This Wednesday saw the end to “Gotham Academy” with the release of “Second Semester” #12. For three years, the work of Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl and so many others brought to life something that honestly not many expected to last. The comic direct market is a fickle thing, with the Big 2 in particular feeling, to me, so homogenized to appeal to the “Wednesday Warrior” crowd. “Gotham Academy” managed to stay around by being something incredibly unique within Marvel or DC: being a young adult book that actually felt young adult. It didn’t pander. It wasn’t condescending. It created a cast of lively and fun characters that felt very real, all the while playing in the fringes of the Batman universe.
We are here to honor the Detective Club with the top ten moments within “Gotham Academy” and “Second Semester”. Naturally, there will be spoilers galore. Also, please note, we are not including moments from the “Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy” crossover. While a fine story on its own, we thought it better to focus on that what was firmly in its own canon.
10. Introductions (“Gotham Academy” #1)
The first impression is always important, right? A character can be made or broken with a reader’s first experience with them. As such, the first moment we see Olive and Maps was critical and the creative team hit it off excellently. They have a great dynamic, with Olive more reserved and Maps ever inquisitive nature on display. It’s a good, firming first glance at these two and how the setup for how they grow.
9. Blight vs. Vampire (“Gotham Academy Annual” #1)
Cloonan, Fletcher & Kerschl are neeeeeeeeeeeeeeerds!
Seriously, “Gotham Academy” is full of call-backs and mythology gags from all of Batman’s history, with side characters from different media forms filling out a lot of the background cast and faculty staff of the academy. The second most outlandish being when Derek Powers a.k.a. Blight from Batman Beyond had come back in time and disguised himself as a teacher in order to kill of one of the students, a young Warren McGinnis who would grow to father the future Dark Knight and Blight’s nemesis. At the same time, a vampire has found its way to the Academy. It’s every bit as weird and insane as that sounds.
But as I said, it’s the second most outlandish use of mythology gag.
8. Class Photo (“Second Semester” #12)
We don’t know if we are going to be getting any more “Gotham Academy” in the future. As such, it is nice that the series for now is ending with a happy ending. Olive Silverlock has been through a great deal, but at the end of the day, she knows who has her back. Who has her trust and love. It provided a nice bow on an arc that, while spotty in some places, brought a good conclusion to Olive’s arc. There was also an enjoyment in seeing Tristan, Katherine and Eric in this photo, all three who, while their appearances were few and far apart to qualify as main characters, certainly became honorary Detective Club members in their own ways.
7. Calamity (“Gotham Academy” #6)
Sybil Silverlock a.k.a. Calamity was a menacing presence throughout the series and a major importance to Olive’s character. There were many scenes involving her that I could have included but I decided to go with this flashback one. Calamity can be a stand in for mental illness and, in regards to Olive, inherited mental illness. Seeing a family member, especially your own parent, going through that is not an easy experience. For as light hearted as this series could be, it knew when to gut punch and it took Calamity very seriously.
6. Pomeline & Heathcliff (“Gotham Academy” #17)
Pomeline Fritch started the series as a bit of a bully alongside her much nicer boyfriend, Heathcliff. However, him leaving to go into the pages of Fletcher’s other book “Black Canary” along with continuing interactions with Olive, Colton and the like made a softer side of her come out. So when Heathcliff makes his return at the end of the “Yearbook” arc she is at first dismissive of him, but the ending shows how much care they still have for one another.Continued below
5. Colton & Kyle (“Second Semester” #6)
Colton Rivera ended up being one of my favorite characters as the series progressed. Originally just a delinquent, his growing relationships with the cast: his vitriolic friendship with Pomeline, his at-first-begrudgingly older brother relationship with Maps, and especially his hidden romantic feelings for Kyle really endeared me to him. “Second Semester” #6 hit a real climax with that last relationship, where Colton believes he’s on his last night before expulsion and at his lowest, so finally admits his feelings to the boy. Kyle immediately hugs him. Colton’s a friend, and he’ll be there for him. What got me with this scene was how Kyle didn’t just immediately reciprocate Colton’s romantic feelings. Now, maybe that could happen down the line, but this felt more powerful a way to do it.
4. The Shakespeare-Off (“Gotham Academy” #10)
Here is the most outlandish thing the creative team did with some of the more minor characters in the Bat mythos. As a whole, “Gotham Academy” #10 was a real fun issue, with witches, theatre, minor characters getting a bigger spotlight. It’s all topped by a straight up Shakespeare-off between the drama teacher Simon Trent (a.k.a. The Grey Ghost from Batman: The Animated Series) and Basil Karlo a.k.a. Clayface. Describing it doesn’t really do it the justice it deserves. Just read it! It’s bizarre and awesome!
3. The End? (“Gotham Academy” #12)
The second arc of the series was a traumatic one for Olive, being manipulated by Professor Hugo Strange into trying to coax Calamity out of her. The creative team took some fun interpretations of Batman’s rogues, with a Killer Croc from Bamtan: The Animated Series and the aforementioned Clayface, Blight and many others. However, there is something unnerving when Strange tries to use his same psychological attacks on a teenager. Let’s just say the good doctor got more than he bargained for and provided an emotional stepping stone for Olive as the series headed into year two.
2. Olive & Batman (“Second Semester” #8)
Olive’s relationship with Batman is… complicated. Batman was of course the one who originally captured Sybil Silverlock and how she ended up in Arkham and Olive holds a bit of a grudge on that, to put it lightly. It goes back to what we talked about when discussing Calamity before. Mental Illness is not an easy thing and the Batman franchise rightfully has been criticized for dealing with the topic in horrible fashions. As such, Olive, Calamity, Sybil, and Batman are all tangled in this web that is actually quite deep when you examine it a bit. Trying to understand mental illness, how we treat it and those suffering from it, how our understanding changes with our maturity. It’s a lot more interesting than “Batman Punches Joker Because Cray Cray”.
1. Every Interaction Between Maps & Damian (“Gotham Academy” #7 & “Second Semester” #11)
Look, shut up, okay?! I know I’m cheating with this but the fact is that if I allowed myself to put multiple moments from an issue to take up multiple spots, a good portion of this list would be dedicated to these two issues. Maps Mizoguchi became the heart of “Gotham Academy” and easily the most popular character in the series. Her ability to inspire laughs and mirth and awesome moments was infectious and her chemistry with major characters like Olive and Kyle and more minor characters like Katherine and Eric was constant highlights of the series. But believe me when I say it was nothing compared to when damian Wayne would be a guest star. Every moment between the two was gold. And it always good to see Damian actually act his age and no one brought that out more so than Maps.
With that, “Gotham Academy” comes to a close. I am hoping that one day we see more of it (seriously, DC, you’re making a mistake if this doesn’t come back in graphic novel form for the school, library and bookstore crowd), but at the end, Olive, Maps, Pomeline, Colton, Kyle and so many others provided 32 issues of great fun. A salute once again to Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl, Adam Archer, Mssasyk and so many other creators to list.Continued below
See you next school year.