'Gotham' producer details the city before Batman

By Benjamin Mazzara,
Bruno Heller and "Gotham" stars discuss the villains of the first season

During the press tour for the upcoming Fox show Gotham – a show based on DC Comics’ Batman and details the return of Jim Gordon to the Gotham City Police Department – showrunner Bruno Heller and the stars of the show (including Ben McKenzie and Donal Logue) took the chance to respond to the common criticisms of the show, while also providing hints of what viewers can expect in the first season of the comic book crime show.

As reported by Hitfix, Heller insisted that Gotham would be focused on a world before Batman and superheroes. "That's the situation that the show is all about,” Heller said, “how do you deal with crime at this level when there are no superheroes, and just ordinary mortal men and women trying to solve these issues. It's as much about the hope and struggle they are engaged in as waiting for savior. It's about men and women, and not about superheroes, and to me, that's a more interesting story."

He also admitted that he did put too many villains in the show’s pilot, but insists that it was necessary to get the show picked up by Fox’s executives. "You have to frontload the pilot with the best that you've got, because that's the way to open big…As the show rolls on, we'll be far more careful with how we roll out the villains. There'll be more fun and more surprises and tricky ways, rather than just presenting them."

As time goes on, Heller noted to the LA Times, the show will not follow a “villain a week” format, but instead focus on one or two villains at a time, truly trying to develop and detail their conflict with the GCPD. For the first season, Heller plans to focus solely on the power struggle over Gotham's underworld between Oswald Cobblepot (also known as the “Penguin”, who will be played by Robin Lord Taylor) and new character Fish Mooney (played by Jada Pinkett Smith).

While it is nice to hear that Heller plans to be smarter with his use of Batman’s rogues gallery, his answer doesn’t really answer the critique about how most of Batman’s villains came to Gotham and even came to be because of Batman’s initial appearance in Gotham City. The Riddler, for example, was originally from another city entirely, and only came to Gotham City in the comics because he wanted to challenge Batman in a battle of wits.

Heller continued, describing how he finds that a Gotham City without Batman may actually be more narratively interesting. "To me, heroes are more interesting than superheroes. The difference is that superheroes do the impossible, and drama is really about the possible — the physically possible. So this is about people, people trying to overcome real problems as opposed to trying to learn how to fly." As noted by the Associated Press, Heller summarized his thoughts in a single sentence: "If there is a superhero on this show, it's Gotham.”

He then tried to acknowledge his hope that Batman fans would continue to support the show without the appearance of the Dark Knight. "It's a legit question: will the fanboys back away from it? I don't think so. Certainly for me, the really interesting parts of these stories are the origin stories. As soon as you're into the capes and costumes, it's much less interesting than how they got there."

"It's not a whole new mythology," he insisted. "Mythology in the true sense of the word is when so many stories are created that none of them can be consonant with each other. When you have a mythological hero and there are many contradictions in the story, that's when you've reached the level of a genuine myth, that many stories can be told. What we won't do is break the canonical iron truths of the Batman story, but issues of chronology and who was there when and how, we will play with — in a fun way, not a disrespectful way."

When asked if the characters assured fate prevented any suspense, Heller was not worried. "It's a sad thing if you can only build tension by killing people. That's one of the great advantages of this world and this story, is that people do know where it's going. People are already invested in the story, and they feel like they already know aspects of it."

Heller and Donal Logue, who plays gruff detective Harvey Bullock, seemed to insist that the drama of the show will not come from the demise of any characters, but in watching the Gotham Police lose their battle against the forces of crime in Gotham, thus making the appearance of Batman necessary.

Heller also talked about how the world of Gotham would actually be a mash-up of various time periods and cultures, including flip-phones but also retro-style cars and fashion sense.

Gotham is scheduled to premiere, Sept. 22 on Fox.

Photo Credit: Philip Vaughan/ACE/INFphoto.com



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