The Caped Crusader has a long and illustrious history when it comes to animation. While most know of the Dark Knight’s groundbreaking stint in Batman: The Animated Series, there have been a number of Batman cartoons that have been worthy of the World’s Greatest Detective. From the Silver Age celebration of Batman: The Brave and the Bold to the futuristic legacy tale Batman Beyond, Bruce Wayne has had a pretty good run when it comes to cartoons.
Would that record have remained if Gotham High had gone into production? Back in 2009, Jeffrey Thomas submitted this spec sketch to WB Animation in the hopes of getting a new Batman animated series off the ground:
Based on that sketch alone, Fox gave the go ahead to Thomas and his partner Celeste Greene to produce a proof of concept portfolio in order to pitch the show properly.
The official synopsis for Gotham High was this:
“We all go through incredible changes as teenagers: growth spurts, bad skin, a sudden insatiable need to uphold justice and avenge your murdered parents…. Well, that is if you’re Bruce Wayne. As if being a freshman at Gotham High wasn’t tough enough, Bruce’s insomnia and technological fascinations are taking their toll. Instead of spending his time studying, he has begun to obsess over an emerging personality trait: Batman. But under the watchful eye of his guardian and steward, Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce is forced to put his intelligence to good use: graduating high school. But given his classmates, can Bruce survive Gotham High?
Thomas put together a number of fully drawn-and-inked sketches that illustrated what life would be like at Gotham High. Here’s one that offered a lineup of all the show’s principal characters:
Each of the characters were assigned some sort of high school stereotype. Bruce Wayne was the rich kid that all the girls had a crush on, therefore Barbara Gordon had to be the girl next door. Edward Nygma was the scrawny nerd who would pal around with the dorky fat kid, Oswald Cobblepot. Waylon Jones and Bane were the school’s requisite jocks and by default the requisite bullies. Take some time and you can probably figure out what clichéd niche each of the characters fit into.
The concept looks like Degrassi with Batman characters. There’s no mention if Bruce would eventually be donning his Batman costume or not, but the concept art that was produced doesn’t look like it paints that kind of picture. The series would have focused on typical high school issues like bullying, running for class president, rival football games with Metropolis High, and the perils of having all the girls going gaga for you.
It’s not surprising that Gotham High got an OK at Warner Bros. The Dark Knight had just catapulted Batman into the No. 1 position in superhero cinema, and WB was going to capitalize on that no matter what. They were greenlighting tons of Batman projects and Gotham High was seen as an easily marketable project. With a built in market of high school kids — and more importantly, younger kids who like to fantasize about high school — Gotham High seemed like an obvious choice.
Thankfully, it was lost in the chaos of other Batman animated projects. Hopefully, someone saw how shallow and limiting the concept was and decided to can it. To be fair, there are plenty of fans who have glommed onto the concept and have produced fan art of their own. The idea even got a grating fan-edit trailer back in 2013. Watch at your own peril:
Oddly enough, this concept was somewhat mutated into the live-action show Gotham. While not containing the characters and stories to a high school, a lot of the same approach is apparent in both shows. Gotham seems to have found its fanbase, so would the same have happened with Gotham High?
Even if it had, it’s hard to see Gotham High ranking anywhere near the other top tier Batman cartoons of history.