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Monday, August 17, 2015

Static Thoughts - 10 Criminals & Masterminds We May See in Gotham Season 2

Edited by Robert Beach 

Gotham is a Batman prequel show from Fox. The main character of the show is Jim Gordon, but the show has slowly broadened its horizons to encompass the entire Gotham underworld.  In addition, there’s been a developing subplot around a shady misconduct at the highest levels of Wayne Industries as well as a mysterious foreign interest that’s able to pull the mob’s strings.

Combine all this with the various unresolved plot threads involving secret surgery islands and land deals and you end up with a show filled to the brim with crime bosses and criminal masterminds. With the second season looming, I thought of 10 bosses and brains we might see in Gotham season 2. 

Starting off with a weird and unlikely choice is Johnny Stitches (if Gotham did go this way, I’d be ecstatic.)  In the year-long weekly series 52, Gotham city was infiltrated by a tech-based criminal organization known as “Intergang.” They’re normally Superman villains representing the Earthly operations of Darkside, an evil alien God. Since 52, they’ve been a bigger and bigger part of Gotham crime. 

The main Intergang force in the city was led by a boss named Johnny Stitches, a typical mob boss whose face was horribly scarred. They were a big part of the Battle for the Cowl mini-series and have served a solid, sci-fi antagonist for the Bat family. We know Gotham is fine introducing more fantastical elements like super-strength steroids and electricity blasters, so bringing in a whole tech-based mafia group would be an interesting maneuver.; however, Intergang didn’t stay united in the comics, splitting between the classical, super-tech crime syndicate and a more cultish faction called…

This version of Intergang seems far more likely to appear in Gotham. The Crime bible was a creepy cult that worshipped murder and violence with the biblical figure of Cain as their ultimate messiah. They played into the idea that Intergang was connected to a literal God of evil, so of course they’d have cult aspects. They were mainly the antagonists of Batwoman, infiltrating Gotham in a series of covens and conscripting spliced animal/human hybrids as enforcers. 

The Crime bible is a cool cult and creepy in all the right ways with a lot of story-telling potential.  If Gotham does decide to double down on its gritty cop elements, they’d be a good season long antagonist to introduce. Best of all, they’d be a good way to slip in Easter eggs to support fan speculation without having to show much. They just have the cult allude to Darkside, the New Gods, or Vandal Savage and let the Internet freak out and market for you.   

The Great White Shark is a weird Batman villain I’m honestly pretty surprised made it into the actual continuity. The character started out in a Batman mini-series called Arkham Asylum: Living Hell by Spider-Man God-tier writer Dan Slott. There, the Shark was a stock broker named Warren White who was charged with a major white collar crime only to avoid conviction on a plea of insanity. In a twist, the judge sentenced White to observation at Arkham Asylum. 

The series is a great descent into madness following White’s entrapment in this horrific madhouse. By the end of the series White had transformed into a violent sociopath with no nose or lips and filed teeth who used his networking abilities and financial connections to marshal the Arkham villains to his service. The idea of a ruthless corporate shark turned crime boss with an army of Batman villains at his beck and call is a pretty horrific one. It’d also be a great way to tie into Gotham season 2’s focus on the beginnings of Arkham Asylum and the rise of Batman’s villains.   

RUPERT THORNE           
Rupert Thorne is another weird case of a villain. Initially, he was something of a minor criminal antagonist during Steve Englehart’s run on Batman in the ‘70s. The idea was that he was a corrupt city councilman, allowing him to strike at Batman from a place of political power. This was part of the ‘70s effort to rehabilitate Batman’s image into a more adult model, not necessarily dark and gritty but featuring urban threats. 

Thorne was never a huge part of the comics, though he was a big part of the storyline where Hugo Strange discovered Batman’s identity, which is part of why I think he might show up. Where he did become a major villain force was in the Batman animated series. There, Thorne was essentially the main mobster of the show, filling the role that Roman Falcone tends to fill in most comics and shows nowadays. Bringing in Rupert Thorne would be a good way to pit Gordon against a more villainous political opponent than the comically corrupt mayor.  

The Ventriloquist is probably a lesser-known Batman villain, yet he’s a cool one just the same. Albert Wesker was the son of a mob family remaining very timid and meek much to the chagrin of his parents. Eventually, Wesker grew up with multiple personality disorder manifesting it through a ventriloquist doll called Scarface he perceives to be alive. That puppet purports a ruthless gangster in the classic, Edward G. Robinson style. 

