The Sensational Character Find Of 2014: Bookworm Returns In ‘Gotham Academy’ #2
Listen, Gotham Academy: I already liked you. You had me hooked from the very first promise of teen boarding school drama in a city full of supervillains with Batman showing up to try to reach these kids. That is exactly what I am into in virtually every way, and with the first issue being as good as it was, you didn't have to sell me on the series any harder than you already did.
But then you brought back Bookworm, and cemented your place as the single best comic on the stands today.
For those of you who aren't familiar with him, Bookworm was one of the villains who first (and for a couple decades, only) appeared on the 1966 Batman television show. There, he was played by Roddy McDowell, and while his gimmicky plots to steal valuable books made his actual crimes pretty interchangeable with any other Arch-Criminal -- he even left book-related clues pointing to his next heist, which was the style of the time -- he's always been a particular favorite of mine. Part of it is because of the ridiculous level of style and panache that McDowell brought to the role, but a lot of it comes from just the simple goofiness of his design: A leather suit, eyeglasses and a reading lamp bolted onto his hat. You know, becausebooks have leather jackets? It's pretty great.
It should be noted, however, that this isn't the first time Bookworm has managed to make a comeback. He's recently been seen in DC's Batman '66, of course, but he's even shown up a couple of times in the more mainstream continuity, as well. Despite being referred to alongside other televillains like Egghead and Marsha, Queen of Diamonds as one of "these guys you never see anymore" in Neil Gaiman's Riddler story in 1989's Secret Origins Special, that same year saw him returning as an antagonist in a Huntress story. Of course, that had all the fun that you'd probably expect from the return of a goofy Batman '66 villain, with less knockout gas hidden in boring books and more horrific child abuse and dying as a result of his own deathtrap. Also, I'd wager that The Librarian, a one-shot villain during Peter Milligan's early '90s run on Batman who dressed his victims in leather jackets with the Dewey Decimal System number of their professions stitched onto the shoulder and left their bodies in appropriate neighborhoods, was likely inspired by Bookworm as well.
Gotham Academy's version, however, is perfect. In this story, he's been recast as the school's librarian, and that is not only delightful, but it's a great way to stock the background of Olive Silverlock's ongoing story with interesting characters. He's not alone, either -- Professor Milo, a Golden Age mad scientist with a thing for bowl cuts and turtlenecks who was most prominently seen in Batman: The Animated Series, is teaching chemistry.
I mentioned this back when I reviewed the first issue, but one of the greatest strengths of Gotham Academy is that it feels like it's taking place in a fleshed-out, living, breathing universe that still feels new and exciting and unknown. Bringing back forgotten supervillains as teachers, even if they're just forming an ominous background for the real action taking place up front, is a pretty great way to do exactly that.