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Getting Schooled (The Gotham Way) | Becky Cloonan Interview

Written by  Published July 19, 2015 02:54
Gotham Academy is a book unlike any other in the Batman themed books. It's playful, energetic and cartoony...and at first glance it may not look like a book a guy in his 30's would read. But I gave it a try, just to try something different. And I was instantly hooked. Sure it was a book starring a bunch of teenagers, but the feel of the book worked like nothing else I've read. It was a mystery comic set in the Batman universe, and many Batman characters were featured, but the new characters like the mysterious Olive Silverlock and the lovable Maps hooked me and I became a fan. I needed to see what would happen next!!!

So when I got a chance to have a sitdown with one of the series' writers, Becky Cloonan at Montreal ComicCon, I couldn't resist! Becky was really laid back and open too, which is always a bonus! 

Here's the interview, enjoy!


FPB: Well, as always, I love beginning my interviews with talking about how the person got into the comic book industry and your beginnings. What’s Becky Cloonan’s “secret origin”?

BC: It’s a long story! Well, I’ve always been drawing comics! Since I was a little kid! So that became a segue into getting a job in comics. I started working with Brian Wood. He was the first person I collaborated with. And I did the self publishing thing for awhile and eventually started working with bigger companies. Probably the first breakout story for me was published by Dark Horse in this super ridiculous 500 page comic.


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FPB: Your latest book is Southern Cross. Tell us a bit about it.

BC: Issue 4 just came out a few weeks ago, it’s an ongoing series that is basically like an Agatha Christie murder mystery meets Aliens. It’s really fun! Andy Belanger is drawing it, Image is publishing it. The trade is coming out in October!

Even though it’s ongoing, the first 6 issues is one story, and issue 7 begins a new cast dealing with the repercussions of the things that happened in the first six issues. It’s pretty great.


FPB: Who were some of your influences in comics or even outside of the comic industry?

BC: Let me think. Well, growing up I loved Jim Lee. His were the first comics I actually bought for myself. Rumiko Takahashi, the artist that drew Ranma ½, she was a huge influence on me in my younger years growing up.

And then as I got older and experiencing different things, I really got into German expressionist films, and Fritz Lang. A lot of what I do is influenced by Fritz Lang (laughs). He was an incredible cinematographer. Especially when I self published. I couldn’t really afford to produce comics in color, so a lot of what I did was in black and white. So I watched a lot of black & white movies and noir films. It was a big part of how I developed as an artist.


FPB: Do you prefer working on the self-owned Image and indie comics or have you enjoyed working on stuff like Gotham Academy?

BC:. I’m in a very nice point in my career! The creator-owned stuff with Image is really lovely, but with Gotham Academy, it’s a great chance to tell stories that take place in Gotham! I mean, when do you get a chance to do that?! And they’ve given us basically carte blanche with it too.

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FPB: That was actually my follow-up question. Gotham Academy has a totally different feel than any other “Bat-book”, was that the initial plan?

BC: I think originally there WASN’T a plan. When Mark Doyle became the main “Bat editor” at DC, he called me up. We worked together at Vertigo. He always liked the stuff that I did and he’s always been a big supporter of my work and he was like, “Hey, I’m doing Batman stuff now and I’d like you to pitch something.” And he was like “WHATEVER.”

He only mentioned that they didn’t have any titles for the young adult “tweens”. And Batman and Gotham is so versatile, it really runs itself...anything seems to work. You got the Batman ’66 stuff and Batman The Animated Series and even Batman Beyond where he’s just this old dude. And then you have like Dark Knight and Killing Joke and the really dark stuff. But it’s all part of the Batman legacy. And I think that’s what I really love about what we’re doing. No matter who you are there’s a Batman book for you. And that’s been Mark Doyle’s mantra, I think. It’s a great way to approach it.

The only thing we were told we couldn’t do was that we wanted Solomon Grundy to be the groundskeeper, and he’s exclusive to Earth 2.


FPB: Yeah, there’s a few characters they’re not letting people work with, right?

BC: Yeah. So, I’m biding my time. Until I can use Solomon Grundy. (laughs)

But other than that, they’ve been really supportive of everything. Even when we had to do the Endgame tie-in, Mark came to us at a Comic Con and sat down and was like, “hey guys, we’re doing an Endgame tie-ins. If you have an idea, run it by me. But if not, don’t worry about it. If it doesn’t fit in with what you’re doing, we just won’t do one with Gotham Academy.”

So they’re not pressuring us to crossover with the other books or anything. But if it works, we can. It’s a lot of fun.


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 FPB: Have you always been a Batman fan? Or are you new to it?

BC: I’m a Batman fan. I began with the animated series. I think that’s how a lot of people my age got exposed to Batman. I was always a big Marvel cartoon fan too. I loved  the 90’s X-Men and Silver Surfer cartoons...


FPB: and the Marvel Action Hour!

BC: Yeah! It’s funny that I ended up working for DC! But it’s sort of like, you wanna sing in your all-time favorite band but you don’t really, you don’t wanna be the one to mess it up. It’s like if Bruce Dickinson asks you if wanna play in Iron Maiden on the next tour, you’re like “noooooo, no, no!” (laughs) It’s sort of like that.

