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To some, the idea of a Batman TV spinoff that doesn’t feature Batman is as ill-fated an idea as … well, that last Batman TV spinoff that didn’t feature Batman. But Gotham, the newly announced Fox series centering on the early days of (future-commissioner) Jim Gordon, pre-Dark Knight, has at least a couple of tricks up its sleeve, should it fancy playing them.
The early days of Gordon in Gotham City is a subject that’s been tackled in the comic books, of course, most famously in Batman: Year One by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli. The Gordon that appears in that storyline — set at the very start of Batman’s career — has just arrived in Gotham City after a 15-year career in Chicago, and is faced with a police force almost as corrupt as the city itself, forcing him to rely on his own resources in order to bring order to the streets before the arrival of Batman.
(In current issues of DC Comics’ Batman series, writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo are providing their own take on that period, and a Jim Gordon that seems significantly less troubled than Miller and Mazzucchelli’s version — at least so far.)
While Year One might provide inspiration for the character of Gordon, Gotham‘s reported focus on the police department in comics’ gloomiest city might point to another four-color inspiration — one that has often been cited by fans as the ideal DC Comics television show waiting to happen.
Gotham Central was a 40-issue monthly comic series created by Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark that ran from 2003 though 2006 and focused exclusively on the cops who had to work in a city populated by scary monsters, super freaks and a guy who dresses up as a bat at night to keep everyone safe.
Critically acclaimed, if never a smash hit, Gotham Central was a distinctly grounded take on the Batman mythology filled with an ensemble cast who were particularly unlikely to show up in that month’s issue of Justice League or Superman — imagine Hill Street Blues, but with the Joker showing up to cause mass terror every now and again. With minimal appearances from Batman throughout the run, Gotham Central demonstrated how well a police procedural could work in a world of super villains and larger than life threats, given the appropriate treatment.
With almost 75 years of Batman comics to draw upon, there’s a rich cast of potential peers and fellow cops for creators to choose from in order to populate Gotham‘s police precinct. The most high-profile — beside Gordon himself — are Renee Montoya and Harvey Bullock, two detectives who have appeared in animation as well as comic books, and Maggie Sawyer, the police captain who heads up Gotham’s Major Crimes Unit and is engaged to Kate Kane, aka Batwoman.
Of course, whether these characters show up in the show — or any other familiar faces — may rely on how closely Bruno Heller wants to stay to established comic book continuity. Most of the figures named appeared after Gordon was installed as police commissioner, but so did the supervillains, who sources say will show up in the series when it debuts. No matter which other DC characters appear, there’s one simple rule that the show needs to follow in order to work: as long as Gordon remains the moral center of the show, everything else should fall into place.
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