X – Z

X-Files, The

Created by executive producer Chris Carter and premiering September 10, 1993, the influential television series ran for nine seasons and earned 16 Emmy Awards, five Golden Globes and a Peabody Award along the way.  The show followed FBI special agents Dana Scully and Fox Mulder as they investigated unexplained cases, called “X-Files,” for which the explanations typically involved paranormal phenomena.  Duchovny and Anderson will reunite on the air in January 2016 for a limited-run updated X-Files series, which remains one of the longest-running sci-fi series in network television history.  The fan-favorite series spawned a big-screen movie, X-Files: I Want To Believe, in 2008, and six new television episodes in January and February 2016.

 

X-Men, The

Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby for Marvel Comics in September 1963, the characters first appeared in The X-Men #1 (September 1963)., the X-Men are a band of mutants, dedicated to protecting their fellow mutants, as well as the humans who sometimes fear or hate them.

 

X-ray

  1. Any of the electromagnetic radiations that have shorter wavelengths than visible light (of less than 100 angstroms) and the capability to penetrate various thicknesses of solids, produce secondary radiations by impinging on material bodies, and to act on photographic films and plates as light does.
  2. An image produced by X-ray beams after passing through a human body, which shows various internal components of the body, particularly the bones.

 

Xanadu

Mentioned in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s immortal poem Kublai Khan, Xanadu was the name of the Mongol leader’s palace.

 

Xanadu, Madame

Madame Xanadu’s full name was once Nimue Inwudu.  Youngest sister of famed Camelot figures Morgana (also known as Morgan Le Fay) and Vivienne (also known as the Lady of the Lake), the sisters were descendants of the Elder Folk, survivors of Atlantis who evolved into the race known as homo magi.  She is the same Nimue who cast an imprisoning spell on her former lover Merlin, blaming him for manipulating Camelot and the course of history for his own gain.  The mysterious Phantom Stranger influences her betrayal of Merlin and the two continue to meet throughout the centuries, sharing an complicated relationship.  Nimue wanders around the world for some time, becoming an advisor to many great rulers.  She spends time in Kublai Khan’s court at Xanadu, later borrowing its name for her alias.  Again she meets the Phantom Stranger.  It does not go as expected, for she learns the Stranger walks outside of the timestream.  During the French Revolution, she attempts to advise Marie Antoinette.  During this era, she is able to regain her immortality by besting Death in a card game.  Madame Xanadu’s rapid aging intensified, and as a last effort to hold on, she looks into the future and saw that her team survives but her. After the ensuing war, the whole team survives and manages to come back to their own dimension.  Upon returning, Madame Xanadu regains back her youth.

Madame Xanadu was created by David Michelinie, Val Mayerik and Michael William Kaluta.  She debuted in Doorway to Nightmare #1, released by DC Comics on February 1, 1978.  She has a supernatural sensitivity to occult activities and mystic phenomena.  She uses tarot cards to interpret what she senses, and is also able to tell the future of others.  She can levitate objects as well as herself.  Through her own mystical prowess, she can teleport herself and others.  Thanks to her deal with Death, Madame Xanadu is an immortal, never aging and unable to be killed in any manner.

 

Xbox

The notion that Microsoft should develop its own gaming console began gaining traction in 1998, after Kevin Bachus, Seamus Blackley, Otto Berkes and Ted Hase successfully pitched the idea to Bill Gates.  Originally dubbed the “DirectX Box,” the console was intended to be the first game system built like a personal computer (PC), to bring all of the flexibility and power of a gaming rig to the console market.  The system was to run on Windows 2000, to make it easy for traditional PC software developers to work within the console’s architecture, and feature more than twice the processing power of the industry-leading PlayStation 2.  Two years later, Bill Gates went public with Microsoft’s console at the Game Developers Conference in March 2000.  At the Electronic Entertainment Expo a few months later, the Xbox developer first connected with Bungie Studios, creators of a third-person shooter titled Halo: Combat Evolved.  Microsoft’s $30 million purchase of Bungie a short time later made headlines in the game industry, but it was Bungie’s decision to adapt Halo in order to make the best use of the new console’s abilities (and turn it into a first-person shooter) that helped make history.  Gates revealed the final Xbox design at the 2001 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, along with the system’s official release date.  On November 14, 2001, the Times Square branch of Toys ‘R’ Us played host to the official launch of the Xbox, and within three weeks, partially due to the popularity of its flagship game Halo, over 1 million Xbox consoles were sold.  Despite high production costs, Microsoft slashed the price of the Xbox from $299 to $199 on April 18, 2002.  While the dramatic reduction in price made it nearly impossible for the company to earn any profit whatsoever from sales of the system, the move succeeded in encouraging more households to bring home an Xbox.

 

Xenon

A colorless noble gas discovered in 1898 by Sir William Ramsay, the element was named after the Greek word for “stranger.”  It is obtained from liquid air, and can be utilized in lamps and bubble chambers.  Its atomic number on the Periodic Table of Elements is 54, and its symbol is Xe.

