Rip the Pearl Necklace

I just watched Gotham on Fox.

After an hour on Twitter, discussing everything I liked (and hated) about the premiere with a buncha strangers I decided to come here, stand on my soapbox and rant a bit.

What the fuck, Fox?

Seriously?

The original logline for the show, the basic premise that intrigued me, AND THE WHOLE INTERNET, was: Gotham City before Batman. A police procedural set in the seediest, most corrupt, crime infested city.

The idea was intriguing. “But who would watch a Batman show without Batman?” I heard a ton of people who weren’t hardcore fans of the universe ask.

Smart people. That’s who.

I wanted to see a few good cops trying to go up against a corrupt system, just trying their best when even the highest ranking officials in the city are on the mob’s payroll. I wanted to see characters only tangentially related to Batman because Gotham City itself should’ve been the main character.

I’ll argue that Gotham City is Batman’s true nemesis, more so than any of the Rogue’s Gallery. Gotham killed his parents and Gotham never changes despite all his efforts to clean it up.

Having a dark, gritty series that showcases just how fucked up a place Gotham is would have given us a better appreciation for everything Batman does in his Sisyphean quest for justice.

“But Josh, you foolish asshole,” I hear you screaming. “How do you make that interesting to the average viewer?”.

The same way that DC Comics has been doing it for almost 80 years! Good writing and interesting characters.

They have so much lore to borrow from. They could’ve stolen from the best and it would’ve been completely within their rights. Take a bit from Grant Morrison, a huge chunk of Geoff Johns’ Earth One, add a dash of Scott Snyder for flavour and the makings of an awesome show are apparent right from the start.

Make Thomas and Martha Wayne THE MAIN CHARACTERS.

At least for Season 1. You make Tom an idealistic physician with political aspirations. Everyday when he drives past the Solomon Wayne Court House on his way to work at the Alan Wayne Memorial Hospital he can’t help but feel like the city that his ancestors built is going to hell and he’s doing nothing to stop it. So he runs for mayor hoping to right some wrongs.

Meanwhile Martha Wayne (who in this version was born Martha Arkham) struggles with mental illness. It’s a Gotham urban legend that her father went insane and murdered her mother when she was a girl so the people of Gotham all gossip in hushed tones about how all members of the Arkham family are crazy. Going all the way back to when Jeremiah Arkham built the famed Arkham Asylum for his insane daughter, mental illness is suspected to be heredity in the Arkham bloodline.

Martha’s dependance on Lithium and her dangerous bouts of manic depression are a huge scoop for the gossip magazines and threaten to derail Tom’s mayoral campaign. So she puts on a happy facade and plays the doting wife all the while she’s terrified that her genes have poisoned the mind of her young son who is already displaying sociopathic tendencies that she hides from her husband. She doesn’t want him to see any doctors because if is is diagnosed then she can’t keep living in denial that he’s a normal little boy.

The whole season is about the campaign leading up to election. The mob wants the incumbent Mayor to win and the throughline of the show is a plot to murder Thomas if he wins, but to leave him and his family alone if they can force him to drop out of the race through intimidation, or just steal the election all together.

Jim Gordon, who is still a uniformed cop, is assigned to protection detail. He’s one of many body guards for Thomas and Martha Wayne but most importantly he’s not a boy scout. He’s a bent cop, “on the take”. That’s the way it works in Gotham. He’s not a bad guy, he’s just pragmatic and accepts that he can still do a modicum of good as a member of the police force, but to survive he has to occasionally turn a blind eye on some shady dealings. He spends a lot of time with the family and bonds with Bruce.

Jim and Tom become good friends. They spend a year getting to know each other, BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, the audience gets to know him. And Martha.

That way when they’re killed after he wins the election AT THE END OF THE FIRST SEASON we give a shit about it. We’re not just sad because the TV is telling us to be sad and sad music is playing on a close up of a kid with a sad face.

We’ve lost characters we care about.

THEN in the second season Gordon is a detective, he’s personally invested in the case. He DOESN’T WANT to turn a blind eye anymore. He’s gonna solve the murder BY THE BOOK.

This is called character development. Growth.

He’s not just a cookie cutter good guy. He knows that by seeking justice he might even implicate himself, but his guilt just won’t allow him to just let it go.

Now little Bruce’s problems seem to come from the trauma of losing his parents and not inherent mental instability so he continues to go undiagnosed and without the medication and therapy that he needs. His obsession with revenge starts and we see his quest for justice as more of a poor kids delusion and we sympathize with him.

