For decades television has been adapting comic book material into TV shows. Some of it has been passable (mostly the animated series’ (X-men, Batman, the Justice League, etc.) but the vast majority of it has been terrible (to say the least).
A quick list of the terrible television shows based on comic book material is an easy list to put together. Remember David Hasslehoff as Nick Fury? Or what about Birds of Prey? Anyone remember the Flash series of the early 90s with Mark Hamil as “The Trickster?” I didn’t want to remember it either.
But, my point is, it’s really easy to do comic shows right, it’s just that no one has.
To prove my point, I’ll take Batman and I’ll show you how five kick-ass TV shows can come from it. Perhaps Warner Brothers will get off its ass and do something about some of these.
BATMAN: The first and most obvious approach would be to do a straightforward Batman series. The problem with it is that everyone has a different idea of how to approach the material. Not a problem to me. To make it work, you have to start the series with the early crime drama of Long Halloween and Dark Victory, ending the first season with Dick Grayson coming into the fold. Season Two follows the arc of Bruce and Dick’s relationship. Midseason would be the high point of their relationship and the season finale would be a combination of the breaking point and the Killing Joke. Season Three sees Oracle added to the cast as well as Jason Todd. The season three finale would be A Death in the Family.
Seriously, I could plot this through ten seasons and all the way through to Knightfall. It would be great. But you couldn’t screw around with the material. It would need to be somewhere between the Nolan and Burton treatments.
GOTHAM CENTRAL: It seems that just about every show on television is either Law and Order, a Law and Order spin-off or some type of Crime Scene Investigation. Well, Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka’s real-world take is that entire sort of thing only better and with the Bat. Imagine a show where cops are running down leads, and trying to get their job done and well, only to have the villains wrapped in a bow by Batman. This only serves to annoy and demoralize them. And really, who watches over the city during the day when Batman sleeps? This is that story and it would quickly become must-see TV. Killing Joke would be great to see from this perspective as well.
THE GOTHAM TIMES: We all know that the best thing about any of the Batman films was Knox, the reporter in the first Tim Burton film played by Robert Wuhl. Some of the best comics ever written about superheroes are written from the perspective of a normal, average civilian. This show would be about a newsroom, much like a lot of the Superman series are. Although, the arc here would coincide with two events: First Batman appears and then Bruce Wayne buys the paper. It would be a mix of newsroom drama, fear of discovery (as the investigative reporter is hot on the heels of Batman, trying his hardest to learn his secret identity) and documentation of Batman’s exploits without all the baggage of seeing a guy put on some tights in a cave. Knox could interview people about Bat sightings and we could see them unfold in each episode. So each persons perspective of the Bat would be different, easily lending it to different interpretations.
NO MAN’S LAND: A 12 HOUR MINI-SERIES: No Man’s Land is one of the most well put together arcs in comics history. A cataclysmic earthquake strikes Gotham so severely that the government declares it a no man’s land. They issue a proclamation that after a certain time, no one will be allowed in or out of Gotham. They seal it in and blow the bridges. Obviously, lots of people stay including most of the cops and even more of the criminals. The Bat Family also stays, hoping to tip the scale in the all-out urban warfare toward the side of justice. This could be so great and cover so much ground. It would also probably have to be on HBO or something because it would almost certainly be rated PG-13 at the minimum.
BRUCE WAYNE: MURDERER: A 12 HOUR MINI-SERIES: This is fairly self-explanatory. You put Bruce Wayne on trial for a murder he may or may not have committed. You see him try to discard the Bruce Wayne persona and the rest of the Bat Family scrambling to clear his name and learn that either he really did do it or this is the best frame-up in the history of crime.
These can all be pulled off on television without being cheesy. I mean, at the point where people are tuning in to watch these shows, they already expect a full grown man dressed as a Bat. They’d all need to strike the same quality and tone as all of the best scripted dramas on television.
My point is, as comic nerds, we’re being shafted on the television front. Doubly so on the Batman on television front.
Will anything ever be done about it?
We can only hope.