Monday, September 22, 2014

Gotham Begins, But Do We Watch?

It's almost upon us. Gotham is about to have it's premiere episode.

It has been the point of a lot of speculation since it was announced. Mostly, we knew it would be a Commissioner Gordon-centric show. Then it was made clear that we wouldn't be getting any Batman in the show.

A lot of people were indignant about the idea. Why do a Gotham City show without the Bat? Well, how a police department deals with super criminals, mass corruption, mobs, and Arkham's Most Wanted. But what about Batman?

He isn't necessary. Tales of Gotham police have proven potent already. Books not centered on Batman have worked. But their is that craving.

Batman, as a franchise has been with us for quite awhile. We've had the old movie serials of Batman. Then a number of cartoon series leading into the 1980's.

And their was the Adam West Batman. Get out your Bat Nostalgia Glasses.

Most of us have gone through different feeling about that show. It was so camp. Myself, I went from loving it to hating it to coming back to appreciating what they were going for. It is a fun watch to this day.

But Batman and his world wouldn't stay put in a single form. We've gotten comic and film that shifted into darker spaces. Batman went militant. Batman went nasty.

Then we had Tim Burton's take. Darkness and weirdness. A stylized world. Villains getting killed off in each film. Batman meeting a new love of his life each movie.

And then it shifted again under Joel Schumacher.

During this time we also got to experience the Bruce Timm's image of Batman.

It borrowed some from Burton. It then built it's own stylized world. Part 1930's. Part modern,

And the Gotham police did love their blimps.

We then went into variations on this with a reboot of the show and art. This was followed by the futuristic and dark/dreary Batman Beyond. Then the humorous and wacky Batman: The Brave and the Bold. Then a young Batman in The Batman. Finally their was recently Beware the Batman, which was a thing (Tough Alfred, Katana as a side kick, and a different variety of villains.).

The look at Batman and Gotham City shifted quite a bit just in animation (And we haven't talked Straight to DVD movies.).

Most recently we've gotten the Chris Nolan take on the Batman as a character and part of his own unique world.

And in a couple years we'll see what Zach Snyder and Ben Affleck.

The point of this recollection is to act as a reminder that Batman and Gotham has gone through many iterations and takes. Change and innovation aren't the enemy of good entertainment.

Now we get a new series from DC Comics, offering us origin stories and some larger mysteries. Like Nolan, I am imagining they will be influenced a little by Batman Year One. The state of the city. The state of Gordon's personal life.

But it also seems to be taking some insight from another series. Gotham Central. We'll get to watch Gordon and Bullock work together. We'll also get to have Detective Montoya and Detective Crispus Allen in the mix. I hope they will take advantage of them.

The politics (both political and office) should offer an interesting level that most Bat fans don't get to see. (Granted, for many Bat fans, they just want Batman swinging around punching people.) It will be interesting to see if they show how a place like Gotham functions, and how it could get worse.

That is part of the issue for a prequel show like this. Gotham is usually shown to be in a really bad place when Bruce Wayne reappears. Will Gordon face a loosing fight? Will Gordon be driven to compromise with bad people to survive and do some good? Will the show find a good balance?

It also isn't limited to a possible struggle in the GCPD as the city rots, or Gordon rises...

We'll also see Bruce Wayne make the decisions that will consume the rest of his life. What will it take to commit? What will he turn from? How does Alfred impact this? How is Alfred changed?

This time is seldom touched on, at least for more than a rare scene in a comic.

It also will look at the forces at work to create Batman's rogue gallery.

The idea of that can be either good or bad. The idea of all these figures were forged when Bruce Wayne is reaching puberty seems off. The idea that almost all of them are his elders does also.

But this is a different take on Batman and Gotham City. The classic baddies will someday be elders to a twenty-something Batman. That is either a deal breaker, or not. What is your line?

They also will be making shifts in the tales we may know about them all. Edward Nygma works for the police. Selina Kyle may have witnessed the Wayne murders. And Ivy Pepper? Such a name change. Why even? Is it so she can have a childhood nickname of Poison Ivy? Is it a deal breaker for you? Will Ivy change her name (to escape her old life) between the start of the show and the first appearance of Batman in the city? This will pull you out of the story if you want them to.

Will the changes work for the story? That's what I am interested in.

I am just reminded of the recent Arkham Series of games. In those games we've gotten very different versions of many of the villains. Some are far closer to classic horror serial killers. Some are more like Hannibal Lecter.

In the game Ras al Ghul's Lazarus Pits are a myth and even Batman thinks the idea of Ras rising from the dead is ridiculous. It's part of the game.

Penguin talks with a Cockney accent, seeing as he was sent away to school as a kid, and then took up with British gangsters. He also had a broken bottle shoved in his face, hence his "monocle".

These changes can be likable, reasonable, and fun. It's all what you are looking for. I don't like all the changes in the Arkham games, but many of them do work.

I am not fond of the bottle in the eye on Penguin. But his attempts to act Cockney is amusing to me. It's a fun take. At least inside the games.

It's also how I feel about the dynamics of The Dark Knight Returns. Inside the story it all works. Taken elsewhere I am far less fond of it.

Oliver Queen and Barry Allen meet.
This show, for me, is going to rise and fall based on how it works in it's own world. Shows like Arrow and The Flash have a shared universe that need to work together. Gotham has to stand on it's own. That's good and bad.

They are going to try and define many notables of future Batman stories. They can be ham handed at this, subtle, or catch us by surprise.

Riddler will be a techie for the police who will talk in riddles. That could be just dumb, or amusing.

Joker isn't going to be revealed (We could get into how Joker "shouldn't" be revealed in anyway until he crosses Batman.), but people are saying he will be hinted at off and on during the season. In it's own little universe that's fine. Except I would hate for this show to end up having Joker at it's core. I don't hate Joker, but he can be over used easily (Like in the Arkham games. He's dead in the next game, but I fully expect him to appear anyway.). Still, Joker has had many takes. Comedian gone mad. Stooge in the wrong place. Hardened gangster who gets a chemical path. A mysterious force of chaos. Maybe he'll be a serial killer in Gotham that Gordon can't wrap his head around, or ever get near. I just don't want them to get lost going down the Joker Trail.

Anyway, I am planning to be cautiously optimistic about the show. Be interesting. Or, don't bother me.

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