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The Mary Sue Exclusive Art & Interview: Gotham Academy’s Becky Cloonan

TMSGA-promoDC Comics have given us a very cool art reveal today. Above is a brand new promotional image for the upcoming Gotham Academy by Karl Kerschl—but that’s not all! Read on for an exclusive interview with the comic’s writer, Becky Cloonan, as well as two variant covers by her!

The Mary Sue: Becky, I know many of our readers are very excited for this title, I can only imagine your excitement as the one working on it. Can you tell us a little bit about the pitch and development and what it was like when DC said yes?

Becky Cloonan: Mark [Doyle] called me up I think in February, and was asking me if I had any ideas, even if it was just a mini series or a one-shot. Of course I had to pitch an ongoing! We bounced some ideas around, and one really stuck- the idea of what it would be like to grow up in Gotham. Imagine looking out your window while you’re trying to sleep and the Bat Signal comes on? This image really stuck with me, so when I hung up the phone I turned to Karl and Brenden [Fletcher] (who were there in the studio with me) and I was like “Right, we’re doing a Bat book.” They really had no choice, haha.

So we worked on the story for a while, hammering out some details and character designs. The process went so smoothly, I guess I’ve always been really confident about this idea—but even when DC said yes it was hard to believe it was actually going to happen. It’s still hard to believe! I had a dream last night I was holding the first issue, and I woke up and thought, oh my god this is actually happening!!

We’ve had so much support from everyone too, from Mark, Jim Lee, Dan DiDio—even when we’ve thrown ideas from left field, they’ve trusted us completely, and really believed in this book.

[Editor's Note: Here's Cloonan's variant cover for Gotham Academy #1.]

TMSGAbc_variant

TMS: Tell us a little bit about our main characters and where they sit in the overall Gotham City landscape?

BC: Olive Silverlock is a second year student at Gotham Academy, attending on a prestigious Wayne Scholarship. She’s smart, focused and driven, but something happened to her over the summer that changed her attitude. Her grades started to slip, and she’s been distancing herself from friends, teachers, and her boyfriend (ex boyfriend?) Kyle. So a big part of this story is finding out what exactly happened to her, and why she rolls her eyes whenever she sees the Bat Signal. “Batman? Whatever.

Just to make things more awkward for her, she’s thrown together with the intrepid, cartography obsessed Mia “Maps” Mizoguchi, Kyle’s younger sibling. Maps looks up to Olive as an older sister, and when they are paired together for orientation (It’s Maps’s first year!) Maps is determined to close the gap that has grown between them. Then there’s Pomeline Fritch, a second year student who is fond of demonology books, silver jewelry, anything Francis Bacon, and giving poor Olive a hard time.

All this plus history reports, detention, romance, secret societies, and just maybe there is a ghost haunting the North Hall! And Olive is thrown right in the middle of it, while she’s forced to confront her past and why she hates Batman so much. We’ve also taken a page from Scott Snyder’s book, this idea that every building has a story kind of thing, and how these stories affect the kids growing up there. We’re digging through Gotham’s history, fifty, a hundred years, maybe more! It’s a lot of fun.

TMS: What’s your collaboration with the other creators involved been like so far?​

BC: The whole book came together very organically. The three of us, Karl, Brenden and myself, have very similar influences, inspirations and ideas on where we want the story to go, and on the look and tone of it. Even Mark Doyle, when we get notes back from him on our script it’s almost always stuff we’ve red-flagged amongst ourselves! It’s really exciting, every time we sit down and talk about the story it feels so good. It’s that feeling like the Universe is telling us we’re on the right track, and you just can’t beat that.

Writing with Brenden Fletcher has been a lot of fun. We’ll get the basic story done, then split up the book scene by scene. Then we cram it all into a google docs and go over it together! After Karl’s pages come in we go over the dialogue in a final pass, so far it’s worked out really well! Brenden and I don’t even have to tell Karl what to draw, we trust him implicitly. He’s doing the best work of his career, and I can’t wait for everyone to see it! These characters are just jumping off the page.

TMS: We often talk about wanting more diversity in comics, and it certainly looks like you’re approaching the series that way. Was that a conscious effort?

BC: I’ve been asked this a few times, and I’m never quite sure how to answer it. Of course diversity makes a good comic, so when we were putting together our cast of characters it was a lot of fun to go in really unexpected directions, and just throw all our ideas on the table and pick the best ones. We were basically told we could do whatever we want (within reason, I guess), so the three of us really took advantage of that! A more colorful tapestry makes for a more vibrant story, and a richer reading experience. Creators who don’t put thought into the diversity of their characters are doing their story and their craft a disservice.

Gotham Academy came together so naturally though—Olive and Maps, our two main characters are both girls, and because the first six issues focuses on them we end up in the girls’ dorm quite a lot, and just focus more on female characters and their stores. For sure keeping the cast diverse is on our mind, but these are the characters that move the story, and each of them have a point and purpose for being there.

[Editor's Note: Here's Cloonan's variant cover for Gotham Academy #2.]

TMSGothamAcademy02_BC_variant

TMS: What’s the reader, or I should say potential-reader, reaction been like since the announcement?

BC: We’ve had a vastly positive and supportive reaction! There’s been the occasional “meh,” but I think that’s just because we haven’t been able to really reveal what the book is about. Just wait until you read it, oh man. I’m in love with Karl’s art on this, and Romain Gaschet who is on colors, the two of them are absolutely killing it. There’s been some people hoping we’ll see characters like Cassandra Cain or Tim Drake- and although I’ll never say never, I will say that Gotham Academy isn’t a book about sidekick training. Our main cast of characters are original, I think everyone will fall in love with them like we love them! Gotham Academy is the kind of book we all wish we had read growing up, so naturally we are so psyched to be bringing this book to the shelves.

TMS: Obviously this is being billed as a “teen drama” but who are you hoping will read this new title? The easy answer is “everyone,” of course, but are you hoping to appeal to a crowd that may not already be consistently picking up superhero titles?

BC: It’s an all-ages book, so we’re getting a lot of positive response from people who have younger siblings or children who are too young to read other New 52 titles. Gotham Academy is filling in a blind spot in DC’s current lineup by being all-ages too. It’s also in continuity, and has a lot of nods and cameos that Batman fans are going to really get a kick out of, so even if you’re in your 20’s, 30’s, whatever—I think this book has something for everyone. It’s a lot of fun! But this is definitely a book fans of the Young Justice or Teen Titan shows would love. It’s also a great book for fans of Harry Potter, and I think it’ll be a great introduction to Gotham for new readers.

You know, I sometimes worry I’m being too excited when I talk about this book, but I’m just so happy with what Karl, Brenden, Romain, Mark Doyle and myself have pulled together to create. I’m so proud of this comic, and the fact that I’m making it with some of my favorite people, well… I can’t help it, I’M SO EXCITED!!

We greatly appreciate Becky Cloonan taking time to chat with us about Gotham Academy. Issue #1 on sale October 1 and issue #2 on sale November 5.

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