For as long as there’s been a Batman, there’s been a Commissioner Gordon. Going back to the earliest appearance of Bruce Wayne back in Detective Comics #27, Jim Gordon is actually the first supporting character of Batman who stuck around throughout the Dark Knight’s history. Gordon even predates mainstays such as Alfred and Robin! With the recent announcement by Fox that a Commissioner Gordon television series is in the works called Gotham, now is the time to take stock of the Commissioner’s history and see which stories best display what makes him such an enthralling character that has stood the test of time. Through these stories, we can see what attributes of the character should be used for the new Fox drama. Hit the jump for a rundown of the five best Gordon stories.
Let’s get this one out of the way because you can’t have a Batman list without the Killing Joke making its way onto it, but with good reason. The Killing Joke, for those who don’t know, is considered by many to be the pinnacle Batman vs. Joker story. It also happens to be one of the pinnacle stories for Jim Gordon. In it, the Joker paralyzes Barbara Gordon and kidnaps the Commissioner, subjugating him to both physical and emotional torture. Eventually, Gordon is saved by Batman, but its what he does immediately after being rescued that speaks volume of his character. He implores Bruce to bring Joker in “by the book”, letting him know that despite all that the clown prince of crime did, they need to show him that they’re better than him.
This is hands down one of the most important parts of the character of Jim Gordon. Despite having his daughter shot in front of his eyes and then being tortured with this fact, with photographic evidence no less, he rises above it and sticks to the procedures of his police background. In the Fox television series, we need a Gordon who is uncompromising when it comes to his character. He needs to be tough and strong of course, but he needs to rise above the villains that he fights and show them, and the audience, that there’s a better way. We need Gordon to be a rock.
You just can’t seem to get away from the Joker in this list can you? His role is actually quite minor in this story, but the image is just too striking not to use for this. Anyway, the Black Mirror revolves around Jim Gordon’s son, James Gordon Jr., returning to Gotham City and, surprise, he’s crazy. Junior proceeds to encounter his father in a particularly creepy scene in a diner, where he informs his father that he is not in fact crazy after going into detail about how he just murdered the waitress and shoved her head in the toilet, causing water to flow out of the door. Horrified, the commissioner runs over to the bathroom to find the toilet stuffed with towels, which was the cause of the water overflow, and his son gone. The tension in this scene, and story overall, are fantastic and it not only puts Gordon’s detective skills on display, but also an attribute of the character that will need to be studied in the upcoming Fox show, his family.
One of the biggest parts of Gordon’s character is that the more he throws himself into his police work, the more his family suffers (think McNulty from the Wire). His daughter becomes a masked vigilante, his son a psychopath, and his wife….well that depends on which one we’re talking about because he’s had quite a few. The show will need to really delve into Gordon the family man who, with every case solved, drives away his family a little bit further from himself. Also, I wouldn’t expect to see the Joker or Bane becoming recurring villains in the Fox drama, so Jim Gordon’s psychotic son would make for an excellent foil since he’s not as flashy but just as dangerous.
Batman: Year One
When looking at Batman: Year One, which you can not only read in comic book form but also watch in the somewhat recent direct to DVD animated feature, you have to realize for that as much as it is a story about Batman, its even more so a story about Jim Gordon. Following Gordon as he moves to Gotham City as a new detective, we’re given a look at a young cop trying to find his place in a city that is beyond corrupt and where he fits into it. This story lays the building blocks for the man that Gordon will eventually become and how he can fight corruption in a city where corruption is pretty much everywhere.
If Fox wants the building blocks on how to make a Gordon show successful, they need look no further than this story. This is a world before costumes and freaks. A world of gangsters who run the police force, of psychopaths who don’t have a motif for double headed coins or umbrellas, and a small fraction of people who are looking to make the city a better place. The show is going to put on display a Gotham without Batman, and you’ll need to have the characters of Gotham shine independently and hold their own before a Bat Signal switch is ever flipped. You’ll need to emphasize Gordon’s flaws and uncertainty when it comes to his new city, and Year One does a near perfect job of accomplishing this.
No Man’s Land
Gotham City is alone. After a brutal earthquake cuts Gotham off from the rest of the world, the inhabitants, both heroes and villains alike, attempt to carve out their place in a city that is a world unto itself. Jim finds himself at a breaking point, the police completely ineffectual against not only the costumed fiends of the city, but also the rioting citizens as they struggle to stay alive and not starve to death. This is a story that really puts Jim Gordon’s leadership on display, as he rallies together what’s left of the Gotham City police force to do their jobs, even though their jobs technically no longer exist as society crumbles around them. Gordon also butts heads with Batman, testing the relationship the two have as he becomes sick of the Dark Knight’s behind the scenes shenanigans.
Obviously, the Gordon show isn’t going to delve into the Batman/Jim Gordon relationship at first, if ever, and it really shouldn’t. Gordon’s his own man and with this drama, you need to have him work outside of the “Shadow of the Bat”. Also, I doubt we’ll be seeing Gordon as commissioner for quite a while in the series, but that doesn’t mean we can’t see the qualities that will one day make him commissioner ala No Man’s Land. Jim Gordon’s always been a leader of men, rallying the troops of Gotham’s police forces behind him, acting as its backbone. When most of your police force is being killed on accounts of fear gas, freeze guns, and laughing fish, you really need a pillar who inspires you to keep going, and that’s Gordon.
This one’s a cheat. Gordon hardly shows up in this story at all, but his presence is felt throughout. If you have not had the chance to read the tour de force that is Gotham Central, stop what you’re doing, and buy the collected editions of this story because it is arguably one of the best comics created in the past decade. Created by Greg Rucka and Ed Brubaker, Gotham Central is a series that shows the lives of members of the Gotham City police force in their day to day trials and tribulations working in one of the most dangerous cities ever created. Gotham regulars such as Batman, the Joker, Mr. Freeze, Mad Hatter, Penguin, and many more make appearances as we see a “man on the street” perspective of the insanity that is Gotham City.
There are so many storylines that can be taken from Gotham Central and adapted to the small screen: the story of the suburban super villain, Harvey Bullock’s vengeful campaign against the Penguin, dead Robin, and countless others. As I mentioned, Gordon doesn’t show up that often in Gotham Central, making an occasional appearance, but this lays the groundwork for what his supporting cast should look like in the upcoming Fox tale. From Harvey Bullock to Renee Montoya, Gotham Central was teeming with interesting three dimensional characters who were able to bounce off one another naturally and show the many different aspects of Gotham City’s finest.
While it is still up in the air as to what the storylines will be in Gordon, there’s plenty of material to draw from. Jim Gordon is a complicated and interesting character that has been around for over 60 years and will most likely outlive us all. I’m looking forward to see what the future has in store for the character on the small screen.