Yesterday, FOX TV announced it is developing a new DC Comics-based drama for the 2014-2015 television season. Called Gotham, the show, created by The Mentalist‘s Bruno Heller, will focus on the exploits of Detective James Gordon and his early days in the Gotham City Police Department. Since this is an origin story for Gordon, Batman and his Rogues Gallery will not feature into it — though the announcement mentions Gotham’s colorful villains, I’m not sure how you include them if this is a pre-Batman time period. While I’m always down for more TV shows based on comics, I’m actually not sure what to think about this.
At least the show already has a theme song:
I’ve long been a proponent for a television series based on one of my favorite Batman books of all time, Gotham Central. The book reads like a crime procedural and spotlights a diverse cast of characters, including Renee Montoya, Crispus Allen, Maggie Sawyer, and Josie Mac. Unfortunately, the book’s initial run did not sell very well — probably because Commissioner Gordon and Batman, though their presence is felt throughout, were not the focus of the book — and the series ended after 40 issues. And though there were rumors of a potential Gotham Central television show in the early 2000s, it never materialized. Silver lining? We got Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy instead. So the idea of a show based on the Gotham police department isn’t a new one. How they shoehorn Jim Gordon’s origin into this remains to be seen.
Still, the news of a Jim Gordon-focused television show got me to reflect on what I think are three of the best Batman stories to feature the moral compass of the Gotham PD. So Bruno Heller, I hope these three books (and a ton more) are part of the homework you’ve been doing on the show.
Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s seminal tale of Batman’s first year on the streets of Gotham is really as much Gordon’s origin as it is Batman’s. From the opening panels, Gordon’s arrival in Gotham mirrors Bruce Wayne’s return, and the book is told from both their points of view. While most people’s takeaway from the book is Bruce’s emergence as Batman, it also firmly established Jim Gordon as the “one good cop” in Gotham who is tired of always looking the other way. More than that, this book shows the foundation of the relationship between Gordon and Batman.
To that point, all I knew of Commissioner Gordon was that he was the hapless policeman who called Batman on a red phone whenever a villain threatened the city. It wasn’t until I read Year One that I saw the symbiotic nature of their relationship. Fortunately, Hollywood finally took notice in 2005 when Nolan cribbed heavily from the text to forge the relationship between Christian Bale’s Batman and Gary Oldman’s Gordon. It also didn’t hurt that Oldman was the spitting image of Mazzucchelli’s artwork.
It’s difficult to do a list of “best Gordon stories” and ignore this book by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland. For one, the book has been all over the internet in recent months ever since Grant Morrison gave his take on how how the whole thing ends. (Hint: not good, especially if you’re the Joker). Also, there are rap songs about it. Still, Killing Joke seems to always be on a list of not just best Batman books, but best books period. And it’s well-deserved. It’s dark, disturbing, psychological… everything a Joker origin story should be. And what Joker does to Barbara Gordon and her father reverberated throughout every single Bat book for years.
Unlike Year One, though, Gordon is not a protagonist in the book. In actuality, he serves as more of the story’s MacGuffin. Still, the things that happen to Gordon — and more importantly, how he responds to them — paint a clear picture of the kind of character James Gordon is.
My loyalty to Batman comics has wavered over the years, I won’t lie. As I mentioned previously, I was late to the comics game. But once I started reading “Knightfall,” I was all in for a good decade of weekly Batman stories. Things fell off around one of the Crises of the early 2000s (Identity, Final, Infinite, they all kind of blur together for me) and I pretty much stopped reading altogether when Batman “died” in R.I.P. I was still aware of everything that was going on in the DC Universe, I just didn’t feel compelled to read the stories every week. Things changed when my brother gave me his copy of The Black Mirror. This was the first post-R.I.P./Dick-as-Batman story I devoured wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, it’s also the last Detective Comics story before the New 52 reboot erased all of what came before (why they’d “renumber” a book as old as Detective Comics, I’ll never know).
It tells the story of James Jr. (Gordon’s infant son Batman saves in Year One. Let’s just say, maybe Bats shouldn’t have saved him after all…) who has mysteriously returned to Gotham. Both Gordon and Grayson have to confront the ramifications of James Jr.’s presence in the city. As psychologically disturbing as Killing Joke while also directly linking back to Year One, The Black Mirror reflects the different and darker paths taken by the sons of Gordon and Batman.