‘Gotham’ Creator Talks Joker & Changing Origin Stories

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Gotham TV Show First Trailer Gordon Gotham Creator Talks Joker & Changing Origin Stories

[Warning! Potential SPOILERS ahead for Gotham!]

Fans of all things Batman-related have to wait until 2016 to see his first-ever big-screen team-up with Superman in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, but a look at the early years of Gotham City, Bruce Wayne and his ally Jim Gordon comes to television this September in the form of FOX’s Gotham. Starring Ben McKenzie as Gordon, Jada Pinkett Smith as a new character, the crime boss Fish Mooney and Donal Logue as Harvey Bullock, the network and DC have kicked the PR machine into a new gear as the show’s broadcast premiere approaches.

The pilot episode will screen at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, and the early reviews have been roundly positive. The promotion material has varied only a little so far, with much of focus placed on the younger versions of famous Batman villains such as Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova), Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor) and Edward Nigma (Cory Michael Smith). But what about the Clown Prince of Crime himself, the Joker?

Showrunner Bruno Heller (RomeThe Mentalist) has previously indicated that the Joker would be teased in multiple ways throughout the first few episodes, but offered few specifics. While speaking at the Television Critics Association press tour, Heller elaborated on exactly what he has in mind in the way of character teases, and how they’re not necessarily limited to the Joker, saying:

“We will be playing with… Not just with Joker. Half the fun with all of these characters is who is going to turn into what and when? Certainly the Joker is a good example. In the pilot, you see there’s a comedian there. People immediately leap… And that’s really letting the audience do our work for us. Because I haven’t said anything about that guy and people go there!”

Joker in The Killing Joke Gotham Creator Talks Joker & Changing Origin Stories

So it’s not just the Joker who will be referenced here and there throughout the first season… and given the sheer number of bad guys in Batman’s rogue’s gallery of villains – arguably the best of the DC Universe – it’s anyone’s guess to exactly who will be teased (A scientist experimenting with cryogenic technology, for instance)? An impressionable young psychiatrist named Harleen?

Spotting these Easter Eggs during the course of the first season will undoubtedly prove a clever way for hardcore Batman fans to keep tuning in, but Heller also hinted that these teasers may not ultimately have a pay off anytime soon. According to the producer:

“Yeah, we’ll play with that down the line. Not over the course of one season, no, because people will still get tired of that. ‘Is that the Joker? Is that the Joker?’ No. In a subtle way, we’ll be doing that and hopefully we’ll fool them in the end.”

Just how much will fans enjoy being fooled, though? There have been so many different takes on the character in the past, with Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning turn in The Dark Knight likely to become immortal. Heller’s comments certainly make it sound like fans should not expect the Joker to turn up in Gotham by the end of the first season.

Young Poison Ivy in Gotham Gotham Creator Talks Joker & Changing Origin Stories

One curious example of how Heller is diverging from much of the traditional Batman lore is the re-naming of classic villain Pamela “Poison Ivy” Isley to a girl named Ivy Pepper. Heller revealed the reasoning behind this change, which really applies to the narrative choices for the show as a whole.

WARNING! The following contains MILD SPOILERS for Gotham!

Regarding Ivy, Heller said:

“It’s really about being able to tell the secret histories of these stories. If you just re-tell stories exactly as they’ve been told before, whilst you’re being true to the created mythology, you’re not really adding anything to it. So you have to find ways of finding more. And in this case, we’ve set up a situation in which Ivy Pepper, her mom is sick, her dad is dead… She’s going to go to the orphanage. And she’s a nice young girl; relatively undamaged. And she will find people to adopt her. And then we will start on the Poison Ivy story that people are familiar with.”

DC’s Geoff Johns has asserted that the established DC Cinematic Universe will remain separate from the TV universe established by The CW’s Arrow and The Flash, but few really expected the other high profile DC-based shows premiering this year – Gotham and NBC’s Constantine – to crossover with the movies, since they’re on different networks. With Gotham, it does sound like the showrunners have a chance to play with these “secret histories” unhindered from a larger overall universe.

