(W.A. Zard) (Golden Age material)
*This* Wizard is a DC Comics character who appeared in 1947.
He was one of the classic, recurrent enemies of the Justice Society of America during the Golden AgeSuper-hero comics from the late 1930s to the early 1950s..
Still, in practice he only appeared a few times – there just weren’t that many issues published.
A good part of his status therefore came from the revival of the JSA characters during the 1960s. Then from later revivals building upon this one.
The Wizard follows the “evil Mandrake” template. There were many such characters during the 1930s and 1940s, but only a few endured.
This entry only covers his Golden Age appearances, since :
- His abilities aren’t simple.
- DC’s Golden Age characters went through significant evolutions during their revivals. In part because the 1940s material was inaccessible to most readers.
- I just ended up writing 4,000 words about Golden Age Solomon Grundy (he’s not a simple character either) so I’m wary now.
- Real Name: W.I. Zard.
- Note: His name will later be given as W.A. Zard, short for William Asmodeus Zard. Perhaps to make it slightly less on the nose.
- Known Relatives: None at this point.
- Group Affiliation: Injustice Society of the World.
- Base of Operations: Unrevealed.
- Height: 6′ (1.82m). Weight: 182 lbs. (83 Kg.).
- Eyes: White. Hair: Black.
Powers & Abilities
A former junior mob gunman, Zard likely retains some skill with firearms and basic criminal operations.
He also knows how to recruit and lead thugs and gunmen, to act as footsoldiers in his crimes.
As a leader of the Injustice Society, he demonstrated excellent people skills. His motley crews of egotistic bad guys actually seemed happy and energised to work together.
But what he actually uses is his training in magic. His specialities are :
- Hypnosis to induce potentially lethal hallucinations. This is his main thing – creating deadly illusionary perils. That includes convincing illusionary environments and creatures.
- Hypnosis to lodge post-hypnotic instructions into other minds. But this has to be subtle and relatively minor. The Wizard isn’t really a mind controller, it’s more about influence and misdirection.
- Astral projection. That’s detaching his spirit from his body and roaming around as a sort of ghost.
- Allegedly “black magic”, in the form of lethal attack spells. But one suspects that it’s a lie to make his illusions deadlier, by making people more likely to believe that they can kill.
Just an illusion, ah ahaaa
In some ways the Wizard’s abilities may seem like a rethread of the Brain Wave’s psionicPsionics are sci-fi style psychic powers. illusions. But the Brain Wave was creating illusionary agents and sending them out there, whereas the Wizard immerses his victims into illusionary settings.
The Wizard’s theatrics and patter project the impression that he’s manipulating reality. He makes it look like he can casually warp space, create or delete all sorts of creatures and phenomena, etc..
He goes for disorientation, as people no longer can rely on any of their perceptions. They are reduced to reacting on sheer instinct against seemingly godlike unreality.
Part of the big “I AM CASUALLY DOING POWERFUL MAGIC !” show is so his foes won’t attempt to “roll to disbelieve”. Because he’s constantly, flashily providing them with an explanation of sorts – he’s a mighty wizard.
Applied hallucinations 101
Typical applications include :
- Appearing and disappearing, with or without SFX.
- Casting his voice, so it comes from nowhere or from an illusion.
- Creating fake buildings, forests, raging flames, snow drifts, etc. that might disguise actually existing structures.
- Subjecting persons to illusionary harsh environments, such as Arctic cold or the aforementioned raging flames. This can kill.
- Restraining his opponents by animating nearby objects, including his cane, so they wrap around and tie up the person. Or conjuring up fantastic cages.
- Projecting the impression that certain objects or persons have become tiny or gigantic.
- Seemingly turning into a crow and back into a human.
- Illusionary traps, and illusionary terrible monsters.
In many cases, the effects that are taking place cannot solely be a hallucination. For instance, when the Wizard appeared to make Green Lantern Alan Scott shrink, Alan’s ring slipped off his finger as it was now far too big for him.
So it can’t be just an illusion that the world around GL has gotten larger. And it can’t be an illusion that the ring has fallen off either – somebody else then accidentally brushed against the ring and sent it rolling across a tabletop.
(However our contributor Butch suggests that, the ring being will-powered, it could have fallen off because Alan thought he was becoming too small for it. That’s an intriguing possibility).
One weird trick that the wizards don’t want you to know !
