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Wonder Twins: 5 Things To Know About The DC Characters Ahead Of Their Movie

Wonder Twins DC Comics artwork
(Image credit: DC Comics)

In addition to the latest Batman movie release and the next Wonder Woman sequel in development, comic book fans are especially excited for the many upcoming DC movies made specifically for HBO Max that are putting the spotlight on some of their lesser-known favorite superheroes. For instance, the news that Jaime Reyes’ iteration of the Blue Beetle is getting his own feature-length adventure and an upcoming series starring a Kryptonian named Val-Zod were wonderful surprises. However, I think it is fair to say that we least expected to see the Wonder Twins get the same sort of treatment.

If you had never heard of the powerful, fraternal twin siblings before the HBO Max exclusive Wonder Twins movie was announced, I am sure you are not alone as their history up to this point - while nothing short by any means - is a bit unconventional when compared to other comic book characters come to prominence. For one thing, they did not even start as comic book characters in the first place. I will explain how that happened in our breakdown of all the most essential things to know about these characters - but, first, let’s start with the basics.

The Wonder Twins in space

(Image credit: DC Comics)

The Wonder Twins Are Alien Siblings From The Planet Exxor

Created by Norman Maurer, William Hanna, and Joseph Barbera, the Wonder Twins are a pair of siblings who fight evil as super-powered vigilantes. Unlike some DC characters who eventually come to acquire their extraordinary abilities (such as Hal Jordan with his Green Lantern ring or when a lightning strike turned Barry Allen into the super-fast Flash) the Twins’ origin is slightly more similar to Clark “Superman” Kent, otherwise known as Kal-El - the “Last Son of Krypton.” Zan (the male sibling of the pair) and Jayna (his younger sister) are really extraterrestrials from the planet Exxor. 

In one interpretation of their origin, years after a plague leaves them orphaned as infants, they travel to Earth to warn the Justice League about an alien named Grax who plans to destroy the planet. In another version, the twins are sent to live on planet Earth, for reasons that are never made particularly clear, by their father - who, as it turns out, was actually a friend of Superman. Either way, both of these backstories result in the Wonder Twins joining a team made up of the greatest superheroes in the DC Universe.

The Wonder Twins on Super Friends

(Image credit: DC)

The Wonder Twins Were Originally Created For The Super Friends TV Show

I mentioned earlier that the Wonder Twins were the brainchildren of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera (the legendary producers of such classic animated series as The Flintstones and Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?) along with Norman Maurer (who was a writer for Super Friends - which was, essentially, the precursor of the Justice League animated series from the late 1970s to mid-‘80s). Indeed, Zan (voiced by Michael Bell) and Jayna (voiced by Louis Williams until 1983 and replaced by B.J. Ward) were developed in 1977, filling in for the non-superpowered Wendy Harris, Marvin White, and Wonder Dog.

The Twins would, however, make their comic book debut in the seventh issue of an illustrated Super Friends tie-in series written by E. Nelson Bridwell and Ramona Fradon. They would not actually become canon to the official DC Comics Universe until 1995 when they appeared in Extreme Justice - a monthly Justice League spin-off series following the adventures of heroes like Booster Gold or Blue Beetle - and began to appear in other stories infrequently after that title was cancelled. In 2019, the siblings became the focus of their own six-issue miniseries written by Mark Russell and illustrated by Stephen Byrne that became critically and commercially successful enough to be extended to 12 chapters.

Wonder Twins shapeshifting

(Image credit: DC Comics)

The Wonder Twins Have Special Shapeshifting Abilities 

Other than their flashy, purple and gold costumes and extraterrestrial physiology, just what is it that makes the Wonder Twins such a wonder? The siblings are part of an ancient race of Exxorian shapeshifters whose powers can only be unlocked when they give each a friendly fist bump and say aloud, and in unison, “Wonder Twin powers, activate!” Once they are activated, Jayna can transform into any animal of her choice (whether it exists on Earth, another planet, or even from mythological legend) and Zan can morph into any state of water - be it a liquid, solid, or gas.

The Wonder Twins also share a telepathic link that is not as prominently featured on the Super Friends show or in the comics considering the fact they rarely are apart anyway. There have also been a few different instances when, in their combined efforts, they were able to break free of mind control. Of course, those victories were achieved with a little help from the third member of their little alliance.

Wonder Twins' pet monkey Gleek from DC Comics

(Image credit: DC Comics)

The Wonder Twins Have A Pet Monkey Named Gleek

After the deaths of their parents, Zan and Jayna were sent to a different planet where they were employed at a circus as sideshow attractions. The owner of the circus also gave them a pet monkey named Gleek, who would become a most trustworthy and reliable ally in their crime fighting efforts.

Also of Exxorian origin, Gleek is no ordinary monkey - bearing blue fur and an intelligence more advance than any Earthbound primate. He also has the ability to make his tail extend to any desired length and has the strength of several average monkeys combined. Usually, when a superhero has a furry companion, it is played for laughs, but Gleek eviscerates that mentality, making us hope that he appears in the HBO movie.

David Gallagher and Allison Scagliotti on Smallville

(Image credit: The CW)

The Wonder Twins Have Since Appeared In Other DC Movies And TV Shows 

When said feature length adventure does finally hit the streaming platform, it will not actually be the first time the Wonder Twins have been portrayed in live-action. Former 7th Heaven cast member David Gallagher and Allison Scagliotti of Drake & Josh and Warehouse 13 fame played Zan and Jayna, respectively, on a Season 9 episode of Smalliville. However, they are not described as aliens, but still otherwordly and of Swedish descent, and the only reference to Gleek is his image on the back of their cellphones.

The Wonder Twins have also made appearances in a few animated titles since Super Friends, such as on a Teen Titans Go! episode when Zan (Khary Payton) and Jayna (Tara Strong) audition to be Beast Boy’s replacement and in 2017’s The LEGO Batman Movie when they are briefly spotted at a Justice League anniversary celebration. A new interpretation of the siblings named Downpour and Shifter (both voiced by Grey DeLisle), whose respective shapeshifting abilities reflect that of the original twins, were once featured on an episode of Justice League Unlimited.

Well, hopefully Zan and Jayna are not reimagined too dramatically for their upcoming moment in the spotlight. However, I am curious what ways the Wonder Twins movie aims to reinvent the beloved, underrated characters for a new audience and in a live-action setting.

Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.