 

Xerxes

Xerxes I (pronounced “ZERK-seez”), also known as Xerxes the Great, lived from 519-465 BC.  He was the grandson of Cyrus and the son of Darius I.  Though he was not the first-born son of Darius, he was the first son of Darius’ wife Atossa, daughter of Cyrus, which made Xerxes the only son of royal blood, and therefore first in line for the throne.  (Another explanation is that Xerxes was the first son born to Darius after he ascended to the throne, and therefore the first royal son.)  Xerxes became king of the Persian Empire in 486 BC, following his father’s death from illness.  During his reign, Xerxes suppressed a revolt in Egypt, fought against the Greeks in the Persian Wars (winning a victory at Thermopylae, but suffering defeat at Salamis), built a bridge across the Hellespont, and dug a canal across the Mt. Athos peninsula.  Xerxes was stabbed to death, probably by his subordinate Artabanus, in 465 BC, and was succeeded by his son Artaxerxes I.  In the popular 2006 film 300 and the 2014 follow-up, 300: Rise of an Empire, Xerxes was portrayed by Rodrigo Santoro.

 

Xindi

A group of related species, all of whom originated from the same homeworld, Xindus, located in the Delphic Expanse of the Star Trek universe.  In 2153, the Xindi attacked Earth with a deadly probe, cutting a swath from Florida to Venezuela and killing 7 million.  The small-scale test was to be followed by a larger weapon to destroy the planet entirely, in an attempt to pre-empt what the Xindi are told (through misinformation) would be an Earth attack on their own planet in 400 years.  That “news,” however, was a lie by the Guardians to further their position in the war, and is finally realized by a majority of the Xindi in time to barely avoid the attack.  In the mid-22nd Century, the Xindi Council was formed to reunify the surviving races, but their attention was diverted from a peaceful agenda to an aggressive one in order to address the alleged “human threat.”  Despite their varied forms and typical mistrust, they all share a common physicality: a short vent-like opening in the “cheek.”  The species was the focus of the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “The Xindi.”

 

Xipe Totec

Xipe Totec (pronounced SHEE-pah TOE-tek)  or “Flayed One” in Nahuatl, was a major god for the Toltecs and Aztecs. He was considered the god of spring, the patron god of seeds and planting, and the patron of metal workers (especially goldsmiths) and gemstone workers.  Possible origins include the Olmec culture and the Yope civilization.  The first representations of the god in art, however, appear in the Mazapan culture at Texcoco. The god was a major Aztec deity, also worshipped by the Tlaxcaltecans, Zapotecs, Mixtecs, Tarascan and Huastecs.

 

Y: The Last Man

Created by Brian K. Vaughan, this graphic novel saga follows Yorick Brown, the only human survivor of a planetwide plague that targeted every male mammal.  With his pet monkey at his side, Yorick searches for his lost love and the answer to why he has become the last man on earth.

 

Yaff

In the furry fetish community, the term is the equivalent of “sexting.”

 

Yandere

A descriptive word for a fictional character (typically in anime) who fits the archetype of being genuinely romantic, loving, kind, sweet and gentle, but is at the same time violent, psychotic or deranged in behavior.  The psychotic tendency can be sudden or ever-present, and is often displayed as part of an obsession with the object of their affection.  Often used for both comedic and dramatic displays of character.

 

Yangs

One faction in an ongoing struggle on the planet Omega IV in the original Star Trek series episode “The Omega Glory.”   First seen as “barbarian raiders,” the Yangs, led by Cloud William, turn out not only to be articulate, but to have knowledge and respect for American allegiance, including an aged American flag and a copy of the U.S. Constitution.

 

Yazz, The

An alien race of blue winged beings from DC Comics.  The Yazz have made appearances in Justice League of America, Hawkman, Guy Gardner: Warrior and JLA Secret Files and Origins.

 

Yelchin, Anton

The young television and film actor, familiar to Star Trek fans as Ensign Pavel Chekov in the rebooted 2009-2016 film trilogy, was born March 11, 1989 in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), Russia.  Emigrating as an infant with his figure skating parents, Yelchin took up acting, debuting on television at the age of 10 in a 2000 episode of ER.  The following year, Yelchin appeared in Hearts in Atlantis with Anthony Hopkins, for which he won a 2002 Young Artist Award for Best Performance in a Feature Film as Leading Young Actor.  Career highlights included House of D with David Duchovny and Robin Williams (2004), Charlie Bartlett with Robert Downey Jr. (2007), Star Trek and Terminator: Salvation (both 2009), and the remake of the classic ‘80s horror Fright Night (2011).  Fluent in his native Russian (which went far to secure him the Trek role of Russian character Chekov), Yelchin was also accomplished at piano and guitar, and was an avid chess player.  Tragically, only months before the debut of Star Trek Beyond, Yelchin was killed accidentally at home on June 19, 2016.

 

Yerf

A happy greeting between members of the furry fetish society.

