I’ve been excited for Gotham Academy since the book was first announced back in July. While the revamped Batgirl got most of the mainstream media attention, my sights were set on what I thought was one of the most interesting and out-of-the-box books in all of DC Comics. Now that it’s out, I can confidently say that I am all in on Gotham Academy!
In just 22 pages, Becky Cloonan and Brendan Fletcher have accomplished what the rest of the DC brain trust have not been able to do since the company rebooted in 2011; namely, make the DC Universe an interesting and relevant place to visit every week. It helps that Karl Kerschl’s art is gorgeous and 180 degrees from the “house style” the publisher has employed post-New 52.
The best thing about the book, though, is — interestingly — the one thing that hasn’t really been covered in all of the hype surrounding it. The cast of characters of Gotham Academy is one of the most diverse in mainstream comics.
The book was already breaking the mold simply by featuring two non-objectified teenage girls in the lead. What really impressed me was that one of those leads was a Japanese American girl named Mia “Maps” Mizoguchi!
Maps is full of energy and loves brunch and role-playing games. And while the story is told from the point of view of Olive Silverlock, Maps — because she’s new to the school — will be the reader’s proxy, learning about the mysteries and mythology simultaneously.
As the series develops, it will be interesting to see the relationship between Olive and Maps evolve, especially considering Maps’ brother Kyle is Olive’s ex.
See, this is something else that is almost unheard of in pop culture, whether it be comics, movies, TV, you name it. Turns out the hunky, popular guy in school is an Asian American athlete? Sure, if and when Gotham Academy gets adapted to live action, Hollywood will cast a white dude to play Kyle. Probably Jim Sturgess. But until then, let us celebrate the progress!
And if you’re worried about how culturally authentic Cloonan and Fletcher can write, don’t be. I mean, they’ve made Kyle a sneakerhead for chrissakes! Clearly, they’ve taken Gene Yang’s and MariNaomi’s advice about writing characters of color!
The rest of the ensemble is similarly multicultural. Pomeline Fritch and Colton Rivera are two other students introduced in issue #1 and are being set up as the bullies in the school. Coltons is a troublemaker, while Pomeline has a goth-y Heathers vibe to her as well. Though it isn’t quite clear as of yet, both characters seem to be illustrated as people of color — or at least in Colton’s case, has a Spanish surname.
So Gotham Academy had already secured a spot on my pull-list from the jump, but after reading the first issue and seeing how good it is — not to mention how diverse the characters are — the book has shot straight to the top of my list of favorite things in the world.
Hats off to DC Comics. If this — and Batgirl next week — can become the big sellers that we’re all anticipating they’ll be, perhaps the publisher will have more incentive to reach out to audiences beyond the typical fanboy comic reader — i.e., white, straight, male in the 18-49 demo. Because we all know when DC gets things wrong, they get them spectacularly wrong.
Gotham Academy, though, is an example of how to get things right. And we need more books like it!