Friday, February 18, 2011

Batman/Gordon relationship in the movies (quick overview)

As stated and showed many times on the site, the Tim Burton movies went back to the genesis of the mythology, to the roots of the franchise - Kane and Finger's original vision of the pre-Batman Detective Comics issues - before the editors ordered to brighten it all up and make it more accessible for younger audiences

Michael Uslan (producer): I only let Tim see the original year of the Bob Kane/Bill Finger run, up until the time that Robin was introduced (DVD) 

Commissioner Gordon appears in the very first panel in Batman's debut comic book appearance, Detective Comics #27. The first panel already tells us a lot. First of all, we find out that he's a good friend of Bruce Wayne. They're not too close but Bruce is shown to occasionally visit Gordon and Gordon often offers him to come along for the ride to the crime scenes.

This appears to be the way in the movie as well. We can see that Bruce Wayne was seated right next to Gordon,

and also his absence might have been ignored by the Commissioner considering that he thinks of Bruce as a bored millionaire even thought he likes him. Gordon is also invited to Bruce's fund-raising party.

Another thing that we find out from the very first panel is that he's unsure of Batman. At first he wants to arrest him

 "Hold it right there!"

but as Batman starts to deliver the criminals, he seems to accept his presence in Gotham. Gordon and Batman didn't meet and it was Batman who was communicating with him by sending him notes or occasionally calling him up leaving him a message with information on where to find the captured criminals, after which he would instantly hang up. All of his information on crimes and new cases he was finding out as Bruce Wayne while visiting Gordon in his office.
It is important to note that in the script Gordon was a cop on duty the day Waynes were killed, an idea used in Batman Begins. That's why Batman cared about Gordon and reacted when Bob the Goon took him hostage

In the 1989 movie, Gordon also receives a letter from Batman and the Bat Signal to call him in case of danger. The note is the only way they communicate together. In Batman Returns it seems like anyone can turn on the signal and Batman instantly arrives at the place of the crime, being alarmed by the signal looming in the sky. Gordon is seen talking to Batman but not with Batman. Batman ignores him and doesn't look at him, only giving him a quick reply  in the form of "We'll see" before leaving.

It's worth noting however that Gordon tried to stop the cops who started shooting at Batman at the rooftop and that according to the Batman Returns script he is hoping that Batman will forgive the city for buying into Penguin's scheme.

Think he'll ever forgive us?

Probably not. But he'll always
help us.

Note that Gordon is asking the Mayor, not the other way around - yet another clue showing us that there's no real communication between Batman and Gordon

The original Gordon was very much a side character with a very small role, appearing only twice in the entire pre-Robin era (in DC #27 and in one panel of DC #28), and didn't return until DC #42.

In Joel Schumacher movies it is made pretty clear that Gordon and Bruce Wayne are good friends and know each other very well, judging by the conversation they have about Dick Grayson. Gordon of Joel Schumacher movies is the reflection of the Golden and Silver era comic counterpart, being a friend of Bruce and cooperating with Batman whenever possible, calling him either with a Bat signal (this time Batman comes directly to the source of the signal and talks to Gordon) or by video connection.

Christoper Nolan's Batman movies draw from the modern age (primarily Year One), in which Commissioner Gordon is a very important supporting character with a big role. The modern age showed Gordon and Batman having a trusty relationship and concern for each other, even thought on the surface they don't show it. There's clearly a mutual respect , trust and admiration, and Gordon could be perhaps included in Batman's "extended family" along Alfred. In both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, Gordon not only provides Batman with important and valuable information but also directly takes part in the action, whether it's taking down a section of the bridge or capturing Joker.

Gary Oldman: You see a trust there when they're investigating ..when they're at a crime scene, you know, he will excuse his offices and his detective and give Batman the scene first. I know that for Batman Gordon is the only person that HE can trust, I mean other than [Alfred and Rachel] (Chuck Movie Guy int 2008)

It's also thanks to his support and push that Batman is ignored by the police and allowed on the crime scene.
While it's clear that Gordon and Batman have a personal friendship, they both rarely, if ever, step on a personal note, mainly due to Gordon's preference.

As the time goes by we see a major concern from Batman for Gordon when he gets a heart attack or when he's kidnapped by Joker when it's almost personal. It goes the other way when the news spread about Batman being brutally beaten by Bane. The same is shown in The Dark Knight when Gordon quickly rushes to help Batman after his fall with Two Face and is shown a genuine and deep concern for his state. They are also seen occasionally joking together, which further proves that despite what they themselves may admit to themselves and what may appear on the surface, there really is a friendship there.

Nolan's movies also show the trademark and common situation for the two when Batman is often seen disappearing before Gordon can finish the sentence...

...however it dropped the other trademark which is Gordon being started by the suddenly appearing Batman.

Another element that was dropped was Gordon's enormous smoking habit of which Batman was reminding him quite often and which later became a major plot point when Gordon had a heart attack and was then replaced by other detectives for some time.
In the Modern Age comics Gordon doesn't have any friendship or special camaraderie with Bruce Wayne and that also translated into the movie, which is the most evident in The Dark Knight in which Gordon refers to Bruce as Mr. Wayne and is never shown to be around him or talk to him otherwise throughout the two movies

Also, in Modern Age comics Gordon has an opportunity to shoot Batman when they first meet but he doesn't and Batman's speech is similar to the condensed "Now we're two".


  1. I like the depictions in B89 and the Nolan films. He was sidelined in BR. Shame. But Burton's other early interpretation was great.

  2. In Forever Gordon was solid too, as far as I remember. A bit like in B89. And in Returns has his moment ("hold your fire".

    ...the way he was written in B&R was a travesty! You know a film is bad when the mess up even with Gordon!

