So, I had this idea. I don’t mind sharing it here, as I’m fairly confident that no one is going to pay me to produce a Batman TV series.
I was listening to the Writing Excuses podcast the other day (I heartily recommend them to anyone who writes, edits, games or is in any way involved in the creation of fiction), specifically their episode on the Villain Problem. It’s not really a problem with the villain, because if you have it, it means that you’ve written a compelling bad guy.
The Villain Problem is this: You’re partway into the story you’re writing when you discover that your villain is stealing the show. Of course, it’s not really a problem with the villain. You just need to make your hero more compelling.
One of the things they said makes villains so often compelling is that they’re proactive. The Villain is out to do something, to enact a plan or pull off some caper. Of necessity, the villain’s caper is interesting, and the hero is reacting to it. Since the hero has to stay one step behind until the end of the story, it sometimes makes them look a bit slow.
So, where does Batman come in?
On the podcast, they used Batman’s villains as an example. They’re a wild, colorful bunch of miscreants who can be off the wall in any number of ways. How their manias inform their capers is what makes each story more than Batman pondering his loss and anger while beating up the occasional mugger.
Still, it’s Batman reacting to someone else’s plan. Sure, he comes up with his own plan, especially in the last decade or so, but he still spends a few issues catching up. So I thought, what if Batman was the one with the plan?
Dressing up as a bat and beating up a series of mentally ill thugs is not an effective way to combat crime, really. If Batman is such a great strategist, he really ought to have a better overall plan.
So I thought, if someone gave me the job, I’d make a Batman TV series that focused on Batman and his plan to cripple organized crime in Gotham. He knows no court will uphold an arrest made by a masked vigilante, so he doesn’t catch criminals and give them to the police.
What he does is pick the worst places to hit the criminal syndicates, where a quick, hard strike will disrupt operations in the worst ways. He coordinates with Commissioner Gordon so that the police can take advantage of the chaos, hitting the gangs while they’re focused on the trouble Batman is making. It’s a crime drama about a masked man offering the police a way to work outside of the box.
So the first season is all about Batman gaining Gordon’s trust, setting up the deal that allows them to share information and plan so that Batman’s strikes do the most good. They spend a few episodes selling the district attorney on the plan. It starts working, and working well.
That’s when the Joker shows up, and causes chaos of his own. Batman has spent years planning his war on organized crime. He relies on the business-like structure of the syndicates and their predictable rivalries. This clown comes out of nowhere, striking unpredictably, and ruining Batman’s plan. Maybe I’d even take a page from Christopher Nolan’s trilogy and have the Joker offer to kill Batman for the mob. Maybe not, I’ve always thought the Joker was scarier when no one knew what he was about to do next.
So the focus shifts from Working the Plan to Rescuing the Plan. At the end of the first season, the Joker gets captured, of course. Still, the board has completely changed, and all of Batman’s careful planning is out the window.
Which sets up season two, in which Batman tries to figure out his Plan B while a gang war rages and the Penguin tries to take over Gotham’s underworld.
Yeah, I’d watch that.