In most incarnations of the Batman mythos, Gordon is the police commissioner of Batman's home of Gotham City. He shares the hero’s deep commitment of ridding the dark and corrupting city of crime. In Golden and Silver age comics and on the 1960s Batman television show, Gordon fully trusts, and is even somewhat dependent on Batman. In most modern stories, he is somewhat skeptical of Batman's vigilante method but recognizes the necessity of Batman and the two have a mutual respect and tacit friendship. He was the husband of Barbara Kean Gordon and Sarah Essen Gordon. Gordon is also the father or adoptive father, depending on the continuity, of Barbara Gordon, the original Batgirl and later Oracle, and James Gordon, Jr.
Commissioner Gordon is an important part of the Batman mythos and has appeared in most other media adaptations of the character.
Fictional character biography
In most versions of the Batman mythos, he is at one point or another depicted as Gotham City's police commissioner. He succeeded previous Commissioners Grogan and Loeb in the rank at GCPD. Gordon frequently contacts Batman for help in solving various crimes, particularly those committed by supervillains. Because DC Comics retconned its characters' history in the 1985 miniseries Crisis on Infinite Earths, and because of different interpretations in television and film, the details of Gordon's history vary from story to story.
In the original pre-Crisis version of his history, Gordon was a police detective who initially bitterly resented the mysterious vigilante's interference in police business. Although the Batman seemed to fight on the side of justice, his methods and phenomenal track record for stopping crimes and capturing criminals embarrassed the police by comparison. Eventually, Batman met up with Gordon and persuaded the detective that they needed each other's help. Batman was deputized and worked with Gordon as an agent of the law.
Batman: Year One
Main article: Batman: Year One
The post-Crisis version of the character was introduced in the 1987 storyline Batman: Year One, written by Frank Miller. In this version, Gordon was transferred back to the city after spending more than fifteen years in Chicago. A man of integrity, Gordon found that his only ally against the mob-controlled administration was the Batman. One of the most significant differences in this version is that Batman was never deputized and Gordon's relationship with him was kept out of the public eye whenever possible. It was also added that he was a Special Forces veteran who was more than capable of hand to hand combat.
When Gordon needs to summon Batman, he uses the Bat-Signal, a specially modified Klieg searchlight with a stylized symbol of a bat placed on it so that it projects a large emblem shaped in Batman's bat insignia on the sky or buildings of Gotham City. Batman often disappears silently when Gordon's back is turned, often while Gordon is in the middle of a rant about legal red tape.The miniseries Gordon of Gotham takes place about twenty years prior to the current events of the DC Universe and ten years before coming to Gotham in Batman: Year One. It reveals that Gordon, during his tenure in Chicago, struggled with his wife over conceiving a child while taking university night classes in criminology. He faces brutality among other officers after uncovering corruption within the force. Later, Gordon uncovers evidence of rigging the mayoral election and brings down two of his fellow officers, which leads to his commissioner recommending to him that he transfer to Gotham quickly.
Batman: The Killing Joke
In the 1988 graphic novel Batman: The Killing Joke, the Joker kidnaps Gordon after shooting and paralyzing Barbara Gordon. He then cages Gordon in the freak show of an abandoned amusement park and forces him to look at enlarged photos of his wounded daughter in an effort to drive him insane, thus proving to Batman that even the most grounded, seemingly normal people can lose their minds after having "one bad day." Batman eventually apprehends the Joker and rescues Gordon. Despite the intense trauma he has endured, Gordon's sanity and code of ethics is intact; he insists that Batman apprehend the Joker without harming him in order to "show him that our way works."
In the aftermath of her paralysis, Barbara is forced to end her career as Batgirl, but continues to fight crime as the wheelchair-bound Oracle, information broker to the superhero community and leader of the all-female superhero team, the Birds of Prey.
No Man's Land
The No Man's Land storyline took place after Gotham was destroyed by an earthquake and isolated from outside assistance. Inside Gotham, Gordon struggled to maintain order amidst rampant crime. Batman was mysteriously absent for the initial three months, and Gordon felt somewhat betrayed. He forged an uneasy alliance with Two-Face but was later double-crossed, kidnapped, and put on trial by Two-Face for breaking their "legally-binding" alliance. He escaped punishment, 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. Eventually their relationship was repaired.
