I read a lot of comic books as a kid. This series of posts is about the comics I read, and, occasionally, the comics that I should have read.
When I was a puffed-up, opinionated kid, I was a purist about my superhero comics. I was equally okay with stories that were deadly serious and those that were loopy and playful. Either way, though, the two-fisted saga needed to adhere to the rigors of continuity, fully respecting the interior logic of the overarching narrative. When something smacked of opportunism or random invention, my tiny brow furrowed in disdain. And if it seemed like the publishers was deliberately trying to appeal to girls — yuck! — I wouldn’t part with my handful of coins. Shows what I knew.
To be fair to littler me, a charming, gentler, and, yes, gimmicky comic book like Gotham Academy wouldn’t have been providing a downright revolutionary pushback against the rest of the rack’s dour stories, all desperately aching to be cool. Decades later, nestled in among parallel publishing efforts committed to topping one another in grim shocks, it was a pure joy to read a story of some scrappy kids at a Gotham City boarding school solving mysteries and navigating teen melodrama. Co-created by writers Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher and artist Karl Kerschl, Gotham Academy is breezy and bright at a time when most comics from the two big publishers avoided such a tone like it was kryptonite.
The lead character of Olive starts the year of school with a heavy family history hanging over her. The instinct to withdraw into a well-constructed shell of isolation is thwarted by young firecracker Mia “Maps” Mizoguchi, who’s always game for adventures around the institution, especially once she starts discovering the odd secrets, such as a hidden group scheming and a purported ghost roaming the halls. All the while, the characters operate with the discombobulated worldview that would be almost inevitable for kids growing up in a perpetually smashed-up city protected by a vigilante and his cadre of pals, all adorned in bat-themed costumes.
Gotham Academy was wonderful, which also meant it was destined to not last. All told, Gotham Academy lasted only about thirty issues, and the initial enthusiasm DC Comics originally had for the series, probably with visions of young adult book sales dancing in the execs’ heads, faded quickly. Promotion was half-hearted while some other unsightly, bombastic clatter took priority. Gotham Academy was a prize, but was treated like a burden. Shows what those DC decision-makers knew.
Previous entries in this series (and there are a LOT of them) can be found by clicking on the “My Misspent Youth” tag.