Here's How To Improve That Dumb Batman Prequel 'Pennyworth'
After hearing the news that Gotham is coming to an end, you'd be forgiven for thinking that, barring an explicit ten-hour supercut showing the night Bruce Wayne was conceived, there's nowhere left to go for Batman prequels. You'd also be wrong, because we're now getting Pennyworth, a prequel set in 1960s London about Alfred the Butler and Thomas Wayne starting up a private security company. You remember that orphan with post-traumatic stress and bat-related issues? He's apparently the lighthearted part of this franchise.
It's not the worst premise they could have dreamed up, but it's not the most exciting either. We already know that Alfred is a badass, that Thomas Wayne is a rich bozo, and that this show isn't going to add anything to the mythos beyond pointlessly filling in the backgrounds of two characters who don't matter until one of them gets brutally murdered. So if we have to have a show focused on Alfred, why can't it be one where he's actually cool?
We've talked about this before, but there's a rejected movie script (by Frank Miller, no less) in which Bruce Wayne isn't a superfly badass with gadgets galore. He's just a street vigilante who wears a hockey mask, blows up criminals with homemade explosives, and drives a modified Lincoln Continental ... and is helped by "Little Al," a "gigantic, early middle-aged black man" who runs a repair shop and helps Bruce in his crusade, even gifting him a version of the Batcave.
Or what about a show based on Batman: The Murder Machine, wherein Alfred gets ganked by Bane and reborn as an A.I. that immediately flips out and starts going all Skynet on any possible threats to Batman, which means that Batman not only has to upend the plans of his usual foes, but also his Ultron'd father figure and an army of killer nanomachines.
Hell, we could even go for a sitcom based on Alfred's eulogy from Whatever Happened To The Caped Crusader?, wherein Batman sucks so badly at vigilantism that Alfred secretly hires a bunch of actors to kayfabe as easily defeatable supervillains for his master to defeat, a series of events that culminates in Alfred taking up the mantle of Joker.
These ideas might be a little out there, but there's a lesson here that adaptations like Pennyworth could stand to learn. The comics are so full of diverse, rich, unique storylines that there's literally no reason to keep "reimagining" Batman as a rich orphan living in an opulent mansion, nor Alfred and Commissioner Gordon solely as his straightlaced helpers. Where's the unique one-shot season that actually reimagines these characters? Gotham is out there sour-facedly acting like a bad guy who ties people to balloons and lets them float into the atmosphere isn't the funniest fucking thing ever, while The CW just had a crossover event in which Green Arrow, the Flash, and Supergirl teamed up to fight Nazis from an alternate universe and it wound up making for great, interesting television.
We don't need more grounded takes on the Batman mythos, because the Batman mythos is by and large dumb as hell. What we're saying is that it's time to get weird, television writers. It's time to give us something new. And there may be no better place to start than that comic in which Alfred blew away the Predator.
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