– by Joseph Jammer Medina

Comic books have had a long and winding road to success. Like video game movies now, there was a time when comic book movies were considered to be worth less than garbage. Audiences never took them seriously, and you were hard-pressed to find filmmakers who actually understood the material. Now we live in an era when both the big and small screen are full of capes and cowls — mostly because those who create are those who grew up loving the characters so much.

All in all, we certainly live in a golden age of superhero movies and TV shows. A lot of what filmmakers do these days seem to be working. It’s with that in mind that it came as an especially big surprise last August when Gotham showrunner Bruno Heller said the following when speaking to THR:

“I don’t think superheroes work very well on TV, probably because of the costume thing. … TV is about real people and faces, and not so much about magic and the supernatural things.”

This was made all the more ironic by the fact that Gotham is a show that seemed to initially sell itself on pre-Batman era Gotham City. What we we ended up with, however, is a city full of thriving supervillains long before little Bruce Wayne is even old enough to throw a Batarang, let alone fight crime.

Of course, that wasn’t the only way one could read it. The main point Heller was probably making was that it was important to keep a human focus, which is something that all good superhero properties continue to do.

Nearly a month has passed since those comments were made, and in another interview with THR, Gotham executive producer Ken Woodruff went so far as to clarify Heller’s statement.

“There’s a reason why he chose to develop a show that took place before the actual fully realized Batman. He thought that was the best way to tell stories on the medium of television. It was about the origins and it was about real people and how they evolved and became the villains and heroes that we know and we’ve seen in comics and in feature films.

“A lot of that is just pragmatic and TV is a much more intimate medium sometimes than film can be. You’re living with these people, you’re spending 22 hours with them over the course of a season as opposed to two hours. They’re in your living room. They’re part of your life in a much more intimate way than maybe film characters can be. When you have a cape on and you’re a superhero, there’s a level of attachment there. They’re otherworldly and godlike in that way. That’s what Bruno was talking about.

“I think that the world for sure works really well on TV. There’s so much success lately and so many shows that are on that have to deal with comic worlds and these superhero worlds and characters. But I think that was Bruno being specific about his take and wanting to really defend his choice to do a show about the origins of Batman and these villains as opposed to living in a world where the Batmobile already exists. But yeah, I think they can work.”

On that level, the showrunner certainly has a point. As cool as it is to have the Caped Crusader on screen, the most interesting aspects of the character have to do with his more human side. You can’t have a successful TV show — superhero or not — without getting a more intimate look at these heroes. 

To bring things full circle, there’s a reason why comic book movies took so long to get right, and it had to do with the fact that the filmmakers didn’t focus on the right thing at first. Rather than focus on the humanity of the characters, they often made the mistake of focusing too much on their abilities and superhero-ness. In a film, it’s hard enough to get an audience to sympathize with a fictional character, but add in a cape, and that’s an extra layer that mainstream audiences are potentially removed from that character, because they find it unrelatable.

What do you think? Do you agree with Heller’s comments and with Woodruff’s clarification? Let us know in the comments down below!

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SOURCES: THR (1), (2)

Joseph Jammer Medina is an author, podcaster, and editor-in-chief of LRM. A graduate of Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Television, Jammer's always had a craving for stories. From movies, television, and web content to books, anime, and manga, he's always been something of a story junkie.