Gotham will premiere on Fox on Monday, September 22nd, 2014 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Source: IGN

Follow Anthony Vieira on Twitter @malaclyptic
TAGS: Gotham
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  1. I get the Poison Ivy story and i like it, but that still doesn’t tell me why she couldn’t be called Pamela. I think the creators are being a bit to obvious with showing the audiences who is who, for example how they already call Osawald. Penguin in the pilot or by having cats all over Selina’s posters. Also i hope they never introduce the actual Joker, he is a creation of Batman. Finally Harley shouldn’t be on this show either since she is like in her 20s when Bruce is in his 30s so she isn’t born or at least a year old during the period of the show, let alone an impressionable young psychiatrist.

    • Don’t really care anymore, not gonna watch it, I know a lot of people are hating on John’s decision to keep the movie and tv universes seperate but it makes total sense when you look at the silly and dumb choices they’re making with this show. They should’ve just settle with making Batman year one, it’s clear that Gordan is gonna be undermined by the villain fest they’re throwing at us.

      • Silly and dumb, how? What silly and dumb choices have they made so far? And what makes those choices so silly and dumb?

        • I assume you’re being sarcastic…but in case you aren’t, or for other people who truly don’t think the show’s gonna be dumb and silly, well…I saw the pilot, and its pretty bad…**SPOILERS** – looks good, but that’s about it…for example, Edward Nigma’s in it and after his FIRST LINE someone turns to him and says “stop talking in riddles.” Then we see Oswald Cobblepot and everyone’s already calling him “penguin” with no explanation why. We see Selina Kyle steal milk to feed cats (NOT STEALING FOR HERSELF, BUT FOR CATS…), again with absolutely no explanation behind her motivation. And then there’s the fact that Poison Ivy’s name is freaking IVY.

          • A little late to reply, but as H. Shaw-Williams has recently put it: “shows can change a lot beyond the first episode, which is primarily designed to convince networks to order a full series. Because of this, pilots generally involve a lot of exposition, which is often delivered a little clumsily.”

    • I think they just possibly tipped their hat to the Poison Ivy name issue… she starts out as Ivy Pepper (the nice girl); her adoptive family are the Isley’s, and rename her Pamela… the first of many affronts that send her down the wrong road.

      • You sir make sense.

    • But maybe it WILL be “Pamela” eventually. I mean, the article mentions ” And she will find people to adopt her.” So, the people who end up adopting her could be the Isleys. And they think that Ivy Isley sounds a bit too close to each other, so they change her first name as well.

      Then again, we could be reading too much into her current name not matching. Maybe she gets into serious trouble somehow. {Hey, she IS slated to be a villain.} Mob informant? And then is forced to go into witness protection and changes her name THAT way. But she still has a beef with Gotham PD for the unlawful murder of her father, so she returns to her home town.

      And then again, maybe she will NEVER be called Pamela in the show. Only the writers know at this point. Potentially. For all we know, they might not have planned Ivy’s story out too far yet.

  2. I agree I don’t think they should have someone play the joker but maybe some hints or Easter eggs would be nice,

  3. I look forward to the season finale when we go into the future and catch a glimpse of batman fighting a criminal and gordon gives him a nod and continues trying to capture the joker.

    • Not going to happen. They already came out and said the series finale would be when Wayne actually first puts on the suit so Batman will not really come up in this series until the very end(years from now)

  4. Still of the opinion that the individual whom will become the joker should be seen eventually in the series and that the series itself should end on the night bruce wears the cape and cowl and confronts the redhood gang.. Leading to the creation the joker that very night. Thats how the show should ultimately end in years down the line.

  5. Hahah She-Joker would be hilarious, pun intended

  6. I have no reason to watch this show now that it will not be integrated with the DCCU.
    Why do I care what back stories the villains have when they have no impact beyond the show? Especially since we know batman will not be showing up as batman. What is the point of watching 5-7 seasons of villain build up when there will be no pay off?

    I would of rathered the show focused on Jim Gordan being a cop in gotham,almost like Law and Order Gotham edition. Does anyone else feel this way? Of all the shows DC is producing “Gotham” felt the most like it could be a origin for the movie version of Batman.

