Published by DC Comics, The Mystery of the Meanest Teacher: A Johnny Constantin Graphic Novel is written by Ryan North with illustration by Derek Charm. The book is available now in print and on digital where all good comics are sold. Grab your digital copy from Comixology right here.
After angering a number of hostile spirits in England, 13-year-old magician Johnny Constantine has to find a way out of the country. Persuading his parents to send him to America, John arrives at the Junior Success Boarding School in Salem, Massachusetts. But once there,he finds himself to be something of an outcast. And he is also convinced that his homeroom teacher really has it in for him. Worse, he’s convinced that’s she’s really a witch. Fortunately, John is able to find one kindred spirit at school with whom he’s able to form an alliance–another misfit named Anna, who also happens to have her own developing magical powers. John recruits Anna in his efforts to uncover the truth about Ms. Kayla and expose the Meanest Teacher’s real identity to the world. Joined by a friendly demon named Etrigan, these two amateur sleuths will uncover clues and stumble upon forces beyond their control in a humorous series of misadventures.
When it comes to the pantheon of DC Comics characters there are plenty screaming out for an adaption for younger readers. One who probably isn’t high on the list of adaptable characters is John Constantine. The chain smoking, occult living Hellblazer certainly has a fair number of traits which would anger any number parent group.
But in the hands of author Ryan North and artist Derek Charm, Constantine is not only accessible but is also an incredibly fun read. With The Mystery of the Meanest Teacher North has been able to roll the character back to his teenage years without sacrificing his personality. Readers tuning in to the book will absolutely be able to recognise the character for who he is as an adult. Taken back to being a teen, Constantine is snarky but never not relatable.
Starting out the story at home in the UK, Constantine is very much living life by his own rules. The setup affords North the chance to show the more anarchic nature of the character. Having his parents ship him off to private school in the states brings with it plenty of development and rounds out the arc of the story perfectly. Whilst he is never shown as being particularly homesick, Constantine is certainly a loner in his new surroundings. It places him exactly where we need him in order to setup his relationship with Anna.
Whilst I won’t say too much about her character, Anna is integral to the development of the plot. In Anna Constantine finds a confidant and eventually a friend. The two bond over a mutual interest in magic but also a dislike for their seemingly evil teacher. For the younger audience it feels like the perfect analogy, the mean teacher is the demon of you nightmares.
Weaving in Etrigan as a supporting character helps to ground The Meanest Teacher in the murky, magical side of DC. Speaking in his usual rhyme also feels well pitched towards the younger audience. As far as other connections to the wider DC world… that would be telling!
The book also packs a visual punch. Charm’s character designs echo North’s brilliant adaption of the characters. Constantine still has his legendary jacket but rejects the shirt and tie for a cool graphic tee. Etrigan meanwhile is lovingly recreated from other appearances. Original characters, such as the titular teacher, reflect this child-friendly version of the DCU but never pander to the audience. It’s the perfect balance of family reading vs. comic book introduction.
The Mystery of the Meanest Teacher is a wonderful story which explores the idea of young friendship in a world of demons and magical powers.