If you’re not a hardcore Batman fan, you might not notice—but believe it or not, there are a few subtle differences between DC’s Batman comics and the proto-Bat universe of Fox’s hit show Gotham. Yes, seriously!
In fact, the show’s heroes and villains can be surprisingly different from their counterparts, to varying degrees. Here are all the major characters on Gotham, ranked based on how much the comic book Batman would be able to recognize them, if he met them in a dark Gotham City alley.
1) Hugo Strange
Debuting just last week, B.D. Wong’s Dr. Hugo Strange absolutely floored me. Not only is he the first live-action interpretation of the mad psychiatrist, but I can’t imagine how anyone’s ever going to match him. Wong’s cool demeanor, transparently insincere concern, and utter creepiness are astonishing. And he’s got Strange’s iconic look down—from the round, tinted glasses to his unnaturally sinister chinstrap beard.
2) Harvey Bullock
Donal Logue may be sporting a very un-Bullock-like beard, but other than that the excellent actor is a pitch-perfect interpretation of the bitter, slovenly detective who gave up his idealism long ago. Just like his comic counterpart, Logue’s Bullock still manages to do the right thing on occasion thanks to his more idealistic partner Gordon—albeit it very begrudgingly. Well, at least he used to...
3) Catwoman/Selina Kyle
The young Selina “Cat” Kyle of Gotham is already a reasonably accomplished cat burglar, whose ability to shimmy into places she’s not supposed to be in will serve her well in future years. She’s already lost her sense of property ownership, and she’s fallen in with the criminal element on several occasions. But like her future comic book incarnation, she has a soft heart that leads her invariably help the weak. Really, the biggest different with Gotham’s Selina and Catwoman is that “Cat” doesn’t seem to give a damn about cats at all.
4) Lucius Fox
In the comics, Lucius Fox is head of Wayne Enterpises’ R&D divisions, although sometimes he’s even the CEO or president of the company. He designs pretty much all of Batman’s gear, and avoids asking questions. In Gotham, he’s a junior exec who helps Bruce with computer problems. However, both Luciuses (Lucii?) rail against the more sinister elements operating inside Wayne Enterprises, no matter their position. It’s very easy to imagine Gotham’s Lucius becoming Batman’s brilliant ally in the future.
5) Penguin/Oswald Cobblepot
Just because Gotham’s Oswald Cobblepot doessn’t look that much like his comic counterpart doesn’t mean that Cobblepot isn’t still the breakout character of the show. Really, Gotham’s greatest feat is that it’s given us a proto-Penguin who is quite different from the villain of the comics, but he still feels more similar, even if the reasons are hard to put into words. Trading the comic version’s short, rotund figure for a young, skinny man, with a limb that forces him to waddle is a very different choice, but it’s certainly a fascinating one. Gotham’s Penguin might be traveling another route to supervillainy, but it’s still easy to imagine him developing into the feared ruler of Gotham City’s criminal underworld.
6) Victor Zsasz
In the comics, Victor Zsasz is an insane serial killer who cuts a notch in his skin every time he murders someone (he has a lot of notches). In Gotham, Zsasz is a freelance murderer for the city’s criminal underworld who also tallies his kills on his flesh, but is content to shoot people when ordered to as opposed to running around naked with a knife and stabbing anyone who gets in arms-length. Both are killers, both have a terrible way of keeping count of their victims, and both are bald—but that’s where the similarities end.
7) Mr. Freeze/Victor Fries
This much-anticipated bad guy made his debut in last week’s episode (along with Hugo Strange), and while he shares the character’s tragic underpinnings—they’re both trying to save their wife Nora, although one has frozen her and the other is about to—that’s about it. Gotham’s Freeze exudes no real pathos and no emotional coldness, and he’s definitely not bald or blue-skinned (although that may be coming); this may well change as Gotham continues, but for now about all he has in common with the Mr. Freeze of the comics is that they both have good taste in winter wear and they both carry freeze-rays.
8) Silver St. Cloud
The first love interest of the comic book version of Bruce Wayne is a rich, 20-something socialite, smart enough to deduce that the man she’s dating is Batman. On Gotham, Silver is a rich young pre-socialite who is working for her evil step-uncle Theo Galavan as part of a ludicrously overcomplicated plan to sacrifice Bruce Wayne. So, yeah, she’s a bit different. About all they have in common is that they’re both blonde femme fatales—although this is super-creepy, when you remember that Gotham’s Silver is supposed to be like 13 or something.
9) Dr. Leslie Thompkins
Both Leslie Thompkins are doctors, and… well, that’s where the similarities pretty much end. Comics Leslie uses her medical skills to help Gotham City’s poor, especially kids, and she was a surrogate mom for Bruce Wayne following his parents’ murder. In Gotham, Leslie (Morena Baccarin) has done exactly none of that, although she has been a doctor at Arkham Asylum, a medical examiner at the GCPD, and she’s currently Jim Gordon’s babymama. I think she’s only met Bruce Wayne maybe twice. Briefly. At any rate, no mothering occurred.
