Batman fans have been pondering the future of the movie franchise all summer. With the end of Nolan’s trilogy, there’s talk of rebooting. And that causes a little dread. The Batman franchise got lucky when Christopher Nolan came on board and shook everything up and did things in a way that made the Batman story and characters feel fresh again. On this website there have been several articles about the future of Batman, and one in particular about bringing Batman to TV got me thinking. I would agree that the Bat-franchise should be brought to TV and it should be done via Gotham Central.
Gotham Central was a poorly selling but highly praised comic book series written by Greg Rucka and the genius Ed Brubaker. Perhaps the best thing about the series is the premise. A premise so brilliant and simple it makes you wonder why you never thought of it. Gotham Central is about the Major Crimes Unit of the Gotham Police Department. It’s about the cops trying to do their job and deal with day-to-day criminals as well the ‘Freaks’. It’s a brilliant, simple idea and so much can be done with it. The series brilliantly explores how the police would work within the Bat-universe, like, if they switch the Bat-signal on, then they get the press hounding them on what case they’re working on, why have they got Batman involved, and such. Hell, even office politics plays a part- the secretary has to switch the Bat-signal on because it could be seen that the cops are condoning vigilantism.
Gotham Central would work brilliantly on TV. The crime story mixed with the superhero aspect could breed so many good stories. Brubaker and Rucka came up with some brilliant storylines, and these could be adapted and new writer would no doubt expand and add more stories to this. Hell, a Gotham Central TV series could be Batman meets The Wire, and I for one would sure as anything not miss that!
The potential of a TV series could mix crime-per-episode with longer on-going plots. The comics themselves mixed one-shots with stories that crossed several issues, like the brilliant Dead Robin storyline, in which a dead body in a Robin costume is found, and the police have the dilemma of trying to solve the crime but not wanting to look too deeply in case he really was the Robin.
In the series Batman makes fleeting cameo appearances, often at the end of the story to sort out what the cops can’t. Imagine how you could do that on TV! Keeping Batman off-stage for as long as possible would only lend more impact to his appearances. And imagine all the fun producers, studio, cast and creators could have in trying to keep the identity of the actor a secret! But then, the casting of the villains and such to bound to be of interest. The internets would alight with discuss of who could play The Joker, and speaking of which-
Gotham Central made The Joker terrifying again before Heath Ledger came along. And how did they do it? Simple. They gave The Joker a high-powered sniper rifle.
Yep. It was as every bit terrifying as it sounds. When he finally appears in the flesh it is very powerful and well timed. Not only that, but in the course of Soft Targets, The Joker manages to kill one of the regular characters, and the fallout of a fallen comrade lasts the course of the series.
The success of The Dark Knight Rises has proven how popular the Batman franchise is. Sure, any Batman film released would be popular, but would it be as loved or as highly regarded as Nolan’s Batman trilogy which showed Batman could be smart as well as entertaining? In adapting Gotham Central to TV it could take place in the universe of Nolan’s Batman, but with enough leeway to allow some of the more comic book-y elements to creep in.
The questions and themes that the comic books proposed could easily be translated onto TV- the discussion of why Batman doesn’t give his technology to the police, how the police work alongside a guy who essentially is a vigilant, and how ordinary police officers deal with the extraordinary psychopathic criminals that Gotham attracts.
Warner Brothers, if you’re reading this, I hope you give this some thought. Cop shows and crimes shows are in decline at the moment, but that’s the ebb and flow of the genre, isn’t? Crime shows were dead until the CSI series came along and it became mainstream again. The Wire came and proved how intelligent these shows could be. With Gotham Central the cop show could be revitalised by added the popular element of the superhero.
I would recommend anybody who hasn’t read any Gotham Central to go and picked up the first volume. Admittedly the series peters out at the end when Ed Brubaker left, but the majority of it remains strong storytelling and a fresh, original take on the Batman universe.
This article was first posted on October 1, 2012