 

Yggdrasil

In the middle of Asgard, home of the Norse gods, is Yggdrasil, the tree of life.  It is an eternal green ash, the branches of which stretch out over all of the nine worlds, and extend up and above the heavens. Yggdrasil is supported by three enormous roots. The first root is in Asgard, near Urd’s well, where the gods held daily meetings.  The second root goes down to Jotunheim, the land of the giants, and this root is set near Mimir’s well.  The third root from Yggdrasil goes down to Niflheim, close to the well Hvergelmir, and here, the dragon Nidhug gnaws on one of Yggdrasil’s roots.  The Nine Worlds are held in the branches and roots of the tree.

Four deer (Dain, Dvalin, Duneyr, and Dyrathror) nibble the highest shoots, and at the very top of Yggdrasil lives an eagle.  The eagle and the dragon Nidhug are bitter enemies, and a squirrel named Ratatosk runs up and down the tree, doing whatever he can to keep the hatred between the eagle and Nidhug alive.

There are three goddesses of fate called Norns who lives at the Urd well.  Their names are Urd (“past”), Verdani (“present”) and Skuld (“future”).  They spend most of their time spinning the threads of life, deciding the fate of every human, animal and every god.

Yggdrasil is a means of transportation between the nine worlds, and is seen as a representation of Time and Destiny.  Here, Time is cyclical rather than linear.  The present returns to the past, where it retroactively changes the past.  This provides a framework within which we can understand the Germanic view of destiny. In contrast to the Greek concept of fate, however, all beings who are subject to destiny have some degree of agency in shaping their own destiny and the destinies of others.  This is the dew that falls back into the well from the branches of the tree, accordingly reshaping the past and its influence upon the present.

 

Ygor

See Igor.

 

Yiff

A verb used in the community of furry fetishists, it means to have intercourse.

 

Yip

A noun used in the community of furry fetishists, it means an exclamation of excitement.

 

Ymir

The oldest and most powerful of the Frost Giants, Ymir (also known as Aurgelmir) was formed at the beginning of creation in a frozen land called Niffleheim, north of Asgard.  The origin of the Frost Giants is lost in antiquity, but they predate the gods of Asgard.  Their huge size, durability and raw power make them the gods’ most formidable foes, as they are ancient beings of limited intelligence that tend to focus their energies toward destruction. This may in fact be Ymir’s only weakness, and the reason why Odin and his two brothers, Vili and Ve, were able to defeat him.  Ymir had once been imprisoned within a volcano by Odin.  According to the myth, the brothers slew Ymir and created the world from his body.  Ymir’s first appearance in Marvel Comics was in Journey Into Mystery #97 (1963), but he would eventually appear in the Thor series.

 

Yokai

A class of supernatural monsters in Japanese folklore, Yokai appear in Pokemon card games, cartoons and video games.

 

Yosemite Sam

A popular foil for Warner Bros.’ Bugs Bunny character, Sam made his first appearance in the Friz Freleng-directed cartoon Hare Trigger (released April 21, 1945), but it wasn’t until 1948 that the gibberish-spitting Sam made another appearance, this time as a pirate in Buccaneer Bunny.  Sam’s cartoons came out on a regular basis, one or two a year, until 1964.  The last one was Pancho’s Hideaway, released October 24, 1964.  All but one — Dumb Patrol, which came out earlier in ’64, directed by Gerry Chiniquy – were directed by Freleng.  Sam was paired with Bugs in all but three of his cartoons.  Daffy Duck was his antagonist in Along Came Daffy (1947); in Honey’s Money (1963), he had no co-star; and in his very last outing, he came up against Speedy Gonzales.  Sam wasn’t a big star in comic books, but he did supporting roles with the other Warner characters in the Dell comic books of the 1950s.  Oddly enough, it was only from 1970-84, long after the heyday of licensed animated characters in American comic books (as well as Sam’s own heyday as an animated character), that Gold Key gave him his own series.  Today, he makes occasional appearances in DC Comics’ Looney Tunes comic book.  Like the other Looney Tunes guys, Sam has enjoyed generations of television exposure.  He also appeared with the rest of them in the 1988 toon-laden extravaganza Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and in the 1996 movie Space Jam.

 

Ytterbium

With atomic symbol Yb and atomic number 70 in the Periodic Table of Elements, ytterbium has a melting point of 824.0°C (1,515.2°F) and a boiling point of 1,466.0°C (2,670.8°F).  It contained 103 neutrons and is silvery in color.  Ytterbium was discovered in 1878 by Jean de Marignac and named for the Swedish town of Ytterby.  It has been used in metallurgical and chemical experiments, and is obtained from yttria, monazite, gadolinite and xenotime.

 

Yu-Gi-Oh!

A card game with a tie-in television series, Yu-Gi-Oh! was created in 1991 by Kazuki Takahashi, who was at the time an artist at Japan’s best-selling weekly comic magazine, Shonen Jump.  He began drawing the comics series in 1996, and the animated version debuted in 2000, becoming an immediate hit and spawning a mania that included card and video games.

