When it comes to the exploitation of Batman and his world in the medium of television, any effort not limited to animation over the last twenty years hasn’t been kind. Before Smallville took shape as a show about a young Clark Kent beginning his journey to become Superman, developers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar originally envisioned a show instead about a young Bruce Wayne on his way to becoming the Dark Knight. This was eventually scrapped for the Superman alternative.
In 2002, the same team created a show called Birds of Prey, taking place in “New Gotham” and featuring a world in which Batman has gone into exile, and Barbara Gordon has taken up training the Dark Knight’s daughter and a new, powerful young woman as the new guardians of the city. As a result, Bruce Wayne himself never appeared on the show, and bad ratings and even worse writing led to it’s demise after a half a season. Always present throughout this time was a proposed series based on the highly critically acclaimed comic book series called Gotham Central. While Batman isn’t a main character, you always feel the pall of his presence throughout the series, while the main focus is given to the working detectives of the Gotham City Police Department.
The first issue sets up the premise for the entire series brilliantly. While on a patrol beat, two Gotham cops are called to an apartment building on a seedy side of town. As the two men bust into one of the apartments, one of them is flash-frozen. As the second cop looks up, he stares in disbelief at his complete lack of fortune on this day: it’s Mister Freeze. This cop is just a regular guy, he has no utility belt to speak of, and has nowhere to run. What he does have, though, are incredible co-workers, and a very powerful friend out in the city’s shadows. Gotham Central is a series about regular people dealing with the insanity and craziness of a place like Gotham City.
For years, there was talk of turning Gotham Central into a TV series. While the ongoing comic was a critical darling, it wasn’t high on sales, and was cancelled in 2006 after only 40 issues. Talk of a TV series was high about a year after the series ended, but with Warner Bros. on the verge of releasing the incredible second act to The Dark Knight Trilogy, any other exploitation of the Bat-franchise in live action was put on an indefinite hold.
This may not be the case anymore, according to the comic book writers themselves. Ed Brubaker (Captain America, Fatale) and Greg Rucka (Detective Comics, Lazarus) are apparently more optimistic about their take on the average Joes of the GCPD getting their time in the limelight. With DC Entertainment now more openly exploring their superheroes on TV by casting a new Flash in Arrow, promising a Flash spinoff, and hinting at more Justice League characters showing up, WB may now seem to be more receptive in exploring Gotham Central in a live-action episodic environment.
While speaking to USA Today about his new book Velvet, Brubaker spoke about Gotham Central‘s potential in making it to the small screen every week.
The book is actually more popular now than when we were doing it. There’s been talk of ‘Gotham Central’ on TV since when we were doing the comic even (in the mid-2000s). Everyone at Warner Bros. really loved it. Chris Nolan after they did ‘Birds of Prey’ had asked them to just please not do any Batman-related stuff until he was done with his trilogy — looking at ‘Birds of Prey,’ you can see why. It was not the world’s greatest pilot.
With the success of Arrow and the almost assured success of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., DC is looking a bit more broadly at ways to get their characters out there. As a DC Universe fan, I’m interested to see if a potential Gotham Central series takes place in the same universe with the upcoming Man of Steel sequel. Will Ben Affleck maybe show up once or twice a season? Will a red-blue blur flash by the screen if more powerful supervillains endanger too many people in Gotham? Could Arrow and the Flash tie-in to a possible GC series going forward? While no official word has come from on high at Warner Bros. in regards to a series like this, you can bet that fans and industry observers are going to be very aware of any future DC developments going forward.
What do you think? Is this a hit, or a disaster waiting to happen? Leave a comment below, and while you’re at it, pick up the first issue of Gotham Central digitally on ComiXology for .99 cents and read one of the best Batman spin-offs ever produced by DC Comics.
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