One trick he used was to mentally influence the JSA into thinking that they had gone to their headquarters. But they had actually boarded a boat owned by the Wizard.
Zard could therefore project an illusion within the boat that it was the JSA HQ. But attempting to interact with some objects turned those into objects that were actually on the boat.
Leading to even worse confusion as to what was real, and what wasn’t.
During his two 1940s Injustice Society appearances, the Wizard isn’t seen using *any* magical power. Zip. Nada. Que dalle. لا شيء. He can’t even defend himself against a pack of Junior Justice Society children.
One therefore suspects that he had lost his powers for a time. Which might explain why he formed super-teams instead of carrying on solo.
In Mayfair’s World at War TTRPG sourcebook, Doctor Occult notes that “magic is rarely kind to men such as Zard”. So perhaps the Wizard experienced a “Price of Magic” complication after his first appearance.
(Our contributor Darci suggests this Price might be a consequence of Zard murdering the man who taught him magic, as explained in the History section).
What the tech ?
In All-Star Comics #41, the Wizard :
- Is stated to have invented the Mind-Eraser, a brainwashing machine.
- Takes out Harlequin (Molly Maynne) and Black Canary (Dinah Drake) using a railroad handcar, whose handle has been discreetly electrified.
So at this point it looks like the Wizard has been weirdly retconnedMaking changes to a character or story after the fact. into a technologist.
Our two complimentary suggestions :
- The Wizard lost his magic powers for a while. He procured some super-tech, presumably built by the technologists of the first Injustice Society (such as Brain Wave or the Thinker). Out of ego and in order not to appear powerless, he then stated that those were his inventions.
- It wasn’t actually the Wizard leading the first two Injustice Societies. Somebody was impersonating him. A time-travelling Abra Kadabra, perhaps. Or heh, perhaps Mister Mind went from Earth-S to Earth-2 back then, and nobody ever realised it.
Some appropriate 1940s hit music for chronological atmosphere, lets see…
“Near you” by Francis Craig should work, I think. It was *huge* back then.
History (part 1)
As a young man, W.I. Zard was a reckless mob gunman.
This likely was during the 1920s, when organised crime was on a roll and much of the public had a romanticised image of it.
But Zard was arrested. While in prison, he realised that he had been a fool. Crime really was a big business like any other, and what he needed was new angles and innovative methods to beat the competition.
(This “crime is now a genuine industry !” view was one popular with more conservative, wealthier civic action groups during the Roaring Twenties. However, it’s but a detail in the Wizard’s origin sequence. So there may not be a usable drawn-from-history story hook there.)
Once released from prison, Zard left for “magic Tibet” and joined “an obscure lamasery” to learn the mystical arts. Obviously, the monks there spoke English.
(The main book I can think of about “magic Tibet” is Lost Horizon, by James Hilton, in 1933. This very popular story introduced the “Shangri-La” thing. I *presume* — I’m not an historian — that it’s the chief progenitor of the “magic Tibet” theme that kept popping up in pop fiction for decades.)
(“Magic Tibet” was backported into The Shadow’s mythos, into the Mandrake mythos, it resurfaced in the 1960s with the likes of Doctor Strange or Peter Cannon… Thunderbolt!. And you can *still* find it during the mid-1970s with Iron Fist, since “Kunlun” is the name of the mountains where Shangri-La supposedly laid.)
Once he had learned enough hypnosis and magic, Zard murdered his instructor. He then returned to the United States, confident that he now had the means to dominate the underworld.
Mr. Zard soon became a millionaire. He promptly established a false front as a famous philanthropistA person making big donations to good causes., using part of his lucreMoney, especially when regarded as sordid or distasteful or gained in a dishonourable way. to be hailed as a benefactor by the press and public.
In 1947, he offered a million dollars ($12M in 2021 USD) to the JSA for their good deeds. Zard was convinced that they actually were a huge con, building up credibility before an epic rug pullWhen con artists suddenly disappear along with the money.. And he wanted to buy his way in.
This led to a clash with the untouchable Justice Society. As was the style of the day, the Wizard challenged each Society member to foil a daring crime. They succeeded, and narrowly managed to defeat the Wizard during a subsequent confrontation.
The criminal plots during this story were :
- Two thugs distributing balloons at a wealthy society party, then discreetly popping them open by spitting BB pellets at them. The balloons were full of sleep gas, and the thugs could now steal all the jewels !
