According to Variety, which I understand to be some sort of entertainment industry publication, the CW has ordered a pilot for a television series called The Graysons, which will focus on Dick Grayson’s life before his parents are murdered and he becomes Batman’s sidekick. That, relatively speaking, is the good news.
The bad news is that the series is being produced by Kelly Souders and Brian Peterson, executive producers of Smallville, and McG, executive producer of another CW show, Supernatural, and director of such bold artistic statements as the two Charlie’s Angels films and the upcoming Terminator Salvation. Is my once-impossible dream of a Batman/Fastlane crossover about to come true?
Even if I weren’t skeptical about a show intentionally set years prior to the most exciting period of the protagonist’s life, I’d have misgivings about this depiction of Dick’s pre-Robin years. For one thing — and this is probably my biggest gripe, since the pilot isn’t even in production yet — I’m sick to death of prequels. Thanks to George Lucas’s shameless and lucrative looting of his Star Wars franchise, Hollywood has been prequel-crazy for almost ten years. Enough already. Sequels are hard enough to pull off; prequels are even more problematic, because you’re telling the audience that significant events — important enough for you to make a film about them — occurred in your characters’ lives prior the first film, but have never, ever been mentioned before.
The result is almost always either too cute for its own good (Clarice Starling’s first visit to Lector in Silence of the Lambs taking place within moments after the end of Red Dragon — Hannibal was busy that week!), or unfathomably stupid (ten-year-old Darth Vader building C-3PO). Almost never are we treated to a truly revealing and interesting bit of character development that allows us to deepen our appreciation of the prequel and the original. In fact, can anyone think of when a prequel has ever done that? Can I just say “never?”
Smallville is one of the worst offenders. Not only has it blown through most of the problems which we would expect the adult Superman to have to contend with, it’s made the familiar status quo, with Clark Kent working with Lois Lane at the Daily Planet, his secret identity intact, and Lex Luthor operating as a clandestine criminal mastermind bent on destroying the Man of Steel, increasingly implausible. Smallville depicts Clark and Lex as best friends going way back to Clark’s freshman year in high school, meaning it’s virtually impossible for Lex to meet Superman as an adult and not realize immediately that this is the same guy he hit with his car and who repeatedly saved his life/foiled his evil plans back in Kansas.
And don’t even get me started on that fucking cave.
The Smallville creators are already putting their distinctive, hip stamp on The Graysons, rechristening the lead character “D.J.,” since apparently their target audience is incapable of following the adventures of a young man called “Dick” without snickering like Beavis and Butt-head the entire time. What other clever, wink-wink tweaks can we look forward to? A bittersweet anonymous romance with a slightly older girl who turns out to be Barbara Gordon during a circus performance in Chicago? Accidentally meeting Aqualad while enjoying a dip in Loch Ness during the circus’s European tour? Facing and defeating major Batman villains before Batman even exists? I can hardly wait.
How old is Dick — I beg your pardon, D.J. going to be in this anyway, I wonder? Clark is 14 in Smallville’s first season, but Dick’s already Robin by that age in the comics. They’re hyping this as a potential companion/replacement for Smallville, so something tells me they won’t cast a sixth-grader as D.J. If the show becomes a hit, will we be seeing Dick still doing the family trapeze act at age 20, with no Boss Zucco in sight? Do the people writing the show have any idea who Boss Zucco is? Time will tell.
I know it’s too early to tell, and maybe the success of a more serious, mature project like The Dark Knight will nudge this in a good direction, but what do you all think? Will this be better or worse than the Birds of Prey show?