Batman isn’t something I grew up reading, but it’s something I grew up with. Everyone did. The cartoons and the Tim Burton movies. They definitely left an impression on me.

Gotham Academy Olive


FPB: The character of Olive Silverlock (from Gotham Academy), she’s an original character. How did she come to you and what does she mean to you?

BC: I think Olive’s the first character we came up with and got right away. When I began coming up with ideas with Karl Kershl and Brenden Fletcher, it all started with Olive.

My idea was that there’d be this girl and I had a specific idea with her and her past and I had a beginning, middle and end to her story. And a lot of characters were created as a foil for her. Like Maps, for instance...but Maps was also really inspired by a friend that I had. Not that she acted like Maps, but the dynamic of having a best friend. A “ride or die” friend.


FPB: She’s also the happy-go-lucky, enthusiastic kind of buddy character. She’s the light to Olive’s dark.

BC: A lot of people write teen characters with a lot of angst. But you need to remember when you were a teenager, it wasn’t always like that. Things were more immediate. And visceral. You’re trying to figure out who you are! Maps is the great foil to that, she draws all the pressure out of it.

And without Maps we wouldn’t have a lot of the adventure that we have in the story. Olive gets into trouble because Maps drags her into it.

A lot of the characters are there to help Olive on her journey and help her learn things about herself and her past.


damianFPB: The Inclusion of Damian Wayne, was that something that was planned all along? Was that something DC wanted? How did that come about?

BC: That was a DC thing! At the same time as when Mark came to us with the Endgame thing, he also mentioned that they were bringing Damian back, and asked if we could give Olive a little break and do a fun little one-shot story with Damian.

We also knew that next in the series things were going to get more serious. Things are going to take a turn for the worst. And this is a good way to get in a recognizable character post-Convergence and for people to remember that “oh hey, our book is part of the whole Batman universe!”


FPB: Didn’t Damian have powers? What happened to that?

BC: He did have powers when he came back to life. He lost them since. Patrick Gleason is doing Robin: Son of Batman, and everyone that is working on the Bat-books, we’re all friends, we’re always talking. So we like to germinate our other books into eachother’s stories. Like you’ll see in the background someone wearing a Gotham Academy t-shirt in issues of Batgirl and stuff. Little things like that. And like, Heathcliff from Gotham Academy will end up becoming a roadie for Black’s great to evolve these little minor characters in other books to give it a unified feel. It all takes place in the same universe, right? It’s a lot of fun to do that kind of stuff.


FPB: We’ve seen characters like Killer Croc and even Batman show up in the comic, is there one character you hope to sneak in there that you haven’t yet? That you can share with me, of course.

BC: I can tell you this now because it comes out next week, but we have a new science teacher in issue 8. Originally our science teacher was Professor Milo, now if you know anything about know there will be repercussions from that. But now, we will have Professor Langstrom!


FPB: That’s so cool!!!

BC: He will be the new science teacher. So you can tell there’s something crazy happening in the second story arc.


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FPB: That’s really awesome. It’s so cool that you’re able to sort of throw those characters into a really different environment. Like for Killer Croc, it was a totally different side of his character that we’ve never seen before. It was cool, it was different.

BC: Karl did a really good job at making him look like this misunderstood guy. He only had this skin condition and all he wanted to do was live in the swamp! But when Batman shows up it takes a turn and you can see that he’s also capable of being terrifying. And he’s actually really scary. His name is “Killer Croc” for a reason, y’know?

It’s very much based on the animated series where you see those two very different sides of him.


FPB: Two more questions because I see there’s a crowd forming behind me! One is, would you like to see possibly an animated sow made from Gotham Academy? It seems tailor-made for it.

BC: YEAH!!!!! Even if it was a CW show. We have Gotham right let’s get real. Gotham Academy, it’s perfect for TV. (laughs)



FPB: And I don’t want you to get into any trouble but you mentioned you were huge into Marvel. Is there a Marvel dream book that you’d love to work on?

BC: I don’t really know. I’ve got a lot of stories floating around...a lot of my dream books are creator-owned books. Just all sorts of stories that I wanna do.

There’s all sorts of characters that come up. I’ve got a Longshot idea that I’ve been wanting to do...


FPB: Oh, I’m a huge Longshot fan! Longshot and Dazzler. You can tell me your awesome story off-record so we don’t spoil it for anyone!!

BC: Sounds good!


FPB: Thanks for the chat!

BC: Thank you! Let me know when this goes up!


It was indeed quite awesome to chat with Becky and yes, she did tell me her Longshot idea and it is pretty great! I hope she gets the chance to do it one day!

That’s all for now, stay tuned soon for my final interview from MCC 2015 with another talented lady named Rachel Richey, whose making moves in the comic book industry by bringing back a Canadian superhero, Johnny Canuck! Don’t miss that one!

Dave Michaels

With his unique brand of humour mixed with die-hard passion and knowledge for all things comic books, Dave Michaels puts his weekly spin on the pop culture like only he can. Each “episode” of Full Page Bleed provides fun, wacky commentary, interviews, recommendations of Dave’s favourite comics, and whatever else his “evil genius” can conjure up. What are you reading THIS for?! Read some FPB RIGHT NOW and PREPARE to BLEED COMICS! FPB is Here...

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