- Having four men simultaneously cash out a trusted $50K bank account, robbing the bank of $150K.
- Paying workers to sabotage an engineering prototype. This knocked the researchers out, allowing thugs to get in and steal this lab’s most recent, invaluable invention. Amusingly, one of the researchers knocked out in the lab “accident” is Dr. Richards, and you can’t prove that his colleague wasn’t named Dr. von Doom.
- Taking control of a drawbridge, and using it as a perfect ambush site for trucks carrying valuable furs.
- Stealing a new electric switch model from an inventor, who also was a big model trains enthusiast.
So if you need 1940s comics super-crimes, help yourself to those.
The Injustice Society of the World
The Wizard then came up with an even more innovative, ambitious method. He offered an alliance to several other major enemies of JSA members.
Between them, they would have enough power not only to defeat the Justice Society of America, but to take over the United States of America !
The members were :
- The Brain Wave (Henry King, Sr.).
- The Gambler (Stephen Sharpe III).
- Per Degaton.
- The Thinker (Clifford DeVoe).
- Vandal Savage.
This assembly was called the Injustice Society of the World (ISW). It styled itself as an anti-JSA, down to their emblem being a defaced JSA one.
The ISW deployed fantastic resources :
- Impersonators replacing key officials and public figures. While these looked just like the actual person, they were mostly empty mannequins with some straw inside. Plus small radio equipment to receive their orders.
- An arsenal of super-weapons and a fleet of super-vehicles built by combining their technological talents, especially Brain Wave’s. Plus lots of more ordinary resources such as trucks, small arms, grenades, parachutes, etc..
- Thousands of criminals serving as paramilitaries. The ISW took over entire prisons, with most convicts joining their army. Many of those men had military training and experience.
- Furthermore, numerous gangs and mobs chose to throw in their lot with the ISW, functioning as a fifth column of sorts.
The ISW’s total manpower is unclear. At that point the US military headcount was about 1.5 million men, but :
- A good part of those were deployed abroad as occupation forces.
- Entire units of the National Guard were ordered to surrender, as their commanding officer had been replaced by an ISW impersonator/automaton.
Society vs. Society
The Injustice Society of the World was victorious. They invaded Washington, DC — and apparently captured all Justice Society members. The ISW set up a mock trial to condemn JSA members for their attacks against crime and evil.
During the battles, Green Lantern Alan Scott had seemingly been killed by the Brain Wave. But he survived, and disguised himself as the Thinker. He dropped his disguise in the “courtroom”, and the other Society members attacked before their foes could react.
The Wizard ran, and rallied a small army of criminals in bulletproof cars. But they crashed into an energy wall created by Green Lantern. The Wizard tried to flee – but was arrested by Junior Justice Society kids.
However, Zard escaped in short order. Perhaps he still had a little bit of magic in reserve ?
The Wizard assembled a new, but less grandiose version of the Injustice Society of the World. Its members were :
- The Fiddler (Isaac Bowin).
- The Harlequin (Molly Mayne).
- The Huntress (Paula Brooks).
- The Icicle (Joar Mahkent).
- Sportsmaster (Crusher Crock).
A surprise assault by the Sportsmaster knocked out all Justice Society members – plus Harlequin, who betrayed the ISW to warn the JSA. The JSA members were then turned into empty-minded slaves using the Mind Eraser.
The Harlequin narrowly escaped, and was found by JSA ally the Black Canary (Dinah Drake). The Icicle soon captured them both, but that did not prevent the two women from breaking the hypnotic conditioning of the Justice Society members.
By this point, the Injustice Society members left to commit spectacular crimes against patriotic symbols of the USA :
- Sportsmaster and the Wizard stole the USS Constitution , aka “Old Ironsides”.
- The Fiddler stole the Freedom Bell .
- The Huntress stole the Plymouth Rock .
- The Icicle stole the Washington Monument .
The Injustice gang then stole an entire stadium in Gotham, public and all. This captive audience was forced to vote for which of the “patriotic crimes” was the most spectacular.
However, the Justice Society defeated their opposite numbers before the vote could take place. Spoilsports !
The Wizard seems to be wearing a slim black mask, presumably spirit-gummed on, that only covers the orbital regions and his eyebrows. This might be what makes his eyes appear white and featureless.
However, when we see him in flashback, unmasked, his eyes are already white.
*But*, since this flashback takes place before he learns magic, that might be artistic licence.
