Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Character Profile: James Gordon

Hello Gothamites! What a fantastic time to be a Batman fan, Tim Drake has really evolved as a character, Dick Grayson has handled the mantle of the Bat extremely well, and even Stephanie Brown has excelled as Batgirl. Damian is even coming around to be loyal to Dick. Oh, and there's this little story arc called "The Return of Bruce Wayne" that's right around the corner. With all the changes that have occurred over the past year, one pillar of Gotham has remained intact. Commissioner James Gordon. I'm here to give you a quick look at the character who has been around as long as Batman. While he has been presented in slightly different ways, the character has stayed true for over 70 years. This article will mostly concentrate on his "new Earth" history which is what is considered canon after "Crisis on Infinite Earths".


James W. Gordon was created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane and first appeared in Detective Comics #27. Gordon was in the very first panel of the very first issue of a Batman Comic. Depending on what you might have read Gordon was either from Chicago or had previously worked in Chicago before arriving or returning to Gotham City. Either way he has come to Gotham and made allies with Batman.
Although in the current continuity, their relationship was rocky at best. In the story titled "Batman: Year One" Gordon was very uneasy about a masked vigilante, but comes to realize that Batman is his only true ally in the mob infested city of Gotham. Gordon and his mistress from the story deduce Batman's true identity but Gordon decides not to pursue it. I for one have the belief that Gordon has always known Batman's true identity. How can the best cop in Gotham not figure it out? I thought you might agree. He served in the Special Forces as well, before becoming a cop, and learned to be a more than capable hand-to-hand combatant. Gordon is able to constantly contact Batman with the Bat-Signal, and usually meets with him on the rooftop of Gotham City Police Headquarters. To his constant annoyance, Batman often disappears silently while Gordon's back is turned, often while he's in the middle of talking. Gordon forged an alliance in his early years with Batman and Harvey Dent, Gotham's District Attorney, as the three most dedicated and capable people to take down organized crime in Gotham, namely the "Roman Empire," the crime family led by Carmine Falcone. Although they did succeed, it was at the cost of Harvey's sanity, and he became the villainous Two-Face after being scarred with acid by one of Falcone's underlings, Sal Maroni. To this day, the loss of Harvey Dent, not just the ally but the man, is one of Gordon's greatest regrets, and he somewhat blames himself for not trusting Dent when the evidence pointed towards him. Gordon became the legal guardian of his niece, Barbara, after her parents were killed in a car crash. ( see my post on Barbara Gordon )

James Gordon is currently still the Commissioner in Gotham after taking a brief retirement. He was always suspicious of Barbara's role as Batgirl, but she always seems to cover her tracks to directly connect herself with Batgirl. Her reign as Batgirl game to a gruesome and twisted end however.

Favorite Stories

I have two favorite stories involving James Gordon. While "year one" was a great read to discover how Batman and Gordon's relationship began it is not my most memorable story with the Commissioner.

In the killing Joke, The whole Bat family was thrown into turmoil. The Joker kidnapped Gordon from his home, and shot Barbara, making her a paraplegic for life. He then brought Gordon to a run-down amusement park he had souped-up, stripped him naked, put a collar with a leash on him, and caged him into a freak show. In an effort to drive Gordon insane, he forced him to look at massively enlarged photos of Barbara naked and bleeding, degraded and in pain, so he could prove to Batman that even the most grounded, seemingly normal person can lose their minds after having "one bad day." Batman eventually apprehended the Joker and rescues Gordon. Despite the intense trauma he has endured, Gordon's sanity and code of ethics remained intact; before Batman left to pursue The Joker, Jim insisted that Batman apprehend the Joker without harming him, despite his atrocities, because the Joker had to be shown "that our way works." I read this story in trade and I couldn't stop reading it once I started. Such a crazy story that really has you feeling for what James has to go through before the story ends.

My favorite Gordon story is "No Mans Land", James is pushed to the limit after an earthquate devastes Gotham and lets the animals out of their cages so to speak with Some of Batman's most deadly villians setting up shop in different districts of Gotham. Gotham City was nearly completely destroyed, and quarantined and isolated from outside assistance by the U.S. Government. The city was swiftly carved up by gangs and various supervillains Batman had battled over the years. Jim Gordon and several members of the Gotham police department stayed behind to protect civilians. Oracle and Huntress also ended up on the inside. Bruce Wayne (Batman) left the city to lobby the government to not cut Gotham off, but failed. Gordon and his men waited for his return, but by the time he returned more than three months later, they believed he had abandoned Gotham. Gordon was one of the few who remained behind by choice, and struggled to maintain order amidst the rampant crime and anarchy. Batman was mysteriously absent for the initial three months of the crisis, and Gordon felt somewhat betrayed. He went as far as to renounce Batman's name, and deny his symbol as a means for protection, believing that it only symbolized false hope. He forged an uneasy alliance with his old friend Harvey Dent (Two-Face), but was later (naturally) double-crossed, kidnapped, and put on trial by Two-Face for breaking their "legally-binding" alliance. He escaped Two-Face's wrath, and later met with Batman once again. In this confrontation, Gordon expressed his disgust towards Batman for letting Gotham "fall into ruin". Batman offered to prove his trust by revealing his secret identity, but Gordon refused to look when Batman removed his mask. This story was soo long that it really impressed upon me that our characters were going through the toughest thing they never could have imagined. Hopelessness however blossoms into hope by the end of the story and in my opinion really set things in motion that we are still seeing the effects of today in the current comics. It is very hard to suggest specific stories regarding James Gordon, he always has and I assume always will be a cornerstone of Gotham in one way or another. I have told you about my two personal favorites, but there are many other stories that involve him in a major way. Long Halloween and Dark Victory just to name a few. I could not end this without giving a bit of nostalgia from my childhood and that is the awesomeness of Neil Hamilton.

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