There are a lot of sad stories in every medium and genre. Opportunities where true greatness could have come through but was unrecognised. Critics or general audiences take a book or film or piece of art and shoot it down because it is too experimental or doesn’t fit with the mainstream of the time. Gotham Central is one of these stories as it is a series that both saw wide acclaim in its critical reception and a devastating lack of sales. This is a series which had real potential but unfortunately didn’t quite make the break and for that it is simply fascinating to talk about.
Working day and night
In March 2001 Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker worked together on a Batman crossover entitled ‘Officer Down’ in which Commissioner Gordon was shot by an unknown assailant. The crossover was fairly successful and the two writers found that they enjoyed working alongside one and other. This led them to bounce around a few ideas and eventually pitch a series looking at the cops of Gotham. Gotham Central. The interesting aspect of the piece came from Rucka and Brubaker’s decision to split the writing and the characters so that Rucka would be writing the day shift and Brubaker would be writing for the night shift. This gave the two GCPD crews very different feels and created a series that could run two stories simultaneously.
Eisners and failure
The series began to gain some critical acclaim as it worked with very human problems and gave a different view point on the world of Gotham. This led to an Eisner nominations for the series in 2003 for best new series, best writer (for both Rucka and Brubaker) and best penciller/inker. With these nominations also came the new that the series was beginning to fail. It was consistently struggling to place in the top 100 each month and seemed to be losing it following. While Brubaker is quoted as saying this never presented a danger of cancellation for the series, it was plain to see that the higher ups at DC did not consider the series to be beneficial to their bottom line and so they began to divert resources away from the project. Lark and Brubaker began to drift on to other projects and eventually Rucka decided to cancel the series after Infinite Crisis.
Lesson’s to be learned
When looking into why the series struggled I’m honestly a little perplexed, most reviews seem to be pretty positive and even the slightly more negative ones have specific problems with certain characters instead of the overarching narrative. This book was one of the strongest DC were putting to the shelves at the time and my only thought is that there was either a deficiency in the marketing campaign. There can be an issue with more experimental titles finding their place in the industry but with the rise of companies such as Image I think this series would have be seen as a worthy competitor to the growing independent scene if it had hit shelves today. This is just a case of the right book at the wrong time and I am glad that I am able to share with you this hidden gem of a book. Next week I will be looking at Secret Invasion and how Marvel looked at post-9/11 fears.
…That was this week’s Comic History 101!!! Check back on Saturday for a new BearSleuth spoiler free comic book bundle!!!