When Deadline broke the news on Tuesday night, as Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD was premiering, that Fox had won the rights to Bruno Heller’s (The Mentalist) ‘Gotham’ drama, about the early years of Commissioner James Gordon as a young detective pre-Batman, it was obvious that Warner Bros. was trying to steal a little thunder for themselves. As expected the social media world was buzzing at the report of another DC Comics-related property was coming to television screens to join the hit Arrow and upcoming Flash series. However, confusion also set in because the show’s premise seemed to indicate that it was going to be a police procedural similar in theme to the cult and critical favorite DC comic book series of the mid-2000s, Gotham Central. And if Gotham Central wasn’t being adapted for television the question remains why not?
Even the creators of the book, Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker, took to social media to respond to their followers when they inquired and/or offered congratulations. “I was as surprised and delighted as everyone to hear they were making a ‘young Gordon’ cop show, ” Rucka said on his tumblr page,”as far as I know this has nothing to do with Gotham Central.” He also said he had not been contacted by anyone involved with the show but would not mind if they did and wished the network and production company success. Brubaker had a similar response.
I don’t know anything about that Gotham show, and I have no idea if it’s anything to do with Gotham Central in any way. I’m guessing not.
— Ed Brubaker (@brubaker) September 25, 2013
It became clear, with so few details about the show, that despite ten years of rumors about Gotham Central being adapted for television it was not to be. The gritty, award-winning series that followed detectives from the Gotham City Police Department will once again not get the treatment it deserves but potentially serve as merely a template for this young Gordon detective show. The book featured two of the best crime fiction writers in any medium, Rucka and Brubaker, and talented artist Michael Lark. The writers split duties by dividing the storylines between day and night shifts of the detectives. It took place with Batman well entrenched in Gotham City at the time but appeared in cameos sparingly during its three-year run. Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Bullock played recurring roles but the focus remained on the diverse group of detectives that did the primary investigating on a day-to-day basis. And like the just greenlit Fox show, they also dealt with the “villains that made Gotham City famous” and the aftermath.
The book was a combination of ‘CSI’, ‘X-Files’, and ‘The Wire.”What made Gotham Central so compelling was it gave a voice to the usual background players that nary register an afterthought once Batman has left a crime scene to most comic book readers. Instead we witnessed the interpersonal struggles between the detectives, the hardships of their personal lives and the corruption that ran through the department. The shades of gray that envelope most people made them relatable and riveting. Renee Montoya’s outing as a lesbian and the ramifications of that served as one of its most stellar storylines. The rampant corruption put detectives at odds, the death of one and disfiguring of another shook up the department and all the while dealing with the likes of Two-Face, Catwoman, the Penguin, Mad Hatter and others. There was plenty of drama to draw from that would have made a captivating television program.
Admittedly, the book was not a sales success despite the accolades and loyal fanbase. The book ended its run in 2006. It was rediscovered by fans in collected trades and still regarded highly by fans years later. ‘Gotham’ may incorporate many of the themes and tone of Gotham Central because police corruption is a staple of GCPD canon and having Gordon as the television audience’s surrogate makes sense. Gordon is a known entity and tethered to the Batman world that viewers can relate to and root for. However, what Warner Bros. and DC fail to recognize is they already have a viable source to develop a show around. A blueprint on how to introduce a group of racially diverse characters that are absorbing, reflect it’s audience and reminds everyone that the comic book world is indeed inclusive. The Walking Dead currently does this better than anyone. There is no reason it couldn’t be done with Gotham Central.
Yet, we will instead get what may turn out to be a fine show featuring one of Batman’s long time allies. Without Batman of course. Fox thought so highly of it they outbid everyone and sent it straight to series bypassing the dreaded pilot sample. Perhaps we as fans should just be satisfied that it’s being produced at all. Fans of comic books, fantasy and sci-fi should be elated with the number of shows already on television with more planned. Agents of SHIELD had the highest ratings for a new drama in four years. The audience is definitely watching but don’t they deserve the very best the genre can offer? The opportunity to do so just vanished.
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