Today, I have the privilege to be talking to both Matthew Cody and Yoshi Yoshitani, whose graphic novel, Zatanna and the House of Secrets, is available now from DC Comics.
Hi Matthew and Yoshi. Thank you for joining us today.
My first question is for both of you. Can you tell us a little bit about Zatanna and the House of Secrets?
Matthew: Zatanna and the House of Secrets is about a normal tween girl, Zatanna, who discovers that just about nothing in her life is what it appears to be – not her dad, not the house she grew up in, not even the family pet rabbit. There are magical secrets afoot, and more to Zatanna than she ever imagined!
Yoshi: It’s a story of a girl growing up and trying to figure out her identity as the world and people around her change—figuratively and literally! And of course, lots of magic
Matthew, you’re books are, for the most part, a mix of fantasy and superheros. So, Zatanna’s story seems like a natural fit for you. Did you choose the character?
Matthew: I did. When this opportunity to work with DC came along, they asked me to pitch them three or four characters I’d like to write. Zatanna was a no-brainer, because she’s never been your typical superhero. She’s a magician! The story of how she became a magician – how she discovered her powers – was such a joy to conjure up (see what I did there?)
Not gonna lie, Zatanna is one of my favorite DC characters, and my go-to for cosplay. Yoshi, I love the new character design. I’m already planning on rocking this as my next cosplay. How did you approach the character design?
Yoshi: Yes! Zatanna is one of my absolute favorites too! Zatanna’s fully grown costume is over the top and confident, so it was fun to work backwards and consider what her pre-evolution outfits would be. Maybe some vintage finds, maybe her dad’s old shirts – she has a style but has yet to nail down her look. I really wanted to capture that transition.
One of the things that I really liked about this story is how it explored the relationship between Zatanna and her father and the idea that our parents aren’t always the heroes we expect them to be. Matthew, was that something that you wanted to focus on early on?
Matthew: Definitely. Middle school is hard for a lot of reasons, but one of the toughest aspects of it is that push/pull between still needing your parents tremendously, while at the same time feeling like you need to separate yourself in some ways. So, we took fantasy and did what the genre does best – we externalized that conflict. At its heart, this is a very family focused story about the mistakes we make both as kids and adults. And how we deal with them.
Another thing that I particularly loved was that the House of Secrets is like a character itself in the story. So, another question for both of you: How did you approach the world-building?
Matthew: The House of Secrets has been around in DC Comics lore for a long, long time. It’s been interpreted and reinterpreted in a many different ways, so I kind of took that meta-fact and applied it to the house in our story. Our House of Secrets has been passed down from Caretaker to Caretaker for centuries, and each one left their mark. Poor Yoshi then had to being all that to life on the page (btw, she knocked it out of the park)
Yoshi: Matthew had the idea that the House of Secrets had been passed through many different owners in different parts of the world and different eras. I absolutely loved that, and I personally relish any opportunity to kit-bash multiple cultural influences. Plus those huge stylistic changes really gave the impression of a magical unpredictable house—one you were just dying to run around yourself!
We see Teekl throughout the illustrations before we’re ever introduced to the character. Yoshi, was this an easter egg or is Teekl spying on the Zataras?
Yoshi: I was hoping someone would notice! And yes, Teekl is definitely a warning that Klarion and his mother are nearby, not that Zatanna understands that at the time. Its an Easter egg that’s fun on the reread.
Are there any other easter eggs that fans should keep an eye out for?
Matthew: Oh yeah! Yoshi’s art has a ton of clever hints and nods, but if you want to look for one in particular that might excite old school DC fans, pay special attention to the stone busts and portraits throughout the house to get a glimpse of the house’s original “caretakers”.
Yoshi: There are a few visual Easter Eggs for those who are familiar with the DC universe. I won’t give anything away, but definitely check out the school dance. Also, those in the know will recognize the Witch Queen’s assistants for what they are.
Speaking of fans, I’m going to geek out for a little bit here. In DC canon, Zatanna was the caretaker of the House of Mystery, which is similar to, the House of Secrets. Can we expect to see another story featuring the House of Mystery, perhaps a different caretaker?
Matthew: Huh. That’s a great idea! 😉
Is there anything else about the story that either of you would like to share?
Matthew: It’s really, really good!
What’s the best piece of creative advice that both of you have received and would like to pass on to other writers and artists?
Matthew: For writers, read more than you write – but write a lot.
Yoshi: Breaks are important to creative flow, and pursue a creative process that brings you joy.
What is something that people would be surprised to learn about you?
Matthew: I tried to break into comics as a writer before I became a published novelist.
Yoshi: I’m allergic to coconut.
What are you working on next?
Matthew: I’m finishing up a novel for older readers and am working on a couple of kids comics projects that I’m really excited about.
Yoshi: Something else with DC!
How can people follow you on social media?
Matthew: On twitter I’m at @mattcodywrites. I tweet rarely but always respond!
Yoshi: Twitter @yoshisquared. Insta @yoshiyoshitani Website Yoshiyoshitani.com
Thank you so much for the interview!
Zatanna and the House of Secrets is out now, and here at The Mixed-Up Files, we’re giving away a copy. Enter our giveaway below.
The winner will be contacted via email and asked to provide a mailing address (US/Canada only) to receive the book.