In Teen Titans: Raven, writer Kami Garcia and artist Gabriel Picolo took a classic DC character and presented her in an undeniably contemporary context—while staying true to the fundamentals of the character introduced by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez back in 1980. The result was rave reviews from fans and critics, and spots on New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly’s bestseller lists.

One year later, Garcia and Picolo have reunited, but instead of the brooding melancholy of Rachel Roth, it’s the infectious exuberance of Gar Logan in Teen Titans: Beast Boy, which takes place concurrently with the events of Raven. In the latest DC Graphic Novel for Young Adults, Gar is a funny and friendly senior at Bull Creek High School looking for a way to finally stand out among his classmates…before getting his wish in a way he never expected.

DC Nation talked with Garcia and Picolo about the updated origin story of Teen Titans: Beast Boy, what they’re looking forward to fans discovering in the book, and their feelings on the warm reaction to Raven.

Readers of all ages really responded to Teen Titans: Raven. What has the book’s success meant to the both of you? How has it felt to hear from readers who have embraced this take on classic DC characters?

Kami Garcia: It’s a huge honor to see how much readers love our version of Raven. To me, she’s every girl—self-conscious and trying to figure out how to define herself in a world that wants to tell her who she has to be. She has to find her inner strength and believe in herself in order to overcome the obstacles I throw at her in the story.

Gabriel Picolo: Raven was my first book with DC, so for me, there was a lot of expectation if it was going to be a hit. It felt so great to see fans showing up at signings and conventions to get their book signed and talk a bit. I flew to the US when the book dropped for a signing tour.

The biggest highlights for me were New York City and Los Angeles, where we did a signing at Barnes and The Grove respectively. So many people showed up that the bookstores ran out of chairs, and we saw this huge crowd standing. Some peeps were cosplaying Raven and the other Titans! I can’t explain how moved and grateful I felt in that moment.

Even though there are clear tonal and aesthetic similarities between the two books, Beast Boy is of course a very different character than Raven. What do you love about the character, and what aspects of Gar were you most excited to explore in this book? 

Picolo: I love the way he can shapeshift into any creature at will, so my favorite aspect was drawing the various stages of his transformations! Earlier in the book he still doesn’t know how to fully transform, but he gets the animal’s powers on a molecular level. Telling that visually was a such a fun challenge.

As this is a solo book, Gar is not only the comic relief guy. It was very different for me as a fan of this character to draw him experiencing frustration, anger and other complex feelings.

Garcia: Gar is a sweetheart through and through. Even when he’s brooding, he’s still lovable. The media is constantly sending the message that bad boys are cool. I love seeing a genuinely sweet boy next door as the hero of the story.

Like Raven, this graphic novel stays close to the character’s origins while updating them with a distinctly current sensibility. What was your process in creating this version of Beast Boy?

Garcia: I’m a fan and Beast Boy is such a cool character, so I didn’t want to change his personality. I wanted to dig deeper and add layers, so readers get to see him do more than crack jokes.

In this series, Gabriel and I take a more grounded approach to the characters with less focus on them being superheroes, and more emphasis on them being teens. The biggest challenge was how to handle Gar changing into animals so it would feel realistic. He still changes, but he also channels the powers of animals when his fight-or-flight response is triggered.

Gabriel, Raven was your first full-length graphic novel. In what ways did you evolve as an artist between Raven and Beast Boy? 

I would say the biggest improvement was speed. Also, I feel more comfortable with the medium, so I’m trying new panels, compositions and new ways of telling stories.

What are you most excited for readers to see in this book?

Garcia: I’m incredibly proud of this book because Gabriel and I really worked to develop Gar without changing the core of his character. Early on, a few people at DC said, “He doesn’t have to literally turn into an animal.” These stories aren’t bound by canon so the folks at DC were just trying to remind me that I wasn’t bound to the same rules as writers working in the DCU. But my answer was still, “Yes, he does.” Gabriel and I just had to find a way to make it work and I think we did. We also created some cool friends for Gar!

Picolo: One of my favorite scenes was when Gar opens his social media to see that he went viral. There’s not a lot of action going on, but this is the slice of life sort of scene that I love to draw.

Teen Titans: Beast Boy, written by Kami Garcia and illustrated by Gabriel Picolo, is on sale today in print and as a digital graphic novel.