These Batman Series Would Be Much Better Than Yet Another Gotham Cop Show
HBO Max is developing a new Batman-based show set in Gotham City. We have some ideas for the direction they could take i
Gotham City is one of the most fleshed out and richly developed corners of the DC Universe. It's been the setting for award-winning movies, triple-A video games, and animated cartoon classics. There's a good chance that you can name at least one or two of its major landmarks, like Ace Chemicals or the Wayne Enterprises building, even if you aren't particularly into Batman. This means, if you're going to kick off a new superhero TV show, Gotham City is an easy pick for a setting--the Dark Knight himself doesn't even need to show up at all for it to feel steeped in superhero lore. Heck, it already had a show that was literally just called Gotham that did, basically, exactly that for five seasons.
Now HBO Max has announced a new Gotham-set TV show is coming and it's focused on the Gotham City that exists within the upcoming film, The Batman. Details are sparse at the moment, but chatter around the news on social media brought up a potential inspiration: the comic book series Gotham Central by Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker, and Michael Lark, which focused entirely on Gotham cops trying their best to navigate their ordinary jobs around superheroes and supervillains. If this also sounds sort of like the TV show Gotham, it is--except Gotham Central played things as straight as possible and Gotham, to put it lightly, didn't. For Gotham Central fans, this vague announcement, coupled with the promise of Reeves' movie being more detective-focused and grounded, means there's a potential second chance on the horizon for a more authentic Gotham Central TV experience.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with Gotham the TV show or even making a brand new show based on Gotham Central--it's a great comic, and if you haven't read it, you definitely should. However, the announcement left us wondering: why is it that, whenever anyone wants to tell stories in Gotham City, the GCPD is the go-to? Sure, Gotham's police characters are famous (and, with one or two notable exceptions, famously terrible at their jobs) so there's that, but why do we constantly return to their stories when there's so much unexplored territory left within Gotham's city limits? Which is to say nothing of just how tone deaf and odd it feels to announce a new cop show while other networks are canceling and re-thinking their cop-based shows following nationwide protests against racial inequality and police brutality against Black people.
So, we got to thinking about some potential alternatives for shows set in Gotham that A) aren't about Batman directly but still leave the door open for plenty of references or cameos depending on what and how the Reeves film fleshes things out, B) aren't about the GCPD, and C) would actually be way more interesting and fun to watch than yet another police procedural show anyway. Some are loosely inspired by existing comics, others are original, all of them would, we think, be really exciting.
1. We Are Robin
The We Are Robin comics were the briefest flash in the pan for the DC Universe, sneaking in just under the wire of the Rebirth overhaul that pivoted the New 52 reboot books back toward the pre-Flashpoint continuity (sort of) in 2016. That's not the important part, though--the thing you need to know about the We Are Robin books is that they unequivocally ruled. About a group of rowdy teenagers who took it upon themselves to take up the Robin mantle en masse after both Robin and Batman disappeared from the city (long story, don't worry about it), We Are Robin had everything you could want from a comic: drama, comedy, style to spare, and an overwhelmingly charming ensemble cast.
As a TV show, We Are Robin would hit that CW-flavored sweet spot the Arrowverse shows exist in while setting itself apart with grit and high-stakes drama. These are fashionable kids putting their lives on the line with panache and flair--but they're throwing themselves into a world they only barely understand. This concept could also provide a brilliant loop-hole for introducing a Robin (or Robin-like) sidekick character to a big screen Batman, something that movies have been struggling with or outright avoiding since the Nolan saga.
2. Gotham Academy
Another from that weird, brief period in DC Comics history as The New 52 wound down and Rebirth picked up speed, Gotham Academy had all the makings of a perfect Young Adult graphic novel--it just, unfortunately, never got that treatment. Still, the potential for a TV show adaptation is overwhelming. A sprawling, potentially haunted boarding school on the outskirts of Gotham City, populated by kids who come from families with strong opinions on (or perhaps even ties to) Batman and/or other costumed criminals and heroes? Occult magic? National Treasure-style quests to unlock hidden parts of Gotham's history?
