Ever since his introduction way back in 1939, Batman has not only protected the citizens of Gotham City, but inspired some of them to join in his crusade against evil. Dick Grayson was first, debuting as Robin in 1940, but scores have followed in his footsteps, many of whom are getting the spotlight in the upcoming CW series Gotham Knights, as well as the recent (but unrelated) video game of the same name.
In the new TV show, Turner Hayes (Oscar Morgan) discovers not only that his adoptive father has been killed, but also that he was Batman. The list of suspects rounded up by District Attorney Harvey Dent (Misha Collins) include a trio of young thieves — Harper Row (Fallon Smythe), Cullen Row (Tyler DiChiara) and Duela Doe (Olivia Rose Keegan) — who claim they were paid to break into the deceased’s office, but did not kill him. After Tyler is also taken in, the kids begin to realize that there’s a conspiracy against them and they just so happen to be right! When up against the wall and things look bleak, Carrie Kelley (Navia Robinson) comes out of nowhere to save them, revealing that she had been Batman ‘s partner.
Now, this group of fugitive kids — plus Stephanie Brown (Anna Lore) — need to clear their names and find out who really killed Batman. Luckily for them, they have full access to the Batcave and its many wonders to solve the season’s mystery. Before the series even starts, though, we’re looking into these characters and their comic book roots to both set the stage and maybe even find a few clues of our own!
So far, very little is known about Turner Hayes, a seemingly original character at the center of Gotham Knights who has no direct comic book counterpart (unless there’s a twist in the works, of course). However, just because the name is new, does not mean the concept is. In fact, the aforementioned Dick Grayson was adopted by Bruce Wayne after his parents died in a circus accident. Wayne did the same for the second Robin, Jason Todd, as well and has brought any number of other sidekicks into his family over the years, whether legally or not. One Robin — Damian Wayne — was in fact Batman’s biological son, while Damian’s mother is Talia al Ghul. Damian, who is set to make his live-action debut in the film The Brave and the Bold, also has been known to favor a sword, a weapon Turner has been shown to wield.
Of course, the major difference between all of Batman’s comic book partners and Turner is that Hayes did not directly train under his father or any other highly skilled fighters. That means that though Turner may have some natural abilities, his fighting and detecting skills have not been tirelessly honed like many of his counterparts. This would put him at a significant disadvantage if he were working on his own, but luckily he’s got some new friends watching his back… but can he trust them?
From what we’ve seen so far, Harper Row seems to be, if not the leader of the group, the mouthpiece. We see her defending herself and her sibling to District Attorney Dent and showing a great deal of initiative, all of which echoes her character from the comics who debuted not too long ago in 2011.
In the comics, Harper and Cullen grew up with an abusive, alcoholic father named Marcus who would break things. Given their environment, Harper became very protective of her little brother, but also learned how to fix things. Over the years, she developed a talent for dealing with electronics and electrical systems. She eventually put those skills to use to get a job which helped support her and Cullen after they emancipated themselves from their dad. Eventually, Harper came across Batman’s custom alterations to the city’s electrical grid and later saved the Caped Crusader’s life.
Though she would eventually retire from the costume hero lifestyle, Harper did spend time going by Bluebird, using her skills to join in on the war on crime. You can already see how she looks out for Cullen in the first glimpses of the series and it seems like she will be using her own brand of genius to work alongside the others.
While it seems like the eldest Row sibling is being translated directly to the small screen, it will be interesting to see what the writers choose to do with younger sibling Cullen. In the comics, he is a gay teen constantly dealing with homophobic bullies who didn’t stop terrorizing him until Batman intervened.
Unlike his sister, the affable Cullen did not go down the costume hero route, though he has had more than a few encounters with supervillains. His mind was briefly taken over by the Mad Hatter, he dated a member of the Royal Flush Gang and even fell under the thrall of new-villain-on-the-block Punchline.
In a departure from the source material, the TV version of Cullen is transgender and tired of playing by other people’s rules. The younger Row also appears to be taking a more active role by breaking into Bruce Wayne’s office with Harper and Duela. We’re intrigued to see in what ways the Cullen of Gotham Knights gets in on the action.
Also, it has been noted that Turner will find himself working with the children of his father’s enemies to solve the murder. When it comes to the likes of Duela and even Stephanie Brown, that makes sense. However, Marcus Row — while definitely a criminal — does not rate as one of Batman’s villains. With that in mind, don’t be surprised if the writers pull a switcheroo and make Marcus one of the more well known members of the Rogue’s Gallery Poppa Row or at the least more reminiscent of their kind.
Considering she’s also known as Joker’s Daughter, it should come as no surprise that Duela has always been something of a chaotic character. After revealing herself to the world in 1976, Duela claimed to be the offspring of everyone from the Joker and Catwoman to Scarecrow and Penguin. Even though she modeled herself after the Clown Prince of Crime, it was assumed for a while that this one-time Teen Titan was actually Two-Face’s daughter.
Even further down the line, she turned out to be from an alternate reality where her folks were The Jokester and Three-Face, heroic versions of the well-known Bat-villains Joker and Two-Face. A more recent take on the character positioned her as a disturbed young woman who came across the Joker’s sliced-off face in the sewers below Gotham, started wearing it and took charge of a group of underground dwellers.
The Gotham Knights writers clearly have plenty of source material to draw from in creating their version of Duela. So far, we know that she was born in Arkham Asylum, reportedly to the Joker and an as-yet-unnamed mother, maybe Harley Quinn? Duela seems to have embraced her family’s more maniacal nature, though for now she’s fighting on the side of the heroes. Don’t be surprised, though, if both her allegiances and origins come into question as the show plays out.
One of the most interesting pulls from the comics for the show comes in the form of Carrie Kelley. In the trailer, she explains that her partner Batman referred to her as “his little robin,” a clear reference to Batman’s many costumed cohorts. However, this particular bird does not come from the usual nest, but an alternate reality established in the seminal Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, a series that helped infuse the medium with darker, realistic elements. In that world, an older, far more grim and gritty version of the dark detective returned to crimefighting and enlisted the help of teen Carrie Kelley. Together they took on the likes of Joker and Superman.
Though Carrie is part of one of the most famous, historical and beloved stories in the history of the medium, she only has a handful of other appearances and mainly in the sequels to Dark Knight Returns. That means the writers can nod to that version of the character while also drawing from any of the other Robins. However it breaks down, the name is a nice acknowledgement of Carrie as the first female to fill the role of Robin.
Gotham Knights also features the second female Robin, Stephanie Brown, though she’s far more well known as Spoiler. The character emerged in the early 90s and began a relationship with Tim Drake during his time as Robin. She struggled to gain Batman’s acceptance thanks in part to the fact that her dad was the villain Cluemaster. In fact, it was the discovery of her father’s secret identity that inspired Stephanie to become a vigilante in the first place.
The character dips in and out of the footage we’ve seen so far, but it seems like she’s already friends with Turner as the series begins and he trusts her enough to show her the Batcave. Stephanie has been described as a computer whiz who is also adept at puzzles. Maybe that’s because of her dad Arthur (Ethan Embry), the charismatic host of a local trivia game show who works very hard to keep the addictions of his wife Crystal (Sunny Mabrey) a well-kept secret. If Arthur isn’t already the Cluemaster as the series kicks off, it sounds like he will be before long, which could inspire his daughter to fight on the side of right. How that will result in Turner bringing her into the fold, will be an interesting reveal.
Gotham Knights premieres March 14 on The CW.