It's time to meet Rachel Roth, a.k.a. Raven. You might have met her before, but she's never shown you this side of her.
In the new YA graphic novel Teen Titans: Raven, novelist Kami Garcia and artist Gabriel Picolo get inside the Teen Titan and open up her early life - and open up DC's new venture into YA storytelling.
Teen Titans: Raven is the story of 17-year-old Rachel Roth, who’s been through a tragic car accident and has forgotten her secret superpowered history.
Garcia and Picolo will reunite for the second installment of the series, Teen Titans: Beast Boy, which is expected in 2020. Readers will see a sneak peak of that book at the end of Raven.
With this OGN out now in comic stores and coming to bookstores July 2, Newsarama talked to Garcia and Picolo about the story, how they developed the idea for Teen Titans: Raven, and what readers can expect from future installments.
Newsarama: Kami, was this story something that came from you? Did you pick the character as a fan? How did the project come about?
Kami Garcia: DC was looking for writers, and I was in the early batch. I was thrilled, because I’m a huge comic book fan and a DC fan.
I was told that the stories were out-of-continuity, and that I could pick a character. They wanted me to focus on a story about a teen who might have superpowers, rather than a superhero who is a teen.
They loved the idea of the Teen Titans, and I love the Teen Titans. But they didn’t initially ask me to pitch a series. They said I could pitch whatever I wanted.
I love origin stories. And I thought, since this is a group, why not do it as a series, and why not do origin stories for several of the characters before possibly bringing them together?
And they loved that idea.
But also — I’m a fan, especially of Raven, and I didn’t want to recreate the Titans. As a fan, I wanted it to be something I would want to read. I didn’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater. I wanted to keep as much of the essence of these characters and who they are as I could. I might add to it or change it a little, but I didn’t want to destroy what people love about the characters.
Nrama: Because Raven is unaware of her powers when this book kicks off, how are you approaching her character?
Garcia: It was tricky, because I didn’t want to throw away her entire DC origin story. So she has amnesia, but I think I did a pretty good job or re-inventing the amnesia trope.
Raven starts out as a foster kid. You find out later why and what happened with her mom. She’s about the be adopted, and there’s a terrible car accident. And she loses her foster mother, and she loses her memory.
She goes to live in New Orleans with her foster mom’s sister, whom she’d never met, and her foster mom’s niece.
So because the only person in her life is gone, she only knows that there was some secret before the accident. But she doesn’t know what that was. And these things in a box that her mom saved for her — she has to try to make meaning out of all this stuff. And at the same time, she’s trying to figure out her favorite song or what kind of music she likes.
This allows the reader to discover Raven’s powers along with her. And it also gave me the chance to play with the idea about having a clean slate and reinventing ourselves. But she’s also trying to grasp something from her past, because she can’t remember anything.
To me, it feels very teen — that juxtaposition of wanting the new, but also needing the old.
So it’s kind of like an origin story, but without throwing out her history. I ended up meeting Marv Wolfman, and he was like, "Do whatever you want! You can totally change whatever you need to! I just want new readers to meet her and fall in love with her."
But part of what people will fall in love with is the character that he and George Pérez created.
Nrama: Gabriel, as you heard Kami’s ideas about the character and the approach of the story, how did you put together the look of the book?
Gabriel Picolo: I was already drawing a lot of Teen Titans art before I got the book. I think that’s how DC found my work.
Much of the general look of the characters in the book was already present on my work. That’s why DC gave me the work on this specific book.
The only thing we had to do was talk about the characters and how they would dress and how they would behave.
It’s funny because, when I was drawing the beginning of the book, I felt unsure about some of that stuff. But by the end of the book, I knew these characters so much that I created the look on the go, and Kami was on board with them, because they fit the characters perfectly.
It was a great experience, to create these characters and then, by the end of the book, to know them like friends.
Nrama: Kami, how did your experience with Young Adult novels inform what you’re doing on Raven?
Garcia: That’s what got me digging in to her fears, and her hopes. We had so much room that we could really build her world and dig deep into her character. I let the reader watch relationships build and evolve. As a novelist, that’s what you do.
For me, it was about kneading those things together seamlessly, because I had another piece, a sequential artist. And knowing that Gabriel was going to add another layer — I mean, I often rewrote things, because I would see his art and he had already conveyed something that I didn’t feel needed to be reiterated in dialogue.
I got to apply my novel skills in a different way. And as somebody who loves graphic novels and art, for me, it was like a dream come true. It’s the perfect marriage of things I love.
Nrama: Gabriel, I can tell you lean heavily on digital art. Can you describe your process a little?
Picolo: Yeah, I use, like, a slate — a Cintiq. My work is 100% digital. Kami saw me working…
Garcia: Yeah, it was cool.
Picolo: And she knows how fast these things can be done with the tablet, in comparison to working traditionally.
Nrama: And you’re following up the Raven book with other characters, right?
Garcia: Yeah, at the end of the final copy of Raven, there’s a sneak peak at Beast Boy, which is the next one. And we are definitely doing other ones.
Beast Boy is Gabriel’s favorite, so he’s in heaven.
Nrama: So they exist in the same universe, right?
Garcia: What I originally pitched was to do the Titans, but to start with origin stories that bring them together, so we know each character more before they become a group. I felt like it would be cool to know each one of them before we get the interplay with each other.
There definitely will be shared elements and some other surprises. And they’re both in the U.S.
Beast Boy is taking place in the same timeline. So there is a potential for some crossing.