It's the perfect storm. And, critically, it could be aged up or aged down depending on the target audience--Gotham Academy works as both a teens-and-tweens romp or a more grim, Sabrina The Teenage Witch-style adventure/drama. It could carry over the mystery and detective elements from the big screen and turn them into something smaller and more micro-scaled while also weaving in the stories of the student's parents as they unfold in the bigger picture.
3. Gotham City ER
Okay, this one isn't based on any existing comics properties but hear me out: What about an ER-flavored medical drama set in Gotham City? It would be an easy, new spin on the superhero genre and there are plenty of characters in DC canon who are already underserved as background entities in medical fields to pick from. Leslie Thompkins has been a Batfamily ally and doctor for decades--imagine a show all about her rising through the ranks at Gotham General Hospital while sneakily trying to save the lives of costumed heroes (while also knowing full well she can never learn their real identities or expose them in any way) without her bosses finding out. And what happens if she's put in a position to save the life of a villain? Drama, that's what.
In the comics, Leslie typically has a romantic relationship with Alfred Pennyworth (who will be played by Andy Serkis in the Reeves movie) so, hey, there's that too, for more potential superhero connections without actually breaking out the capes and cowls.
4. Gotham City Sirens
This year's Birds of Prey movie (which, honestly, feels like it came out a decade ago at this point--but no, it was February) was functionally a Gotham City Sirens adaptation, if only by virtue of spotlighting Harley Quinn. In the comics, the Sirens were a three-person "team," in the loosest definition of the word, made up of Harley, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman. They ran around Gotham being generally chaotic and dubiously lawful in the twilight years of the pre-New 52 DC Universe.
For TV, this one would be a little tricky--obviously there's no real desire to start conflating the already incredibly confusing DCEU more than it is with new character interpretations and overlaps (we're looking at you, Joker), so maybe Harley herself gets left out. Instead, we end up with a show that keeps the spirit of the Birds of Prey film alive but focuses on either a new set of characters inspired by the girls and their comic book counterparts, or some of the more obscure Gotham citizens like Bluebird, Misfit, and Stephanie Brown. Either way, this show could be a ton of fun, a gritty coming-of-age drama, or a neon-soaked psychedelic romp through the unexplored corners of the city. The possibilities are endless, and it could create a tonal and stylistic bridge between different corners of the DCEU at large.
5. Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass
"But wait," you cry, "I love Harley and I don't care about confusing TV and movie canons!" Well, friend, don't panic, because I have an idea for you. Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass was an original graphic novel released under DC's YA imprint, DC Ink, and it focused on a brand new, teenage incarnation of Harley with a brand new backstory, set in a brand new universe. Also, it was completely amazing.
Unlike most of the suggestions on this list, Breaking Glass could be adapted almost straight from the source material. It's unique enough from the rest of the DC Universe that it doesn't need to diverge more than it already has. It follows a teen Harley through a new high school, with a new Joker (his reveal is amazing, please read this book) along with a new Ivy and a whole troupe of incredible original supporting characters.
As a show, this one would squarely live in the genre and style of something like the Titans or Doom Patrol streaming TV shows--kinda raunchy, a little violent, still a ton of fun. And, it's Harley Quinn without being a repeat of the same Harley Quinn stories we've been given already, so there's that. So far, no word of any Harley or Joker-related characters in Reeves' universe have been announced, so there's no concern about stepping on any toes.
6. Arkham Asylum
What about something a lot darker to match with the more gothic stylings of the Batman world? What about something that feels more like American Horror Story rather than a superhero fantasy? Let's take a look at the potential for an Arkham Asylum-based show, based (very loosely) off the graphic novel of the same name, subtitled A Serious House On A Serious Earth.
This one is going to take a little imagination, so stick with me--if you haven't read the book, it's done in a dream-like, surrealist style focusing on an inmate takeover of Arkham Asylum. The book focuses on Batman being sent in to resolve the issue but for our purposes, we'll focus more on the inmates--and on the Arkham family themselves. The Arkhams have been a long-running set of side characters in the DC Universe almost as much as the Waynes, but where the Waynes left a mostly positive legacy (or, at least, paved the way for Batman), the Arkhams were plagued by corruption, insanity, and all sorts of horrible fates.
This one could even be an anthology-style series to keep the AHS comparison running, and focus attention in on a different generation of Arkhams as things progressed, introducing villains and side characters from every corner of the Batman mythos in new and exciting ways.
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