    • Yes, I totally agree. A Batman: Year One series that focuses on Jim Gordon and slowly builds up to the reveal of Batman over the course of the first season would have been amazing, and would have justified the origin stories of many of these villains. As it is, I feel like it’s going to let us down. At the very least, while Gordon may have little triumphs here and there, we know that in the end he’s going to fail and the bad guys are going to get worse and worse as the series progresses because otherwise there would be no need for Batman to arrive, so the entire series is going to be a huge tease with no payoff. I want it to be good but I don’t see how it can get around that aspect of its narrative.

    • That’s the most ignorant thing I’ve ever read.

      So you’re telling me that the only thing you’re interested in is the DCCU? Then by that logic, why read the comic books? The movies draw from the source material, but exist on their own.

      Or similarly, why watch the original Tim Burton Batman movies? Or Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy? Because they also have nothing to do with the current DC shared universe.

      • Well, in all fairness, TDK and even Burton’s Batman, although didn’t really follow the source material did at least implement the characters from that material keeping as close to them as possible. With Gotham, it’s really all new material. They are introducing new origins, characters that are older than otherwise would have been, and they are making their own material as they go. I can see both arguments having valid points. I personally don’t like the whole Joker idea. I think they shouldn’t even bring up that character until the very last season because Joker is about the same age as Wayne so to say, “Well, he’s a comedian in the very beginning of the show or teased about it” just doesn’t sit right with me. Now with the Penguin I am fine with because he is older but Ivy is also the same age as Wayne as well as Selina. I love their idea of the show I just am not crazy with the manner in which they are doing it. As a DC fan I will more than likely check it out but if it goes way off board then I will more than likely give up the show

  7. Good idea for a show, gotham without batman pfft who cares? After all Marvel were so successful with a shield series without superheroes SMH. I will watch a few episodes but this is going to suck like agents of shield.

    • There were many more reasons why AoS sucked than not having enough superheroes. But anyways, that’s an unfair comparison. AoS is an action show. Gotham is supposed to be a drama.

      And this show isn’t supposed to be just an origin story of Batman. It’s an origin story of all the characters in Gotham. And they are all as interesting, if not more interesting, than the Dark Knight himself. They could all hold a movie on their own.

      I personally hope that this show won’t just be about how the characters turn in to their future selves, as we’re already familiar with. I hope this show will be about how these characters were, before they transformed into villains. And how much these pre-villain characters contrast with what we’ve seen before.

      But if you just wanna see Batman kicking ass, then watch something else. Your obviously not gonna see that here. This show is supposed to be a drama. Not an action adventure like AoS was supposed to be. So you should watch the show with a little bit more of am open mind.

  8. I honestly don’t see how they would put Batman into this show since Bruce Wayne is about 12 in this. For him to become Batman in this show, the show would have to run for many years to make it plausible. At least to me.

  9. See, the problem with this approach, and with Origin Stories in general, is that referencing. It just becomes tedious and unneeded. Why would you just “tease” fans with the Joker if he isn’t on the show? I love how the Batman mythology can sustain multiple iterations and tellings, just like Bruce Banner in Ang Lee’s HULK gave us the origin story, and Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk still managed to tell a definitive Hulk story without needing to contradict the first film, or how Dr. Banner in the Avengers managed to seemlessly enter that world without anyone bothering with continuity — THAT shows the power of good storytelling and great character-mythology, and that’s something BATMAN has as well. They could just go past the origin tales of the Chris Nolan trilogy and just give us Batman verbatim without any further explanation in Batman v Superman. It’ll work wonders without the need for continuity. At the same time, they could explore Bruce Wayne’s Tim Burton-esque tortured childhood and show us why a person would ever grow up to be the guy who becomes the Dark Knight, what kind of an upbringing or psychological background does he come from? All of that, of course, has already been explored in BATMAN BEGINS but a TV series allows us, as fans, to see that extensively. But the problem arises when you do too much teasing for the sake of ratings. It should be focused.