 

Yuri

Literally translated as “lily,” but commonly perceived as meaning “girls love,” the anime/manga/literary genre involves romantic relationships between women, both sexual and non-sexual in nature.  Possibly first used in 1976, when Bungaku Itou, editor of Barazoku (a magazine geared primarily towards gay men), first used the term “yurizoku” (“lily clan”) in reference to female readers in a column of letters.  Subgenres of yuri include “shoujo” and “josei,” targeted toward female audiences, as well as “shounen” and “seinen,” which are geared toward males.  Examples of yuri include the TV anime shows Strawberry Panic, Kannazuki no Miko, Simoun and Maria-sama ga Miteru, but yuri themes are present in other genres and are mostly used as a form of comedic relief.  Such themes are found in many slice-of-life shows with all-girl casts, including Sabagebu, Non Non Biyori, Yuyushiki, and Kiniro Mosaic.

 

Zaius, Dr.

A prominent character in the first two Planet of the Apes films and two TV series, as well as Tim Burton’s big-screen remake, Zaius is an intelligent and largely compassionate statesman, and also one of the only “evolved” apes who knew that a human culture predated the time of his own.  Knowing, as he put it, that “humanity’s madness walked hand in hand with its genius,” he hid the proof of an intelligent human race from other apes.  Zaius appeared in the original film Planet of the Apes, as well as its first sequel Beneath the Planet of the Apes.  In both films, he was portrayed by Maurice Evans.  In the live-action series, Zaius was portrayed by Booth Colman.  He was also portrayed in the 1975-76 Saturday morning animated series Return to the Planet of the Apes, in which Richard Blackburn provided the character’s voice; and though unnamed in the film itself, Charlton Heston’s uncredited role in Tim Burton’s remake was listed as “Zaius” in official cast credits.

 

Zan

A regular member of the Justice League of America on the 1970s Saturday morning television series Super Friends, Zan was created by E. Nelson Bridwell and Ramona Fradon.  Zan and his twin sister Jayna were introduced on the show in 1977, four years after the series debuted, and had never appeared in the DC Comics universe until that time.  They later appeared in the cartoon series Justice League Unlimited and the live-action Superman-based TV series Smallville.

Zan is an alien from the planet Exxor, but he and his sister are different from other Exorians, and classified as mutants.  Supposedly, there once existed an ancient race of Exorian shape-shifters, and Zan and Jayna were born with this lost ability.  Eventually, they were adopted by the owner of a Space Circus, who only wanted to use them as sideshow attraction.  Fortunately, the circus’s clown was a kind man and raised them.  He also gave them Gleek the monkey as a pet.  The pair escaped the circus as teens, and hid on a planet where a space villain called Grax (an enemy of Superman) had set his headquarters.  Spying on him, they learned that Grax was planning to destroy the Earth using hidden explosives.  The twins traveled to Earth to warn the Justice League, and ended up joining the team of superheroes.

During the late 1990s, the twins were introduced into the main DC Universe in the series Extreme Justice.  Their backstories were altered from being sideshow attractions to slaves of an alien villain, later rescued by the Justice League.  In this series, the twins were much more powerful than their previous cartoon incarnations, and they were unable to speak English.

When they are called on to assist those in need, each twin had a specific ability, which could be activated by touching each other.  (In Super Friends, they would touch fists.)  Zan had the ability to assume any form of water.  He also shared a telepathic link with Jayna, which could be used during their transformation periods.

A somewhat altered version of Zan appeared in an episode of Justice League Unlimited with a group of man-made metahumans called the Ultimen.  Zan was renamed “Downpour,” and appeared as a white-skinned metahuman.  The Wonder Twins also appeared (in human actor form) in one episode of the TV series Smallville.  Zan was portrayed by David Gallagher in the episode “Idol.”

 

Zankor

 

Pinball game produced by Italian manufacturer Zaccaria (1974-87) in 1986.

 

Zap Comix

Created by legendary counterculture artist R. (for Robert) Crumb in 1968, the black-and-white comic book series ran for 17 issues (numbered 0 to 16), and the final issue has only recently seen the light of day.  The controversial series is generally seen as the beginning of the underground comix movement.  In reinventing the comic book as a voice of young adults (including references to drugs, sex and violence), in its initial run, the series set off legal battles and conversations about censorship, brought attention to cartoons as an art form of subversion and message, and set an example for generations of alternative comics creators like Charles Burns, Daniel Clowes, Joe Matt and the Hernandez Brothers.

 

Zarabeth

A native from the planet Sarpeidon, exiled to a prehistoric period of her planet’s past in the original Star Trek episode “All Our Yesterdays,” which first aired on March 14, 1969.  Her isolation was interrupted when Spock and McCoy suddenly (and accidentally) appeared.  With the otherwise stoic Vulcan Spock’s emotions let loose due to the time period, Zarabeth and Spock shared a short time of passion before the members of the Enterprise crew had to leave her behind in order to get to their own time.  Zarabeth was portrayed by Mariette Hartley.

 

Zatanna

A professional stage magician by the name of Zatanna Zatara, whose illusions and spells happen to be real, the DC Comics heroine and member of the Justice League of America (later appearing in the “New 52” series Justice League Dark) first appeared in Hawkman #4 (1964).

