By Tim Beedle
With eighty years of history behind them, it’s sometimes easy to forget that Batman, Catwoman, Joker, and Gotham’s other heroes and villains were once teenagers. They went to school, struggled to do homework, had school crushes, and went to parties like most teens. And just like those of us who have become adults, their lives as high school students were probably totally different than they are now. It’s true that some key personality traits and qualities may have been with them a lifetime, but the things that define Bruce Wayne, Selina Kyle, and Jack Napier as adults – and their colorful alter egos – didn’t develop until later.
Gotham High, DC’s new young reader graphic novel, written by best-selling author Melissa de la Cruz, with acclaimed illustrator Thomas Pitilli, is set in this much earlier period in the lives of our heroes and villains. The play, which takes place in and around the corridors of the title school, imagines a world in which a young Bruce, Selina and Jack are high school friends… and in some cases, perhaps much more.
It is a mystery rich in emotion, backstabbing and romance, and interprets the relationship between the three characters, which is both complicated and compelling, in a whole new way. Although the book does not contain many batsuits or crime fighting, it is packed with moments and discoveries about its characters that will make you see Gotham in a whole new way.
Melissa de la Cruz talks about Gotham High
With the graphic novel already available in physical stores and on the internet, the moment seemed perfect to talk with Melissa de la Cruz about this very different proposal. Over the course of our talk, we found out how some elements of Gotham High are personal to the author, whether Selina really loves Bruce or Jack, and which of her three main characters de la Cruz is most likely to have been friends with in high school. .
Gotham High features Bruce Wayne, Jack Napier, and Selina Kyle, but it’s actually Selina’s story. Was that the plan from the beginning, Melissa de la Cruz?
The truth is, no. It was supposed to be Bruce’s book, but Selina has a way of being that makes everything revolve around her. (LOL) As the story unfolded, she became much more important to the plot. And for me, it was natural. I am a writer of juvenile novels and my bread and butter are strong female leads. J
Gotham High’s Bruce, Jack and Selina have hints of Batman, Joker and Catwoman. How have you struck the balance between giving us a sample of the characters we know and renewing them?
I love origin stories. I loved writing the Descendants novels, especially when I figured out how to link the old Disney stories to the new movie. That first prologue took months of work, because it was a bridge between the old and the new. So I was excited to be able to explore iconic characters in a different way. But this is my universe. My Batman doesn’t become Christian Bale’s Batman, for example. (I think Christian Bale is my favorite Batman). And my Jack Napier doesn’t become Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker. Or any of the Batman or Joker from the various comics over the years.
With the characters already created, you must respect their bases. For example, my first idea of Bruce was that he was almost like a Great Gatsby guy. But in conversations with my DC editors, I realized that no, of course not. Bruce has to remain Bruce, a shadowy, isolated and broken man. That’s the essence of Bruce Wayne, you can’t change that. And once we realized it, everything fell into place.
Gotham High also doesn’t shy away from some serious issues, especially Selina’s father’s Alzheimer’s. Were those moments difficult to write?
What comes out of your subconscious is interesting, because I just realized that when I was writing this book, I was thinking about my best friend and how her father had Alzheimer’s for years and they were transferring him to a nursing home so they could take care of him in a better way. He had full-time care 24 hours a day at his Park Avenue apartment, but his nurses told my friend that it would be better for him to go to a center. So I was emotionally supporting someone who was going through the same thing as Selina at the time, and I hadn’t realized it until now.
I think that writers are inspired by what surrounds us, without a doubt, and I think Selina has something of the claw and the anguish of my friend. But that experience is not uncommon, so I didn’t even think about my friend specifically. My siblings, my mother, and I also went through my father’s palliative care before he passed away from cancer, so I was inspired by that experience as well. Death is part of life, so it seemed natural to have a story that was about that kind of thing.
At the heart of Gotham High is a love triangle between Selina, Bruce, and Jack. Do you think Selina really has feelings for both of them? I had a hard time deciding who to support (although I think I’m from Team Jack).
Ha! I love. I love Jack too. I think Selina cares more about her father than the boys right now, and maybe she’s not emotionally available to really understand his feelings. He has to mature a bit more, but I think he has deep feelings for both of us. Definitely.
There is a lot of poker at Gotham High. You play? Could you hold out in front of Jack and Bruce?
One of my favorite Christmas memories is my father taking all my friends to a game of poker during college and afterwards. Friends would empty their wallets and Dad would earn them all the money. Then Dad would give them a bottle of wine at the end of the night as a peace offering.
When we lived in Manila, I used to play games with friends and they were all bankers and the betting got wild: they put Mercedes keys on the chip pile, even summer houses were gambled.
My father was not a gamer, but he had a lot of fun with his friends. He taught my brothers and me to play when I was about eight years old. I like to think that I am a good poker player, but I haven’t played it in a long time. After my father died I felt too sad. But my brother says we have to get back to the Christmas tradition.
What was it like working with Thomas Pitilli? Was it difficult to decide the appearance of the characters?
Thomas is literally the best. He brought these characters to life and it was a lot of fun working with him. Bruce and Selina were good, but Jack was a bit more difficult, since we could not discover his “look”. And then Thomas drew it based on his own haircut, which I found out when we started doing the interviews. It looked so good on Jack!
The book focuses on the three main characters, but there are also many appearances by other well-known Gotham characters. Was there someone you wanted to include in the story, but couldn’t?
I would have liked Dick Grayson / Robin to appear much more.
Finally, which of these three characters would Melissa de la Cruz have liked the most to date when she was in high school?
Oh Bruce is too cool for me. My friends from high school were the losers and the alternative kids, so Jack and I surely would have been friends. Barbie Gordon also because I was friends with many teachers and nerds. Selina might have talked to me, but she probably didn’t hang out with the yearbook editors. Ha ha ha.
This new graphic novel is now available in our online store:
DC Adventures – Gotham High
From Melissa de la Cruz, the # 1 New York Times bestselling writer, author of Alex and Elisa and Blue Bloods, comes a new take on Gotham for a new generation of readers.
After being kicked out of his boarding school, a 17-year-old Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham City to discover that nothing is as he left it. What was once his family home is now an empty shell and, though lonely, haunted by the memory of his parents’ murder. Selina Kyle, formerly the innocent girl next door, now rules Gotham High School with a dangerous charm, aided by the class clown, Jack Napier.
When a kidnapping shakes the school, Bruce looks for answers like a dark and tormented knight … or is it the pawn? Nothing is ever what it seems, especially at Gotham High, where parties and romance are the highest stakes… and where everyone is a suspect.
With evocative art by Thomas Pitilli, this new graphic novel is as intoxicating as it is chilling, and where the dearest of friends become the greatest enemies… all within the corridors of Gotham High!