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Peeing in Your Shower: The Superhero Police Procedural - Gotham Central

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LOLtron

Rain Partier

Postby LOLtron » Thu Sep 27, 2012 8:19 pm

Peeing in Your Shower: The Superhero Police Procedural - Gotham Central

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




READ THIS ARTICLE ON THE FRONT PAGE, HUMANS!
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mrorangesoda

FROGMAN

Postby mrorangesoda » Thu Sep 27, 2012 8:36 pm

I want to change my vote.
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Zechs

Outhouse Editor

Postby Zechs » Fri Sep 28, 2012 1:13 am

I dunno man. Soft Target was a fantastic story. How can you not have Batman in it? Given A.) it's in Gotham and B.) Who the villain of that story is. They go hand in hand and that's the point.
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Keb

<( ' . ' )>

Postby Keb » Fri Sep 28, 2012 6:32 am

Zechs wrote:I dunno man. Soft Target was a fantastic story. How can you not have Batman in it? Given A.) it's in Gotham and B.) Who the villain of that story is. They go hand in hand and that's the point.

So why not just make it a Batman story?

The minute Batman shows up, the detectives are utterly useless. He is too much of a deus ex machina and it really hurts the story as it relates to a police procedural.
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covalesky

Expert Post Whore

Postby covalesky » Fri Sep 28, 2012 8:03 am

So how does this stack up to powers?
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chap22

Rain Partier

Postby chap22 » Fri Sep 28, 2012 8:03 am

...

This is all a joke right? B/c I'm pretty sure even Punchy has enough taste to like GC
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habitual

Silly French Man

Postby habitual » Fri Sep 28, 2012 8:57 am

chap22 wrote:...

This is all a joke right? B/c I'm pretty sure even Punchy has enough taste to like GC


Agreed. I'm on record as not being a huge Rucka fan, but, Gotham Central was fantastic from beginning to end.

I'm seeing congressional censure in your future Keb.

Hab
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Punchy

Staff Writer

Postby Punchy » Fri Sep 28, 2012 9:01 am

chap22 wrote:...

This is all a joke right? B/c I'm pretty sure even Punchy has enough taste to like GC


I like GC, I have the first 2 hardcovers. I do think Rucka ruined it in retrospect though by turning Renee Montoya and Crispus Allen into superheroes.
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alaska1125

dINGO

Postby alaska1125 » Fri Sep 28, 2012 9:49 am

Punchy wrote:
I like GC, I have the first 2 hardcovers. I do think Rucka ruined it in retrospect though by turning Renee Montoya and Crispus Allen into superheroes.


I think, on the case of Crispus Allen, that it was due to the infamous "editorial mandate" (per a recent anti-big two rant, iirc). That said, GC was one of my favorite books at the time and it still holds up.
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Zechs

Outhouse Editor

Postby Zechs » Fri Sep 28, 2012 10:51 am

Keb wrote:So why not just make it a Batman story?

The minute Batman shows up, the detectives are utterly useless. He is too much of a deus ex machina and it really hurts the story as it relates to a police procedural.


Because we're seeing a Batman story from outside the usual perspective. This time it's from the cops. Said villain has the city under siege. We get to feel the impact now of every sick move the bastard makes. We get to realize at times why the Gotham Police Department cannot match wits with said person no matter how good they are.

The whole point of that arc was them trying to escape the shadow of the Bat, but the shadow of the Bat is too great. There's a reason he's needed in Gotham. There are just some threats in the city that are too much for them.
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Keb

<( ' . ' )>

Postby Keb » Fri Sep 28, 2012 11:38 pm

Zechs wrote:
Because we're seeing a Batman story from outside the usual perspective. This time it's from the cops. Said villain has the city under siege. We get to feel the impact now of every sick move the bastard makes. We get to realize at times why the Gotham Police Department cannot match wits with said person no matter how good they are.

The whole point of that arc was them trying to escape the shadow of the Bat, but the shadow of the Bat is too great. There's a reason he's needed in Gotham. There are just some threats in the city that are too much for them.

And that's the problem. The cops are incompetent and therefore not needed. And that's not the point of a police procedural. That arc and its fallout create some problems for the characters but all it does really is just serve to show some character moments and becomes another joker versus Batman story (not a good one either). It was an ambitious story that didn't work for the police procedural concept.
covalesky wrote:So how does this stack up to powers?

That's part two coming in November ;)
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habitual

Silly French Man

Postby habitual » Sat Sep 29, 2012 2:55 am

Keb wrote:And that's the problem. The cops are incompetent and therefore not needed. And that's not the point of a police procedural. That arc and its fallout create some problems for the characters but all it does really is just serve to show some character moments and becomes another joker versus Batman story (not a good one either). It was an ambitious story that didn't work for the police procedural concept.

That's part two coming in November ;)


I think your mistaking a "police procedural" for what's really more of a character driven story. The marginalization of the main characters in light of all the crap that goes on in Gotham is the real thrust of the story.

It's a brilliant perspective piece.

Also Keb you should check out The Hiketeia, it's probably one of the best Wonder Woman stories ever done and the only one by Rucka that I really enjoyed.

Hab
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Punchy

Staff Writer

Postby Punchy » Sat Sep 29, 2012 4:22 am

Aren't the cops in The Wire pretty incompetent in the face of the Drug War and not needed?
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Keb

<( ' . ' )>

Postby Keb » Sat Sep 29, 2012 3:48 pm

Punchy wrote:Aren't the cops in The Wire pretty incompetent in the face of the Drug War and not needed?

That's the beauty of it. They (the main characters) are actually quite good at what they do. The big hitters like McNulty, Greggs, Freamon, Bunk, etc actually know how to go about getting the evidence to get the arrests. The problems involved become the people of power around them who don't want to show how incompetent the system is nor how corrupt it is. The politics become the antagonist as much as Avon Barksdale or Stringer Bell.

The minute the GCPD turns on that Bat-signal, they just prove they've lost. It really hurts the stories because then they are just bending to Batman. If that's the case, they essentially make themselves useless in their own story and become vessels to tell a Batman story (like in Soft Targets). At no point does that story feel like a police story, it just feels like a Batman story told from the perspective of the police. Again, a story from a perspective of a minor character but the problem with Gotham Central's Batman stories is that those minor characters are supposed to be the focus. It doesn't work that way. It's an unfortunate way to tell stories because the series is so character-driven (and the characters are good). Even though the characters are great, they still remain inferior to the superhero in the story who dominates it. The minute you remove the superhero and focus on the detectives (like in the story Unresolved), even if you throw in a super-criminal like Mad Hatter, you get a fantastic story that builds characters and relationships and at no point do any of the characters feel useless.
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Keb

<( ' . ' )>

Postby Keb » Sat Sep 29, 2012 3:55 pm

habitual wrote:
I think your mistaking a "police procedural" for what's really more of a character driven story. The marginalization of the main characters in light of all the crap that goes on in Gotham is the real thrust of the story.

It's a brilliant perspective piece.

Also Keb you should check out The Hiketeia, it's probably one of the best Wonder Woman stories ever done and the only one by Rucka that I really enjoyed.

Hab

Yeah. I can respect the series as a perspective piece.

But I think that's the problem. It tries too hard to make minor characters into major ones and falls flat, especially once Batman shows up. In the comics, Batman solves the crime, beats up the bad guy and the cops show up. Now this series tries to pin a face on the faceless element in the police and it really doesn't sit well with me. That's why I don't think the early stories in that series were really good and the series didn't find its voice until Unresolved (which is where I stopped reading).

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