 

Zauriel

Created by Grant Morrison and Mark Millar and debuting in JLA #6 (1997), Zauriel was proposed to be a viable replacement for Hawkman. However, DC Comics editors declared the Hawkman identity to be “off limits” due to overly convoluted origin rewrites, continuity implants and retroactive continuities (retcons), and forbade Morrison from utilizing the name during his writing tenure on the Justice League of America.  Since the dawn of creation, Zauriel served as a guardian angel, protecting the souls of countless women, including Cleopatra, Mona Lisa and Joan of Arc. After falling in love with human Shannon Coyne, Zauriel abandoned his position in Heaven as a guardian angel, and the King-Angels granted him mortality.  After the object of Zauriel’s affection decided to stick with her boyfriend, Heaven assigned Zauriel as their ambassador to Earth. Accepting the JLA’s offer for membership, Zauriel joined them on various missions.  Zauriel’s career with the JLA continued until he sacrificed himself so the rest of the JLA might live.  Headquartered in The Aerie, Zauriel’s weapons include a flaming sword and Michael’s Battle Spear.

 

Zaxxon

A shooter arcade game developed and released by Sega in 1982.  Players fly a fighter craft through a fortress while shooting at enemy entities (missiles, enemy gunfire, etc.), and the object of the game is to hit as many targets as possible without being shot down or running out of fuel (which is replenished by blowing up fuel drums).  At the time of its release, Zaxxon was unique as it was the first game to employ axonometric projection (which lent its name to the game, getting “axxon” from AXONometric projection), which simulated 3D from a third-person viewpoint.  It was also one of the first video games to display shadows, to indicate the ship’s altitude above the surface; the game also employed an altitude meter, allowing the player to control how high or low the ship is above the surface.  It was also the first arcade game to be advertised on television.

 

Zeck, Mike

Born on September 6, 1949 in Greenville, Pennsylvania, Mike Zeck got his first experience with comics in 1953 while recovering from a tonsillectomy.  He soon became a fan of Superman comics. Zeck enjoyed drawing, and would do it when he had spare time at school.  In 1962 (when Spider-Man was introduced), Mike Zeck became an avid reader of Marvel Comics.  He attended the Ringling School of Art in 1967.  His first artist job was with the Broward County school board in Florida, for which he handled all artwork and photography.  In 1974, Zeck began working at Charlton Comics as an illustrator.  This led to a job making covers and light story work for their horror comics.  This lasted until 1977, when Charlton stopped buying new art.  He moved on to Marvel, handling fill-in work for Shang-Chi, eventually taking over the monthly duties on the book in 1978. In 1981, he moved on to a run on Captain America that would last 3 years.  Among his long list of works are Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt featuring Kraven the HunterThe Punisher: Circle of BloodMarvel Super-Heroes Secret WarsDeathstroke the Terminator, Damned 1-4 (Homage Comics), and Captain America 224-337.

 

Zelda

A princess in peril in the kingdom of Hyrule, Zelda is held captive by the powerful Ganon in the popular video game The Legend of Zelda and its sequel Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.

 

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

In this sequel game to The Legend of Zelda, a mysterious sorcerer places a curse on Princess Zelda, causing her to drift into an eternal sleep.  Link discovers that the only way to break the seal on the palace gate is to replace the shards of a Magic Crystal, which he must find.

 

Zerg rush

A mass attack by a player against his opponent and/or winning a battle by outnumbering an opponent to a great degree.  This term originated in a video game called Starcraft, which had an available tactic in which a player could rush opponents by mass-producing zergs and rushing them.  used in several real-time strategy games (RTS).  Encyclopedia Dramatica also showed other situations that illustrated the term, and it is now used to describe any situation in a game where a small group of stronger units or players is overwhelmed by weaker ones through sheer numbers.

 

Zetetic astronomy

See Flat Earth Society.

 

Zettabyte

Abbreviated ZB, a measure of computer storage capacity equal to one sextillion (10^21) or, strictly, 2^70 bytes.

 

Zeus

Zeus (whose name means “bright” or “sky”) was the god of the sky, ruler of the Olympian gods, and the father of gods and men in Greek mythology (known in Roman mythology as Jupiter).  He overthrew his father, Cronus, and then drew lots with his brothers Poseidon and Hades, in order to decide who would succeed their father on the throne. Zeus won the draw and became the supreme ruler of the gods, as well as lord of the sky and rain. His weapon was a thunderbolt which he hurled at those who displeased or defied him, especially liars and oathbreakers. He was married to Hera but often tested her patience, as he was infamous for his many affairs.  As the ruler of the state, he was the source of kingly power, the upholder of all institutions connected to the state, and the friend and patron of princes, whom he guarded and assisted with his advice and counsel. He was also the protector of the people, and watched over the welfare of the whole community.  Zeus was also the supreme cultural embodiment of Greek religious beliefs. He had many epithets (titles) that emphasized different aspects of complete and wide ranging authority.

As the father of the gods, Zeus (known in Roman mythology as Jupiter) ascertained that each deity perform their individual duty, punished their misdeeds, settled their disputes, and acted towards them on all occasions as their all-knowing counsellor and mighty friend.  As the father of men, he took a paternal interest in the actions and well-being of mortals. He watched over them with tender solicitude, rewarding truth, charity, and fairness, while severely punishing perjury and cruelty. Even the poorest and most forlorn wanderer could find a powerful advocate in Zeus, for he, as a wise and merciful paternal figure, demanded that the wealthy inhabitants of the earth be attentive to the needs of their less fortunate fellow citizens.