The rest is the stage magician uniform — and stock facial hair, albeit more evil — of the early XXth Century USA.
The shoes have a twirly bit at the tip. This is presumably meant to evoke the “Mysterious Orient” by resembling some traditional slippers worn in the Middle East, Central Asia and beyond.
The Wizard is the kind of bloke who considers that everybody and everything is corrupt, selfish and dishonest. And that, therefore, everything he does that is corrupt, selfish and dishonest is 100% justified. Because the world is *such* a terrible place and you need to be just as tough, son.
Therefore, the first story hinged on Zard framing the JSA’s nobility as *having* to be a con. Nobody in their right mind would act so altruistically — say, refusing a million-dollar gift — so there had to be some deception involved.
Unsurprisingly, it’s also important for him to always make it look like he’s in control.
The Wizard talks a lot, always styling himself as a sophisticated, suave yet affable and classy master of magical mysteries.
The latter was also true when leading the ISW. Given the egos involved, the Wizard was putting much effort in being smooth and making everyone feel they were equal partners.
DC Heroes RPG
Tell me more about the game stats
The Wizard (W. Zard)
|Dex: 03||Str: 02||Bod: 03|
|Int: 07||Wil: 08||Min: 05|
|Inf: 09||Aur: 09||Spi: 08|
|Init: 019||HP: 040|
Diminution: 12, Hypnotism: 12, Illusion: 13, Invisibility: 04, Shrinking: 12, Snare: 12, Spirit travel: 07, Super-ventriloquism: 03
Bonuses and Limitations:
- All Powers but Hypnotism and Spirit Travel are Contingent Upon Illusion.
- All Powers can be their own AV if desired.
- Hypnotism can only implant one suggestion per person at a time, which can’t go against their motivations or beliefs.
- Hypnotic suggestions are limited to harmless actions, and to making people think they are actually conducting a very similar action. Say, to think that they are going to Place A while what they are actually going to Place B, which is about equidistant.
- When “rolling to disbelieve” against Illusion, Characters with sensory disabilities (blindness, deafness…) will receive between -1 and -3CS to the OV/RV. Because the Wizard’s illusions will attempt to force sensory input these Characters know they can’t perceive.
- One suspects the same might be true for Characters with additional senses, as the Illusions won’t provide that kind of sensory data. But it’s a hypothetical.
- Illusion cannot emulate a Physical EV above 10.
Occultist: 04, Thief (Stealth): 03, Weaponry (Firearms): 03
As usual, I reused every bit of Mayfair stats that reasonably matched the 1940s material. Keeping in mind that the Mayfair stats are for post-Crisis, retold material from All-Star Squadron and the like – not the Golden Age stuff.
This is particularly true for Zard’s Mystical Attributes. For most Characters we can assess those from their social interactions. But for magicians it’s more complicated, since those Attributes are dual-use – social and magical.
So it’s best to check the existing Mayfair scores to keep a coherent scale among magic people.
(In Zard’s case he also seems to have great social Attributes, so it all works out.)
Occultist isn’t really demonstrated, but leaving him with zero APs of it felt weird. Also, my sense is that he contributed to building the impostor automatons used by the ISW, as a meld of tech and magical enchantment.
The EV cap for Illusion is based on exactly one scene where Hawkman manages to survive extreme cold from an illusion of having been teleported to a mountaintop. So it’s tentative, but given the paucity of material…
raeppa seton ngised
This writeup uses Powers such as Invisibility and Snare for the Wizard. Shouldn’t these be covered by the Illusion Power ? Hard to say.
Prolly not for Snare since the wording for the Power is about *damaging* effects. Quite possibly for Invisibility, since projecting the illusion of an empty space onto yourself seems reasonable.
To lift such ambiguities, our usual heuristic is to avoid having Powers that duplicate the effects of another Power, unless it’s clearly stated in the rulebook. So we list the possibly redundant Powers, such as Invisibility, because we ain’t there to deal in ambiguity.
So I guess we have a more effect-based and less entity-based approach of DCH here, which… which is a subject that interests nobody.
More generally, the rulebook can only cover so much – it’s a physical object, with a page count. Look at, say, our proposed rules to handle a common Air Control application. If the rulebook were to do that for every Power, it would be Mahābhārata-sized.
Source of Character: 1940s All-Star Comics.
Helper(s): Darci, Butch Rosenbalm.
Writeup completed on the 18th of August, 2022.