It’d be easy enough for Gotham to have a child Albert Wesker pop up for a cameo in an episode where Gordon investigates his father, but I really hope they play up the tragedy of his character. Albert Wesker’s driving ethos is of a man who desperately doesn’t want to be a criminal but simply can’t help himself, he’s a tragic figure similar to Mr. Freeze or Clayface in the right hands; although,  if Gotham wanted, they could expand on the origins of the Scarface doll as a curse or haunted, which has been explored before with great results. 

Maxie Zeus is one of the best Batman villains of all time, and I will fight you if you say otherwise. His concept is so simple it’s downright beautiful; he’s a criminal boss literally convinced he’s the Greek God Zeus. That lurid, pulp mobster concept is a perfect fit for Batman’s universe, and the naked simplicity of the character’s core means he works for a number of different approaches.  

Zeus has been played for tragedy in Batman the animated series where the emphasis was on his delusions destroying his life and the lives of his loved ones. He also works for serious creepiness as seen in Grant Morrison’s excellent Arkham Asylum graphic novel. He even works for lighter comedy as seen in Kevin Smith’s Batman: Cacophony. There’s so much versatility in this one character and so many compelling stories that could be told with him; it’d be a massive waste not to adapt him. 

Does Ras Al Ghul really need an introduction?  Ever since being played by Liam Neeson in Batman Begins this guy has exploded in popularity. He’s been featured in nearly every Batman adaptation and even on the CW’s Arrow. He’s the perfect Bat foe to raise the stakes with; the Bond villain by way of Batman that can take Batman’s conflict global. The second you hear anything about bigger interests or foreign investments, it’s basically a guarantee that Ras Al Ghul will be involved in some way. 

In the case of Gotham the question is less about whether he will show up and more about what form he takes. I could see the series stripping Ras down to bares bones and make him simply an Arabic crime boss with a delusional resurrection obsession. Alternatively, they could take a more faithful approach, portraying him as a big, global supervillain threat. Both of those options seem a little unlikely to me give the scope of Gotham and the usefulness of Ras’ character. What I think is most likely is that Gotham will try and introduce Ras Al Ghul and his league of assassins as some kind of terrorist group. This would allow them to name drop Ras Al Ghul and keep the scope of his character intact without having to show us that scope. 

Another weird choice is Lew Moxxon, but this one strikes me as highly possible due to comic history. In the continuity before DC’s big Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot, it was eventually revealed who killed Bruce Wayne’s parents. This is where the name and character of Joe Chill come from; however, it was also revealed that Chill killed them as a hit for a bigger crime boss named Lew Moxxon. Moxxon targeted the Waynes after his attempt to rob their Halloween party was foiled by Thomas Wayne. The story is a major touch tone of Batman lore closing the circle on Batman’s quest to avenge his parents and introducing the Thomas Wayne wore a quasi-Batman costume first during the Halloween party. 

As I said, it’s been established that there was a larger conspiracy behind the death of the Waynes on Gotham, so bringing in Moxxon in some capacity would be a smart move. I don’t think that Gotham would adopt the Moxxon story beat for beat as not a punchy enough pay off to the ongoing conspiracy plot, yet there’s already bits of the story filtering through. The reveal that Bruce’s father had developed his own batcave feels like a pretty solid escalation of the costume idea from the Moxxon story.   

The Court of Owls are relatively new Batman villains, though they’ve already garnered a large fan following. What’s more, the Court are really the only legitimate success story of DC’s New 52 era of comics, so adapting them to the small screen makes a lot of sense from a corporate standpoint. They’re an evil cabal of wealthy and powerful Gothamites controlling the city’s development for centuries. 

That set-up could work very well for Gotham’s conspiracy focus, especially given the series’ emphasis on high-level corruption and the brewing land deal over the Arkham hill district. Additionally, the Court has a lot of ties to Wayne family secrets that could easily tie into their deaths and the growing Wayne Enterprises conspiracy.  Plus, they have zombie ninjas, so I think they’d make a good action episode. 

Dr. Hurt is easily the best Batman villain of the last 2 decades and is also my favorite Batman villain of all time. He’s a master criminal of the highest caliber; someone who knows everything there is to know about Batman. The basic idea behind the character was, essentially, to be the ultimate foe. He’s a villain who knew all of Batman’s secrets and had a near endless supply of resources to throw against him. His identity shrouds in mystery with implications he might be immortal, the devil himself, or possibly even Bruce’s father. 

He’s a great character whose all-encompassing power, menace, and mystery throw a shadow across Batman’s whole world. A villain so powerful he not only seems unbeatable, he makes you question things that used to be certainties like the morality of Bruce’s parents. Dr. Hurt would be a great character to introduce for how much mystery, doubt, and menace he could bring to the entire show. Additionally, his organization, a group of super-rich gamblers who play games of chance with human lives, would be a great way to further the high-class corruption angle.

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