Comics and Chatter with Melissa de la Cruz and Thomas Pitilli

Comics and Chatter
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[Note From Frolic: Our resident YA expert Aurora Dominguez got the opportunity to interview Melissa de la Cruz and Thomas Pitilli and ask them five(ish) questions. Their graphic novel ‘Gotham High‘ is out now!]

Aurora: What inspired Gotham High and its creation?

MDC: My original pitch was “Gossip Girl meets Batman” – I wanted to write a sexy, glittering, fun, escapist, teen soap opera featuring these characters and showing them in a new way.

TP: Gotham High came out of DC’s idea to re-create their classic characters for a young adult audience. I’m incredibly grateful to have been asked to be a part of that creation. Melissa did an incredible job at updating these characters for today’s young person. I tried my best to visually create a world that represented the culture that we live in today, as well as draw from some of my own experiences and memories as a teenager. 

How was it like to illustrate and write about these iconic characters and their high school trials and tribulations?

MDC: It was a lot of fun! It’s amazing to have a Chinese American Batman. Batman and Superman are such AMERICAN heroes, and to see them in this way is really cool. It means a lot to have representation. I grew up not seeing myself or anyone who looked like me or anyone in my family in the movies and TV shows other than as the weird sidekick. But now we’re front and center. It’s awesome.

TP: It was a lot of fun! When I was growing up, I read a lot of comics and watched a lot of TV where teenagers were slaying vampires or solving crimes in their high school and as an adult now, it’s really cool to go back and try and capture the energy of what made that stuff so cool to me. I really didn’t have to imagine my audience because I was pretty much just trying to make something that teenage Thomas would have really thought was cool!

What character in Gotham High inspired you the most and why?

MDC: I honestly love them all. I am Bruce and Jack and Selina. I put a little of myself in each of them. I gave Bruce a loving family figure in Uncle Alfred. I gave Jack my rebellious streak. And I gave Selina a lot of my grit. She will do anything to survive.

TP: Y’know, all the characters in the book have gone through so much already, at such a young age, they’re all pretty inspiring. I’d probably have to pick Bruce though, because of all the hardship, he still strives to do what’s right all the time. That’s why he’s the hero, I guess! 

Who were you in high school? A goth, geek or superhero in hiding? Do share!

MDC: I was determined to prove I was better than everyone (Selina), I was an artist and an intellectual and an over-achiever surrounded by those who could not understand them (Bruce) and my friends were misfits and pranksters (Jack). I missed valedictorian by one tenth of a point, and I had already written my speech! So it’s a chip I’ve been carrying since high school lol. 

TP: Oddly enough, I was home schooled throughout high school. It’s kind of ironic now that I work on various high school-based storylines as an adult haha. Over time, I’ve realized that school or no school, the teenage experience is kind of universal in many ways. With that said, I was definitely a geek, but on the inside, I saw myself as a superhero haha. The classic comic book origin story, I guess.

What do you hope readers takeaway from Gotham High?

MDC: I hope they are entertained, amused, titillated, and thrilled. One thing I wanted to show was that Jack and Bruce were friends—that they could have been on the same side. That feels so tragic for me that they’re not.

TP: Most important, I just hope they’re entertained. I think this book is a lot of fun and it can take you on a fun ride and keep you guessing along the way. Secondly, I hope that the readers can perhaps relate to certain qualities of these characters. I think these characters and the story overall speaks to so many themes that play out in our lives and I hope that readers of all ages can relate. 

What’s up next for you in the book and graphic novel world?

MDC: My next novel that is coming out is Jo & Laurie, which is a romantic re-telling of Little Women, co-written with my dear friend Margaret Stohl. Then I have Never After, which is a new middle-grade fairytale novel. And a few coming out that haven’t been announced yet so I can’t talk about them yet.

TP: I’m currently illustrating a Riverdale graphic novel for Archie comics, based on the hit TV show. Look out for that in the Fall. I also really hope that Melissa and I can work together again on another Gotham High book, that would be awesome! 

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