The Wonder Twins are a Brother-Sister Team (and their pet monkey, Gleek) of superheroes owned by DC Comics, best known for co-starring (alongside the Justice League) on the Superfriends television show (and its comic-book Spin-Off).
Created by artist Alex Toth, the Twins (Zan and Jayna) were a replacement for the show's earlier Audience Surrogates, Wendy, Marvin and Wonderdog. Unlike their predecessors, the Twins (and Gleek) have superpowers and so are more believably useful to the superheroes: Zan can change into any form of water, and Jayna can change into any animal, but they can activate their powers only by touching first. Gleek has an elastic and prehensile tail.
The trio also starred in some segments of the show by themselves, though usually in humorous adventures, or to teach children valuable lessons.
The Wonder Twins had their first comic book appearance in Super Friends #7 (October, 1977). The characters were further developed in the comic: it turns out they are mutants on top of being aliens. Because of this fact, after their parents' death (in a plague) they were adopted by the owner of a Space Circus, who only wanted them as part of their freak show. Fortunately, the circus' clown raised them well, and gave them Gleek. Eventually, however, they decided to escape and hid on a supposedly uninhabited planet... that turned out to contain the secret base of Grax, a (pretty obscure) Superman villain. They overheard him planning to blow up the Earth with hidden bombs. The Twins go to Earth and contact the League, who (with help from several international superheroes — not the same ones seen in the TV show) foiled the plan. Afterward, the trio were allowed to succeed Wendy, Marvin and Wonderdog on the team, as Wendy and Marvin were conveniently retiring to go back to school.
Zan and Jayna then live with Professor Carter Nichols, an old friend of Batman. They, too, attend high school, under their own secret identities (as Johan and Johanna Flemming, a pair of "foreign transfer students" from "Esko", an [actual] town in Sweden) and have adventures of their own.
The Twins eventually were phased out of the TV show (with no explanation) and when the comic was canceled, they pretty much disappeared. (Note that Super Friends was never canonical with the rest of DC Comics.) Eventually they were reintroduced (Post-Crisis) as a pair of alien slaves rescued by Captain Atom's version of the League. This version of the Twins first appeared in Extreme Justice #9 (October, 1995).
A pair of characters based on them (Downpour and Shifter) also appeared in an episode of Justice League Unlimited ("Ultimatum", and clones of them in "Panic in the Sky"). Another version of them also appeared on the the Smallville episode "Idol". They appeared in Teen Titans Go! as well, with them briefly joining the team. [adult swim] once created five shorts called The New Adventures of the Wonder Twins which was a more adult, Dark Comedy take on the twins.
The Wonder Twins provides examples of:
- Adaptation Expansion: The Twins' lives as Johan and Johanna were shown only in the comics.
- All the Other Reindeer: The Exorians didn't want to care for children with "mutant powers". Their hypocrisy is made obvious later in a story when they demand that the Twins save them from another duo of Exorian shapeshifters. This is also probably a Shout-Out to Marvel's X-Men.
- Amazing Technicolour Wildlife: Gleek is a blue monkey. Justified since he's an alien.
- And Knowing Is Half the Battle: Their occasional role on Super Friends.
- Animorphism: Jayna's superpower.
- Canon Immigrant: Though it wasn't until the Extreme Justice comics that they were officially part of The DCU.
- Chest Insignia: Stylized Z and J, respectively. Justified as they only added the letters to their Space Clothes after joining the Superfriends. One of the comics has them getting the insignias specifically because of their admiration of Superman's "S" symbol.
- Death by Origin Story: Their parents.
- Dumb Blonde: Subverted; as Johan and Johanna, they dyed their hair blond (using one of Carter's inventions) and acted very intelligently.
- Edutainment: The Wonder Twins segments.
- Elemental Shapeshifter: Zan's powers, with a generous side of Making a Splash and An Ice Person.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: Technically, Gleek is an alien who just happens to resemble a blue monkey.
- Fictionary: Interlac, the language spoken by the Twins before coming to Earth.
- Half-Identical Twins
- Invocation: Doubles as the Twins' Catch-Phrase. Each will say "Form of [X]!" before transforming.
- Law Enforcement, Inc.: The 2019 Wonder Twins comic series dealing with a privatized Prison owned by Lex Luthor. In the vein of commentary on at real-life issues relating to them, many inmates were incarcerated for minute crimes—even for those working for Lex Luthor's criminal organization aren't immune to their whims—and provided cheap labor in the form of a call center.
- Parental Substitute: First the clown, then Professor Nichols.
- Prehensile Tail: Gleek. Not all of the results were desired, though.
- Recycled In Space: The circus.
- Rubber Man: Gleek, but only in his tail.
- Sibling Team
- Super Zeroes: Like Aquaman, the twins have a reputation of being lame characters from the TV show; in the comic, they are far more effective. Even on Superfriends, they are fairly creative. Would you have thought of becoming a "steam-powered ice jet"?
- Suspiciously Similar Substitutes: Appearance and powers aside, they weren't much different from Wendy and Marvin.
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: Zan could turn into water, including ice and steam; Jayna could turn into animals, including mythological ones or alien ones.
- What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?:
- Zan. Jayna can turn into all sorts of creatures. Cool, right? Zan can turn into various forms of water. That's it. Though with him it depends on usage. In the show, he preferred a rather useless bucket of water. However, nothing's stopping him from using ice or water powers the way Hydro-Man does. If not shackled to the Idiot Ball, he could be the most powerful character in the show, bar Superman. (Incidentally, a lot of characters fitting into the lame power category are like this and are Rescued from the Scrappy Heap when the writers said "wait a minute, what could you really do with this power?")
- This was actually parodied in one of Cartoon Network's commercials, with Zan griping about his useless powers — he could be defeated by a sponge! "It wouldn't even have to be an evil sponge!"
- Lampshaded and defied in their Teen Titans Go! cameo. The Titans find Zan pretty much useless, but he does demonstrate some uses for his power — redirecting a rhino by becoming the ice under her feet, managing to briefly evade capture (until Beast Boy turns into a pelican), and finally demonstrating the Swiss-Army Superpower idea — to turn into an ice unicycle.
- Wonder Twin Powers: Trope Namer. Note that saying "Wonder Twin Powers, activate!" is not actually necessary, nor do they need to touch by the hands. In Smallville, though, Clark stops a second round of Let's You and Him Fight before it starts by putting his hand between theirs when they are going to touch and power up.