As I’m writing this, the world is anxiously awaiting the first episode of the last season of Gotham. My wife and I fell behind watching it. Not because we don’t love the show, but because we’re cord cutters and had to wait (and now find the time). From day one though, “fans” have absolutely crapped all over the show. Pick something, any aspect of the series, and they not only hate it but also will go detail by minutiae to explain why it’s not the one true Batman.
I couldn’t completely dismiss them either because my enjoyment of current comic books over the last few years diminished. If you don’t know, Batman “died” but was really sent through time and also he’s a dad, and in the Justice League, and there’s a whole dark multiverse of evil Batmen, plus a new number one, and three Jokers, and at this point I could make something up and it will sound just as legitimate.
It’s tough to sit down and enjoy the comics today the same way I enjoyed them in my youth. Batman is supposed to fight the KGBeast for a couple issues, win in the end, and three issues later fight the Penguin or Riddler. At it’s most reader demanding, one Robin dies and a new one rises. But everything still made sense. Spider-Man says goodbye to Mary Jane, gets caught up in a villain’s path, fights him or her for a couple issues, then returns to MJ and a big hug. In the next issue there’s some down time for Peter and the supporting cast before the next bad guy makes himself known.
I didn’t have to read dozens of comics every month to understand what’s happening in the giant tapestry woven by Marvel or DC. I bought what I wanted and felt like the whole story was there. But if I went into my local comic shop right now I’m going to feel like I have to buy 10 titles at least just to stay afloat. Worst of all, with the constant reboots and new number ones I hate feeling like it doesn’t matter.
Then I thought back again to the days of KGBeast and Riddler and the Penguin, as mentioned earlier. I can’t tell you all of the details of those series. I know I read them, and chances are those issues are in boxes one room over from me. But I could not tell you all of the details, how they tied into other titles, or if they connected to stories in other comics. I bought them, read them, and enjoyed them for what they are in the moment.
Recently a new Holmes and Watson movie was released. Plus there’s the TV show Elementary, and the Robert Downey Jr one, and BBC’s Sherlock, and Young Sherlock Holmes, and not a single person on earth asks how all of these tie in together to form the official canon history of Sherlock Holmes. Because he is an archetype and as long as the base of the character remains true it doesn’t matter how, where or what any other interpretation wants to take him.
As can be done with Batman in comics or Gotham. As can be done with any other character.
Think of the night Thomas and Martha Wayne were shot in the alley. Picture it. One of the scenes in your mind is the pearls around Martha’s neck ripped away and scattering on the ground. That image didn’t exist until Frank Miller’s Batman Year One in 1987. Batman debuted in 1939. Almost 50 years later this now iconic moment was added to his mythos. He’s still Bruce Wayne, billionaire, Robin, Alfred, fights crime, all of that. Now another piece was added.
In Gotham’s debut the Waynes and the shooter were not the only ones in that alley. Selina Kyle, the future Catwoman, was in hiding watching the whole thing. I would be more than happy with that becoming a permanent part of the legend. It ties the two together in tragedy from a young age. It binds them in this eternal story of good vs evil. It also ruins nothing of what is already the accepted base of these characters.
As long as Sherlock is ridiculously smart and solves crimes, Moriarty, Watson, and all that are present anything else does not matter. Take the story where ever you please. Captain America has to be frozen, Uncle Ben has to die, and a strange visitor from another planet has to grow up to be the greatest hero Earth has ever known. As long as that holds true it doesn’t matter if they’re alive, dead, costume change, solo, teamed up or any other idea a creative team has. Along the way if something iconic comes about, more credit to them. Batman in the 40’s is different than the 60’s, and that’s different than Brave and the Bold or 1983’s Batman and the Outsiders. Different but overall the same. If James Gordon fighting crime in Gotham while a teenage Bruce Wayne grows up surrounded by those villains stumbles upon something to add to Batman, I’m all for it. If not, enjoy it for the series that it is and don’t worry how it all “fits”.
These characters, while decades old, are still “new”. There aren’t any Vikings left to yell at us that the comic or movie version is not the true Thor. Mary Shelley’s family isn’t freaking out over a toddler version of Frankenstein on Super Monsters. Eventually these characters will be around for long enough that everyone will have their own Batman story. As long as it’s still Bruce who saw his parents killed and vowed to fight crime, the rest is a new story which can be enjoyed on it’s own merit without worry of a single “true” version.
Just read a comic or a graphic novel for the fun of it. If you enjoy the character, go ahead and read more and maybe some threads cross into multiple stories. It’s supposed to be about a fantastic escape from reality, not a hundred volume chronological history.