There’s so much potential story and character study here. It’s like ripe fruit begging to be picked and instead we get the exact same origin we’ve seen in film and TV a million times. We get Catwoman witnessing the Wayne’s murder, The Riddler working for GCPD, The Penguin ratting out the mob to Jim Gordon and Poison Ivy namechecked FOR NO FUCKING REASON.

We all love Batman and I guess the guys who created this show thought we’d like the show more if they crammed a whole bunch of nods and references to Batman in THE FIRST GODDAMNED EPISODE.

Remember how much we all LOOOOOOVED it when Anakin Skywalker built Threepio?

What makes Batman so interesting, at least to me, is how ineffectual he is.

He could probably fix the city with his mind and his money, instead he puts on a mask and beats people up. The truth is he creates the villains he fights. If not directly (like Two Face) then by just appealing to the crazies sense of the dramatic. When a psycho criminal sees a guy dressed as a bat, he decides to wear clown make up.

This was my main issue with all the recognizable villains that popped up in the premiere. They shouldn’t exist without Batman.

Last winter Kevin Smith and Paul Dini recorded an episode of one of my favorite podcasts ever: Fatman on Batman. They discussed a dream project of theirs, a TV show (like Smallville), that took place during Bruce Wayne’s youth.

The zeal and pure enthusiasm with which these two dreamers talked about this TV show that would never be, got me really excited. I can’t help but feel that the creative team either heard the show, or the massive fan response on Twitter, and at the last minute scrambled to include as many of those ideas into Gotham as they could.

I was hoping for a more subtle approach.

The show is called Gotham.

Instead they gave us the prequel to Batman Begins: Batman Before.

I’m gonna keep watching because I really want to love this show.

It’s just that so far, there’s seems to be too much Batman in a show that was supposed to be about Gotham City without Batman.

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Commit the Mass Genocide

Ok.

For those of you who doubt the extent of my craziness. For all you out there who overestimate my sanity.

Allow me to give you a glimpse into the inner workings of my sick, diseased mind.

This morning… I had a runaway train of thought. An uninterrupted stream of consciousness that ends with a crash landing into a valley of self loathing.

This morning I thought to myself… “I might be the next Hitler!”

How did I come to this realization?

You’ll have to imagine me as Richard Attenborough in a white safari outfit and straw hat, crouching down to whisper in your ear, “I’ll show you” as a beautiful John Williams score melds itself with the majestic braying of a genetically engineered Brachiosaurus.

This morning I woke up smiling and thinking to myself, “Goddamn, do I LOVE Batman!”

It’s not uncommon for me to think this, or something like it, first thing in the morning but today I did something a little different.

I got up, still smiling, and sidled up to my bookshelf to survey my collection of Batman books.

While purusing Snyder & Capullo’s amazing run on New 52 Batman, I looked at the inside of the cover page and saw the “Batman created by Bob Kane” credit.

I noticed the original publication date of 1938.

I chuckled to myself when I thought idly, “They had Batman during World War II.”

This is where things turn ugly.

In my head, I CANNOT FATHOM the idea that someone doesn’t love Batman.

Anyone I meet who says “Yeah, I’m not a fan,” or even worse “I like Superman better,” is immediately added to my enemies list. I feel like they’re liars. Contrarians who like to disagree with conventional wisdom in an attempt to seem interesting and different.

So OF COURSE, I think to myself “Hitler was probably a Batman fan.”

Now I start to panic.

If you’ve had a 5 minute conversation with me, or worse, if I met you at a party and you didn’t know why you were, seemingly for no reason, the target of my scorn and derision, then you know that I passionately hold fast to the belief that “It’s WHAT YOU LIKE, not what you ARE LIKE that matters.”

I’ve made friends with terrible human beings because they understood that Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica WAS NOT science fiction but rather an exploratory drama about the human condition.

So I started thinking. If Hitler loved Batman… would I be his friend?

To my everlasting shame, I couldn’t help but tell myself, that if he in addition to loving Batman also hated Superman and people who prefer Clark over Bruce then…yes

… probably.

This is where I start to hyperventilate and start with the hardcore whiskey cravings.

I’m just like Hitler.

But you love the Jews,” I tell myself reassuringly.

Then I start thinking… I’ve dated a girl or twelve in my time on this earth and I’ve never discriminated.

Italian, Portuguese, Good Ol’ Fashioned White Canadian, Asian, South East Asian, Middle Eastern and of course a Jew or two.

