.
According to the Super Friends comic book by E. Nelson Bridwell (writer) and Ramona Fradon (artist), Zan and Jayna are Exorian metas, genetic throwbacks to an ancient race of Exorian shapeshifters. Their parents died when they were still babies during a plague, and, because of their origin, no Exorians want to adopt them. They are adopted by the owner of a Space Circus who only wants to use them as sideshow freaks. Fortunately, the circus' clown (or "laugh-maker") is a kind man and raises them. He also gives them Gleek as a pet. Eventually, as teens, the pair escape the circus and hide on a planet where a space villain called Grax (an enemy of Superman) has established his headquarters. Spying on him, they learn that Grax is planning to destroy the Earth using hidden superbombs. The twins decide to travel to Earth and warn the Justice League, which is how they come to replace Wendy and Marvin (who were planning on retiring as heroes anyway) as their sidekicks. The heroes arrange for the kids to live with an old scientist named Professor Carter Nichols and they even take secret identities as Johan and Joanna Fleming. "Johan" and "Johanna" were supposedly transfer students from Esko, Sweden, disguised with blonde hair (Zan wore a wig, while Jayna uses her powers to transform into a human to change her hair color and ear shape), to allow them to attend Gotham City High School.
In 1996, the twins were introduced into post-Crisis DC continuity in the series Extreme Justice as escaped slaves of an alien overlord. Unable to speak English, they inadvertently attack some civilians and the Justice League. During their fight with the JLA, Zan becomes an ice golem, a water monster, and a demonic-looking whirlpool, while Jayna becomes a griffin, a werewolf, and a sea serpent. The pair are later emancipated by the Justice League and join Captain Atom's team in issue #16 (May 1996). That same year, they appeared in the crossover storyline Final Night and in the series Total Justice.
In a 2002 - 2003 storyline by Peter David and Todd Nauck in Young Justice, they help avenge the murder of Empress's parents, wearing uniforms which resembled T-shirts and jeans. In late 2003, they appeared in the fourth issue of the Marvel-DC intercompany crossover miniseries JLA/Avengers, which was written by Kurt Busiek and illustrated by George Pérez.
In 2007, they appeared in Teen Titans' #70, and in 2011, they appeared in DCU: Legacies #9, a story by Len Wein and Rob Leigh.
In "Smallville: Titans" a 2013 story arc in the series Smallville season 11, Zan and Jayna are members of the team with Conner Kent/Superboy, Speedy, Blue Beetle and Miss Martian at Jay Garrick's school for the "gifted."
In the 2013 comic Justice League 3000, the handlers of the new Justice League are named Teri and Terry, nicknamed The Wonder Twins and working for Cadmus.
Powers and abilities
The Wonder Twins powers are activated when they touch each other and speak the phrase, "Wonder Twin powers activate!" Physical contact is required. If the two are out of reach of each other, they are unable to activate their powers. As they are about to transform, they would each announce their intended form. "Shape of...", "Form of..."
Zan can transform into water at any state (solid, liquid, gas) and add to his mass by incorporating water in his immediate area. In the case of becoming solid ice, he can also become any form he chooses, from a 5,000 foot humanoid ice giant to a cage for a criminal to complex machinery (such as a jet engine, as he did in the episode "Eruption"). In the episode "Pressure Point," he changes into a gelatinous form. In the episode "Terror from the Phantom Zone," he was able to transform into liquid nitrogen. In addition, he can transform himself into atmospheric disturbances (usually very localized) involving water, such as a blizzard, a monsoon, waterspout or a typhoon, as he did in the episodes "The Water Beast," "The Beasts are Coming" and "Stowaways."
Jayna can transform into any animal, whether real, mythological, indigenous to Earth or to some other planet, like Beast Boy. Since she must vocalize her choice of form to assume, she must know the common name. As revealed in "The Mummy of Nazca," naming the wrong animal will cause her to assume the wrong animal's form. She has been known to take the form of anything from an ant to a whale.[episode needed]
In the Super Friends comic book, their powers were shown to be more extensive. By transforming into an animal of Kryptonian origin, for instance, Jayna could gain both the creature's natural abilities and the super-powers that all Kryptonians possess under Earth-like conditions; she was even capable of overpowering Superman in the form of a Kryptonian animal. Similarly, Zan was able to transform into anything tangentially related to water or ice, including a frost giant.[episode needed]
In addition to their powers of transformation, the two share a telepathic link, enabling one to alert the other over a distance when in dire circumstances, as revealed in the episode "The Village of Lost Souls."
The Wonder Twins have a pet Space Monkey called Gleek who had a useful prehensile tail and who could act as a conduit for the twins to activate their powers should they be out of reach. Gleek also served as a courier when the twins needed to travel: Jayna would typically transform into a large eagle, and Zan would transform into water, "jumping" into a bucket which Gleek would be holding while riding atop Jayna in her eagle form. (This led to the joke by some fans that Gleek's superpower was to make a bucket appear and disappear at will. See hammerspace.)
A rarely seen aspect of their powers is the ability to break mind control. On at least two occasions ("Pied Piper From Space" and "Circus of Horrors"), while the twins were under the influence of mind control, Gleek caused them to make contact and the activation of their powers freed them instantly from the mind control.