Why Gotham Doesn't Operate Like Other Comic Book-Shows

gotham gordon bullock

Comic-based TV shows are all the rage nowadays, and there will be plenty of superheroes fighting crime all over primetime when the fall TV season kicks off. One comic series is distinctly unlike the others. Gotham mostly stays away from superheroes and superpowers and the supernatural. In fact, if the show was not filled with recognizable names like Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon, we might not have guessed that it was based on comics at all. Showrunner Bruno Heller explained how the Gotham approach to comics stands out from other comic-based series, saying this:

The comic book constituency has become so large and visible with the whole Comic-Con thing that it is very easy to assume that the audience is purely comic book enthusiasts. But I operate the show on the basis that it is a mistake to just go there.

Comic culture has definitely become more mainstream over the last ten years or so, and non-comic readers are finally joining comic fans in enjoyment of all things superhero. DC got its cultural kickstart thanks to the success of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight franchise, and the small screen comic shows branched off from what worked on the big screen. It's no coincidence that DC's first major recent TV show was a dark and gritty series about a brooding billionaire vigilante with no superpowers. Gotham almost certainly wouldn't exist without the fact that Batman is hugely popular with comic and non-comic fans alike. Bruno Heller isn't crafting a show that's only being watched by folks familiar with decades of Batman lore, even if some of those folks are the most vocal. More people watch TV than read comics.

Bruno Heller revealed why Gotham doesn't operate like comic shows that rely more heavily on comics while speaking at the Edinburgh Television Festival (via THR), and it wasn't the only big statement that he made. Heller also opined that superheroes don't work well on TV because of things like outlandish costumes and magic, which was really a bold claim from a man whose show is basically an elaborate drawn-out origin story for a version of Batman. The show has already featured its share of costumed crazies with the likes of Mr. Freeze and Firefly.

Still, Gotham has mostly kept its comic ties to Easter eggs and winks at the audience. An episode of Gotham doesn't tend to require a Wikipedia session afterward to figure out what the hell is happening. I enjoy The CW's DC TV shows, but some of the stories that tie closely to comic lore can be hard to comprehend without a little research and/or a comic background. I don't have the same problem with Gotham.

Only time will tell if Bruno Heller is able to continue straying from comic elements the closer that he gets to transforming Bruce Wayne into Batman. Bruce is still a teen and many years off from donning a cape and a cowl, but the development has already begun. Tune in to Fox on Monday, September 19 at 8 p.m. ET to catch the Season 3 premiere of Gotham. Check out our fall TV premiere schedule to see when your other favorite shows will return to the airwaves in the near future.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).