Damian Wayne is heading off to school.
Batman‘s son officially joined the cast of “Gotham Academy” in the closing pages of the most recent issue, making an immediate impact on the critically acclaimed DC Comics series by liberating “The Diary of Millie Jane Cobblepot” from a sealed room at the prestigious (albeit perplexing) prep school.
By hand-delivering the prized possession to his dear old dad, the next chapter of “Gotham Academy” begins, but readers will have two wait until June for the next issue as “Gotham Academy” — like the rest of DC Comics’ ongoing monthlies — takes a two-month hiatus during the “Convergence” event.
With the first arc of “Gotham Academy” complete, CBR News connected with co-writers Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher to discuss Damian’s arrival on campus, his immediate effect on Maps Mizoguchi and how one of his father’s archenemies’ past is rooted in Olive Silverlock’s family tree. They also shared their thoughts on the possibility of Olive or Maps “wandering off the grounds” and appearing in other DC Comics’ titles, and why classic DCU characters might feel different when appearing in “Gotham Academy,” even though the series is set squarely in DC Comics’ continuity.
CBR News: I love the spirit of “Gotham Academy,” with its big, mature themes, yet the youthful exuberance and energy of the principal characters really shine through. I especially got that vibe from the end of #6, because even as a 42-year old, I would be just as jazzed as Maps if a couple of my buddies and I decided to start a detective club.
Brenden Fletcher: I don’t know if it’s more exciting to start a detective club or a pizza club. [Laughs]
Becky Cloonan: I would definitely rather join a pizza club. [Laughs]
Fletcher: It totally depends on what mood I am in. I just had lunch and polished off a piece of pizza in honor of this interview. [Laughs]
But yes, the kids are definitely excited, and they feel like they are forming something. They don’t know what to call it, but they know they are going to be solving mysteries. And at the same time, like all kids, they really like pizza.
Though he hasn’t joined the detective club — yet — Damian Wayne made his “Gotham Academy” debut in this issue. Generally, I would say readers love him or hate him, but everything that I have read and heard since it was announced that he was joining the cast of “Gotham Academy” has been extremely positive. You’ve built this series using, predominantly, original characters. Was it a difficult decision to drop Batman’s son into the mix?
Fletcher: It was an easy decision. Damian is in the series for a very specific reason, and I think that fans are going to be really excited to see what we do with him. I know we couldn’t wait to get him in the pages and watch him bounce off of Maps and see how those to interrelate. I think everyone has been waiting for that.
Cloonan: We started off this book introducing a bunch of new characters, being quite clear that this wasn’t sidekick training or anything like that, so I agree with Brenden that people are going to be very excited and surprised by what we do with Damian. We can’t say too much more than that, but it’s going to be a lot of fun.
I want to ask you about Killer Croc in a second, but like Croc, is the Damian that we see in “Gotham Academy” a different version of the character than we see in other titles?
Fletcher: I think that all just comes down to environment and circumstance. The characters are always the same, but the way that they react is dependent on the circumstances that they are in. Croc is the same Croc, but in what other book have you seen him around children? It’s just a different angle on the same character. That’s what fun about serial storytelling. You get to take characters that you love and give them a “what if?” And our “what if” here is, what if Croc was hanging out with a bunch of kids? He’s got a different attitude about kids.
Cloonan: And he also knows Olive’s mother, so he wants to help out. We’re definitely seeing a different side to him that we may not have seen otherwise. I think Croc could carry his own series — and I would totally read that series. I am a huge Killer Croc fan. I love that guy.
Fletcher: I think you could say the same thing for any quote/unquote guest star that you’ll ever see in “Gotham Academy.” I think that it is safe to say that until they have appeared in “Gotham Academy,” you’ve likely never read a story where that character has been in a boarding school. [Laughs] This is probably the first time that you have seen Damian in a boarding school, and he’s going to act differently because of the circumstance but it’s the same character.
