Teen Titans: Raven, written by Kami Garcia and illustrated by Gabriel Picolo, is the first in a new DC Young Adult graphic novel series that reimagines the origin stories of each of the Teen Titans. In this first book, Rachel “Raven” Roth, a half-demon empath, struggles with amnesia and the (re)emergence of her powers. (You can read more about the book in our Book Breakdown, and make sure to check out our interview with Garcia and Picolo and our post on the magical lessons Raven can teach us all.)
When Raven first arrives in New Orleans after a car crash (and the death of her foster mother), she’s questioning who she really is, thanks both to being a teenager and a case of post-car crash amnesia. She has a box of her personal possessions from her previous life but doesn’t remember why she chose any of it—including her wardrobe, which is pretty dang killer and filled with snarky T-shirts, cool boots, and a lot of black. (She even wears a T-shirt with “Black is My Happy Color” emblazoned on it on her first day at her new school.)
Raven’s look is a little goth, which ties in nicely with Raven’s demony genealogical makeup, given that—stereotypically—goths are into the darker side of things. It’s also a little witchy (see the crescent moon on her backpack), which goes well with some of the other themes of the book, specifically the voodoo influences of her foster family. Her pale skin, dark hair and dark makeup only add to the whole package, as do the noise-canceling headphones she borrows from her new foster sister Max to drown out the mental “noise” she can’t yet block out at the start of the book. As first impressions go, she comes off as aloof, unapproachable and uninterested.
Of course, that’s not to say that everyone who wears dark colors and quippy T-shirts is trying to keep people at an arm’s length or are actually as standoffish as they might outwardly appear. When Raven worries that she was (is?) pretentious, Max comments that anyone who wears a “Black is My Happy Color” T-shirt could never be pretentious. Sure, they’re discussing Raven’s battered and annotated copy of Dracula, but Max’s assertion backs up what I’ve laid out in this post. (Tommy Torres certainly finds her appealing, too, but that’s a topic for a different article.)
And Raven’s obviously not all doom and gloom—the narwhal pajama pants she wears later in the book prove that. She doesn’t actively want to push people away, she’s just had to because it’s the easiest way to keep her emotions in check. Even if she doesn’t immediately realize it in Teen Titans: Raven—thanks to the amnesia—it’s a habit that’s hard to break. Wearing what she does is a form of armor. If she comes off as unapproachable on the outside, people won’t make an attempt to get to know what’s going on inside.
And she won’t have to explain how frightened she truly is.
Wearing what she does/looking how she does is a form of protection for Raven. It’s also very similar—in theory, if not in practice—to what Raven wears in her other incarnations: a costume. She is a superhero, after all.
In the animated Teen Titans and Teen Titans Go!, Raven most frequently wears a black, long-sleeved leotard, a purple hooded cloak and purple boots. In the comics, she’s often in something similar—if a little more revealing. And in the live-action Titans, she wears clothes that look like something out of her Teen Titans: Raven closet: dark colors, big boots and a long jacket. The purple and/or black a-line bob is also pretty much a staple.
Superheroes wear costumes to protect themselves physically, but also to keep their secret identities…well, secret. In Teen Titan: Raven, Raven might not be wearing spandex or some sort of crazy metal alloy that repels weapons fire, but she’s protected herself the best she can with what’s available to her.
When Mandy Curtis isn’t reading books by Leigh Bardugo or Sarah J. Maas, she’s dreaming of busting bad guys with Wonder Woman—if Steve Trevor’s there, too, she won’t complain—and writing about YA fiction and pop culture at Forever Young Adult. Follow her on Twitter at @mandyannecurtis.