As Disney moves ever closer to consolidating their multiple Marvel properties, Warner Bros’ hold on DC properties only seems to get more fractured as time goes on. It can be extremely difficult to keep up with all of Warner Bros’ franchises and continuities. For example, we have the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), where heavy-hitters like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are. Then, there’s the CW TV show universe (or the Arrowverse), which is nearly unrelated to DCEU, having different versions of Superman and Batman. Oh and finally, there’s Warner’s DC Black Label, where directors and artists can have as much creative liberty on DC characters with no constraints to continuity. That’s where Todd Phillip’s Joker comes in. Thought it couldn’t get any more confusing? Think again, because The Batman‘s director Matt Reeves now has a TV and film universe of his own! One that is separate from the DCEU.
There’s already an HBO Max spin-off series in the works revolving around Gotham City’s Police Department (GCPD). Not to be confused with CW’s Gotham series, seriously Warners needs to get its shit together. That being said, I am looking forward to seeing how Matt Reeves plans on expanding his more grounded vision of the Dark Knight’s world through TV shows. Gotham City is a rich tapestry of crime and madness, and we have a few ideas on what these future series we could look like.
1. The Falcone Crime Family
The Waynes aren’t the only family that run Gotham City. Long before Bruce Wayne took up the cape and cowl, there was the Falcone crime family headed by the infamous Carmine Falcone. Through extortion, bribery, racketeering and a whole lot of murder, the Falcones created a criminal empire that would last a generation. One that was eventually taken down by Batman, which left a power vacuum to be filled by supervillains like the Penguin, Two-Face and the Joker. As corrupt and brutal as the Falcones were, their reign was still one of order in comparison to Batman’s multiple villains. If Reeves is looking to tell more human and realistic stories, then a Sopranos style series revolving around the Falcone crime family is the perfect place to start.
One thing that Nolan’s Batman trilogy and CW’s Gotham has failed to do is properly flesh out Gotham’s criminal underworld in all its complexities. More often than not, the spotlight is shown on Gotham’s many superpowered freaks. In real life, mobsters are far more complicated than we give them credit for. As seen in films like Goodfellas and American Gangster, they can be pillars of the community by day and violent sociopaths by night. It’s been confirmed that Carmine Falcone, played John Turturro, will be making an appearance in 2021’s The Batman. It wouldn’t be too difficult to build a spin-off series of Turturro’s character, one that chronicles the rise and fall of Gotham’s original crime boss.
2. Arkham Asylum
Now, we can’t possibly talk about Batman and Gotham City without talking about DC Comics’ most famous nuthouse: Arkham Asylum. A revolving door detention centre for psychopaths, killers and the occasional masked evildoer. Arkham has become an iconic fixture of the Batman mythos, being the subject of multiple standalone comic book series, videogames and has been featured in nearly every Batman film. Its creepy gothic architecture and disturbing backstory expounded in comic books like Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth has all the makings of an amazing horror anthology series. Something in the vein of FX’s American Horror Story.
There’s been some buzz about HBO Max apparently working on an Arkham Asylum series, featuring none other than the Joker himself. The Clown Prince of Crime aside, there’s a lot more crazy characters who are worthy of entire episodes, if not whole seasons. There’s Victor Zsasz. A serial killer who carves a scar into his body every time he murders someone. There’s the Great White Shark, a disfigured inmate who lost his nose and upper lip. Once an average conman, now a pale monstrous ghoul. And of course, there’s Doctor Hugo Strange, the psychiatrist who runs Arkham and is as insane as any one of his patients. He is often depicted as an adversary to the Dark Knight, obsessed on capturing him for research and study…if not torture.
X-Men: First Class‘ Zoe Kravitz has also been confirmed for a role in Reeves’ The Batman. She will be playing the part of Selina Kyle aka Catwoman. A master thief turned anti-hero who has an off-again-on-again relationship with the Bat. There’s more to Catwoman though than merely the label of “Batman’s secret lover”. In the comic series Batman: Year One, we see that she originally started off living on the streets before graduating to petty burglary and high-value heists. Catwoman’s cinematic and TV depictions thus far have been somewhat wanting in terms of quality. Halle Barry’s rendition of the character bordered on ironic comedy and Anne Hathaway didn’t really do much to elevate the character beyond being a complicated love interest. Gotham‘s version of the character felt like a watered-down, overacted version of Catwoman. Then again, so did a lot of things in the series.
Matt Reeves and Warner Bros have a real shot at making Catwoman great again! A TV series squarely focused on her criminal exploits and her navigating Gotham’s underworld would be an awesome way to have her stand on her own two feet. It would also provide Reeves with an opportunity to develop his Batman universe. In one episode, she could be taking contracts from the Penguin or the Falcone family. In another, she could be pulling off a heist alongside villains like Deathstroke or Deadshot. Hell, there could even a few episodes dedicated to her trying to rob Bruce Wayne before falling for his alter-ego!
4. The Court of Owls
So far we’ve got deadly mafiosos, mentally unstable killers and an animal-themed burglar. Do you know what’s missing? A sinister cult that secretly controls Gotham from the shadows. Well, it turns out that the Batman universe has an Illuminati of its own: the Court of Owls. In the second issue of 2011’s New 52 Batman, we learn that ever since Bruce was a little boy, he’s been told scary nursery rhymes about the Court and how they covertly run Gotham. And if anyone were to speak of them, they would send undead assassins called Talons after them. Surprise, surprise the Court of Owls is a very real organization, one rumoured to be older than Gotham city itself.
Their members are some of the most powerful men and women in the city. Captains of industry and powerful political officials. Furthermore, the Court has had a long and complicated history with the Wayne family. Bruce may yet find a family secret that could make him question everything he knows about his father and mother. There’s a so much fascinating material on the Court that could easily be five seasons long. The organization made its first TV debut in the second season of Gotham but personally I felt that the show left out some key elements with regards to the Talons and their history. An R-rated HBO series following the lives of various members of the Court would make for an epic and creepy political drama. Think House of Cards but with Owl-masked killers.
5. The Spectre
There’s always been something eerie and unsettling about Gotham city, it just has a way of bringing out the worst in people. It also seems to be a magnet for the criminally insane too. There’s more to this grim urban landscape than just poverty and soaring crime rates. No, there’s a spiritual evil that haunts the city, it has directly and indirectly affected the citizens of Gotham. These more mystical elements may be foreign to the Bat but it does not go unnoticed to another caped crusader who stalks the night. GCPD Detective Jim Corrigan and the love of his lives were gunned by a gang of thugs but he refused to stay dead. So great was his rage that his soul was bound to the literal embodiment of God’s Wrath. From that day on, he became the Spectre.
Now he walks the Earth, looking to dispense justice upon the wicked and sinful, especially to those who dabble in the occult. While I am aware that Reeves said that he wanted his Batman universe to be grounded and realistic, I still believe that the Spectre would make for an interesting addition to his world. In the past, the Spectre has been a vehicle in which writers and storytellers have used to tackle interesting philosophical questions. At what point is someone beyond redemption? Is vengeance truly justice, or is there a better way? The Spectre is the counter-argument against Batman’s more compassionate outlook on criminals. One that deserves further development and screen-time.