Everyone knows who Batman is. He is the one of the world’s most iconic superheroes – caught in an endless struggle to rid his beloved city of Gotham from the crime and corruption that riddles its streets.
But how did Gotham city become the cesspool of villainy that it is known for today? A new crime drama, named “Gotham”, will delve deep into the underbelly of the city’s corrupt legal system and reveal a never-told chapter of the origins of some of DC Comics’s greatest super heroes and villains.
Tracking the timeline of events following the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents (which leads him on the path to becoming Batman), “Gotham” will focus on the life of young Detective James Gordon, the man who is destined to become Batman’s greatest partner in crime fighting.
Before the show airs, let’s explore the origins of some of Batman’s greatest villains and ponder how they’ll be portrayed in “Gotham”.
Catwoman, also known as Selina Kyle, first appeared in the comics in 1940. But the most iconic origin story of Selina Kyle was written in 1987 by Frank Millar (300, Sin City) in the graphic novel Batman: Year One.
In it, Selina Kyle is a prostitute who learns martial arts and self-defence in order to break away from her abusive pimp. As the story progresses, Selina takes a young runaway, Holly Robinson, under her wing; and begins to resort to petty theft and burglary for both to survive. She adopts a catsuit, and soon gains the moniker of Catwoman.
In “Gotham”, Selina Kyle will be played by a 15-year-old girl (Camren Bicondova), who is expected to tell the tale of a young Catwoman.
Little is known of Catwoman’s childhood in the comics except for a brief story arc, which revealed that Selina’s father was an alcoholic; her mom committed suicide when Selina was 13, and Selina was in an orphanage was a short period of time before living on the streets.
The Penguin (a.k.a Oswald Cobblepot) was introduced in Detective Comics #58 in 1941. Oswald Cobblepot has had several differing origin tales in the comics, but nearly all portray him as one of Gotham’s most prominent mob bosses, who relies on cunning, wit, and intimidation to exploit his surroundings for profit.
Several stories speak of The Penguin being part of a high-society family, whose eventual fall in status eventually turns Oswald towards crime. Oswald Cobblepot is also known for his love of birds, leading him to obtain an Ornithology (the study of birds) major in college and his subsequent nickname of “The Penguin”.
The Penguin will be played by actor Robin Lord Taylor in “Gotham”. The drama is expected to show Oswald’s rise to become one of Gotham’s most infamous crime lords, focusing on his early years as an ambitious underling.
The Riddler (alias: Edward Nygma) was created in 1948 by writer Bill Finger and artist Dick Sprang.
He is often portrayed to have a genius-level intellect, yet because of his neurotic obsession with riddles, puzzles and word games, Nygma cannot commit a crime without leaving a riddle.
The comics too have varying origins for The Riddler. Most portray him as a regular Gothamite, whose desire greater challenges and thrills see him don the guise of the Riddler to challenge Batman, who he believes could possibly be a worthy adversary for him.
In “Gotham”, Edward Nygma will be played by Cory Michael Smith. His character works as a forensic analyst for the Gotham City Police Department, who quirkily tries to present all pertinent case information as riddles.
Two-Face, a.k.a. Harvey Dent, is one of the Batman’s most memorable villains, appearing first in 1942 in Detective Comics #66.
Unlike most other Batman villains, who have had differing comic book origins (depending on the writer), the origin story of Two-Face is virtually consistent throughout.
Two-Face was once Harvey Dent, the clean-cut district attorney of Gotham City and an ally of Batman. However, Dent goes insane after mob boss Sal Maroni throws acid at him during a trial, hideously scarring the left side of his face.
The mental trauma results in an obsession with duality and fate, diagnosed as a form of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and multiple personality disorder.
Although no one has yet been cast in the role of Harvey Dent in “Gotham”, early trailers hint at an appearance as either a child or a teenager dealing with an abusive father. There is also possibility that he could build up a friendship with the young Bruce Wayne.
Probably Batman’s greatest and most famous foe, The Joker’s origins is also the most complex and debated.
First appearing in Batman #1 in 1940, the Joker was initially portrayed as a psychopath with a warped sense of humour. In the 1950s, his character became more goofy, engaging in petty and ultimately harmless crimes, but the 1970s, the Joker again returned to his darker roots, which continue today.
Due to his complete and utter psychosis, nearly every origin tale has been dismissed as either a figment of his imagination or one of an unreliable narrator. Though many have been related, a definitive backstory has never been established.
Nevertheless, the most commonly associated alias for the Joker is Jack Napier. Writer Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta) also wrote what is probably the most cited origin tale for the Joker.
In the critically acclaimed graphic novel The Killing Joke, the Joker is a struggling stand-up comedian who has to support a pregnant wife. Desperate for cash, he agrees to help mobsters rob a chemical plant, donning a disguise as the Red Hood. When Batman shows up to stop the crime, Jack panics and jumps into a chemical vat. His face becomes permanently disfigured and he comes home to find out that wife and unborn child had died in an accident. Due to “one bad day”, he goes insane and subsequently becomes The Joker.
Although the Joker is not expected to show up in person in “Gotham”, the show writers have told us to look out for easter eggs and early hints at the character.
Catch Gotham on WarnerTV Ch 515, premieres 25 Sep, every Thu, 9pm.
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