Does it count as anti-semitism if I treated my Jewish girlfriends poorly?

What else, besides an all consuming love of Batman, do I share with ol’ Addie… Jesus Christ I’m already giving FUCKING HITLER a diminutive pet name!

Fuck that guy!

What a fucking asshole!

And now here I am… I’m as bad as Hitler…

I’m just the goddamned fucking worst!

As if I needed more reasons to hate myself…

Admit the Hard Truth

They say that when an ostrich is in danger it buries its head in the sand. It leaves its entire body exposed to harm, but it takes comfort in the fact that it can’t see whatever problems it needs to face.

Intellectually I understand how illogical and impractical this defense mechanism is, but I can’t say that I haven’t done exactly that during difficult times. For almost a full week now I’ve been ignoring my problems rather than actually facing them.

Why are you hiding your face? Was it burned by acid or something?   Oh no. It's just that it's terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be doing it in the future.</p<

Why are you hiding your face? Was it burned by acid or something?

Oh no. It’s just that it’s terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be doing it in the future.

 

One of the things I write about most is how anti-social I’ve always been. I’ve said multiple times that I frequently feel a greater emotional connection with fictional characters than I do with real people. I’ve been depressed for months but I was managing my depression. Over the last week I’ve had a severe relapse and have started to become more and more disconnected from reality as a result.

To protect myself from the stimuli that would trigger an emotional breakdown I’m finding that I take more and more comfort in isolating myself from others. Literally locking myself in my apartment and not leaving for days at a time or,  just flat out, not responding to phone calls and emails.

I haven’t had any proper sleep in months and since I’ve got a whole extra 8 hours every day that I now need to fill, I’ve found that I’m immersing myself in movies, TV shows, video games and comic books…  much more so than usual, I mean.

In the last month and a half I’ve watched the following series in their entirety: Red vs Blue (10 Seasons), Seinfeld (9 Seasons), It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (8 Seasons), The Office (8 Seasons), The Twilight Zone (5 Seasons),  Batman: The Animated Series (4 Seasons), Parks and Recreation (4 Seasons), The Life and Times of Tim (3 Seasons), The Inbetweeners (3 Seasons), Game of Thrones (2 Seasons), The Newsroom,  underGRADS and Clerks: The Animated Series (1 Season each)

Conventional wisdom would tell you that there aren’t enough hours in 6 weeks to watch that much television but what’s crazier is that THAT’S not all I’ve been doing. In order to keep myself distracted and to keep crippling anxiety at bay, I have to multitask.

While these DVDs are playing on my laptop I’m either simultaneously playing Xbox on my TV or reading comic books, and I don’t mean 20 page single issues. Some of them are 350 page hardcover anthologies.

In September of 2011, DC cancelled all of their ongoing comic book series and rebooted the whole continuity. That means that there are 52 different titles that are published on a monthly basis and all of them started the stories off fresh with whole new “Issue #1’s”. The project is referred to as DC’s The New 52.

I’ve been going through and catching up on it.

All of it.

That’s almost 2 years worth of FIFTY TWO DIFFERENT COMIC BOOK SERIES.

A guy at work found a copy of Swamp Thing on my desk. He didn’t say anything but he just gave me a look that said “Swap Thing? SWAMP THING?!?!?!? Dude! What is wrong with you”

In my defense, I will read ANYTHING by Scott Snyder


In my defense, I will read ANYTHING written by Scott Snyder

What I’m saying is that there are plenty of real problems in life, obligations and commitments, that I’ve been neglecting because I’m more interested in my fake virtual life in the Mass Effect Trilogy on Xbox. I played through all 3 games in 115 hours and was so pissed off that a decision I had made halfway through the first game resulted in the unavoidable death of one of my favorite characters in the final chapter, so I’m playing through the whole series AGAIN so I can “Marty Mcfly” the situation and change history, so to speak, to ensure that he would survive.

The reason I’m writing all this is because it’s time to stop. I have to pull my head out of the sand. I have to realize that just because I’m distracting myself from my problems it doesn’t mean I’m protected against them. The ostrich’s whole body is exposed to predators.

He’s gonna end up getting eaten and won’t even be able to see it coming.

Uncover the Buried Treasure

If I was a famous actor and James Lipton interviewed me for ITAS when he asked me what my favourite curse word is I think I’d say “Motherfucker”

These are the thoughts that meander through my *I’m-too-tired-to-think-of-an-appropriate-adjective* brain when it’s almost 4AM and I’m not even close to falling asleep. It’s not that I’m not tired, I’m exhausted, I just can’t stop being awake.