    • I can already tell that Bruce in the tv show is going to be a little whiner throughout the series just like Clark was in Smallville where everyone is trying to set him straight and man up on situations. I know all of you can’t wait for the series finale of the show where Bruce suits up in the Batman suit but lets remember what Smallville gave us which was an anticlimactic ending that cheated us of seeing Clark in the actual suit but instead we get a CGI version of him that lasts for 5 seconds and I can bet that’s what they intend to do with the Gotham series.

      • Smallville had more character development for Kal-El than Man of Steel.

        • A ten-season series had more time to develop a character than a two-hour film?

          Will wonders never cease…

          • Not necessarily. A well-made, character-driven film (Batman Begins, Scarface, Goodfellas) has enough potential to explore a character more thoroughly than any TV series. Length doesn’t necessarily mean good execution, and Man of Steel had ample time to give us a proper live-action Kal-El that it never got around to. Dick Donner had two-thirds of a film to establish Kal-El’s character and he did something that is still regarded definitive by most fans.

            Just because a ten-season series has more time to develop a character, doesn’t mean that it always does.

            • I disagree. I never said a film could not develop a character effectively and wonderfully. In fact, I found the development of Clark to be excellent in MoS. However, “Smallville”, by the sheer amount of time it had in comparison, was able to develop the character in a much more diverse, overwhelming manner. The loosened time constraint of a show over a film will almost always be able to develop the character more…provided he remains the focus throughout both, for the purpose of comparing the two.

  10. Every comments section on a Gotham article… just a bunch of whiny cry babies complaining about how boring a show is going to be if they don’t get to see Batman kicking ass… if you want to see action, go watch a Michael Bay movie!

    You guys are making way too many assumptions about this show. How do you know that the most fun part of it is going to be about how characters turn in to villains? Does the idea that these characters may be fun to watch before they become villains not make any sense to you? You don’t want to see a pre-Penguin Cobblepot acting all feeble and sadistic, and grovelling at Mooney? You don’t want to be able to sympathize with pre-Poison Ivey little girl who is all innocent and pure, before she becomes corrupted and learns how to manipulate men with seduction and chemicals? You wouldn’t get any fun out of watching how these pre-villain characters would contrast from their comic book futures?

    We know what these characters are going to become. But in order to get there, they have to start as far away as possible from the people that we know them as. The fearless Batman starts off a traumatized little child. The loyal and obedient Alfred starts off as an over-protective, strict, disciplinarian guardian. The weary and exhausted Gordon starts off fiercely committed crusader of justice.

    All of your favourite characters are going to start off as polar opposites of what you know them as. And they’re going to take their to evolve them in to that. In mean time, it’s going to be a hell of a ride just watching them as they are, before they transform, seeing how they contrast so much from how you originally know them.

    So stop complaining that you have no interest in watching this show because you know how it’s going to end. A good story is always worth reading again even when you know the ending. Just enjoy it. And if you still choose to not watch it, then you’re just being close minded. At least give the first few episodes a chance to see if you can get in to it.

    • +1000000

      I wholeheartedly agree, I’m very interested in seeing how these characters I grew up with become what we now see them as. I think we should wait and see before we jump to conclusions.

      I think it looks pretty cool.

    • I would agree somewhat. I want to see an origins type story about these criminals but they need to stay true with the source material(Joker, Ivy, Selina being about the same age as BW). If they stay true to the material at least with the villian age as it relates to BW/Batman then it should be okay but having a 20 something Selina to a 12 year old BW just doesn’t go with her character background. I think that’s where a lot of the issues are with a lot of fans(especially on the DC site). For myself, it has nothing to do with Batman not “kicking a$$” but more as to the way they present the origins story

      • I don’t think Selina is supposed to be in her twenties in this because the actress if only about fifteen. Unless there is another Selina character in this that I don’t know about.

      • I think Selina is supposed to be about the same age as Bruce here. And I do agree with your previous comment about not doing Joker too early. As several people have pointed out, he is a product of Batman. However, that’s not to say that they can’t do something with the Red Hood story line. In any case, their description of how they’re going to treat the Joker as more of a recurring theme, or narrative motif, does intrigue me. So they do have my attention.

