Blogging A to Z Day 8: Gotham

#AOkay, there are a lot of comic book shows on the air right now, with more on the way! The one departing the most from its comic source material, however, is probably Gotham. This is a show about the city of Gotham before the Batman – about a young detective Jim Gordon, and his cases. So instead of being a Batman crimefighting show, it’s another police procedural – there’s a lot of those on TV right now as well! They’re trying to tap into two TV themes at once, it would seem.

I used this on another review over at Comparative Geeks.

I used this on another review over at Comparative Geeks.

The case they opened with was the most obvious: the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents. With this case, we quickly get to see the corruption at the heart of Gotham city, and see the good cop Gordon at work. However, we also quickly get to see some of the show’s greatest limitations – limitations that I think will make Gotham a show that only has a few seasons in it, unless they make some big changes.

One is the obvious: with young Bruce Wayne in the show, we have placed the show in time. Batman is an adult, even if a young adult – so the show is years from having Batman on it, if it ever does. Which is okay – they seem to have purposefully made this a Batman show without Batman in it. However, they have to keep it an interesting Batman show without Batman in it, because what they don’t have is the option to bail themselves out by having Batman show up!

The other limitation becomes apparent the more of the show you watch. Increasingly, they are adding and including known Batman villains, either in their young incarnations (roughly the same age as young Bruce) or are including them more as adults at Gordon’s age. They run the risk of having included basically every Batman character except Batman within a few seasons – at which point, what do you do?

There’s a deeper problem with this, about Batman lore and some of the bigger-named Batman comics, like The Dark Knight Returns (which our kind host here on Sourcerer reviewed over on Comparative Geeks, and then I did too!). In these comics, as well as in movie representations like The Dark Knight, there is a gnawing doubt, a question – are there all of these crazy super-villains because of Batman, or is there Batman because of them? The answer in the comics tends towards Batman as the cause, like the Joker argues in The Dark Knight. However, the show Gotham is definitely setting up a city where the super villains are all there and waiting, and the city desperately needs a Batman.

A Batman who won’t be showing up to save them…

This post is by @CompGeeksDavid of the Comparative Geeks and regular Sourcerer contributor. For more A to Z geekery, check out Comparative Geeks!

How to Make a Comic Book Movie – Part 1

Comics. I love ’em, and they’re turning into movies left and right. There are continually ups and downs, good ones and bad ones. Movies and comics both, I suppose! There seems to be a formula to adapting a comic to a movie, as well. Not that they are all alike, or formulaic – but the adaptation happens in pretty similar ways.

I have been doing a series on Comparative Geeks called LitFlix – where we read the source material first, and then see the movie. My wife (@CompGeeksHolly) has been covering the books, and I have been covering the comics. So I guess in a way, these are some of my observations from doing that.

I suppose in particular I’m going to focus on the superhero films. I’ll try not to pick on any particular films or franchises, because I know there are people who like all of these different characters, and the different films as well. There are also critical eyes which would find problems with all of them, and fans who might find no problems with them at all. And what I have to describe aren’t necessarily problems – but patterns. So I hope you like comics, because it’s comics time!

Start at the Beginning

Yes, ha ha, start at the beginning. One of those basic storytelling ideas (and the definition of “beginning”…). However, it means something different when it comes to comics movies: start with the origin story.

Let’s look at a couple of reboots. Say, The Amazing Spider-Man. One common complaint was that we were going back to a character we know, pretty well and pretty recently, from other movies. And not continuing the continuity, but instead a new one. Which, it seems obviously, had to start back at the origin story. We couldn’t just have a Spider-Man movie where he’s going around being Spider-Man. For whatever reason, we have to tell the origin story first.

Or how about the Dark Knight movies? As much or more than Spider-Man, Batman is a known character with a known life, story, and origin. And a series of movies – different creative teams though they might have been – had ended not that long before Batman Begins. But again, back to the origin story.

It might be that it shows you are a different story. Clearly, when you repeat, re-do, and change a known event (like the origin), you are showing that you are telling a different story. And sometimes, you want and need to create that distance – I can understand them wanting to distance themselves from the previous Fantastic Four films, so I’m sure the new one will be an origin film.

So many more examples I could give! The origin stories keep coming up. But maybe the example to turn to is one that shows that going back to the origin stories is a really good idea. Superman Returns. They tried the idea of making a movie, years later, still in the same continuity as the previous films – like a Bond film might (except even Bond has dipped into origin-story territory of late!). For a variety of reasons, this film was not considered all that good, and ended up being the end of that continuity.

And so they made Man of Steel: new continuity, new tone and look and feel. Going back to the origin shows us it is new and different, and we accept its difference as the audience.

Pick a Good Origin Story

So while origin stories are an incredibly large percentage of superhero movies, not so with the comics themselves. A lot of big anniversaries have been hitting lately: 50 years of X-Men, Avengers, Fantastic Four… 75 years of Batman… and largely, these comics are still working in the same universe continuity as when they started.

Sure, there was an origin story at the beginning, but since then, they have to tell a different story. Often, you end up with short-stories or alternate realities, where they can re-tell or re-explore these things – sometimes going back to the origin in these. Like one short story I just read, Batman: Year One, which steps back to the very beginning of Batman. Or the one I read before Man of Steel, called Superman: Birthright.

However, I think the best example is Iron Man. This film, though I didn’t know it at the time, was at least in part based on the comic Iron Man: Extremis. In this comic, Tony Stark is remembering back to his beginning, remembering designing his first suit, in a cave, and just really a lot like the first Iron Man film. But then, this shows my second point about picking the right origin story: pick one that is a gift that keeps giving.

Because Extremis was not just the idea behind the first Iron Man: it was also the baseline plot to Iron Man 3. Far more obviously. But still, part of those comics, as I found and was amazed, was what they tapped as the origin story. However, you can’t really start with Extremis as a plot, so they ran the origin – and then returned to it later.

I’ve noticed this effect in some of my other LitFlix reading as well, such as for Thor: The Dark World. This is based in part on the comics introducing Malekith as a villain. Except, the mythical object that Malekith was involved with wasn’t the Aether from the movie: it was the Cask of Ancient Winters, from the first Thor.

Pick a good origin story comic, and milk it. Which leads into my next point. Continue reading

Happy New Book Day!

copyright DC comics

Detective Comics #27 variant cover by Tony Daniel

And what a good day it is. I am happy to announce that tomorrow, we’re debuting a weekly feature devoted to comics by my friend and colleague Jeremy DeFatta. His posts will include commentary, issue recommendations, and questions sure to provoke thoughtful discussion. You don’t want to miss it.

Beginning next week, we’ll post Jeremy’s articles on new book day, but we just had too much going on this week to get it in on Wednesday. While you eagerly await tomorrow’s post, you can read all about the variant covers for D.C.’s reissue of Detective Comics # 27 at the Firewireblog.

You can find Jeremy’s bio on our contributors page and follow him on Twitter @quaintjeremy.

image: DCComics.com