Keb takes a look at Gotham Central and how it combines the police procedural with superheroics.
Everyone in the OH Newsroom is well aware that I have recently gotten into the Wire (ten years late). My late father was an ex-cop and a big fan of police procedural shows, so I grew up with them. I think that’s why I love the Wire so much. It’s definitely a show I could have enjoyed with my dad.
With that said, I’ve also been reading Gotham Central by Rucka and Brubaker. I have a pretty big bias against both Rucka and Brubaker because I’ve never read anything I’ve enjoyed from either of them. It was pretty hard to put the bias aside when reading Gotham Central but I soldiered through three quarters of the forty-issue series.
How does one take a minor character (or group of minor characters) in a story and make that character a major character? Well, Gotham Central is an example of that. It is also an example of how that concept doesn’t work.
First of all, a series about detectives in Gotham and how they operate around Batman and other Gotham City vigilantes is a brilliant concept for a series. However, it’s also a very ambitious project because it attempts to tell a story from a completely different view than one we’re used to. That’s where I believe much of the failing of Gotham Central comes from.
It’s very interesting to see how the GCPD operates on the major superhero crimes that Batman is often called in to solve. I can appreciate the work put behind the idea that this is the story of the cops who put their lives on the line. My problem with the series is that Batman eventually becomes the deus ex machina that finishes the stories and that doesn’t work well for the series. Eventually it becomes a “wait for Batman to show” series and that bothers me because it takes away from the police procedural that I enjoy. Eventually, procedure becomes “wait for Batman”.
I think my problem with Gotham Central is Batman. In the Soft Targets storyline, the GCPD eventually cops to Batman’s help. He becomes the authority in a city where the authority should be the main character. Batman becomes a crutch for the series and the stories that don’t involve him are the best cases.
However, when we remove Batman from the equation, we could just very well remove the entire Bat-universe stamp on the entire series and make it a completely stand-alone police procedural. Some might think that incorporating Batman and his family into the series is brilliant, but to me it feels like the writers are sandwiching Batman into a police procedural and it feels sloppy. It doesn’t work because the GCPD is a minor character in Batman where Bats is the focus of the story, but Batman usually dominates the focus of the story (being a superhero and all) and therefore he even dominates the Gotham Central stories as a minor character.
That’s what bothers me about Gotham Central. The characters are great and have some extraordinary depth. Marcus Driver is easily a favorite in this cast of characters. Early on in the series, we see Driver having issues with Batman and that really undercut my enjoyment of the character. However, seeing him return strong in the Unresolved story. That’s what I really enjoyed about this series.
It’s hard to find a balance between the superhero and the police in the superhero police procedural. At some point, the writer has to decide who the main focus is going to be. Gotham Central eventually does that more than half-way to its end. That really sucks, especially since the series got cancelled before it could really develop to its full potential.
(Hi everyone, just a quick note from me to let you know that I won't be publishing any Peeing in Your Shower pieces for the month of October. I will be returning in November and if I don't, well I guess I didn't return. Keep it tuned to the Outhouse and I will eventually come back. That's my mutant power, Charles, I always come back.)
Written or Contributed by Keb Ellis
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