THE ‘GOTHAM’ PILOT CAN’T DECIDE WHAT IT IS, AND WHAT IT IS IS NOT VERY GOOD [REVIEW]
By Chris Sims
If you’re the kind of person who looks at Batman’s origin and thinks, “Hey, I wish this was more convoluted and made even less sense than it already does,” then I have some good news for you. Gotham, the upcoming DC Entertainment television show on Fox that focuses on Jim Gordon as a young detective with the GCPD and definitely isn’t a Batman show despite having Bruce Wayne, Catwoman, the Penguin and the Riddler in the first episode, made its debut last weekend at Comic-Con International when the pilot was screened for an audience of fans.
The short version is that it’s not very good. The longer version is that while it tries to do a lot of interesting and engaging things with its roster of characters, the end result is a show that’s not really sure whether it wants to be a stylish, gimmicky procedural about quirky characters in a city of comic book villainy, or a by-the-numbers TV cop drama. The end result is — barring major improvements — a project that doesn’t do enough with either to be worth watching.
WAR ROCKET AJAX NOT-SO-EARLY EDITION: THE BEST AND WORST OF COMIC-CON 2014
Each week, ComicsAlliance’s Chris Sims and Matt Wilson host the War Rocket Ajax podcast, their online audio venue for interviews with comics creators, reviews of the books of the week, and whatever else they want to talk about. ComicsAlliance is offering clips of the comics-specific segments of the show, usually several days before the full podcast goes up at WarRocketAjax.com on Mondays.
This week is a little different because Chris and Matt attending Comic-Con International in San Diego, and time fell into a deep, inescapable vortex. It certainly wasn’t all bad, though, so the two of them are listing their bests and worsts of the show this year, including seeing celebrities in their element, watching the Gotham pilot, buying cool stuff, cosplay, the massive crowds, and so much more.
Listen to this week’s entire show in the player above!
BATMAN WRITER ALAN BRENNERT, ‘GOTHAM’, AND THE TRUTH ABOUT DC COMICS MEDIA ROYALTIES
A favorite among many longtime and hardcore Batman fans, writer Alan Brennert released a statement on Facebook this week regarding his lack of compensation for the use of the character Barbara Kean Gordon in the upcoming Fox TV show Gotham, a live-action series based on the Batman characters. Brennert wrote a story in 1981 in which the character was introduced as the fiancée of then-Lt. James Gordon. While it was an out-of-continuity story, the character was later brought into canon as Commissioner Gordon’s wife (most notably in Batman: Year One, and in the films Batman Begins and The Dark Knight). In the Gotham television series’ pilot episode — as seen and verified by ComicsAlliance staff — Barbara Kean is introduced as James Gordon’s bride-to-be, played by Erin Richards.
For this reason, Brennert requested equity in the character and compensation for her use in Gotham – a request that has been denied, which has in turn inspired consternation among Brennert’s fans, industry observers and other creators.
There’s a lot to unpack in this important topic, but what we should first understand are the industry terms in play. Basically, at DC Comics “equity” — known colloquially as royalties, even though royalties are a different thing altogether — is a sum of money the creator gets whenever their character is used in TV, in merchandise, in film, etc. For some characters that may be a paltry sum (Brennert said he’d learned that his payout for Gotham would be $45 per episode) but for others it can be quite significant. These payments are for use of characters, as distinct from plots or storylines.
DC is known in the industry for being uncommonly judicious when compensating creators for their characters’ appearances in other media. For example, Bane co-creator Graham Nolan has gone on the record about his equity payments from that character’s presence in toys, animation and film since he and Chuck Dixon introduced him in the early ’90s, and continue to enjoy payments related to The Dark Knight Rises. Similarly, writer Len Wein “has lived off bonuses for Lucius Fox in Batman animated fare and feature films,” according to former DC Comics editor Bob Greenberger.
But in order to qualify for equity at all, certain conditions have to be met. This is a very important part of the compensation system at DC.
‘GOTHAM’ EXEC PRODUCERS SAY SHOW WILL REVEAL ‘PSYCHOLOGICAL TRUTH’ OF BATMAN
However, executive producers Bruno Heller and Danny Cannon, who wrote and directed the pilot respectively, were more than happy to tell IGN that the Gotham City of the series will eventually forge Batman from the pre-teen Bruce Wayne, who is a regular character on the show. (The secret is that he’ll be dark and damaged. A bold new vision!) They also discussed how they established the look and feel of the city, and a lot more about their goals.
NEW ‘GOTHAM’ CHARACTER PORTRAITS INCLUDE POISON IVY AND HER COMPLETELY DIFFERENT NAME
Viewers have had plenty of opportunities to see the lead characters of Fox’s new not-Batman-we’re-serious series Gotham staring ahead and looking solemn, but they haven’t seen everyone just yet.
Entertainment Weekly has published eight new character portaits, and though they include some familiar faces — Ben McKenzie as James Gordon, Donal Logue as Harvey Bullock, Jada Pinkett-Smith as Fish Mooney, and David Mazouz as Bruce Wayne, to name a few –the feature also comes with some new ones. Not only are viewers getting their first really good look at Edward Nygma, a.k.a. the Riddler (Cory Michael Smith), they’re also seeing the show’s version of Poison Ivy, played by Clare Foley. You’ll notice she’s not Pamely Isley anymore.
‘GOTHAM’ STAR BEN MCKENZIE SAYS ‘THIS IS NOT A BATMAN-FROM-THE-’50S KIND OF SHOW’
Gotham showrunner Bruno Heller already sat under Entertainment Weekly‘s spotlight to talk about the new Fox series, and now it’s series star Ben McKenzie’s turn.
McKenzie will play a young James Gordon on the show (which the producers have promised will not be about Batman, even though there’s a preteen Bruce Wayne running around). He told EW pretty unequivocally that the show will be a darker take, with plenty of moral gray areas, in case you were wondering whether it would be like every other Batman media property of the past 30 years or so.
“[DC Comics Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns] gave me Gotham Central … and said two things: The origin story of Gordon hasn’t been fully explored before. As central as he is, Gordon has never been the focus. And second, you can’t worry about that. ‘We hired you to play you and to make this character fresh.’ And he said it without provocation.”
‘GOTHAM’ SHOWRUNNER BRUNO HELLER PROMISES SERIALIZED STORIES, TEASES JOKER
Fans have a lot of questions about Fox’s new Jim Gordon-driven show Gotham, which also features a preteen, pre-Batman Bruce Wayne. Will it be a procedural or tell season-long arcs? Will there be masked heroes to fight the supervillains who will appear on the show? What’s the tone going to be like? Where’s Gordon’s mustache?
Showrunner Bruno Heller (The Mentalist) talked with Entertainment Weekly and answered a few, but not all, of those questions.
FIRST ‘GOTHAM’ TRAILER PROMISES ‘THERE WILL BE LIGHT’ [VIDEO]
Here’s the first footage from Gotham, the forthcoming Fox television series based on DC Comics’ Batman characters. Starring Ben McKenzie as “idealistic rookie” Detective James Gordon and Donal Logue as “shrewd police legend” Harvey Bullock, the series is set in an unspecific past before all the awesome Batman characters showed up, at least in a recognizable way. As seen in the trailer, the show begins with the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents and seems to feature the future Batman and future Catwoman in more prominent roles than you might expect from what has been thought to be more of a stylish police procedural like the Gotham Central comics rather than a deep mythology reshaping along the lines of Smallville, the last “prequel” series based on a DC superhero. Perhaps Gotham has aspirations to be something more like the infamous “Superman without Superman” show than “Homicidein Gotham City.” We’ll find out later this year.