Since the book was first announced, Gotham Academy has always been the square peg in a round Bat hole. Surely a tale about friendship, intrigue, good times with your best friends, and pizza didn’t belong in the bleak world of modern Batman? Then you read Gotham Academy’s first issues and were proven dead wrong. Maps Mizoguchi, Kyle, Pom, and Olive opened those black curtains to a little bit of light in Gotham’s dingy dark house that somehow still sees people living in it. Series creators Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl, and Becky Cloonan not only built a new book for a young influential audience DC wants to connect with, but the creative team also managed to add a new quality layer of mythology to a Bat universe which fans and creators alike are sometimes venomously overprotective of.
That’s why it feels like –a peeling onions in a Taco Bell dumpster job– to have to be the one to tell you Gotham Academy: Second Semester is ending with issue #12 (Unless you read all your comics at midnight digitally like you should, then you already knew). Issue #9 will start the final arc of Gotham Academy: Second Semester titled “The Ballad of Olive Silverlock”.
In order for DC to keep me from protesting outside of Dan DiDio’s office, I was allowed to be talked down from my high horse by the people who gave me this book in the first place. While these characters still have a galaxy of stories to tell, there’s nothing the creators can say about the future… just YA yet. They do talk a bit about the road carved out for Maps, Olive, and all of the pizza club along with what you can expect heading into the final issue, maybe possibilities beyond.
COMICS BEAT: What did it mean for the team to be able to create these unique and very independent feeling characters yet still be able to fold them into the Batman mythos of the overall DC Comics universe?
BECKY CLOONAN: When we started out with Gotham Academy, we knew a lot of influential touchstones we wanted to hit. Batman mysteries, Harry Potter, Nancy Drew; it gave us a flavor of the world we wanted to create and then it became a matter of what tale we wanted to tell. Olive Silverlock became that story and other characters, Maps and Kyle, fell into place around her. Maps, in particular was created as a foil for Olive, she represents her true north.
KARL KERSCHL: I think these characters just fit well in the Batman universe as we created them. Not so much on the surface but Olive and Maps are almost a good analog for Batman and Robin or like Holmes and Watson. But after you see how things pan out after issue #8 those analogs might not be accurate anymore.
CB: Jumping ahead to recent events (spoilers), who came up with the idea to have Olive go full Tyler Durden?
KARL: All of us I think. We break these stories together. On the phone jamming or through google doc. We’ll all just come with ideas and talk through to incorporate everyones stuff. The Olive and Amy stuff was pretty early. What you see now with Olive or the path to where she is now was planned from the very very beginning. The Amy stuff we knew but formalized about a year and a half ago.
BECKY: We first started thinking about this book in 2014. Back then we were all in Montreal and could get together to talk about ideas more often. The Amy as a roommate stuff was super early and we thought “well this is a cool idea, let’s keep it in our pocket and see what develops.”
KARL: Yeah, that was why we got rid of Lucy the way we did. We wanted to establish the idea of Olive having a roommate that she may not have gotten along with but she wasn’t like you know, a psychopath. The space was free in her room and well… you know. The split personality stuff was kinda risky for a book like this cause it’s YA. It has to appeal to people who have been reading Batman forever and also new readers. It could have seemed soo predictable to people who were familiar with Fight Club but it was worth doing if we balanced it correctly and dropped hints in the right places.
BECKY: A lot of this stuff we’ve had since the beginning and it’s crazy that we’ve been able to get to it. Gotham Academy is probably one of the only YA books in the [main] DCU and they’ve been supportive of the book. Even when we didn’t know what the future of the book was going to be everyone checked in 110% behind it.
CB: Issue #8 is such a jaw-dropping cliffhanger for Olive. What comes next?
BRENDEN FLETCHER: Our next issue starts the final arc, “The Ballad of Olive” that’ll run four issues and wrap this series at issue twelve.
COMICS BEAT: Brenden, was this ending in issue #8 a place you always wanted to take Olive to?
