Jack, Bruce, and Selina.
Jack, Bruce, and Selina.
Image: Thomas Pitilli (DC Comics)

The basic elements of Batman’s relationships with the Joker and Catwoman are so ingrained in everyone’s minds at this point that it’s much, much more fun when comics decide to veer off the beaten path a little bit. Take, for example, Gotham High, from writer Melissa de la Cruz and artist Thomas Pitilli.

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In this telling, Bruce is still a brooding rich boy, Jack Napier (the Joker’s given name) is still a troublemaker, and Selina Kyle’s very much a person who delights in emotionally manipulating people to get what she wants. But Gotham High imagines them all as teenagers who all grew up as friends in Gotham City before Bruce was shipped off to Arkham Academy, an elite prep school for the rich and wealthy.

After Bruce gets expelled for beating up a bully, he returns to Gotham to find that everyone close to him’s grown up and changed. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, de la Cruz explained that in addition to the changes Bruce goes through in the book, she also wanted to change his origins somewhat in order to make him feel more real and familiar.

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“Bruce Wayne is the billionaire. He’s the richest man alive. So I thought, wouldn’t it be fun if his family was Chinese and from Hong Kong? That made it feel real,” she said. “There’s been a big influx of wealthy Chinese people who moved from Hong Kong to Arcadia in Los Angeles, and that’s where my mom lives, I’m part-Chinese, my brother lives in Hong Kong, so I thought it would be great to put what I know into Bruce Wayne.”

Gotham High, de la Cruz elaborated, is very much a Batman story, but it’s also infused with the energies of things like Crazy Rich Asians and Gossip Girl that lend themselves to the book’s central love triangle and the conflict it causes. Small details like Alfred being Bruce’s uncle (who happens to be gay) make Gotham High sound like a book much more rooted in our current world than a lot of DC’s other books, which gives us all the more reason to look forward to its release.

Gotham High goes on sale April 1.

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io9 Culture Critic and Staff Writer. Cyclops was right.

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