As readers found out this week, Gotham Academy: Second Semester is now entering its final story arc, and the creators of the groundbreaking Bat-book are promising plenty of surprises for the story's surprising but fulfilling climax.
The final page of this week's Gotham Academy: Second Semester #8 announced the upcoming end of series with the final page tagline: "Next: The Ballad of Olive Silverlock Part One! Gear up for Gotham Academy's final story arc that will decide the fate of Olive and her friends!"
Created by Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl, Gotham Academy is set in a private school in Gotham City and focuses on a young, mysterious girl named Olive Silverlock. The book has won acclaim for its moody, digitally painted color palette and young adult-friendly story.
Secrets about Olive and her friends, as well as the school itself, have been revealed over the last few issues involving Batman and other Bat-characters.
As the story enters its final story arc, Newsarama talked to Cloonan, Fletcher and Kerschl to find out more about the journey of Gotham Academy and what comes next.
Newsarama: Brenden, Becky and Karl, now that you've delved into the secrets of Olive and her presence at Gotham Academy, are you revealing things the way you envisioned them from the start? And does it feel good to finally get here?
Brenden Fletcher: It does! I don't want to say it's a relief to get here, but it's an incredible feeling to be able to tell such a long-form Y.A. story in a serial format.
Who gets to do that? Who gets to create a Y.A. cast of characters and tell this type of story inside a larger universe over several years with a beginning, middle and end?
So we're really humbled that we've had this chance to do it, and we're really excited for people to read the final issues of the Olive Silverlock story.
Becky Cloonan: Yeah, this is a story that we thought up back in 2014, so it's pretty incredible that we've actually done it.
And we planned out the end in the beginning. We knew everything. I mean, things have developed and changed a little bit, but for the most part, we're following the blueprint that we laid down years ago.
And DC's been really helpful and supportive of the book.
Karl Kerschl: We mapped things out from the beginning, but the amazing part for all of us is that it's getting done and that we were allowed to tell it in the tone that we wanted. I mean, it gets pretty dark, but it's still Y.A. material.
Fletcher: Yeah, it never stops being a Y.A. book, despite its darkness in this final arc. It's like Harry Potter when, at the end, there's a big battle at Hogwart's and things are at their darkest. This is the place we are in this storyline.
This is the type of book Y.A. readers love, it's the type of book I love. And there's a need for this type of book to be out there. There's a call for this sort of Y.A. material in any kind of format; it's great that we're able to do it in this serial format. It'll be great to see it in trade later — anything like this in graphic novels is fantastic.
Cloonan: I think it's really important too - I remember really clearly my first experience reading a comic and discovering that joy and getting into it more as a teenager. So seeing a book like this is great. I have a lot of people coming up to me at conventions - you know, young kids – saying it's the first comic they read. Or people telling me they bought it for their kids.
So that's been really cool, to think I'm helping create this book that kids will read as their first comic. You know, it's nice.
Nrama: I find it so interesting that you mentioned Harry Potter, because as I've read the last few issues, even though it has really deep roots in the history of Gotham City and the academy - and is specifically tied into Batman - really, the key to holding everything together for Olive is that she has friends.
Fletcher: Yes, ultimately, no matter what we throw at it, the core of the story is that Olive has developed these friendships. She was someone at the beginning of the story who was moving herself into the position of being a loner - I mean, at the end of the first arc, the message we give to the readers is that Olive has decided that she's probably a stronger person and a happier person in the world with these friendships.
Now we're taking the story to the ultimate climax - that's where we're heading toward in the next few issues - and it's thrown all that into question again. But that's the core of what it's all about. Olive's got this thing that she's wrestling with herself, but ultimately, it's very likely that the only thing that can save her, and as a result, likely save Gotham, is her bond with these friends that she's made.
Kerschl: If you look at issue #1, all this could almost have taken this turn at that moment. I think she was on the cusp of going to a very dark place until she allowed Maps into her life fully and embraced the idea of making friends.
So really, yeah, these friendships have prolonged Olive's happy state.
Cloonan: At the very beginning, and at the very end, it's a story about Olive. But Maps has always been there. She was there to support Olive at the very beginning, and she'll be there at the end of the story. So it's not just about Olive, but it's about Olive and Maps and their friendship.
Nrama: What's it been like playing in the playground of Gotham City, and will that continue as we learn more about this in the last chapter?
Fletcher: You're going to see us digging deeper and deeper into the history of Gotham to reveal a lot of the mysteries that we hinted about, even through the first arc.
I think it's going to be really satisfying for long-time readers to get to these last few issues. There have been a lot of questions that we're going to answer, and a lot of these answers are based in the history of Gotham, in the Wayne family line, in the Cobblepot family line, in the Arkhams.
You're going to find out things you didn't know about the history of a lot of the characters that we've all known through the Batman mythos.
That's always been a part of Gotham Academy. There's a mystery surrounding the building and its connection to the city of Gotham, and its connection to the people of Gotham. And it's what these children have been digging up over the course of the series.
There's a lot to enjoy over the last few issues, whether you're a fan of the series or even if you're just a fan of Batman and the world of Gotham.
If you haven't been reading Gotham Academy - if you dropped it at any time, but you enjoyed it at the beginning, come back for the ending, because these are the answers to the questions that you've always had.
Nrama: Another great thing about this series is that the artwork is so unique and has always had a flavor all its own. It fits in Gotham, but it stands apart as well. Can you talk about how the artwork has had a through-line of artwork, even with the different artists who worked on it?
Kerschl: Yeah, that's one of the things I'm proudest of personally, that we were able to develop a style for the book that was all its own.
Going into it, it was not an easy thing to set a comic in Gotham without the use of, like, a lot of inky black and heavy lifework and shadows. It's very open and leaves a lot to color, but I think it still evokes Gotham, in a way that's more colorful and brighter than what we're used to seeing.
And I'm happy that we established a method of working between myself and our various colorists — Romain [Gaschet] and Dave [McCaig] and Michele [Assarasakron, credited as MSSASYK] — that continues to evoke the same feeling.
Now Rob [Haynes] and Adam [Archer] and Michele have taken it over, and while they've made it their own in a lot of ways, it still to me feels exactly what we started doing.
Fletcher: On a technical level, this is something you, Karl, have been sort of aspiring to for a number of years. I remember you kind of developing a style over the Teen Titans: Year One story, right? And this is sort of a graduation point for that.
Kerschl: Yeah, I tinkered with trying to do comics that emulated an animated sort of cel/shaded look over painted backgrounds to varying degrees of success. There were some growing pains, for sure, early on in Gotham Academy. But once we got a process together, it became more of a natural work flow.
Even though it was extremely difficult, I think it paid off.
I'm super proud of the way that book has turned out over the course of the last few years. I also think it stands out. I mean, I think you can look at any page of Gotham Academy from when we started 'til now, out of context, and you'll know exactly what book that was.
Nrama: Then to finish up, is there anything else you want to tell fans about what's coming up in the final storyline of Gotham Academy?
Fletcher: You can look forward to everything you've always wanted to see with our characters coming to pass. Great moments between Olive and Maps, which is kind of the point of the whole thing for us. We've kind of been leading up to this ending that has been a test of their friendship, really.
You're going to see Batman supporting characters that you haven't seen in Gotham Academy before. And you may just see the return of a certain, young Master Wayne who has previously made an appearance at the academy.