Homer described Zeus as a standard of right and wrong that made him more relatable to mankind.  Hesiod described him as a carefree god who loved to laugh out loud.  He was regarded as wise, fair, just, merciful, and prudent. He was also unpredictable.

Ares, Hephaestus, Hebe and Eileithyia are the children of Zeus and Hera, but Zeus was a notorious philanderer.  His union with Leto brought forth the twins Apollo and Artemis.  When he seduced the Spartan queen Leda, Zeus transformed himself into a beautiful swan, and two sets of twins were born.  When Zeus had an affair with Mnemosyne, he coupled with her for nine nights. This scenario produced nine daughters, who became known as the Muses.  Zeus fathered the famous Greek hero Hercules by deception, disguising himself as Amphitryon, Alcmene’s husband, in order to have sexual relations with her.  Zeus fathered Perseus by impregnating Danaë.  He is also the father of Athena, who is said to have sprung from his head. She was his favorite child, with whom he shared the thunderbolt and aegis.

 

Zinc

Discovered by Andreas Marggraf in 1746, zinc (symbol Zn) is obtained from zinc blende and calamine.  It is used in metal coating, rust protection, and in the alloys brass, bronze and nickel.  The word “zinc” is rooted in the German word zin, which means tin.  With the atomic number 30 on the Periodic Table of Elements, zinc is classified as a transition metal, and is bluish in color.  Its melting point is 419.58°C (787.24°F) and its boiling point is 907.0°C (1,664.6°F).

 

Zip disk

A 3.5″ removable disk format from Iomega, Zip disks came out in 1995 with 100MB cartridges.  This huge storage capacity compared to floppy disks made them very popular among computer users.  However, like all removable media of that era, the Zip was eclipsed by recordable CDs and the internet.

 

Zippy the Pinhead

Created by Bill Griffith, the unshaven, bow-wearing, fifty-cent-word-spouting, pop-culture-referencing smiling man in the polka-dot muumuu debuted in a strip entitled “I Gave My Heart to a Pinhead and He Made a Fool Out of Me,” in the first issue of Real Pulp Comics in 1970.  Initially referred to as “Danny,” Zippy is a microcephalic clown, based in part on the “pinheads” who appeared in Tod Browning’s classic 1932 “horror” film Freaks.  From 1973 to 1974, Griffith also worked with Spiegelman on Topps’ Wacky Packages, trading cards with parodies of everyday supermarket products.  Zippy the Pinhead debuted as a comic foil for Griffith’s “Mr. Toad” character, but quickly superseded the egocentric amphibian.  By 1976, Griffith’s strips ran weekly in the Berkeley Barb, and his work also appeared in High Times.  Arcade was a short-lived magazine that he co-edited with Art Spiegelman, a cartoonist now well known for Maus, his two-volume Pulitzer Prize-winning comic strip about the Holocaust.

From 1976 to 1980, he syndicated Zippy through Rip Off Press, a publisher of predominately underground comics; for the next six years, he syndicated the strip himself.  In 1985, William Hearst III took over the San Francisco Examiner, hiring both Griffith and the gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson.  The following year, Zippy the Pinhead was picked up for syndication by King Features.  The strip now appears daily in more than 200 newspapers nationwide, including the San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Post, and the Boston Globe.  Zippy comic strips have been featured in The New YorkerNational Lampoon and various comics magazines, and have been reprinted around the world in German, French, Swedish, Italian, Japanese, Dutch, Finnish and Spanish.  Zippy has been the subject of at least two doctoral dissertations, and has also been cited as the inspiration for Saturday Night Live’s popular 1970s characters the Coneheads.

What some critics label as Zippy’s “gibberish,” Griffith calls “free-associative poetry.”  Griffith met some real microcephalics, who would evoke such non sequiturs as “I just accepted provolone into my life,” “Frivolity is a stern taskmaster,” and “All life is a blur of Republicans and meat.”  Although several people, including the comedienne Carol Burnett, claimed to have created it, the phrase “Are we having fun yet?” was in fact first uttered by Zippy in the mid-1970s, and has been immortalized in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations.  Although Zippy’s proclamations might seem incoherent at first, Griffith maintains that most of what he says can be decoded.  “He may be a pinhead,” he once commented, “but he’s not without a point.”

 

Zira

A chimpanzee “animal psychologist” in the mid-40th Century, she specializes in human behavior in the first three original Planet of the Apes films.  Upon discovering that a human called Taylor is intelligent, she elicits the assistance of her fiancée, chimpanzee archeologist Dr. Cornelius, and risks everything to save Taylor’s life.  She gives aid to the equally intelligent Brent on his search to find Taylor, then travels back to 20th Century Earth with Cornelius, where she gives birth to a son, who she names Milo, before being killed.  Zira was portrayed in Planet of the Apes (1968), Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), and Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971) by Kim Hunter.  She was voiced by Philippa Harris in the 1975 animated series Return to the Planet of the Apes.

