Paging Greg Rucka, Ed Brubaker, and Micheal Lark.
HBO Max announced on Friday that is has committed to a series set in the world of Matt Reeves‘ upcoming film The Batman centering on the activities of the Gotham City Police department. The series comes from Reeves and Boardwalk Empire‘s Terence Winter, who will write the pilot. But we can’t help but notice the judicious avoidance of a certain well-loved comic book about the GCPD in the press release.
According to the series description, it will “build upon the motion picture’s examination of the anatomy of corruption in Gotham City, ultimately launching a new Batman universe across multiple platforms. The series provides an unprecedented opportunity to extend the world established in the movie and further explore the myriad of compelling and complex characters of Gotham.”
“To explore it in the kind of depth and detail that only a longform format can afford — and getting to work with the incredibly talented Terence Winter, who has written so insightfully and powerfully about worlds of crime and corruption, is an absolute dream,” added Reeves.
The announcement pretty much confirms WarnerMedia’s plans for a Batman universe separate from the film universe of Justice League and, we presume, projects like Batgirl and the long-delayed Nightwing will be part of that emerging cinematic reality.
Nonetheless, we can’t help but think Gotham Central is getting lost in the excitement. Developed by Rucka and Brubaker in the early 2000s, the comic books series told tales of the Gotham City Police’s major case squad. Captained by Metropolis transplant Maggie Sawyer and featuring detectives like Rene Montoya and Crispus Allen, the team dealt with cases just a smidge too small for the Batman — not that it would stop him from showing up from time to time. As sort of “Law & Order: Gotham City,” it told some fantastic stories grounded in the crime fiction the two writers love while also featuring the DC Comics characters and settings.
Which leaves us wondering why HBO Max is not using the title or crediting the writers (and initial artist Micheal Lark) as a source of the concept. It is possible the rights to Gotham Central as a television show are still tied up with 20th Century Fox. The former film studio optioned Batman and all subsidiary characters essentially in perpetuity when it made the 1966 Batman television show. And it seems the Fox broadcast network’s Gotham was based on Gotham Central — although Rucka once joked to us that the network didn’t really know what it bought.
Further complicating the issue: Disney. 20th’s control of Batman as a TV property presumably went to Disney when it bought the studio and its television production units. It is possible they would want a piece of any of the established Gotham Central characters; forcing WarnerMedia to create all new characters it can claim are the product of Reeves, Winter, and their team of writers. Then again, all of this is muddled as Gotham was produced by Warner Bros. Television as part of deal made with 20th to release the Batman ’66 series on home video.
Nevertheless, it suggests we will still be waiting for a TV series to come along and do justice to Montoya and Allen. Both were featured in Gotham‘s first season, but soon fell away. But perhaps by the time this HBO Max series goes into production, rights issues will be cleared up and maybe, just maybe, Rucka, Brubaker, and Lark will get some credit.