The Death of Sarah Essen
Gordon fell in love with and married fellow officer Sarah Essen. However, Essen could not comprehend why Gordon needed Batman so much, which occasionally put a strain on their relationship. Unfortunately, she was fatally shot by the Joker at the end of the No Man's Land storyline. An enraged Gordon was able to restrain himself from killing Joker, shooting the Joker's knee instead. Not long after this, Gordon was gunned down by a crook seeking revenge for a previous arrest. Though seriously injured, he eventually pulled through.
Gordon retired from the police force after having served more than 20 years in it. He remained in Gotham, and occasionally enjoyed nighttime visits from Batman who came to him for company and advice. Commissioner Michael Akins had taken his position. After Barbara required surgery to save her life from the Brainiac virus, Gordon visited his daughter in Metropolis. She revealed to him her current role as Oracle, as well as her past as Batgirl. Gordon admitted that he knew of her life as Batgirl, but was pleasantly surprised to know of her career as the computer information broker of the heroes. He is very proud of her accomplishments.
As part of DC's "One Year Later" Gordon has returned to the role of Commissioner; as of the year-long jump he has been back in the job for 3 months. The circumstances behind this are currently unknown, though there have been allusions to extreme corruption within the GCPD. These allusions are supported by events within Gotham Central, especially involving Detective Jim Corrigan. Most recently, Gordon survived an attempt on his life by the Joker (Batman #655), who had drugged him with Joker Venom in an attack on the GCPD. He was taken to the hospital in time.
Gordon and Batman's identityIn most versions of the mythos, Gordon is ignorant of Batman's identity. There is usually the implication Gordon is smart enough to solve the puzzle, but chooses not to in order to preserve Batman's effectiveness and maintain his own plausible deniability. In the 1966 movie, Gordon explicitly states his desire not to know for such a reason. In Batman: Year One, Gordon claims not to see the unmasked Batman well (whom his wife at that time, Barbara, also sees) because he doesn't have his glasses on. Gordon suspects early on that Bruce Wayne may be Batman, though he never follows up on his suspicions, although Sarah Essen is correct in her suspicions, even guessing Bruce's motivation. In Batman: The Animated Series, Gordon has implied he deliberately avoids deep investigation on the subject of Batman or Batgirl's identity (that of his own daughter, which he seems more sure of but cannot acknowledge it because that would put him in an uncomfortable legal position).
Likewise, in the 1980s Detective Comics storyline Blind Justice, the world at large incorrectly supposes Batman is dead and Gordon comments to Bruce Wayne that Batman has earned the right to retirement if he so desires. He then rather pointedly asks Bruce's advice on whether or not he should reveal that Batman still lives.
During No Man's Land, Batman attempts to regain Gordon's trust by revealing himself, but Gordon refuses to look at him, stating that if he wanted to know Batman's identity, he could have figured it out years ago, and even cryptically saying, "And for all you know, maybe I did."During the Hush story arc, while working with Superman, Batman discusses whether or not Perry White has figured out Superman's secret identity. Theorizing that White is too good a reporter to not have figured it out, he draws the same comparison to himself and Gordon, stating that Gordon is too good a cop to not have figured it out. In that same story arc, Gordon, in an attempt to stop Batman from killing the Joker, tells Batman to remember who his role models are (his parents) and the beliefs they instilled in him. Plus, he asks Batman to remember who and what made him who he is, a rather obvious reference to the criminal who gunned down his parents in front of him, suggesting that Gordon knows that Bruce Wayne is Batman.
Barbara reveals her identities to her father in Birds of Prey #89. Gordon then reveals that he was well aware of her status as the first Batgirl all along, though he purposefully avoided looking into what she was doing after she was paralyzed. Batman chides her for revealing herself, saying it was a mistake, but she counters that, while he taught her to fight criminals, it was her father who taught her to be human.
