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Gotham: Seven Times the Show Brought Detective Comics to Life

Gotham: Seven Times the Show Brought Detective Comics to...

By Joshua Lapin-Bertone Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

Welcome to the Couch Club, our weekly column devoted to all things #DCTV! This week, Joshua Lapin-Bertone celebrates Detective Comics' 1000th issue by looking at some of the characters, stories and elements from the series that have made their way to Gotham.

Hi, Couch Clubbers! I’m sure you’re noticing all the Batman party favors we have laying around. Forgive the mess, but we’re doing lots of celebrating this week, and hope that you’ll join us! As you may know, Batman is celebrating the 80th anniversary of his first appearance this year, and Detective Comics is publishing its milestone 1000th issue!

In fact, it’s such a big event, I thought I’d bring a little of it here to the Couch Club. You see, the legacy of Detective Comics is pretty huge, and it can actually be seen on every episode of Gotham. Some of you may already know that Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon first appeared in Detective Comics #27, but it goes deeper than that! Gotham has taken many elements from the pages of Detective Comics’ history and used it to build their show. So, to celebrate Detective Comics 1000th issue, let’s look at a few ways Gotham brought Detective Comics to life!
 

Going back to the very first scene of the series, the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, is an extended version of a scene first presented in Detective Comics #33. While the show has since deviated from canon pretty dramatically, it’s undeniably cool that they began by recreating one of Detective Comics’ most pivotal moments.


Remember Sarah Essen? It’s been a few years, but during the early episodes of the series, Captain Sarah Essen (above) was Jim’s supervisor at the GCPD, until she met her untimely end during the season 2 episode, “Knock, Knock.” While Gordon is lured away from the GCPD, Jerome invades the building and fatally shoots Sarah.

This sequence was inspired by a scene from Detective Comics #741, where the Joker also lures the heroes away from the GCPD while he remains inside, until he’s found by Sarah Essen. The Joker fatally shoots Sarah before stepping outside and surrendering to Gordon. This moment had an extra sting for Jim because in the comics, Sarah wasn’t just a coworker—she was also his wife! Ouch! Comic book Jim may have it even harder than Gotham Jim…


Speaking of Gordon’s loves, I’ve spoken about Barbara Kean’s history in prior Couch Club columns, and it’s worth noting that Detective Comics was the first book to give her a name. Barbara Kean introduces herself to a dimension-hopping Bruce Wayne in Detective Comics #500. Although Jim Gordon’s wife had appeared before, she had never been given a name. In fact, Detective Comics #500 is the only comic containing her maiden name, “Kean,” so when the showrunners gave Babs her name, they were specifically looking at Detective Comics!

Check out that picture above! Is it too late for Erin Richards to sport the Princess Leia haircut?
 

There’s no mistaking that the Alfred on Gotham kicks butt! No offense to the other versions of the character, but Sean Pertwee’s Alfred is more of a fighter than a housekeeper. His incarnation of Alfred has been very handy thanks to his military training, which is another character trait we owe to Detective Comics! Alfred’s military history was first established in Detective Comics #501. Had it not been for that story, imagine how different Gotham’s Alfred/Bruce dynamic would be!
 

In the episode, “A Dead Man Feels No Cold,” Bruce has a therapy session with Dr. Lee Tompkins. This is a reference to her role in the comics, where she was an emotional anchor to Bruce during his childhood. When Lee (who goes by Leslie in the comics) first appeared in Detective Comics #457, it was revealed that she had found Bruce in Crime Alley after the death of his parents and had comforted the boy when he needed it the most. Her character was slightly revamped in Detective Comics #574, making her present throughout Bruce’s childhood as she tried to help him keep his darkness at bay.

If you rewatch the scene between them in “A Dead Man Feels No Cold,” you’ll see that their conversation sounds very much like that characterization.
 

Gotham was declared “No Man’s Land” last season after the bridges were destroyed in an episode aptly named, well, “No Man’s Land.” This moment has been referenced throughout season 5 by characters saying “…ever since the bridges blew…” as a reminder of the horrible state the city is in.

Yes, the destruction of the bridges is another moment lifted from Detective Comics. After a massive earthquake destroyed the city’s infrastructure, the United States government decided Gotham wasn’t worth salvaging. The city officially became No Man’s Land when the bridges into and out of it were blown in Detective Comics #729. Like his television counterpart, Gordon chose to stay behind and bring order to the city.
 

Professor Hugo Strange has kept Bruce and the GCPD on their toes with many of his crazy experiments over the years, which is another plot point we owe to Detective Comics! Hugo Strange’s bizarre brand of science crimes first bedeviled the city all the way back in Detective Comics #36. In fact, Hugo Strange was Batman’s first reoccurring villain.
 

Honorable mention: I covered this in my last Easter eggs column, but it bears repeating here: That scene from “Ace Chemicals” where Jeremiah fell into the vat of acid is based on an origin of the Joker that was first shown in Detective Comics #168. The same issue also introduced a criminal known as the Red Hood…and all of you Gotham fans remember the Red Hood gang right?
 

In addition to all of this, many of the show’s main characters had their first appearances in Detective Comics, such as Edward Nygma (Detective Comics #140), the Penguin (Detective Comics #58), and old favorites like Harvey Dent (Detective Comics #66), Firefly (Detective Comics #184), Silver St. Cloud (Detective Comics #470) and many more!

There have been many great Batman titles over the years, but there’s nothing quite like the first. Without some of Detective Comics’ greatest issues, we never would’ve had some of Gotham’s greatest episodes. We may be celebrating Detective Comics this week, but it seems like Gotham celebrates it with every episode. Cheers!


Gotham airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. CST) on Fox. For the latest news, features and conversation on Gotham, click here.

Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com and DCUniverse.com, and is a regular contributor to the Couch Club, our weekly television column. Looking for more #DCTV Easter eggs? Be sure to check out Josh's weekly Doom Patrol Easter egg column on DCUniverse.com.