Who is the most important supporting character in the Batman mythos? Some might say Alfred, Jim Gordon or Dick Grayson, but I would argue that it’s Gotham City. The city lives and breathes as a character, with its own distinct personality. It’s hard to put it into words, but there’s something about a story set in Gotham that just feels different than a story set in Star City. Consider this, how different would Batman comics be if the entire cast moved to a different city for a year?
Batman: The Audio Adventures explores Gotham in a way that the comics, television shows and movies haven’t been able to. Reminiscent of an old school radio play, you can listen to all ten episodes of this new narrative podcast right now on HBO Max (you can also sample the first few episodes on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and the DC FanDome webpage.) Like most podcasts, Batman: The Audio Adventures is a great accompaniment to your morning drive, an evening jog, or simply while you’re unwinding at home. I’d recommend dimming your lights and listening at night for the full effect.
Yet, while the series may be called Batman: The Audio Adventures, I’d argue that Gotham City is the real star. Each installment of the series is comprised of multiple vignettes featuring different Gothamites. Batman is absent from a portion of the segments, which instead focus on the lives of his villains and the people he protects. This allows the listener to really step into the shoes of the average Gothamite and learn what it’s like to live in the city.
For example, there’s a recurring subplot involving an out-of-work birthday clown named Blabbo. Unfortunately, birthday clowns are not as popular as they once were in Gotham due to the Joker’s murderous antics. As a result, Blabbo’s forced to get creative with his marketing campaign and the results are hilariously depressing. There are also a few vignettes involving the GCPD bomb squad, where we learn what it’s like for them to clean up after Batman and the Joker’s battles.
Pick up any Batman comic or turn on any Batman movie or TV show and more often than not, the narrative is told from the Dark Knight’s point of view, but this series gives us an altogether new perspective. How does Batman’s presence affect the average Gotham citizen? What are the challenges these people face when the sun goes up? We’re treated to lots of worldbuilding that explores these questions in an engaging and comedic way.
Villains like the Joker, Penguin, Two-Face and Catwoman are featured, and we get to dive deeper into their lives and learn about what they do when they aren’t battling Batman. There’s an unsettling sequence in the first episode (seriously, go give it a listen) as a man interviews to be the Joker’s next henchman. And speaking of henchmen, this series will make you fall in love with Miss Tuesday, the Riddler’s underachieving assistant. She’s clearly over the Riddler’s drama, but unenthusiastically sticks around because she needs the paycheck. She might be the most relatable character in the entire series.
We’re also treated to some funny political ads and drug PSAs. These things are peppered throughout the show, and they’ll make you feel like you’re a real Gothamite listening to the local radio. They also help bring the city to life in a new and frequently hilarious way. After all, only a Gotham political ad would have a candidate accuse his opponent of feeding old ladies to Killer Croc. “Remember folks, a vote for Borkley is a vote for nana getting eaten alive by a crocodile guy. I’m Hamilton Hill and I approved this message.”
Don’t get me wrong, Batman is heavily featured and he’s awesome. Jeffrey Wright brings Batman to life here and he does the hero justice, giving him the commanding presence Gotham’s guardian requires. We get to hear Batman at his best, creatively matching wits with the Riddler and grieving over the fall of Harvey Dent. In fact, for many Batman fans, this will likely be viewed as an appetizer for Matt Reeves’ 2022 Batman film, where Wright will be playing Jim Gordon.
Another fun benefit to the audio format is that it allows your mind to participate in the storytelling. For example, when the Joker introduces himself, you can decide which version of the Clown Prince he’s modeled after. Does he look like he’s been drawn by Dick Sprang, Jim Aparo, Brian Bolland or Greg Capullo? Or maybe you’re picturing him as a live-action figure, possibly played by Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger or Joaquin Phoenix. Or maybe it’s a version of the Joker that’s unique to your imagination, as it really is the only limit.
Every month in this column, I begin by telling you that Gotham City is a busy place and nothing demonstrates this quite like Batman: The Audio Adventures. Between the Jack Ryder news reports and the fun commercial jingles, this comedy noir production is the closest you can get to visiting Gotham, and you don’t even have to worry about getting mugged. Is Gotham City the most important supporting character in the Batman mythos? If you didn’t think so before, then Batman: The Audio Adventures may just change your mind.
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com, is a regular contributor to the Couch Club and writes our monthly Batman column, "Gotham Gazette." Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Joshua Lapin-Bertone and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.