Why is Gotham in the entertainment spotlight?

Over at the Gotham Globe, Gotham Times, Gotham City Gazette and Daily Gotham, every day is a big news day these days. The fictitious town in the DC universe — home to Batman, his cohorts and his nemeses — has more going on than a utility belt can handle.

Out next year is Justice League, the same movie that came out in 2017, only not a movie and not the same. This is Zack Snyder’s cut, a version that died when he was replaced with Joss Whedon during production, and a four-hour episodic reworking that fans have been campaigning to see.

Robert Pattinson is scowling, dishevelled (and frankly in need of a bath) in the noirish trailers for the upcoming film, The Batman. A narrative podcast, Batman Unburied, aims to delve into Bruce Wayne’s psychology on Spotify next year. And 2022’s The Flash movie will have not one but two vigilante knights — Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton play Batman from two different timelines.  

What of Gotham’s other usual suspects? Batwoman launches a second season on Hotstar in January, with Bruce Wayne’s cousin, Kate Kane, fighting crime (and an evil twin, Beth). The Suicide Squad assembles on the movie screen in August, hoping to tell a story in the style of a gritty 1970s war movie. A confirmed but currently untitled spin-off show aims to focus on police corruption in the same Gotham as Robert Pattinson’s Dark Knight.

Check out how the fictional city of Gotham has been imagined on screen over the years

Meanwhile, there are rumours of Catwoman getting her own show (on an undisclosed network); Batgirl is on her way to snagging a film; the long-anticipated Nightwing movie, about Bruce Wayne’s frequent collaborator Dick Grayson, has finally hired a director. Even the trusty Batmobile is busy. Production has begun on Batwheels, an animated show aimed at pre-schoolers, about iconic DC vehicles fighting crime in Gotham City.

The story goes that when Batman debuted in Detective Comics in 1939, his hometown had no name. Creator Bill Finger christened it more than a year later, calling it Gotham after seeing an ad for a jeweller in the phone book. The name gave the city an identity — it had a port, museums, parks, mean streets, asylums and prisons. In 1966, when Batman premiered on TV, Gotham was a sunny, shiny city, where the Caped Crusader fought crime by day.  

Wayne’s world has since grown darker, ever-decaying, as comics-loving generations stepped into the grown-up world. The stories have gone beyond good versus evil as the fan base for superheroes extended past geeky teen boys. New characters have become more complex, as women, and non-White fans joined in.

If Gotham seems complicated today — extended universes, spinoffs, standalone stories, parallel character arcs, reboots and countless resurrections — it’s only because the city’s mythology is getting richer. Gotham, to borrow Joker’s phrase from 2008’s The Dark Knight, has “introduced a little anarchy” into the system.

There’s no longer a definitive story to circle back to. Batman is no longer a solo operator. Supervillains aren’t always the bad guys. And it’s not who you are underneath, it’s what you do that defines you.

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