It’s not uncommon for me to anthropomorphize inanimate objects or even vague abstract concepts. I give them names and personalities of their own. Right now my insomnia has evolved from the feeling of restlessness and the inability to sleep into a pudgy little cartoon demon who speaks with a Kiwi accent and keeps flicking my earlobe or tugs at my eyelids when they try to close. His name is Brett Clement and he’s an incompetent shepherd from New Zealand. He’s lost all his sheep so there’s nothing for me to count.

This was supposed to be a picture of some sheep, but I'm CLEARLY delirious

This was supposed to be a picture of some sheep, but I’m CLEARLY delirious

I don’t know why I’ve been having trouble sleeping. For the last month or so I’ve either passed out as soon as I get home from work and sleep the whole night through or I’m up til 3AM and end up only sleeping 2 or 3 hours.

I’ve been told it’s stress, anxiety, bad eating habits, depression and loneliness but today wasn’t stressful at all. And I wasn’t alone or anxious and miraculously didn’t have any caffeine. It’s as if the off switch for my brain is malfunctioning.

Usually when this happens the results are not good. I end up agonizing over recent history, replaying events over and over in my head thinking what might have been if I said this or done that and I inevitably spiral into fantasies of building a time machine and going back to change things, but then my brain shifts into the crazy gear and I tell myself that if I had a time machine it would be irresponsible to waste that power to just go back and hit someone with a clever-er zinger instead of going back and killing Hitler, BUT THEN I start philosophizing on the morality of killing someone BEFORE they’ve done anything wrong, like are they technically innocent if I travel back to a time when they haven’t yet committed any crime? THEN I start thinking about how Minority Report was so shitty but I just can’t help loving Tom Cruise no matter how much of a crazy bastard he is, I mean, have you SEEN Mission Impossible 3? That movie was crazy good, especially Simon Pegg, Maybe I should pop in my copy of Shaun of the De-WHY THE FUCK AREN’T YOU SLEEPING YOU EASILY DISTRACTED OCD IDIOT?!?!?!?!?!

That’s literally what’s happening in my brain every 10 minutes or so on an endless loop.

I'm usually not a fan of the three piece suit but Joe Gordon-Levitt makes it work

I’m usually not a fan of the three piece suit but Joe Gordon-Levitt makes it work

So when it gets to the point where I just can’t take it any more, I usually turn on the lights and start reading. I’m in the middle of Scott Snyder’s Night of Owl’s but I’m having too much fun reading it that I don’t want it to be over so instead I started reading this blog but when that started feeling too self referential and “Meta-Inception-y” I decided to clear out my email inbox and get rid of any junk and old stuff

Untitled

It’s been a bit of a laugh reading through some of the old emails. Messages to people who used to be my friends that I haven’t thought about in years. Job applications with old resumes and cover letters. Cute little love notes from my ex-girlfriend that make me feel a weird sort of happiness instead of the pain or regret that I would have expected.

But the strangest blast from the past, the email that I had completely forgotten about and drove me to write this entry was a creative collaboration from FIVE YEARS AGO!

It was a guy I knew, not really a friend, more of an acquaintance who wanted to create a superhero comic book/animated series. He was (maybe he still is, who knows?) something of an artist but wasn’t much of an idea or story guy. He asked me to help him develop the project. He didn’t give me any guidelines other than “It’s gotta be groundbreaking, something that has never been done before.”

I didn’t really have faith in his ambition, I thought his enthusiasm for the project would eventually fizzle out so I didn’t put a whole lot of effort into the ideas I sent him. I pretty much halfassed it and shot him some stuff off the top of my head just to shut him up and get him off my back.

I had totally forgotten about all of this and when I read what I had written 5 years ago I started laughing uncontrollably and now I’m completely wide awake.

22 year old Josh was living in Windsor with his girlfriend and a cat who’s dead now. He was the manager of a Bell Canada retail store and his middle aged employees hated him. He rented movies from Rogers Video at the corner of McDougall and Tecumseh and the cute video store clerk had the BIGGEST crush on him. He tried, unsuccessfully, to grow a full beard, realized he’d never be able to and finally settled for a scraggly patch of hair on his chin.

What was his idea for a groundbreaking Superhero Story?

