While I am told that these images have received some acclaim across the internet, my first thought was “my god, we have dodged a bullet.” Behold, Gotham High, a re-imagining of Batman as high-school drama with Bruce Wayne attending classes with pubescent versions of all his worst enemies. Thankfully, this series will not be going into production. I’ve been told by friends and colleagues that I need to stop using the term “threw up in mouth,” but pocket-wretching is about the only way I can describe my reaction.
The concept is so asinine that it pains me to go on, but this is a blog and you’re here for information, so I’ll let the creators do the talking:
The Story Synopsis:
We all go through incredible changes as teenagers: growth spurts, bad skin, a sudden insatiable need to uphold justice and avenge your murdered parents…. Well, that is if you’re Bruce Wayne. As if being a freshman at Gotham High wasn’t tough enough, Bruce’s insomnia and technological fascinations are taking their toll. Instead of spending his time studying, he has begun to obsess over an emerging personality trait: Batman. But under the watchful eye of his guardian and steward, Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce is forced to put his intelligence to good use: graduating high school. But given his classmates, can Bruce survive Gotham High?
I find it incredibly odd that the creators refer to Batman as a “personality trait,” as if liking coffee or enjoying playing music is the same as dressing in spandex and moonlighting as a vigilante.
On their blog, the progenitors of this concept write that they were approached by DC to pitch the series based off a piece of artwork they’d submitted some time before. The artists go on to say that the show “got lost in the sea of all the other Batman related projects in the works.” I hope what really happened was that the studio didn’t want another Loonatics Unleased on their hands.
The only good thing I can say about this concept is that the setting would place a lot of focus on the most interesting aspects of Batman: the ridiculous villains. But if the show intended to have the established personalities of the existing characters simply grafted on to teen-age bodies, then how could the show function when Bruce Wayne is going to a school were literally every person is trying to kill him?
I don’t think that’s what the creators intended. What seems far more likely is a cast drawn from Standard Highschool Stock Characters. Joker is Goth #45, Bane and Killer Croc as Mean Jock Bullies #56 and #98 respectively. Poison Ivy is Sex Object #4, redhead version. (That said, I am fairly certain that I went to highschool with that imagining of the Penguin.) So, it’s not really Batman at all. The only thing tying the characters to the source material would be vague physical similarities, designed to drive merchandise sales and treat us to a season of tired, overused plots.
The inevitable “school dance” episode.
The unavoidable “miscommunication with loved one” episode.
The inescapable “drugs are bad” episode.
The obligatory hilarity that ensues from the “learning to drive” episode.
Please don’t stop. I’m almost dead; just let me go.
And I cannot help but wonder what the over-riding message of a show like this would be. I am hardly one to start screaming, “won’t someone think of the children?” but how could the show do anything but imply: “all of your paranoid fears are completely true; you are young, alone, and completely surrounded by forces of evil. The logical thing to do is covertly attack your perceived enemies in school.”
What’s especially painful here is that there have been successful re-imaginings of Batman for younger audiences done far, far better than this. The 1990s’ Batman: The Animated Series is still held in high regard because while it was aimed at a young audience, it had imaginative art and presented ostensibly adult stories in a kid-friendly way that wasn’t condescending. There is no universe in which Gotham High would be anything other than a cynical cash-in. This idea wasn’t built to last; it’s made to draw ad sales and get some cereal-box tie-ins.
If we must have a teenage-reboot of the series, why not just stick with Batman Beyond? The surprisingly good series that brought in fan-favorite villains, introduced new ones, and hit all the key relationships of the original Batman material in a fresh and interesting way. Case in point: in Batman Beyond, Bruce Wayne takes on the Alfred role of a mentor to the new, young Batman.
It’s a shame that we, collectively, are so forgiving of schlock entertainment for kids. It seems creators now strive to be as inoffensive and unimaginative as possible, instead of trying to challenge their audience, or at least treat them with respect. It’s especially disheartening when it involves something like Batman, a franchise which has resonated with fans for decades. Gotham High doesn’t strike me as the kind of show that would really resonate with anyone, or introduce them to a well-loved franchise. It’s filler. It’s forgettable. It is schlock.
Now, I will concede that it is grossly unfair of me to speak with such vitriol over a show that was not made. It’s especially unfair since the creators had the courage to share old, unfinished work of theirs that they knew could inspire controversy. Maybe it would have been a funny, dark riff on the series; or perhaps it would have surprised me with its carefully constructed drama. I could be just as cynical as I accuse DC of being. But given the track record of other shows, I feel like my position is, if not justified, at least defensible. So, in the wake of the revelation of what could have been, I will personally revel in how lucky I am are to live in a world where this show stayed on the drawing board.
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