Damian’s first action in the series sees him snatch Millie Jane Cobblepot’s diary from Olive’s room for his dear old dad. You’ve built your initial arc with Millie Jane’s diary as a MacGuffin, while the first season of the “Gotham” TV series has been driven just as much by young Oswald Cobblepot’s origin as Jim Gordon’s or Bruce Wayne’s. Will the students at Gotham Academy continue to study Millie Jane Cobblepot in History of Gotham 201, or has her story come to a close with the end of this first arc?
Cloonan: This isn’t the last that you’ve seen of the diary or Mille Jane, but the whole story doesn’t hinge upon it either. We’ll definitely see more of it. When we first started thinking about the series, one of the very first notes that we were bouncing back and forth was about the Cobblepots. It wasn’t until we started to develop the series a little bit more that Millie Jane and the diary really came into play. And then, it just became something larger than we had planned. It’s exciting to see how it has grown.
Family is certainly a big part of this story as Sybil — Olive’s mother — also became a focus once Olive learned that she shared a past with Killer Croc. Pardon the penguin pun, but that’s obviously just the tip of the iceberg for those revelations.
Cloonan: You’re right. We’ve learned a little bit, which I think has satisfied readers for the first six issues — but the next six issues are really going to deal with Olive really learning who her mother is and what that means to her now.
One of the first mysteries the Pizza Club is going to try and crack is the mysterious symbol of the two inverted ‘A’s and how it relates to the connection between Arkham Asylum and Gotham Academy. So far, most of what we’ve learned about that connection come from Croc. Can he be trusted?
Cloonan: I don’t know. Can we trust Killer Croc? And don’t you think it’s weird that the ‘A’s are in shape of pizza slices?
Fletcher: Pizza is the hidden key to everything that is “Gotham Academy.”
Cloonan: But honestly, a lot of “Gotham Academy” is going to be about going back and exploring the history of Gotham, and Arkham Asylum is obviously a big part of that. But we’re also going to be exploring different parts of Gotham. We have a lot planned for this series.
While Batman has played a role in this series, and was certainly heavily featured in “Gotham Academy” #6, the first arc didn’t cross over into the other different Bat-titles and was largely self-contained. As the series continues, will we see it fuse more with the rest of the DCU?
Fletcher: We pitched this series as something that very much existed within DCU continuity, and part of the fun was coming up with a self-contained corner of Gotham that would be able to bounce off of the larger things happening in the DCU, mostly within the Bat-universe. I think we’ve kind of just started toying with that, but you’ll see a little bit more of that coming in the near future. Of course, it poses some challenges, having to share some characters with other books. But it something that we can roll with and it’s really just something that we try to get creative with it.
Cloonan: A good example is our “Endgame” tie-in. We thought of a great idea that fit really well with themes we working with and the spirit of “Gotham Academy.” A Joker story is not something you would necessarily see in “Gotham Academy,” but it worked really well the way that we did it.
Fletcher: I also think that our “Endgame” issue is the creepiest issue of “Gotham Academy” to date.
Having cameos and guest appearances by characters from other corners of the DC Universe is one thing, but when can we expect to see Olive or Maps in someone else’s book?
Fletcher: [Pauses] I can say that we have discussed what would happen when and if those characters made an appearance outside of “Gotham Academy” — and there are no immediate plans to tell those stories yet. [Laughs] We’re still nurturing the concept, and it’s very much about this set of buildings in “Gotham Academy.” We have a lot more to say about that, but Gotham is a big place, so I am sure it’s just a matter of time before our young women wander off the grounds.
Cloonan: Right now, we’re still building their stories and these characters are still growing and developing. In a few years, who knows what’s going to happen? But right now, they are pretty grounded. They need to get their degree. [Laughs] That’s the message: “Stay in school, kids!”
Do the events of “Convergence” have any effect on “Gotham Academy” when the series returns in June?
Fletcher: No. [Laughs]
Cloonan: No. When June comes, we hit the ground running.
“Gotham Academy” #6 and “Gotham Academy: Endgame” #1 are available now.
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