Gotham Academy – Friends Forever

As we go on, we remember, all the times we Had together, and as our lives change, come whatever, we will still be, friends forever. As I sat down to write this article on Gotham Academy that chorus from Vitamin C’s Graduation Song (Friends Forever) played in my head. Unlike when the first series ended, Gotham Academy: Second Semester has no announced successor, just a glimmer of hope that it will continue, much like how we feel at graduation. We don’t have reassurances that the friendships we made will continue as we head off into the real world, but we have that glimmer of hope in our yearbooks as friends sign it “Friends Forever” and other reassuring sentiments, but never really knowing if you will be, and that is the limbo that Gotham Academy fans are facing right now.

Gotham Academy started at a time (DC You) when I was feeling more and more isolated from the DC Universe I had grown up with. Ever since the New 52, characters I have known were altered, changed, unrecognizable in some cases, again this feels like being in school. I felt like the new kid, sure things were familiar, there are the same cliques and roles you will find anywhere, but the voices are different, what drew you to them, now has you cringing. Then came a beacon of hope, that hand in the crowded lunchroom waving you over to sit with them, in this analogy, Gotham Academy .

When we first got word about this series, I thought wow this could be interesting, we could finally get a book with Tim Drake, that can sort of repair what he was in the New 52. Maybe even bring back Stephanie Brown, introduce Artemis from Young Justice, etc. But we quickly learned that the book would introduce all new characters. My excitement for the book quickly turned to dread, thinking this was going to be more faces I did not know nor care about, but as more news came in I started feeling a bit more excited, and I am glad I read the first issue.

I have always been a Superman guy. What can I say? I like the boy scout heroes, those who do what is right because it is, not because of some deep trauma, tragedy, or duty, but because they should. So I was shocked to find myself so engrossed with a Bat-Title, and one that didn’t involve any of the usual Bat-Family members that I love, no Tim, Babs, Dick, not even that hate him or love him Damian, but instead introduced me to a brand new cast.

The student body of Gotham Academy is some of the most diverse we have ever seen in a book, without us even realizing it. This group of kids from all different classic cliques come together through mystery and adventure, for the Detective Club, and go on crazy adventures that as a child I only dreamed my friends & I could embark on as we did our adventures.

Heathcliff Ray – Pom’s ex-boyfriend who dropped out of school and became a roadie for the Black Canary band. Every teen book needs this guy in it, but he wasn’t seen much, I mean he was a roadie after all.

Eric Jorgenson – A bookworm character who mainly stayed in the background drawing pictures, and nurturing a little crush on Maps. He would have his time to shine as the Symbolist in Gotham Academy: Second Semester.

Katherine Karlo – We never knew Maps’ roommate’s last name, or anything really at first, but she was intriguing right from the start. Something about this sickly sullen girl who mysteriously disappeared made us want to know more about her, and we knew there was much more to her. We were right it turned out that she was the daughter of Clayface, but instead of becoming the villain, or anything so cliche, she became a friend to the gang.

Tristan Grey – The new student at Gotham Academy that always seemed to be around but quickly vanished. He has all the hallmarks of the new kid in a teen drama, the brooding, the mystique, the interest of our leading lady, but there is more to him. Tristan is infected with the Man-Bat serum, leaving him able to transform into a bat-like creature, but unlike Man-Bat, Tristan seems to be in control of his transformations and of himself when he changes. Him and Olive have a mutual attraction that so far has yet to be explored.

Kyle Mizoguchi – Maps’ older brother, and Olive’s ex-boyfriend. The series started with us knowing that these two broke up, but not why, just that it was Olive who ended it because of things she discovered about herself over the summer. Kyle is the school’s star tennis player, and a member of the Detective Club so he can keep an eye on his sister, and Olive who he still cares about. The two remain close friends with the hope for more still hanging in the air.

Colton Rivera –  Colton is that kid at school who is mysterious, and has his hands in things he isn’t supposed to. Hidden behind his signature dark sunglasses he can get you what you need for the right price. Colton started as the outsider with secrets but quickly became a member of the Detective Club. Olive isn’t the only one who is attracted to Kyle, so is Colton, although only Pom knows this secret. This storyline is handled so well, the way Colton’s crush was revealed was very organic and was done right, not for the shock value, sales, or any cheap gimmick.

Pomline “Pom” Fritch – Pom is that popular, goth girl in school, and Olive’s frenemy. Her family have an undisclosed history with the occult and joins the Detective Club for her own reasons. Pom always rides that rail of do you love to hate her or hate to love her? She seems very selfish and self-motivated, but when the chips are down Pom will be there for her friends, even Olive.

