Get ready to hear a lot of “Wonder Twins powers, activate!” now that DC has finally greenlit a feature film on two of the corniest superheroes in its canon. With the recent news that Riverdale’s KJ Apa and Young Sheldon’s Isabel May have been cast as the titular duo, a Wonder Twins film is all set to make its way to HBO Max. But who exactly are the Wonder Twins?
A Brief History
Those who didn’t grow up watching the Super Friends animated series may be unaware that the duo are one of the rare DC characters that brought themselves over from animation to comics and not vice versa, joining the ranks of characters such as Harley Quinn and Renee Montoya. The Wonder Twins were prominently featured in the first season of the Hanna-Barbera produced series called The All- New Super Friends Hour but were supporting characters in proceeding seasons and iterations of the Super Friends seasons. This was followed by their appearance in tie-in Super Friends comics, which added much needed background to their story.
But it wasn’t until 1995 that the duo crossed over to the main DC comics universe, appearing in Extreme Justice Issue 9, with a significantly revamped origin story. Since then, they’ve appeared everywhere from the Smallville series to the Teen Titans Go! Cartoons.
Zan & Jayna
The basic idea of the Wonder Twins is that they are brother and sister (Zan and Jayna) from a planet called Exxor, that have been blessed with rather…unusual powers to put it politely. While both of them are shapeshifters, their skillset is fairly limited, Zan can turn into any form or shape water can take. Meaning he can transform himself into a tsunami or ice cubes if he likes. His sister Jayna on the other hand can shapeshift into any animal, Earthling or alien, as long as she knows their name. Their powers can only be used if they fist bump each other and recite “Wonder Twins powers, activate”, a chant that may have sounded cool in the 70s but is decidedly less so now. As you can imagine Zan’s skillset isn’t all that compelling and Jayna’s powers aren’t rare in the DC universe with characters like the far more popular Beast Boy or even Martian Manhunter. The Wonder Twins have thus been the butt of the joke for all those who remember them. To be fair though, The Wonder Twins were set up from the moment they first appeared, with the series that introduced them to the world, not exactly making the best case for them. Seriously, the show’s great idea for a sidekick for them was a blue monkey called Gleek…
In the late ’70s-early ’80s toon, the two would be thinking of the silliest ways to save the day. Furthermore, Zan’s powers were so useless that he was becoming all sorts of physical objects that were made of ice, from whatever an “ice ladder” is, to “ice clippers”. It became pretty clear that these two characters weren’t exactly going to be able to hold their own against the likes of Superman and Wonder Woman. It’s thus no surprise that the two were eventually phased out in favor of established DC characters like Firestorm and Cyborg. You know, people with actual use.
But that’s what makes HBO Max’s decision to green light a Wonder Twins film so odd. Perhaps Scoob and Black Adam writer Adam Szrtkiel has finally found a way to make the twins level up from the C-grade heroes they are to something more promising. Or perhaps DC is willing to go full comedy to showcase the silliest corner of the DC world on HBO Max, a gamble that could be fruitful in the age where memeing and social media analysis of content leads to greater traction and vitality.
Despite how meme-able the duo have become, their backstory is fairly tragic. After their parents were killed by a plague in their home planet of Exxor, the two become pariahs on their planet due to their mystical abilities. This led to them being put in a Space Circus against their will at a very early age and treated like freaks. This also explains their outlandish costumes and hairstyles. While at the circus, their only bond was with a clown who treated them like his own children and gifts them with their alien monkey, Gleek. As teenagers the siblings escape the circus and travel to After their arrival on Earth, they become heroes in training while studying at Gotham High School.
In their comic book roots, the duo have been sent to Earth on the instructions of their father who is a friend of Superman’s. Similarly, the recent Wonder Twins limited series comic sees them studying at Morris High, under the guardianship of Superman, while they keep their powers a secret, and intern in the Hall of Justice. It’s possible that the film will seek inspiration from this popular run and focus on the teenage superheroes as they balance high school life with superhero shenanigans. This may also explain the casting of KJ Apa, who currently is playing a highschooler with superpowers in the current season of Riverdale, and will likely bring a lot to the table, especially since his highschool student performance in Riverdale makes him well versed on “triumphs and defeats, the epic highs and lows of high school football” among other essential teen things.
DC is likely to make some adjustments as it brings these two colorful creatures to live action for the first time, and it’s possible that their Spock-lite, 70s disco inspired look may also change in the process.With a Batgirl movie and a Constantine series on the way for HBO Max, Zan and Jayna may just be two in a long line of unlikely heroes to wind up on the streamer. One does hope that whenever we do get to see them, WB doesn’t take itself too seriously to not let the audience poke fun at the zaniness of these teen heroes.
‘Wonder Twins’ Movie Activates on HBO Max From ‘Black Adam’ Writer
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