 

Zirconium

Though it is a silvery-white lustrous metal, zirconium (Symbol: Zr, atomic number: 40 in the Periodic Table of Elements) got its name from the Arabic word “zargun,” which actually means “gold color.”  It was discovered by Martin Heinrich Klaproth in 1789 in Berlin, Germany, and first isolated by Jöns Jacob Berzelius in 1824.  Pure zirconium was first prepared in 1914.  The solid metal is difficult to ignite, but the finely divided metal can ignite spontaneously in air, especially at elevated temperatures.  Analyses of lunar rock samples show a surprisingly high zirconium oxide content, as compared with terrestrial rocks. Some forms of zircon (ZrSiO4) have excellent gemstone qualities.  The melting point of zirconium is 3,371°F (1,855°C), and the boiling point is 7,968°F (4409 °C).

 

Zod, General

 

Once Krypton’s greatest military leader, General Zod (full name Dru-Zod) was banished to the Phantom Zone for crimes he committed against the people of Krypton.  Trapped for years—long past the destruction of his home planet—Zod emerged from his interdimensional prison seeking revenge against Jor-El, the man he blamed for his captivity, by going after his surviving son Kal-El, the hero known on Earth as Superman.

General Zod was created by Robert Bernstein and George Papp, making his first appearance in Adventure Comics #283 (1961).  Zod’s first appearance in “The New 52” was in Action Comics #23.2 (2013).  Like all Kryptonians, Zod gains an array of powers from exposure to Earth’s yellow sun, including, but not limited to: super strength, flight, super speed, invulnerability, heat vision and x-ray vision.  Beyond his physical abilities, Zod also possess a dangerously intelligent mind with a gift for strategy.

Arriving in Metropolis, Zod set about making his plans for Earth, which he called “New Krypton,” a reality.  As Zod battled Kal-El (Superman), Luthor managed to use Phantom Zone rockets to blast every being who came into contact with it, including Superman, back. While Kal was spared when Lor willingly took his place, Zod was pulled into the Zone. As he disappeared, he mentioned the other “horror” held in the Zone, and promised to unleash it when he escaped again.  Zod planned to make good on his vow, and personally make Kal-El kneel before him.  When Zod, Non and Ursa are freed from the Phantom Zone and arrive on Earth, they battled with Kal-El as a means of settling their vendetta with Jor-El, as well as attempting to take control of Earth.  Superman is able to neutralize their powers at the Fortress of Solitude.

In the motion pictures Superman: The Movie (1978) and Superman II (1980), General Zod is portrayed by Terence Stamp.  Zod, along with Faora, were the main antagonists in Zack Synder’s​ Man of Steel (2013), a reboot of the Superman film franchise.  In it, General Dru-Zod is played by Michael Shannon.  On the TV show Smallville (2001-11), General Zod was first mentioned during the fifth season by Brainiac. When Zod was released from the Phantom Zone, it became clear that his true vessel was Lex Luthor.  Zod returned in the tenth and final season of Smallville in the episode “Dominion,” in which he has taken over the Phantom Zone.

 

Zog

Stranded on Earth during the hunt for the Fugitoid, Zog is a Triceraton soldier who ended up wandering the NYC sewers for a year, becoming delusional due to Earth’s atmosphere.  He was an ally to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles until his death.

 

Zoltar

Planet Spectra’s most visible leader, Zoltar takes control of most of the missions mounted against the Federation and its allies.  Not much is known about the villain of the 1978-80 animated series Battle of the Planets, and how he remains in control of Spectra’s forces is almost as much of a mystery as the man himself.  Zoltar constantly promises that Earth will be conquered, so Spectra can plunder its natural resources for themselves, but his superior, The Spirit, says he has heard Zoltar’s boastful words and glowing promises before.  Zoltar has been replaced a few times, but always seems to get his position back.  Zoltar is extremely crafty, able to escape capture by G-Force time and time again.  He seems to know a lot about G-Force and their structure.  For instance, he is aware that G-Force have Cerebonic implants, he knows Jason’s name and that he’s a part of G-Force, and Zoltar once seemed to recognize Mark as a member of G-Force, even though he was in his civilian clothing.

The voice of Zoltar was provided by actor Keye Luke.  In addition to Zoltar, he also voiced The Spirit and Colonel Cronus.

 

Zombie
A being once dead, but reanimated (or “undead”) through various means throughout science fiction and horror.  Zombies are prone to be mute, expressionless, slow creatures that only possess the simplest of motor skills.  Many stories portray zombies as characters driven by one desire: to eat the brains of living human beings.

 

Zombie apocalypse
Depicted in such classic horror films as Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Resident Evil, a zombie apocalypse is a scenario in which the dead of the Earth are reanimated as the undead by various means to walk the Earth again, typically in search of living humans to feed on.

