Heroes Never Rust #11 by Sean Ironman
At the end of September, Fox announced they were developing a TV series featuring Detective James “Jim” Gordon before he became commissioner, before Batman. I love the idea of concentrating on the police force in Gotham City. A cop show that is able to draw on the mythology of Batman interests me a great deal. Unfortunately, Fox’s version sounds like a mistake. An obvious one at that. Didn’t anyone pay attention to the failure of Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood or Antoine Fugua’s King Arthur? Stop taking cherished properties and taking out everything that people love and remember about those stories. Why set a story in the Gotham police department before Batman, before his villains come around? It’s just another cop show that happens to feature characters that share the name of Batman characters. What’s most frustrating about this news is that DC Comics already had a comic series about the Gotham police department that would have made an excellent TV series. This comic series was set right alongside Batman and his villains.
Gotham Central ran from 2003 to 2006, but even with only forty issues, the comic has been well regarded and is still talked about a decade after its debut. It was written by Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker (a couple of the best writers in the comics industry) and drawn by Michael Lark (another great). The series is basically a cross between Batman and Homicide: Life on the Street. It is written in alternating story arcs between the night shift and the day shift. Rucka took the day shift and Brubaker the night, with Lark penciling both. Some of the cast is made up of Marcus Driver, Renee Montoya, Crispus Allen, and Romy Chandler. It also featured more well-known characters, such as Jim Gordon, Batman, Harvey Bullock, and many of Batman’s villains.
I don’t want to spoil any of the comics. Brubaker and Rucka do some amazing character work over the course of forty issues. But, I also feel like I can’t really say anything unless I get too detailed. The comic isn’t about huge world-changing moments. These are the street-level characters, the ones that have to find a way to not only survive but strive in a world out of their control. When I was a kid, I didn’t want to read comics about regular people, but as I’ve gotten older and my reading tastes have matured and I’ve come to find the human characters in the superhero world to be more fascinating than the super-powered characters.
What would it be like to be a cop in a city that has Batman? Cops in the real world don’t get enough respect—think about what it would be like if Batman was coming in and saving the day. How would the city’s view of the police force change if Batman was relied on to solve everything? Would cops like or hate Batman? What’s so great about Gotham Central is that there aren’t any easy answers or clear sides. Some cops like Batman, some don’t. Some fall somewhere in the middle, respecting the Bat but wanting to be of use to the city.
In the first story arc, Mr. Freeze is the villain. The cops don’t have any special gadgets that help fight off the results of Mr. Freeze’s freeze gun. They just die. But they don’t stand back and let Mr. Freeze run amok and wait for Batman to handle things. They have a job to do. What would it be like to track down a super villain that Batman has trouble dealing with and all you have is a badge and a gun? And not just do it once, but that’s your job. Mr. Freeze. The Joker. Two Face. Catwoman. These cops don’t have high-tech gadgetry. They didn’t spend their youth training in the martial arts. They’re regular Joes.
Batman has had some great stories (The Dark Knight Returns, Year One, Arkham Asylum, The Killing Joke), but like any character that’s been around for almost seventy-five years, there’s really only so much you can do by tackling the character directly. By opening the world and seeing how other characters have to say about Batman, Brubaker and Rucka are able to add depth to the Batman mythos without trending worn territory. I don’t usually do this, but follow this link and go get yourself a copy of the first ten issues. You won’t regret it.
P.S. A few weeks ago, Post #7, I wrote about Miracleman. I felt bad about writing about a comic that is so difficult to track down, but it was one the best so I did so anyways. Well, just this past weekend at the New York City Comic Con, Marvel Comics announced that starting in January, they are reprinting Miracleman leading up to Neil Gaiman finishing the story he started twenty years ago. So the wait is nearly over!
Sean Ironman is an MFA candidate at the University of Central Florida, where he also serves as Managing Editor of The Florida Review and as President of the Graduate Writers’ Association. His art has appeared online at River Teeth. His writing can be read in Breakers: An Anthology of Comics and Redivider.