Jim Gordon: Just the Facts
Everyone could use a friend like Jim Gordon. He’s been by Batman’s side since 1939, and their unique friendship is currently lighting up the big screen The Batman. Jeffrey Wright’s take on Gordon is different than what we’ve seen in the past—he’s younger and not yet the GCPD Commissioner. If this unique portrayal—with its already iconic quip about Batman’s rule against guns—has piqued your curiosity about this classic hard-boiled DC character, then here’s a handy little breakdown of all things Jim Gordon. Whether you’re a longtime fan, or someone just getting to know Jim, hopefully you’ll learn something new about Gotham’s top cop. Here’s the word on the street about Commissioner Jim Gordon…
- Commissioner Gordon has been there from the beginning. He first appeared in 1939’s Detective Comics #27, the same comic that introduced Batman to the world. Gordon appears in the first panel of the story and is the only character from the tale (aside from Batman) who regularly appears to this day.
- Although Gordon regularly socialized with Bruce Wayne, his first face-to-face conversation with Batman didn’t occur until 1941’s Batman #7. Later that same issue, Gordon officially deputized the Caped Crusader, temporarily ending the adversarial relationship Batman had with the police during his early adventures. (If only it had been so easy for Batman in the film!)
- It took twelve years for readers to learn Jim Gordon’s first name. (Maybe they thought his name was Commissioner?) 1951’s World’s Finest #53 revealed that his full name was James W. Gordon, but his friends all call him “Jim.”
- Gordon’s first wife was also introduced in 1951’s World’s Finest #53, but she wasn’t given a name until 1981’s Detective Comics #500—that’s thirty years later! She was named Barbara Kean, but in 1985’s Who’s Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe #2, her name was changed to Thelma. In Batman: Year One, her name changed back to Barbara and Thelma became Gordon’s sister-in-law. Finally, 2000’s Batman: Turning Points #1 specified that her name was Barbara Eileen, making it easier to distinguish her from Barbara “Batgirl” Gordon.
- In Detective Comics #245, Jim became a costumed hero and called himself Mysteryman. The mayor of Gotham had told Gordon to stand down on a case, so he became the vigilante to operate with more freedom. After Mysteryman became a sensation, Batman tricked Vicki Vale into revealing his identity so Gordon could have the glory.
- According to 1961’s Batman #140, Jim Gordon is writing a book called “Gotham City Guardians,” but he won’t finish it until he retires.
- Gordon’s second wife was a fellow officer named Sarah Essen. For a time, Sarah had Jim’s job, making her another Commissioner Gordon. She was tragically killed by the Joker during the final hours of the “No Man’s Land” saga.
- It’s time for a live action Jim Gordon roundup! Lyle Talbot played Gordon in the 1949 movie serial Batman and Robin. Neil Hamilton had a memorable turn as Gordon in the 1966 Batman television series and its spin-off movie. Pat Hingle played Gordon in four theatrical movies, serving as a bit of continuity between Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher’s films. Gary Oldman played a nuanced version of Jim for Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. Ben McKenzie, who has the most screentime as Gordon, played the character during all five seasons of Gotham. J.K. Simmons played the character in Justice League (both versions) and will be reprising the role in Batgirl later this year. Welcome to the club, Jeffrey Wright!
- The relationship between Jim Gordon and his daughter Barbara has fluctuated over the years. After the reality-altering events of Crisis on Infinite Earths, Barbara was reimagined as Jim’s niece in 1987’s Secret Origins #20. After Barbara was orphaned, Jim adopted her and most books treated them as father and daughter without mentioning their true relationship. Batman: Gotham Knights #6 revealed that Jim had an affair with his sister-in-law, and it was possible that he had been Barbara’s biological father all along. However, after Flashpoint rewrote the timeline again, the uncle angle was dropped and Jim was restored as her father.
- Jim had a brother named Roger, but the two didn’t get along. Mostly because of the previously mentioned “sleeping with his sister-in-law” thing.
- Like Bruce Wayne, Jim Gordon also has his own butler, or at least he did in the pre-Crisis world. His manservant Finley made a single appearance in 1952’s Batman #71. Do you think he and Alfred gossip over tea?
- There is a subtle running joke on Gotham that Jim Gordon was a homeless cop. During the first season, he was seen living out of a GCPD locker and explained that he was “in between places.” In the second season, his girlfriend Lee Tompkins asked if he had a place, and he didn’t seem sure. Thankfully, Jim was given an apartment in season three, but no Finley to clean it.
- In World’s Finest #159, Jim Gordon and Perry White accidentally ingested evil gas while hanging out at Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. We’re not sure why Superman would keep gas that turns people evil lying around unprotected, but it turned Gordon into Anti-Batman and Perry into Anti-Superman. Gordon even drove his own car called the Anti-mobile.
