Women’s Empowerment: Reading Sanctum #20

One of the reasons we celebrate Women’s Empowerment, here at the Mustache and the Beard, and all over the United States is that we recognize that Geekery is not just exclusive to men. Many properties would have you believe that. The Teen Titans is not one of those properties.

In fact, one might argue that of the five characters, the most powerful characters on the team are the female characters: Star Fire and Raven. In some incarnations of the team, Wonder Girl (another powerful badass) is part of the team and adds the physical presence of an Amazonian fighter.

In 2018, Kami Garcia, a writer of young adult fiction, co-writer of Beautiful Creatures with Margaret Stohl, proposed writing some Teen Titans stories and DC Comics gave her the graphic novel format as a platform. Immediately, Garcia said she wanted to explore Raven first.

Garcia was excited, but intimidated to get started so when DC corporate heard about her fears, they sent Marv Wolfman (creator of the Titans) to talk to her. That only exacerbated her fears, initially, she said. However, Wolfman assuaged such fears by simply stating, “Make them yours.”

DC creative did a wise thing by pairing her up with newbie Brazilian artist Gabriel Picolo. With both being new to the comics industry, neither were complacent about what they were endeavoring. Both wanted to demonstrate their best, and it shows in the work.

In July 2019, the collaboration between Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo, Teen Titans: Raven was released. It was a hit. The graphic novel re-imagines Rachel Roth as just a normal adopted teen who also happens to be the daughter of a demon. Clearly, the idea of calling Rachel normal is tongue-in-cheek, but the creators wanted to establish that Raven can be more than one thing — the way all teens are more than one thing.

Garcia has the sense that the Titans TV show is more adult-oriented and dark, so she feels that Rachel should have an opportunity to be young. Her intention is not to make the graphic novels overtly dark and establish a happy medium between what is deemed “normal” teen and what is a teen superhero. Both, Garcia and Picolo want to show Raven, as Rachel Roth, the teenager with teen issues.

To their minds, it’s bad enough that Rachel is adopted. She is a powerful empath superhero, named Raven, who is also the daughter of a demon. She has had all of those other facets of her character emphasized. Why not emphasize that she is a teen? That she likes boys? That she likes clothes?

With that in mind, one of the facets of Rachel’s character emphasized by Garcia and Picolo is a high fashion sense. In fact, Teen Vogue did a feature on the fashion distinctions between the Graphic Novel version of Raven and the TV Titans version: clothes and a distinct color palette.

In the TV and actually the 80s comic books created by Marv Wolfman and George Perez, Raven wore black and dark blue. I hope you can tell that Picolo opted to do the sequential art with a lighter palette of washes in blues and violets. By making Rachel Roth the girl with amnesia with a sense of fashion, she instantly became more relatable to the youth of this generation.

In this version of Rachel Roth, within the first few pages of the book, Rachel and her adoptive mother get into a car accident and the woman dies. Her sister, chooses to take on the responsibility of taking her sister’s adopted kid. Luckily, she has her own daughter who is not only close in age with Rachel, but close in temperament. They are fast friends/cousins/sisters. Oh, did I forget to mention that Rachel has amnesia?

Followers of the blog know how I feel about retcons (emphasis on the second syllable), reboots (go kick rocks with your new boots), and re-imaginings (imagine I am holding up one finger.) However, even though I loved the 80s comic and the original silver age Teen Titans, when we had almost an entirely different set of characters that were the Junior Justice League: Robin, Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Speedy (Green Arrow’s sidekick), and Aqualad, I like this fresh take on Raven.

The 80s Raven was a morose character who as an empath absorbed emotion and pain. She was the Emo prototype that wore black nail polish, black clothes, and never smiled. I never could see what Beast Boy saw in her. In this version, it is exceedingly obvious what Beast Boy sees in her. Not that an empowered woman needs a man, but trust me, it makes a heck of a lot more sense now.

Take my word for it. I’m being consistent. You should read all of the Kami Garcia, Gabriel Picolo graphic novels. Teen Titans: Raven, Teen Titans: Beast Boy, Teen Titans: Beast Boy Loves Raven, and Teen Titans: Robin. To my mind, they all have bits of Geek-loving Goodness. As for Raven, she is a kickass character that fits in with all of what we have celebrated and will continue to celebrate with Women’s Empowerment.

My ratings and recommendations are as follows. This is about as close to perfect as you can get. Kami Garcia tapped into a real-life truth about youth and translated it into a raw desire to belong. Gabriel Picolo draws with a light heart and heavy significance. The alchemical result between the two creators is trinitrotoluene explosive.

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