Creator Spotlight! Gotham Central with a ‘Stache

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Posted October 10, 2013 by Stuart Kirkham in Comic Books

Unless you’ve spent the last week in a coma or the Congo, you will have heard that Warner have started licensing out DC properties for the small screen. With Marvel proving how compelling (and lucrative) a shared universe can be it isn’t unreasonable to wonder whether or not this is a wise decision, but that discussion is for another time. For the moment it’s okay to be a little excited at the prospect of seeing more live action DC characters on a weekly basis.

My handsome associate Allen has already discussed the Constantine announcement, the other has been tentatively titled ‘Gotham’, which will focus on everyone’s favourite mustachioed, cigar smoking adulterer, Commissioner Gordon. However, this will be a Jim Gordon we’ve only had glimpses of in the past, before Batman, pre-commissioner, taking cases and earning his stripes in the most dangerous and depraved city in the DCU.

Come at me Bro

Come at me Bro

We don’t know much about it yet, and what we’ve been told so far is kind of confusing; Gordon will apparently be coming up against “the villains that made Gotham City famous”, whether that means costumed villains or crime families like the Falcone’s is yet to be seen. On one hand, costumed crime shouldn’t really exist before Batman, but without colourful villains Gotham would be just another cop show. Either way, it’s unlikely they’ll miss an opportunity to include some familiar faces, possibly Oswold Cobblepot, or a pre Two-Face Harvey Dent (One-Face if you like). Batman should have enough rogues to choose from without stepping on any toes at Warner.

One thing the Showrunner Bruno Heller is sure to be doing is looking for inspiration in the funny books. There are plenty of great Jim Gordon stories to choose from, Year One immediately springs to mind, but perhaps the most appropriate would be a series the character barely appeared in: Gotham Central.
GothamCentral

Police Procedurals seem to struggle to find an audience in the comic book medium, which is strange because they’re ten a penny on TV and hardly any of them hold a candle to Gotham Central, a book famous for it’s intelligent writing, fantastic artwork, and terrible sales figures.

DriverEd Brubaker and Greg Rucka co-wrote the book for 3 years, both are known for their grounded and gritty approach to storytelling and have such similar sensibilities that it’s almost impossible to tell who wrote what without referring to the credits page. While they co-wrote a few of the arc’s in the traditional way, they found a more interesting way of dividing the duties. The cast is made up of detectives in the same precinct, Rucka handles the day shift and Brubaker the night shift, allowing them to tell their own stories that contribute to the larger narrative.

The harmony is completed by Michael Lark who contributes the lions share of pencils during the run and sets the tone of the whole book. His realistic, finely tuned line work is perfectly suited to this world and the tales being told within it. Any of these three men would give you a reason to read this book on their own, but all three together is a rare example of a creative team working together to make something greater than the sum of it’s parts.

Gotham Central is a book that does the Police Procedural right, it doesn’t rely on formula, coincidence, or impossible forensics to service the narrative, everything is thoroughly embedded in reality and it’s the characters rather than the case that drives the story. They don’t always catch the bad guy, they don’t always come out unscathed, but they go out into a world full of risk, where the old rules no longer apply, and do their jobs the only way they know how.

FreezeThe juxtaposition of this grounded storytelling against the fantastical world of Gotham is one of it’s most interesting elements, after spending a few pages in the precinct listening to a couple of cops talk about ongoing investigations or their personal lives, coming across Mr Freeze in the next panel is as alarming to the reader as it is to the character. Their constant struggle against enemies that are beyond them, and their determination to do their jobs before caped crusader takes matters into his own hands is thoroughly compelling, and reading it for the first time I found myself doing something very strange… rooting against The Batman.

If the people at Fox can do even half of what this book does right, then add a guy with a moustache, there’s really no way they can fail. If they just take the tone and sensibilities they’ll be off to a good start, but going one step further and adapting specific story lines wouldn’t be difficult.

SPOILERS FOR VOLUME 1 OF GOTHAM CENTRAL BELOW

The first story arc In the Line of Duty opens with Marcus Driver and his partner Charlie investigating what they think is a routine kidnapping; while conducting door-to-door enquiries one of the apartments turns out to be the safe-house of Victor Fries (in the scene alluded to above), before they realise what’s happening Charlie is blasted with a freeze ray and instantly killed. This opening gambit perfectly illustrates the dangers these ordinary detectives face by working in a world gone mad, and the manhunt that follow shows characters that were previously used as cannon fodder and exposition in a completely new light.

Gordon2Now all you need to do is add a moustache and you’ve got Jim Gordon taking one of his first cases as a detective, having his partner instantly taken away from him in a cruel and shocking way right out of the gate. This gives viewers a very quick understanding of the world their hero is operating in, and could also establish him as a lone wolf, reluctant to take another partner after this and therefore putting him at a disadvantage to his colleagues so we can root for an underdog.

Overuse of canine metaphors notwithstanding, it isn’t difficult to see how Gotham could be a success on the small screen; millions of existing police procedural devotees would be enticed by a show with a comic book twist, as long as it remains grounded enough not to alienate them, and the existing Batman fan base will find plenty to love by following ordinary people in a world they’re so familiar with.


About the Author

Stuart Kirkham

Stuart is a comic book collector, film and TV enthusiast, and video game crackerjack. Unfortunately these pursuits are occasionally interrupted by having to go to work and do real-life things.