This summer saw one of DC’s most prominent and beloved magic characters, Zatanna Zatara, make her long-awaited return into DC Rebirth. Capitalizing on that momentum, DC will bring Zatanna into uncharted territory under the creative team Alisa Kwitney (“Destiny: A Chronicle of Deaths Foretold”) and Mike Norton (“Revival”). At New York Comic Con, we talked with Kwitney about the upcoming book, its cast, and how her experiences in college and as a teacher informed the work.
“Mystik U” #1 will be available in shops and digital November 29th.
Mystik U is a magic-based series featuring some of the bigger magic characters in the DC universe. Basically I guess the starting question is what brings them together?
Alisa Kwitney: The comic book starts in a sort of day after tomorrow and there is a malevolent being that is wreaking havoc and has killed off most of the magical figures in DC. You get to see Dr. Occult sort of lying dying on the ground. That leaves Rose Psychic who shares a body with Dr. Occult and Zatanna to do their last ditch effort.
They cast a spell that works retroactively in order to change what’s going on in this moment. They’re going to have to cast a spell that sort of passed its tendrils and changes the past. Once they do this, there has been this school, Mystic U, that has existed for hundreds of years and it is the Harvard of magical education and the idea behind this is that they’re going to find this entity who’s going to become the malevolence and help them shape and not become this evil.
We’ve seen some of these characters like Zatanna, Dr. Faust?
AK: This is Sebastian Faust. He was Felix Faust’s very put-upon son because Felix is a really awful father and tried to steal his son’s soul. Again this is DC canon that Felix set up his son and tried to sell his soul to the demon Naberius in order to gain these powers, but Naberius was sort of like “I will take his soul and I will give him the powers”, so it’s a mixed legacy that Sebastian has gotten.
What went into choosing all these specific characters? Getting the cast together?
AK: What I wanted to do was have an interesting ensemble of personalities and types. First of all, I wanted to play with the wonderful DC occult sandbox and I wanted a mixture. To some extent, I wanted characters where I could either have my own take on them or I could play with them and take them a little apart from what had been done in the past. My Sargon the Sorcerer is David Sargon and he’s of Iraqi origin. Sargon as a name is originally from Iraq and that whole area in the Middle East. I thought if you were a ruby of life and you were trying to establish a connection, perhaps you would want someone whose ancestors had been connected with the original Sargon.
I’ve also taught high school and I’ve taught teenagers. I never base a character entirely on any one person, but I think about the people who resonate with me. I had a student, actually he was Saudi, and he was both a comic fan and a geek and it had been difficult for him growing up in Saudi Arabia. He had a little bit of that outsider status. He was such a huge comic book fan. I sort of saw him in Sargon and Sargon in him.
For Sebastian Faust, I definitely wanted a bad boy because bad boys are fun to write. I also felt that Zatanna who we all know later was pulled to John Constantine, would have always kind of been a little pull to a bad boy. I liked his bad boy-ish-ness and his whole feeling that he had to conceal his eyes. That if he revealed himself, he could be dangerous to people around him. It’s a really potent metaphor for adolescence in a lots of ways.
AK: I also have June Moon, the Enchantress, but my take on her is a little different I think then what’s gone before. Obviously I went to college years ago, but I have kids who are in college or recently out of college and they probably tell me more than maybe some parents hear, so I get to hear some of the nitty gritty.Continued below
I feel that college is a theater where people improvise themselves. It’s not about losing, well, for some people I guess there’s an element of losing control, but it’s often about trying to find a mask and a costume that both conceals yourself and reveals a deeper truth about yourself. My take on Enchantress is less that she’s possessed by this force that she has no control over, that she’s trying to find herself in this other persona.
Just a follow up on the characters–you’re introducing a new character, a Pia Morales? What went into her creation?
AK: One of the great things that it’s nice to do when you’re writing is definitely to reinterpret and to play with the toys in the sandbox. It’s also really nice to create something that you hope will resonate with people and add on to them. I’m trying to think of the best way to put this. On the one hand, I really wanted a character. I wanted to play with certain kinds of powers and ideas. I wanted her to be a female character who wisecracks and is funny. Often, I find that if there’s a class clown character, someone who is a little bit of a wise-ass, it’s always a male character.
I wanted a female wise-ass character because that certainly resonates for me. I gave her her last name because of in part of my friend Bob Morales who wrote comics and who unfortunately died too young. I did want her to, I felt that if you only used canon characters, you could end up with a cast that’s un-representatively Caucasian. I wanted to be aware of what a real college campus looks like. I based it around where I live. In my mind, it’s set in Mystic, New York and that’s somewhere between Poughkeepsie and Red Hook.
AK: I should also say something else about Pia as a character.
AK: She has a power that manifests as something disgusting. She’s a healer. When she heals, she sort of secretes ooze.
I began to think about well, what would healing power look like? People always do this sort of nice, neat glow of light and I’m thinking, I’m sure that if I had a power, it would not be a nice, neat glow of light. It would be something that would be drippy and, I don’t know. I’m a messy person.
Fair enough. You’re working with Mike Norton on the artwork. He’s most famously known for “Revival”. What’s that, knowing his background, how do you establish a collaboration process?
AK: I try as much as possible to read and see what other work a person has done. I read his other comics, I read “Battle Pug”, which I love, and began to get a sense of him. Increasingly, the longer we work together, I can see who he is and how he responds to things. He is amazingly good and amazingly fast and he’s been very responsive. We skyped in the beginning and tried to work. He’s just been really easy and responsive.