- Jim’s relationship with his son James Jr. is complicated. James Gordon Jr. was born in Batman: Year One and later grew up to become a psychologically disturbed criminal. He plagued his father in a storyline called “Black Mirror” and was a constant thorn in his sister’s side. Unable to cope with his mental illness, James Jr. committed suicide in 2020’s Batgirl #49.
- Most comic readers know about Jim’s children Barbara and James Jr., but his oldest child, Tony, has been largely forgotten. Tony was introduced in World’s Finest #53 and later became a secret agent. He died while wearing an odd Superman kilt in Detective Comics #482. Consider him the Chuck Cunningham of the Gordon family.
- Does Jim Gordon know that Bruce Wayne is Batman? That, friends, is one of the biggest mysteries in Gotham. Gordon has hinted that he’s figured it out, but he can’t admit his knowledge because Batman is a vigilante and as police commissioner, he’d be forced to bring him in. Nevertheless, stories like Batman: Year One and “Ends of the Earth” have heavily implied that Jim knows more than he’s letting on.
- Jeffrey Wright, our latest cinematic Gordon, previously voiced the Dark Knight himself in HBO Max’s Batman: The Audio Adventures podcast. Interestingly, this isn’t the first time a Batman actor has gone on to portray Gordon. Ben McKenzie voiced the Caped Crusader in the animated film Batman: Year One before playing Jim Gordon for five seasons on Gotham.
- From Commissioner to Congressman, Jim Gordon almost left the police force to become a member of the House of Representatives in Detective Comics #422. His heart was never really in it, however, and he stepped aside when his daughter Barbara volunteered to run in his place. He later took another stab at politics when he became mayor in the Batman: Arkham Knight videogame.
- Batman has a rude habit of vanishing while Gordon is in the middle of a conversation. This running gag began in 1972’s Detective Comics #424.
- Jim Gordon has subbed in for Batman on two occasions. In Detective Comics #225, Jim Gordon participates in a contest where he gets to become Batman for the day. His Batman cowl included an opening for his glasses. Decades later, Jim donned a mecha-suit and became Batman during one of Bruce Wayne’s extended absences. Jim’s tenure as the Dark Knight can be seen in 2015’s Batman #41-50.
- For a time, there was some confusion over whether Jim’s first marriage ended in divorce or death. Some comics stated that Barbara Eileen divorced Jim and moved to Chicago, while other comics had Gordon telling people his wife was dead, and even showed him visiting her grave (Batman Annual #13). The inconsistency was cleared up in Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Annual #2, when Jim revealed that he lied about the fate of his ex-wife in order to protect her. It still doesn’t explain the tombstone, but hey, everyone has their own ways of processing divorce.
- After the launch of DC’s New 52, artists began to draw Jim Gordon with red hair, starting with 2011’s Batgirl #1. It was originally thought that this was a result of the timeline changing post-Flashpoint, but in 2021’s The Joker #1, it was revealed that he had been dying his hair. His daughter Barbara had suggested it, but Jim found the whole thing silly and eventually stopped.
- So, how old is the GCPD’s most famous commissioner? According to World’s Finest #53, Jim Gordon was born on January 5th 1900, which would make him 122 years old today! We suspect that’s not accurate, though pinpointing an exact age is probably pretty tough. In 2015’s Batman #41, he told Harvey Bullock he was 46. However, he’s looking a lot older in the currently-running Joker series—far more than the 53 he’d be if he’s aging in real time. The bottom line is this is a man who dyed his hair to conceal his age and comic continuity always plays a bit fast and loose when it comes to their characters’ ages, so we suggest just going with “Jim Gordon is just old enough to get the job done.”
Whew! With all that on his resume, no one could blame Jim Gordon for thinking about retirement. In fact, if you’re up on your comic book continuity, you know that he’s not just thinking about it—he actually has. Currently, it’s Renee Montoya who’s the GCPD Commissioner in our Bat-comics, while the retired Jim has taken on the freelance assignment to hunt down none other than the Joker (it’s, uh, not going very well). However, The Batman’s Gordon is significantly younger and isn’t even the commissioner yet. In other words, no matter his age, we suspect Jim Gordon is nowhere near done. And that’s a fact, Bat-fans!
The Batman, directed by Matt Reeves and starring Robert Pattinson, Zoë Kravitz and Jeffrey Wright as Jim Gordon, is now in theaters. Visit our official movie page for all the latest trailers, articles and news on the film!
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com, is a regular contributor to the Couch Club and writes our monthly Batman column, “Gotham Gazette.” Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.