NYCC 2019: Getting Inside The Teenage Mind In Super-Powered YA Panel

by James Ferguson

Michele Wells, VP, Executive Editor at DC Entertainment opened the Super-Powered YA: DC Teen Reads for Your #TBR Pile panel by introducing the guests including Danielle Page, Steven Bryne, Gabriel Picolo, Stuart Moore, Chris Wildgoose, Nicole Goux, Sarah Kuhn, Isaac Goodhart, and Kami Garcia. They represent the bulk of the creators behind the current DC young adult books like Batman: Nightwalker and Teen Titans: Raven. These are outside of canon, not tied to the overall DC Universe.

The panel was asked what their characters favorite subject in school would be. Picolo said Beast Boy would be interested in biology to figure out all the animals. Garcia said Raven would choose English. Goodheart said Catwoman is great at math and Wildgoose picked computers for Bruce Wayne, although he’s good at everything. Kuhn and Goux chose home economics and community service for Batgirl. Byrne said Mera would pick murder class.

A similar rundown happened for pet peeves. Garcia said “bitchery” for Raven and Picolo said Beast Boy would be people eating meat. Wildgoose said crime is Bruce Wayne’s pet peeve. Cassandra Cain’s pet peeve is other people’s mess. She’s a slob, but she doesn’t like it when other people leave their trash around. Mera is not a fan of anything Atlantians do.

The final icebreaker question was what the first thing the characters do when they wake up in the morning. Beast Boy picks what sneakers he’ll wear, which is a nice fit for Picolo who is a self-proclaimed sneaker head. Cassandra Cain works out first thing while Bruce Wayne races to the computer to jot down all his thoughts.

The Mera graphic novel pulls from the Aquaman movie with Jason Momoa’s portrayal of the character. Paige and Byrne both wanted to have this. To convince DC, Paige made a couple requests through email and then sent pictures of a young Momoa from Baytwatch and got it approved quickly.

Moore described Bruce Wayne as a nice kid in Batman: Nightwalker. He’s fairly normal which is a counterpoint to most of the versions we’ve seen of the character. He just gets in a bit of trouble and has to do some community service at Arkham Asylum.

Garcia said Raven struggles to figure out who she is, which is something that just about everyone goes through. She didn’t want to completely redesign the character from the ground up because there’s still a lot of great elements there. The jewel on her forehead was out because it would not have worked for her to go to high school, but they were able to work it into the character as a necklace.

Picolo added that you can tell a lot about a character based on how they sit and how they walk. Raven is more compact and reserved while Beast Boy is stretched out and loud.

Goodheart said that fashion played a big part in Catwoman: Under the Moon. She engulfs herself in a big jacket to feel safe. As she gets more comfortable in her own skin, her clothing changes. He complimented Picolo’s work in Beast Boy with items like the gaming chair in his room. Picolo pointed out there are monster posters on his wall because the character identifies with those creatures due to his powers.

Kuhn spoke about the origin of Cassandra Cain’s costume and how her clothing is important to her. There’s a new character in Shadow of the Batgirl named Jackie who is described as an “Asian Auntie” who wears loud clothing that doesn’t necessarily match. Some of these clothes are passed onto Cassandra, but it doesn’t really go with her style, so she cuts some up and keeps elements of them while making them their own.

Most of the clothing featured in these titles have a real world element. It’s like casual cosplay so kids reading them can make their own outfits that fit in the same kind of style.

The panelist were asked how the setting played into the story and what kind of research they did for it. Picolo relied on a lot of references that Garcia sent for New Orleans. The city was so interesting that it sparked his creative energy. He visited New Orleans thinking it would be an awful experience. He wanted so much to draw these books. He was given a tour of the city by Alys Arden, the writer of the upcoming Zatanna graphic novel. She came up on stage and spoke about Raven’s ties to New Orleans and how much it meant to have creators who cared about showing the city the right way and in a good light.

Her Zatanna graphic novel takes place in New York. She describes it as a “gothic beach story” with a lot of Coney Island, mobsters, mystics, and mermaids. It’s illustrated by Jacquelin De Leon. Some gorgeous designs for the characters were shown. I don’t know anything else about this series just yet but based on these alone, it looks like we’ll get a pretty cool, unique take on the character.

A fan asked about Shadow of the Batgirl and the ages of Cassandra and Barbara Gordon. The former is a teenager and Barbara is in her early twenties. Kuhn understands how much these characters mean to people and took great pains to do them justice.

The panel was asked about creating young adult stories and focusing on teenagers. Moore said you can play out drama with teenage characters more than you can with adults. Wildgoose added that it’s nice to see them get things wrong and figure stuff out. Goodheart said that these are themes that we still see as adults, but they’re a little more magnified as teenagers.

Garcia added that it’s hard for her to write something she can’t relate to. She also needs to be a fan of a character she’s going to write. As a teacher, she spent more time with kids than adults by choice. She like them because you can’t sell them nonsense.

A fan asked about how the creators approached writing for and about teenagers. Did they consult with any for the stories? Garcia has a teenage son and she spies on him all the time. She joked that Picolo is like a teenager to her and helps a lot with the style and design for the characters as he brings a younger perspective. Kuhn has a friend with two teenagers she always tries to talk to but feels like the Steve Buscemi meme saying “Hello, fellow kids.”

To close out the panel, a fan asked if there was any thought to doing a shared universe between these stories. One of them quickly said “Please!” Wells clarified that they wanted to have the creators tell their own stand alone stories and not get tied up in continuity.

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