Bestselling novelist Kami Garcia has become a powerhouse force in comics thanks to her work at DC. Her Teen Titans graphic novel series with fan favorite artist Gabriel Picolo has hit multiple bestseller charts and her darkly brilliant true-crime inspired tale Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity has quickly become a cult smash in comic book circles. She’s combining both sides of her DC Comics career with her new upcoming YA graphic novel with Isaac Goodhart, Constantine: Distorted Illusions. Centering on a teenage version of occult DC hero, John Constantine, the gorgeous graphic novel is out now and channels all the punk, magic, and madness you need.
The book kicks off with John Constantine as he’s just graduated high school, but he’s still the chaos-hungry magician we all love. He’s just like the rest of us at that age, Garcia explains. “Like all 17 year olds, he thinks he knows everything.”
That meant that Garcia had to essentially “reverse engineer” the character from “beloved weather-worn Constantine” to his teenage self. But as she tells us, it made a lot of sense because he’s still the punk-loving occult practitioner he always was.
“He still does magic but he thinks he doesn’t need any training,” she says. “And his parents, his stepfather and his mother, want him to go to the United States and train with this prestigious magician named Lady Marguerite. He’s not interested until his best friend Veronica, who lives in the United States, her punk band Mucus Membrane loses its frontman so they need a lead singer for their summer small venue tour. And, of course, Constantine is like ‘I would love to meet Lady Marguerite, I will stay with Veronica in Georgetown,’ and occult problems and fun punk band music ensue.”
Though the supernatural punk shenanigans of Constantine: Distorted Illusions seem like a sharp turn away from the quirky romance of Teen Titans, Garcia’s work as a novelist has long straddled the two lines. “My prose background, Beautiful Creatures, is writing magic. So it was fun to go back to that.”
While Garcia was excited to delve into the world of John Constantine, there was a deciding factor that ultimately led to the book’s creation. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to do it,” Garcia says. “But I said, ‘If you can get Isaac Goodhart to draw it, I’ll do it.’ And he did. So while I was really writing, I was imagining Isaac’s art the whole time. So he was, in a way, my muse. I knew he would kill it on this book, because he has this style that’s very beautiful but also very edgy and sexy. And, to me, that’s what Constantine is. He’s like this ragamuffin sexy guy.”
She also knew that the book would have to introduce a cast of new brilliant characters and that Goodhart was the artist to do it. “Then we have original characters, because it’s an origin story. Luna, who’s the female magician that he meets, she’s a new character. Veronica is new, the bassist Slaughter is new. So I knew that Isaac is amazing at designing characters. And that’s really important when you’re doing an origin and you don’t have the whole canon to use.”
Garcia can’t wait for readers to see her collaborator’s brilliant work on the book. “What I really always try to do as a writer is write for the artist and then get out of the way to really let the artist do their thing. My thing is if my script is great then I feel like it’s tailored to that artist. So in this one I really felt like I did my job because the art was so incredible.”