Olive Silverlock – Olive is the lead of the book as the story revolves around her, and the mystery of her mother Sybil Silverlock, the villainous known as Calamity. Calamity possessed pyrokinesis and is believed to have died in Arkham Asylum where Batman put her, and Olive holds a grudge against him for it. Olive is at Gotham Academy  thanks to a scholarship from the Wayne Foundation as a way for Bruce Wayne to try to atone for the death of Sybil.

Like her mother Olive is developing pyrokinesis. The emergence of these powers seem to be directly related to the mysteries of Gotham Academy and is a reason why Olive joined the Detective Club, to investigate all the mysteries of the school, while learning more about her own mysteries. By the end of the Second Semester Olive learns that her ancestor Amity Arkham, was burned as a witch by some of the colonial Gotham families including the Cobblepots, Dents, and Waynes. She has been possessing her descendants for generations granting, or awakening the power of pyrokinesis in them to get her vengeance on them. This culminated in her appearing to Olive as her new roommate Amy who urged Olive to break rules and push away her friends before possessing her and almost getting the vengeance she has long searched for. But thanks to her friends Olive is saved and Amity’s spirit is finally put to rest.

Mia “Maps” Mizoguchi – I know that Olive is the lead, and normally I save those for last, but screw that. Maps is the star of this series for me. Maps is the best new character DC has created since the days of Kon-El, Cassie and Bart in the 90s, I know that is a bold statement, but it is also true. Maps has this endearing combination of optimism, curiosity, loyalty, and enthusiasm that takes the reader and drags you into the adventure with the Detective Club so you feel immersed in her world, and not just an observer. Maps got her nickname from her love of cartography (study of maps) and her adventuring spirit just makes you want to join the Detective Club with her.

A lot of the stories while, maybe focused on or centered around other characters like Olive or Pom, it is Maps that engages the story, she is the one who maps out the adventure, and like Detective Club we are all in for them. Her enthusiasm and optimism is utterly infectious, I find myself smiling from her excitement of the next adventure. She is the best friend that Olive could hope for and when the chips are down it was Maps that saved Olive from her family curse by making her break free before the others could break the spell itself.

Other than being into Maps and adventures, Maps is also enamored with becoming a hero in her own right looking up to Robin instead of Batman. While she in a fan of Batman, it is Robin with whom she wants to be, so she can go on those adventures with Batman. Unknown to Maps, she is secretly friends (and possible love interest) of Damian Wayne, the current Robin, who gave her a few gifts, that includes a real Robin mask. I personally hope Maps never becomes Robin, but instead remains an adventurer alongside her Detective Club members.

If you think the book is just about the kids, think again. Although they aren’t the focus of the book, the faculty of Gotham Academy is just as mysterious as the halls themselves and names sounding like characters out of Clue. With Headmaster Hammer overlooking with his own hidden talents, the school is in good hands with the history teacher Professor MacPherson, Librarian Mr. Scarlet, drama teacher Mr. Trent, shop teacher Mr. Silversmith, biology teacher Mr. Langstrom (yeah that Man-Bat), chemistry teacher Professor Milo, guidance counselor Hugo Strange, and the nice nod to the past with “Aunt Harriet” as the dorm mother. Each member brings new secrets and mysteries with them that we have yet to tap into.

The art in this series has really broken the expectations and limitations of comics as we know it. Karl Kerschl’s art brought to life the world of Gotham Academy, the halls came to life under the strokes of his pencils and the explosion of colors. The art invokes the feel of an animated series by making each scene jump off the pages and come to life before our eyes. After a rocky start with Adam Archer really captured that same feel in the Gotham Academy: Second Semester.

This is the part where I make a plea/pitch whatever have you to DC Entertainment. You have a brand new digital service launching in 2018 with the much anticipated return of Young Justice in Young Justice: Outsiders, and the live-action Titans series, I propose adding to the original content with a brand new animated series, Gotham Academy. Using the art style of Karl Kerschl from the series and bringing in Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher as writers/showrunners, because their writing for the series is just brilliant. The show can be something that isn’t out there right now, a mystery series. Think Scooby-Doo meets Batman without those pesky kids and their dog, but instead the Detective Club exploring the mysteries in the halls of Gotham Academy.

The true crime would be if DC doesn’t bring back Gotham Academy is some way. The stories are so engrossing and the art is so superb, that it would awful if this title ends. From the incident in the North Hall, to the ghost of Millie Jane Cobblepot, the headless statue, the search for Calamity and the revelations of Amity Arkham Gotham Academy has grabbed its audience and taken them on adventures that can not end.
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