The other day, Dan told you about the character breakdown for TNT’s planned Teen Titans series, which will include Dick Grayson at a crossroads following the dissolution of his partnership with Batman. Though it’s not known if Batman will exist on Titans as anything more than a mention, this news does establish another potential entry point for the Caped Crusader into the DC TV Universe.
Already a (child-sized) part of FOX’s Gotham and coveted by Arrow/The Flash/Supergirl producer Greg Berlanti for an eventual Arrow guest spot, it seems inevitable that we will one day see Batman return to television. The question is, should it be as a guest appearance and a supplement to another character’s series, or are fans (and Warner Bros.) ready to give the Dark Knight a weekly showcase?
While I can’t deny the appeal of possibly seeing Batman team up with Oliver Queen on Arrow for an arc or the payoff of seeing young Bruce Wayne eventually grow up to become Batman on Gotham, I really want to see Warner Bros. trust that the appetite for one of the most compelling characters in the history of fiction — graphic or otherwise — is insatiable and absent the need to be strictly rationed. And that’s a view that you would think that they would agree with since…
DC’s TV Universe And Their Film Universe Is Obviously Split.
The Flash is Grant Gustin on television and the Flash is going to be Ezra Miller (though, despite reports, it’s not certain which Flash he will play) on the big screen. Add to that the different version of The Suicide Squad that fans will see on the big screen after seeing some of those same characters on Arrow, and DC’s embrace of a split world is obvious and also good for fans.
I don’t want to turn this into a Marvel vs. DC thing, because in the overview, both companies put out amazing products and have each had a hand in powering this “geek” takeover of pop culture. But… while I adore Marvel’s shared-universe strategy on the film side, it almost seems as though widening that scope to include television casts TV as a lesser medium that should feel lucky to get an occasional cameo from a Marvel movie character.
That subservience has often been clear with Agents of SHIELD. But while the Netflix/Marvel quartet of Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and The Iron Fist will put the spotlight on more familiar comic book heroes, there is still a division between movie characters and TV characters and a hard limit on the amount of exploration that Marvel can pursue when it comes to characters like Captain America and Iron Man that are confined to one medium. Those divisions and limits don’t presently exist for DC thanks to their split universe. That is, unless they arbitrarily put them in place because they’re not willing to believe that…
A Batman TV Show Can Co-Exist With Ben Affleck’s Batman.
There is a lot of space between the two current live-action versions of Bruce Wayne. On Gotham, David Mazouz plays the future crime fighter as a 12-year-old and in Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne will be well established and in middle-age. You could argue that the intervening period between Batman’s teenage years and his 40s and 50s was effectively portrayed by Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, but the fact is that The Dark Knight Rises will be four years old when Batman V. Superman opens, and while that isn’t an eternity, it’s only a year less than it took for Sony to do a hard reboot on the Spider-Man franchise.
Even though a Batman TV show wouldn’t be linked to DC’s evolving on-screen efforts, the direction that Zack Snyder has chosen for the character gives Warner Bros. a little bit more breathing room should they choose to explore Batman’s beginnings as a crime fighter in a more thorough way than a film could. A show that focused on a 20 or 30-something Batman would also mean that…
A Batman TV Show Can Co-Exist With Gotham.
Even though Bruce Wayne isn’t the focus of Gotham, and even though he’s still a kid on the show, Gotham probably presents the biggest impediment to the dream of a new Batman TV series. The show is briskly working its way through Batman’s Rogue’s Gallery, it has well-defined roles for Jim Gordon and Alfred (who might play a part in a Batman series), and a show with an adult Batman would likely cap where Gotham will be able to go in the long run.
The only solution, really, would be to make it clear that Gotham exists in its own universe, which wouldn’t be that difficult since its place on FOX (and not under the CBS corporate umbrella like the Berlanti shows) and as a prequel have placed it on an island and made it unlikely to entertain crossover guests anyway. If Warner Bros. is willing to do that and if they are willing to ignore the risk of Batman fatigue with three different versions of the character, then we can have a Batman show that is unique and accessible, which is good, because…
The More Entry Points Into The World Of Batman, The Better.
I want a f*cked up psycho Batman, but I accept that if a Batman show is going to happen in the near future, it isn’t going to be a hyper-violent creation that lives on HBO or Showtime. And besides, the Nolan films already gave us an adult-themed version of the character, we’re probably going to get that with Zack Snyder’s films as well, and frankly, television already has a broody vigilante billionaire in the form of Oliver Queen.
As I said, Warner Bros has to be willing to have three different versions of the character out in the world at the same time, but which direction is the right direction? How about a version that is willing to have some fun with the idea of telling stories about a billionaire/secret crime fighter with a cave full of gadgets and a cadre of colorful villains and supporting characters? What if you merged the earnestness of Arrow with the enthusiasm of The Flash and put a cowl on it?
As much a challenge as it would be to pull off, I’d rather see a Batman series that is able to toe the line between being palatable to the masses and challenging for viewers, than I would like to see something that is just for the fans of the dark and moody iteration again since I’m never going to see the show go as dark as I’d like it to be. It’s easy to forget, but Batman’s fanbase has been constructed by more than just the comics and the Nolan movies. Things like Batman ’66, The Super Friends, and Batman: The Animated Series have had a large hand as well, and a new show can honor the diversity of tones (the dark and the light) that has carried the character to its place in the pop culture pantheon and…
It Can Tell A Deeper Batman Story Than Any Film Can.
Batman is a story that lends itself to deep exploration — beyond the death of his parents and a hunger for justice, what drives Batman to sacrifice the possibility of a normal life so that he can fight crime? What makes him endure the emotional and physical pain that is required to be a protector, and what drives his enemies beyond madness? TV offers an opportunity to flesh out these characters in a way that is similar to the comics in terms of narrative space. Is he a hero? Is he a madman? In the right hands, a Batman TV show can do a better job of exploring this character than the films, which are mere snapshots. Even the Nolan films only scratched the surface.
Who can do the rest? I honestly don’t know, but if Warner Bros. wants to do more than talk about Batman’s shadows in the DC TV Universe and if they want to embrace the virtues of their dual universe, they might want to start looking.