 

Zork

A “text adventure” game that debuted in 1980, Zork I: The Great Underground Empire takes place in the underground ruins of an ancient empire.  Each player is a dauntless treasure hunter, and ventures into this uncharted land of fabulous treasures, strange creatures and diabolical puzzles.  The game was written by Marc Blank and David Lebling, and at the time of its release, the text parser (or syntax “decoder”) in Zork was considered to be the most flexible and user-friendly interpreter available to play interactive fiction titles.  A player could enter quite complex commands, including ones that are separated by a comma or various prepositions such as “and” or “except.”  The game’s Infocom story interpreter is platform independent.  There have been 12 versions of Zork released since 1981.  The last version, dated 1987-8, supports 110 rooms and 60 objects, with a vocabulary of 697 words and 6,798 opcodes.

 

Zuckerberg, Mark

Born into a comfortable, well-educated family on May 14, 1984 in White Plains, New York and raised in the nearby village of Dobbs Ferry, Mark Elliot Zuckerberg, future founder of Facebook, developed an interest in computers at an early age; when he was about 12, he used Atari BASIC to create an early version of a text-messaging program he named “Zucknet.”  His father used the program in his dental office, and the Zuckerberg family used Zucknet to communicate within the house.  Together with his friends, he also created computer games.  Zuckerberg later studied at Phillips Exeter Academy, an exclusive prep school in New Hampshire.  There, he remained fascinated by computers, and continued to work on developing new programs.  While still in high school, he created an early version of the music software Pandora, which he called Synapse.  Several companies—including AOL and Microsoft—expressed an interest in buying the software, and hiring the teenager before graduation.  He declined the offers.

After graduating from Exeter in 2002, Zuckerberg enrolled at Harvard University.  By his sophomore year, he had developed a reputation as the go-to software developer on campus.  It was at that time that he built a program called CourseMatch, which helped students choose their classes based on the course selections of other users.  He also invented Facemash, which compared the pictures of two students on campus and allowed users to vote on which one was more attractive.  The program became wildly popular, but was later shut down by the school administration after it was deemed inappropriate.

Based on the buzz of his previous projects, three of his fellow students—Divya Narendra, and twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss—sought him out to work on an idea for a social networking site they called Harvard Connection.  This site was designed to use information from Harvard’s student networks in order to create a dating site for the Harvard elite.  Zuckerberg agreed to help with the project, but soon dropped out to work on his own social networking site with friends Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes and Eduardo Saverin: a site that allowed users to create their own profiles, upload photos, and communicate with other users. The group ran the site—originally called “The Facebook”—out of a dorm room until June 2004.  After his sophomore year, Zuckerberg dropped out of college to devote himself to Facebook full-time, moving the company to Palo Alto, California.  Within six months, Facebook had 1 million users.

In 2005, Zuckerberg’s enterprise received a huge boost from the venture capital firm Accel Partners.  Accel invested $12.7 million into the network, which at the time was open only to Ivy League students.  Zuckerberg’s company then granted access to other colleges, high schools and international schools, pushing the site’s membership to more than 5.5 million users by December 2005.  The site then began attracting the interest of other companies, who wanted to advertise with the popular social hub.  Not wanting to sell out, Zuckerberg turned down offers from companies such as Yahoo! and MTV Networks.  Instead, he focused on expanding the site.

Zuckerberg’s rise seemed unstoppable, but in 2006, the business mogul faced his first big hurdle: legal battles with the creators of Harvard Connection.  Although an initial settlement of $65 million was reached between the two parties, the legal dispute continued well into 2011, after Narendra and the Winklevosses claimed they were misled in regards to the value of their stock.  Zuckerberg faced yet another personal challenge when Ben Mezrich’s 2009 book The Accidental Billionaires hit stores.  Mezrich was heavily criticized for his re-telling of Zuckerberg’s story, which used invented scenes, re-imagined dialogue and fictional characters. Regardless of how true-to-life the story was, Mezrich managed to sell the rights of the tale to screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, and the resulting critically acclaimed film The Social Network received eight Academy Award nominations.  In spite of the criticism, Zuckerberg and Facebook continued to succeed.  Time magazine named him Person of the Year in 2010, and Vanity Fair placed him at the top of their New Establishment list.  Forbes also ranked Zuckerberg at No. 35 on its “400” list—beating out Apple CEO Steve Jobs—estimating his net worth to be $6.9 billion.  Since amassing his sizeable fortune, Zuckerberg has used his millions to fund a variety of philanthropic causes.

Zuckerberg made two major life changes in May 2012: On May 18, Facebook had its initial public offering, which raised $16 billion, making it the biggest internet IPO in history.  On May 19—a day after going public—Zuckerberg wed his longtime girlfriend, Priscilla Chan.  One year later, in May 2013, Facebook made the Fortune 500 list for the first time—making Zuckerberg, at the age of 28, the youngest CEO on the list.

In November 2015, Zuckerberg and Chan welcomed a daughter, Max, and Zuckerberg announced he would be taking two months of paternity leave to spend with his family.  He and his wife also pledged in an open letter to their daughter that they would give 99 percent of their Facebook shares to charity.

 

Zygote

The cell produced by the union of two gametes (haploid male sex cell [sperm] and haploid female sex cell [ovum]), following fertilization but preceding cleavage.