I’m gonna copy and paste the conversation, the guy’s name has been changed to protect his identity and spare him the indignity of having so many people read his bad spelling and grammar:

Rick James

the beginning of the rest of your life

hey josh… i decided yesterday that i am an entrepenuer, i work at a swimming school. and i have my own home music school.. and now for the third venture of entrepenurial career… to make a cartoon for adult swim on teletoon

2 weeks ago i told my boss how there are no good superhero cartoons on anymore.
and he said…. so make one… and it got me thinking.. i could totally do that. but i would need help “sidekicks” if you will.. i found my buddy greg… and now you. and i think the three of us can bring a pilot episode to teleltoon that will make them piss their finely trimmed guchi underpants.

i have already found a way to animate by speaking to an animation prof at OCAD. we just need to spend some serious time writing up a few episodes.. and comeing up with an idea for the show..

one of the ones I came up with but realzied we cant use because we might get sueed, was a sitcom about ricky martins younger brother and his family… and the yourger martine cant live up to his older brother whos alwasy getting laid.. and getting spanish televison music awards. so ricky moves back home and tries to show his younger geeky brother the ropes

lol so im gona stop rambling… get back to me qand let me know if you want in on this adventure of a lifetime!!!

J Alex Alferez

RE:the beginning of the rest of your life 

How about a gay superhero? Not like a guy who is a hero but gay but like a regular straight guy who gets super powers but whenever he activates the powers he becomes a homosexual! Remember Captain Marvel? Shazam? He was just this little kid but when he says “SHAZAM!” he turns into this big buff super dude who flys and shoots lightning. It would be like that but when he says the magic word (Shiraz or something, i’m open to ideas) he turns into a gay superhero. Super fast. Super strong. Super gay!

Shiraz is the superpowered alter ego. The Clark Kent version of the guy is just an everyday average dude but he transforms into Shiraz whenever there’s danger. He’s got all the standard superhero powers, strength, speed, flight, invulnerability. The only catch is that when he’s in this form he’s SUPER GAY!
There’s also a Lois Lane type character and when he’s in his regular form he’s in love with her but she barely pays any attention to him and when he’s Shiraz, she’s all hot for his body and totally wants to bang him but he’s not even a little interested cuz he’s gay.

Batman has a ton of awesome villians. They’re commonly referred to as The Rogues Gallery by comic fans cuz there’s so many, they’re all cool and they often work together to fight Batman.

I think shiraz should have a ton of funny/creative villians and like batmans enemies they should all have a “theme”

Straight Shooter: he turns gays straight so when gay marriage is legalized he uses his power to break up the first gay couple that gets married so that the media storm causes the law to change back to making it illegal. Shiraz has to save the day

The Feminazi: she’s an ultra extreme feminist who is also a Nazi. She believes that all men must die and plans to send all the men to concentration camps and exterminate them. Instead of the Holocaust its the Holococks. Shiraz has to defeat her and her lesbian henchwomen to save the world.

Lust-er:  a gay international jewel thief. He loves anything that shines. His name is a play on words. Luster is what you call the shine that comes off of diamonds but he’s just a manwhore full of lust. He roofies and rapes the security guards who protect valuable jewels. They wake up with a sore bottom and that’s his calling card. That’s how they know they were robbed by Lust-er.

Father Figure: a catholic priest with a rockin’ hot bod who molests little boys. He tries to get shiraz drunk off Jesus Juice.

In one story Shiraz will have to plays Dick-tective and try to solve the mystery of a string of strange suicides happening all across town. His investigation leads him to The Dragon, the leader of a gang of Drag Queens who terrorize the city. They trick guys into thinking that they’re real female hookers and when the unsuspecting Johns find out they got BJ’d by a dude they kill themselves from the shame and horror

Green Piece: An environmentalist who chained himself to a tree to protest the dumping of toxic waste in the forest. The evil industrialist dumped it anyway and the chemicals mutated him with the tree. Now his cock is made of moss and he can control plants. His goal it to make everyone In the world vegan.

Holy shit! If I didn’t know that I had written all that I would TOTALLY be a fan of that comic book. Now I’m kinda bummed out that this kid was a lazy stoner and never did anything with this project.

I could’ve been Scott Snyder BEFORE Scott Snyder was Scott Snyder.

It’s 4:11 and I have to go to work in a few hours. There’s less than 2 weeks left until the RSP deadline and its crunch time. I have to be responsible for people’s personal finances, I can’t afford to be delirious from sleep deprivation when setting up RSP GICs or refinancing mortgages.

I guess I’ll go read some more of Night of Owls until I fall asleep and dream about what might’ve been.