In Blackest Night:Batman, Gordon is present when Deadman refers to the current Batman as "Grayson" and after the current Robin took Gordon and his daughter to the new Batman's underground base. It is implied that Gordon is unconscious when they meet Alfred Pennyworth.
In the Batman: Year 100 storyline which takes place in 2039, Captain Jim Gordon, grandson of Commissioner Gordon, finds an old laptop in the attic of a country home owned by Gordon and discovers a secret file which he assumes contains long-lost information on Batman. After unsuccessfully trying numerous passwords with relevance to the Batman universe he inputs "Bruce Wayne" and is granted access to the file contents.
Powers and Abilities
- Criminology: James Gordon received an honorary doctorate in the field of criminology from Gotham State University.
- Hand-to-Hand Combat (Advanced): Gordon served in the United States military and was trained in hand-to-hand combat. By his own account, his martial prowess was honed to the point that he could defeat a Green Beret in physical combat.
- Law: James Gordon is proficient in all aspects of criminal detective work and police procedural matters. He also has a keen instinct in regards to the political aspects of managing the Gotham City Police Department.
- Indomitable Will: He has also shown remarkable strength of will and an ability to maintain his mental fortitude and sanity.
- Leadership: He is also an expert leader, having spent decades as the leader of the world's most corrupt police force in the most dangerous city. That he has managed to not only survive, but to make Gotham PD stronger is a testament to his abilities.
- Military Protocol: In his youth, Gordon served in the United States military.
Jim Gordon possesses the strength level of a man his age, size and weight who engages in moderate regular exercise. Over the years, Gordon's strength level has diminished with age. In his prime, Jim Gordon was very athletic with above average strength.
- Cardiac Condition: Jim Gordon has a heart condition, which he contracted after a lifetime of cigarette smoking. He has since quit but occasionally relapses in times of stress or as an excuse to go to the top of the GCPD building.
- GCPD Standard Issue.
- Gordon takes the Gotham City subway to and from work, but when involved with a case, he will usually ride along in a squad car with another police officer.
- .38 Special Police Issue
- The character of Commissioner Gordon was originally created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane. The modern incarnation of James Gordon's character is mostly attributed to Dennis O'Neil and Frank Miller.
- The character is most commonly portrayed as Commissioner of the G.C.P.D., however, he has also been portrayed in different mediums as different ranks in the Gotham City Police Department. He was a Detective in the tv series Gotham, a Sergeant in Batman Begins, a Lieutenant in The Dark Knight and a Captain in Batman: Arkham Origins.
In Other Media
Burton/Schumacher Film Series
In the 1989 film, Batman, and its three sequels, Gordon is portrayed by Pat Hingle. In the first film, he regards the Batman as a rumor at best and vigilante at worst, though by the end of the film, he and the citizens of Gotham publicly acknowledge his usefulness, and receive from him the gift of the Batsignal. In the sequels, Gordon plays only a minimal role compared to his role in other media, but is shown to completely trust Batman and publicly defend him. Although Barbara Gordon is his daughter in the comics, in the last Schumacher film of the series, Batman & Robin, her name is changed to Barbara Wilson and she is Alfred Pennyworth's niece. There are no known women in his life in this series, although his wife appeared with him at the party Bruce Wayne was hosting in the film and Poison Ivy seduces him and he gives in, giving her the keys to Police Headquarters in Batman & Robin.
Nolan Film Series
DC Extended Universe
In the 1960s series Batman, Gordon was played by Neil Hamilton, and is portrayed as not only having the Bat-Signal at his disposal, but also an emergency "hotline" telephone that connects directly to the Batcave. Batman and Robin are regular visitors to his office. The series occasionally made light of his dependence on Batman. In one episode, when Batman is apparently unavailable, he laments that the police will have to solve a case "ourselves".
The Batman/Superman Hour
- Gordon makes two appearances in Super Friends. He first appeared in Challenge Of The Superfriends, episode "Superfriends, Rest In Peace", as The Riddler and Cheetah hold Gordon hostage so they can kill Batman with the Noxium Crystal. The second is in The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians, episode "The Fear". Along with Jonathan Crane, Gordon is trying to find and arrest the Scarecrow. Gordon and Batman are both unaware that Crane is the Scarecrow.