BRENDEN: Absolutely. This was part of the plan from the beginning. Like we were saying with the Amy roommate stuff and being a bad influence on her [Olive]. It all stems from where Olive has come from and what this force that’s taken over her family is. We connected this force directly to Gotham, Gotham Academy, the Arkham family, and the Wayne family. In addition to being a story about these characters and friendship, it’s also about how they fit in the history of Gotham. This final storyline will reveal all of the answers to all of the mysteries we set up at the beginning. If you’ve been reading from the beginning it’s a huge payoff. Even if people have dropped off they can come back for this last bunch of issues and enjoy how we tie things up.
CB: You’ve guys have built such a tremendous cast book, but like any good stable of characters one gets elevated above the rest. In this case that appears to be Olive Silverlock. Could you see her having a bigger role in the overall DC Universe? Especially with how we leave her at the end of issue eight.
*LIKE 30 SECONDS OF SILENCE from no one wanting to answer*
KARL: I think it depends on how things end up for her in the story. It could go in a couple of different major directions
CB: Whoa whoa whoa…you guys aren’t going to break my heart? Are you?
BRENDEN: No comment.
BECKY: We’ll try.
BECKY: Maybe I’m bias, but I always thought Maps would make a good Robin.
CB: She did come up with Pizza Club so she comes with the necessary touchstone in any Bat-book. But getting back to Olive for a second. Is her taking on a larger part of the DCU something you’d like to see even at the cost of having to take her away from her friends?
BECKY: I would love that. It’s something we talked about at the very beginning in pitching the book. Creating these characters not only in the context of Gotham Academy but what if these characters get ushered into different arcs of different books. I feel like we’ve laid enough groundwork here for people to read these books and imagine them outside of the academy. There’s enough material, character development, and back story for them to exist in any Gotham book.
BRENDEN: I think it’s safe to say there’s going to be more to come at some point. We’re going to wrap second semester at issue 12, but you know…there are more semesters. There’s definitely a need for YA books, YA stories, YA graphic novels and I think we’d all love to see the further adventures of the pizza club.
COMICS BEAT: Anyone you’d still like to get into this book before the end or future books?
BRENDEN: I think we can say that before this story ends someone from Wayne Manor will make a return. I know I have ideas for a million crossovers. I’d love to see these kids turn up in DC’s Scooby-Doo team up book.
BRENDEN: I’m going to just keep pushing for weird crossovers. I think Maps especially can be teamed up with a variety of young DC superheroes that would result in great entertainment value. Well for me at least. If you go back and read Gotham Academy Annual #1 there’s a hint of something fun we’d really like to create for Maps one day. You know what I’m talking about, Becky.
BECKY: Oh my goodness yes! We set up a huge plot line there and it goes back to having set up all these things meticulously from the beginning. Almost unreal.
CB: If you guys are taaaaaking suggestions, I’d love to see Maps interact with Krypto in a story about a lost dog.
BRENDEN: Pitching it today!
CB: What are we going to see in the Ballad of Olive?
KARL: You’re going to see some familiar Batman supporting characters, Gotham Academy kids interacting with Batman villains you haven’t seen yet. Plus we get to see some scenes of Kyle in action.
BECKY: We’re going to be answering a lot of the questions from the first issue and it’s going to be a really satisfying conclusion to Olive’s story.
BRENDEN: DC is letting me know that I can spoil for you that Heathcliff [Ray] is going to make a return [from managing Black Canary the band] if for nothing else one panel in the last issue. Shoehorned in there by request.
COMICS BEAT: Thank you guys for putting my mind at ease. Whatever the fate of Olive and the detective club will be remains to be seen, but you three have been able to prove there’s not only a need but an audience for a book that reflects younger readers in the DCU.
The cover of Gotham Academy #11 by Karl Kerschl featuring a returning Wayne. Tim Burton couldn’t have done this better himself.