10) Joker/Jerome Valeska/???
We still have no idea what Gotham is doing or has done with Batman’s greatest foe, the Joker. All we know is that there was a kid named Jerome Valeska who murdered his carnie mom because she kept having sex with a significant number of her co-workers (oh, Gotham). And then he then turned into a kid who acted exactly like the Joker—insane laugh, murderous tendencies, wild mood swings, the whole deal. Except now Jerome is dead, which kind of rules him out as the Joker. And now we know that Lori Petty will be playing another Joker-esque character later this month (maybe Duella Dent?) who is also clearly not going to be the Joker who eventually faces off against Batman. Whatever the hell is going on here, suffice it to say Gotham does not currently have a comics-accurate version of the Clown Prince of Crime.
11) Poison Ivy/Ivy Pepper
Well, comic Poison Ivy is a nature-lover/eco-terrorist, named Pamela Isley. The eventual Poison Ivy of Gotham is a young girl named Ivy Pepper, who I think briefly held a plant once.
12) Riddler/Edward Nygma
To his credit, Gotham’s proto Riddler does like riddles. A lot! To his detriment, he is a medical examiner in the Gotham City PD, and he keeps asking all the policemen to solve his riddles—which is probably going to be a disadvantage when he embarks upon his riddle-based crime spree, and every single police detective in the city remembers that weirdo who used to work in the morgue.
Gotham’s Nygma has murdered a few people, a couple of them accidentally. Which speaks to the real difference between the TV version and the comic version: The TV Riddler is pretty dumb. Oh sure, he managed to hide the people he killed, but he still accidentally suffocated one of them by holding his hand over her mouth too long. If Batman ever faces this guy, I don’t expect him to be too perplexed by the Riddler’s “baffling” clues.
13) Bruce Wayne
If Gotham’s Bruce Wayne is going to eventually be Batman, he’s going to need to get a move on. He is not particularly interested in training his mind or his body to fight crime (he’s asked Alfred for help a few times, and then totally bailed on his lessons). He’s upset that his parents were brutally murdered, but it doesn’t consume him; he goes many, many episodes without ever seeming to think about it. Also, there was a time when Bruce Wayne made Alfred a sandwich after Alfred had been stabbed, and Bruce got worried he didn’t cut the bread slices the correct thickness, and started crying. It was the least Batman-like thing I have ever seen.
14) Jim Gordon
It’s interesting that the protagonist of the series is the one who has veered so wildly from his comics counterpart. When Gotham began, Jim Gordon was a young, idealistic cop who was determined to clean up the GCPD, make the city safe, and do it while obeying the law. Yet in last week’s episode, he’s flat-out lying to his GCPD superiors and the Gotham district attorney’s office, to cover up a murder he committed.
Actually, Jim has murdered a few people—he killed one guy while operating as an enforcer for Penguin, which is a pretty un-Jim Gordon-like thing to do. But that murder was of Theo Galavan, an admitted bad guy, who was unarmed and bound when Gordon shot him in the face, in order to keep him bringing his way out of the justice system again. Oh, and Gordon shot him after allowing Penguin to mercilessly beat him first. Gotham’s Gordon is a killer with no faith in the system and no sense of what’s right, who doesn’t even much seem to care about Gotham City at all, let alone cleaning it up. He is a man whom the real Batman would hunt down, beat up, and leave strung up on a gargoyle for law-abiding cops to find later. So yeah, pretty different.
15) Alfred Pennyworth
Gotham’s Alfred hit a child in the face. Let’s just get it out there. He thought Selina Kyle was a bad influence on his charge, Bruce—so he punched her in the face. I can say without fear that the comics version of Alfred never included child abuse as one of his duties. This Alfred seems like he’s always spoiling for a fight.
What Gotham’s Alfred is not good at doing is taking care of Master Bruce. Bruce has been kidnapped, chased by assassins, and held hostage by Jerome. And yet, Alfred constantly lets Bruce go unaccompanied to drug dens and criminal hideouts and other incredible dangerous places (Alfred might not know that’s where Bruce is sneaking off to, but that’s kind of the point—Alfred doesn’t keep track of his charge at all. There was also that time where a bully beat up Bruce at school. Alfred’s solution? Give Bruce his father’s watch… for Bruce to use as faux brass knuckles to punch the bully in the face even harder. But that’s some serious parental concern, compared to the time sprained his ankle while hiking outside, and Alfred spent all day watching from a distance to… build character, maybe? Alfred is a total psychopath.