- He did also appear in some of the related comic with the show.
The New Adventures of Batman
Batman: The Animated Series
In the 1990s Batman: The Animated Series, Gordon is voiced by Bob Hastings, and his relationship with Batman was similar to that in the comics, with the alliance largely kept between Batman, Gordon, and Harvey Bullock. Many scenes in the series portray Batman and the Commissioner having clandestine meetings at the Bat-signal. In I am the Night, after a failed attempt on his life at the hospital, Gordon expresses his desire to be more like Batman if only he were younger, "to be a hero", which Batman assured he already was. A flashback in the episode "Robin's Reckoning" depicts Gordon as a brown-haired police Lieutenant investigating the murder of Dick Grayson's parents. In the episode "What Is Reality?" Batman must save Gordon's life and outwit The Riddler in a computer game at the same time.Commissioner Gordon also appeared in the follow-up to Batman: The Animated Series, The New Batman Adventures. In the episode "Over the Edge" Batgirl suffers from The Scarecrow's fear toxins, producing a nightmare where Batgirl dies in battle without telling her father her secret. When Commissioner Gordon finds out, he blames Batman and starts a man hunt against his former ally after discovering his secret identity. After Barbara awakens, she tries to admit her secret to the real Commissioner Gordon, who says that he trusts his daughter with whatever choices she makes and that she doesn't need to tell him anything. Gordon may have already deduced Barbara's secret identity at that point.
On a revelation on Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, Gordon is one of the few people who knew what happened to Robin and the Joker on a night at Arkham Asylum, and for the boy's sake, he kept it a secret. This event may also have led Gordon to learn who was under the cape and cowl of Batman. Hastings continues his role as Commissioner Gordon in guest appearances on Superman: The Animated Series and Static Shock. The spinoff show Batman Beyond also had Barbara following in her father's footsteps and becoming Gotham's new police commissioner.
Batman's habit for appearing and disappearing suddenly have both frightened and annoyed Gordon on occasion, as seen when Gordon said, "Ah! Have pity on an old man's heart!" and "Some day I'm going to nail his feet to the ground!"
In the animated series The Batman, James Gordon is voiced by Mitch Pileggi. He is depicted as a newly appointed Gotham City police commissioner after an incident involving the Joker, the Penguin, and the Riddler. He ends the manhunt against Batman and goes public with his support for the Batman in order to help make Gotham safer for his daughter, Barbara (who, as in every other incarnation, becomes Batgirl).
A young officer was seen trying to comfort Bruce Wayne after his parents’ murders in a flashback in the episode Traction was seen and following Gordon's introductory episode, Night and the City, there arose speculation about the officer being a young Gordon, especially after a line by Alfred on how Gordon had "loomed large over [Bruce’s] life.” Former The Batman producer/character designer Jeff Matsuda, confirmed that while not intended as a tie-in for Batman Begins (which, as noted above, has a similar scene) that the officer was indeed Gordon.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold
In the recent animated television show Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Commissioner Gordon is referenced in at least two episodes. He is shown to be in constant contact with Batman via the famous red Bat-Hotline phone in his office that connects to the phone in Wayne Manor or the Batmobile. Gordon finally made a cameo appearance in the episode "The Super-Batman of Planet X!" on the planet of Zurr En Arrh as an alternate reality counterpart to Earth's Commissioner Gordon. This Gordon is in contact with the Batman of that planet via a television screen that connects to the Batmobile radar.
Besides these cameos, James Gordon also reappeared briefly in the episode "Knights of Tomorrow!", attending Bruce Wayne's wedding, and later, his funeral.
Commissioner Gordon appeared in the television series Young Justice, voiced by Corey Burton. He is featured in the episode "Misplaced", forming a police blockade around S.T.A.R. Labs after Sportsmaster created a riot around the facility, distracting Gordon long enough for Riddler to escpae from the building undected.