        • The Joker is a product of the Batman, but that doesn’t mean they can’t tease us with little clues that may or may not point to certain characters who may or may not become him. As long as they don’t definitely say that this person is the Joker; I’m fine with that.

  11. How about this for A plot line Bruce comes to the police station to talk to Gordon. There he sees A mid-west farm couple arguing with the desk Sgt. about A traffic ticket. Off to the side is A boy maybe A couple of years younger than Bruce. He introduces himself and the other boy says “Hi my names Clark Kent”. Then Gordon smooths out the problem and as they leave Bruce gives Clark his address, Phone# and E-mail saying “If you want to talk sometime”.

  12. Unless this show decides to have to Flash Forwards to the future I see little point to extensively adding all these villans. How many times can you nod before your neck hurts…

  13. I just don’t see why they can’t bring Batman into it somewhere?? Even season 3 if they have too, I can wait that long, This would be awesome if they had a plan to bring in the Bat, I’ve long craved for a Batman TV series, but now we get one in Gothem but with no Batman! and I really hope they don’t bring the agent of chaos into it, The Joker doesn’t really have an origin story, that’s the scary thing about him, nobody knows where this freak of nature came from, so if no Batman then no Joker sorry, you can’t have the Joker running round Gothem with no Batman, that’s just stupid, anyway I’ll give it a go but with no hope of seeing my favourite superhero in action, then I’m not crazy about this, why can’t they make a Batman TV show??? If they did it properly on something like HBO then it would be like a dream come true!

  14. I have a few problems, for i hope not the joker to be shown in the show but show people that represent him..
    Since I like the origin of him losing his wife which is part of him losing sanity.. He was then forced by the mafia not sure though if I remember it correctly to go into the factory which had joke then know as Red Hood which broke in there in which case Batman Showed up where Joker got scared and fell.. where he then got changes in skin and hair etc.. Harleen I think might be a problem to the show since she is younger than Bruce himself is, therefore might be a problem to it.

  15. The joker will b the kid bruce beat up in ep 8

    • My thoughts exactly!!! Was reading through for someone saying the same before I posted it…. Personally I think the series is pretty decent and I think it may play it’s way up to a batman TV series in the end up it’s just taking it right from the beginning, if I’m right the chance to be a truly epic journey is there!

  16. Honestly, in my case, I’ve really had only the most vague of interests in the Batman franchise. I knew the more iconic of characters (Batman, of course, as well as Robin, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Joker and Harley, etc. etc. The ones everyone’s probably heard of), and was actually content with that. Coming from this viewpoint, I have actually -really- enjoyed Gotham. I find it fascinating to see so many of the characters I -do- know about as children, or at least significantly younger. Another plus side to this, as I imagine others in my place would agree, is that it does make me want to start reading the actual comics, to find out more about the characters I knew much less about. So, in that way, I would imagine this show is very good for drawing in people who might find the more “procedural drama” way of storytelling more compelling than an all-out hero story.

  17. I for one love this show, and maybe it’s because I have not read any of the comics. There are too many comic book snobs chiming in on the show, and it’s annoying. It’s annoying because those who are complaining continue to tune into the show, when they know their not getting out of the show what they want. Well if this is the case then turn the effing channel. There are plenty of other shows to tune into like the Originals on the CW, or the History channel their running repeats of the Vikings, or maybe the ID channel, which is just a series of back to back stories about idiots killing each other.
    Just change the channel please and let those of us who actually enjoy this show, comment.

  18. You can mess around with most of the characters if you like… But you’ve just lost one viewer when you’ve touched on the joker. No-one should ever do a joker back story…. EVER

    Not knowing was part of the mystique.

    Best you leave to actual fans.

    How many times have projects crashed&burned because a director decided to mess with the classic format. Changing a costume or actor is difficult enough to accept…. Revealing the jokers identity has never been done & you’re not the guy to do it.

    But I am a fan of the show… Good work… But leave the clown prince alone