  3. This was one of several crucial Batman elements Burton omitted from his movies. The relationship between Batman and Jim Gordon is a staple of the Batman mythology. Pat Hingle made kind of a boring Gordon anyway. He must have been desperate for the money or something. Gary Oldman was WAY better as Gordon.

  4. But Burton didnt omit anything. He was very faithful to the roots of the character and portrayed a mirror reflection of the original Kane/Finger relationship between Gordon and Batman. Schumacher and Nolan portrayed the Modern Age version

  5. Good old Burton. Ignoring a major Batman relationship just because he wanted to focus on one tiny era in Batman's history.

  6. Its not what he wanted. He and Nolan by their own admission knew nothing about comic books, and its their writers who were specs in that area. As far as Burton, it was the producer's decision to go back to the roots of the character and focus on the pre-Robin, dark and Gothic Kane/Finger portrayal of the character and its world, and thats also why Kane was hired for the movie. All that way before Burton got attached to the project. They even said they made sure Burton didnt see any other comics past the original Kane run. The Batman/Gordon relationship developed when Batman was deep into the whole Robin partnership and blossomed further in the campy Silver age, to then receive a makeover in the Modern Age that we see now in Nolan's movies whose movies reflect the Modern Age.

    As for the original Batman run, whether it lasted for only a year or decades is irrelevant. Batman was a campy, smiling character for decades and most of his history, and despite the renaissance in the comics in the mid 70s, the general public perceived him as campy character until Burton's movies altered it forever. The longevity has nothing to do with quality, and the era is no less valid than any other era. As Jonah Nolan and Bruce Timm said, theres no definitive version of the character, there are just different flavors. And the same goes even for Nolan, whose movies and Bat world are based on a handful of comics (7 to be exact) which werent even a part of the regular series, and theres absolutely nothing wrong with that because its about quality - a characteristics which supersedes faithfulness and quantity.

    Since the first year of Batman was the darkest and WB and the producers wanted to stray away as far as possible from the Silver Age Batman that the public had in mind, they looked in the darkest area which was the original run - Batman was a dark Gothic character by definition that was a loner and who was almost like a vampire, admittedly based upon Dracula and Phantom of the Opera. You cant go darker than that so that was the way to go, having him talk to anyone or come out of the shadow wouldve destroy the mythic and Gothic portrayal of the character as oppose to presenting him as looming, quiet shadow and someone who is insane. Thats why Gordon's role was minimal in the genesis of the Bat world and why, since Burton's Bat world reflected its roots, it was also the same way in Burton's movies

  7. LOL, During the mid 70's Dennis O'Neal and Neal Adams had ended the campiness of Batman by getting back to the character's darker roots after a period dominated by the campiness of the 1960s TV show, emphasizing Batman's detective skills, and introducing new villains such as his own creation Ra's al Ghul.

  8. They sure did, as I noted in the post above saying "and despite the renaissance in the comics in the mid 70s, the general public perceived him as campy character". The general public didnt read comics and was never aware of the dark Batman. The mass media like the cartoons in the 80s still portrayed the colorful Batman and Robin and no major studio wanted to shell out money for a Batman movie because they thought of a blue character in tights with Robin. As its usually the case with Holywood, it speaks the loudest, and so it wasnt until 1989 that the general public saw the dark Batman for which Bruce Timm and the DC were very grateful (quotes scattered in the blog). After all, the movie got a beating for being too dark and police was guarding theaters in some countries to prevent youngsters from seeing it. The hype and popularity of the 1989 movie spread the notion of the dark movie more than any other media before, overwriting what the TV show and decades of comic books had established in people's minds
    Going back to the 70s reneissance for a while, they did go back to the roots but only partially, they still incorporated a great deal of Silver Age characteristics and added a considerable amount of original ideas.

  9. God I can't believe the public were idiots when they thought Batman was suppose to be campy and all.

    NO!!! Batman Begins, Dark Knight, Batman TAS, Batman (1989), Batman Returns shows how BATMAN SHOULD BE.

    Not doing dorky dances, trying to run for mayor, pouring Vegatable Soup in the bat computer, every god damn gadget called Bat something and actually being god damn labeled thanks to that blasted Adam West show.

  10. "Good old Burton. Ignoring a major Batman relationship just because he wanted to focus on one tiny era in Batman's history"

    Too right. A hallmark Batman dynamic like that was entirely absent from his movies. He didn't even make Batman himself the focus of his movies. The villains were.

  11. ^You obviously didn't read the above comments.

    @ GothamStreets:
    Your comments are as interesting to read as yout blog posts. It's been a while since this post, I hope your next one is not too far ahead.

  12. Next stop is probably Arkham but unfortunately not anytime soon

  13. GA, when you say Nolan's Batman is based on 7 comic books, which ones are you referring to? I know for sure "Year One" and "The long Halloween" are two of them.

  14. The Dark Knight Returns, Year One, Long Halloween, The Killing Joke, The Man Who Falls (although they never ever mentioned it but its been said that DC gave them the comic for reference) and the first 2 Joker appearances.

  15. That's another dumb thing about Burton's Batman. Gordon lets a killer Batman go around and does as he pleases. Gordon would never stand for a Batman who does that. No decent Cop would.

    I really hate Burton's Gordon. He's a total prat. I wonder how he even got the job in the first place. He couldn't find his ass with both hands.

  16. He doesnt necessarily let him go. The relationship between the two is like in the early comics. Its kept to minimum. Gordon tries to catch Batman at first and never realy keeps in touch with him. He knows hes a psycho but he chooses a lesser evil - the guy kills criminals cops cant get, he doesnt kill innocent people. So he lets him be. I think thats a fair tradeoff
    Its simply the way it was in the earliest comics

  17. @GothamStreets: will you update some articles to include The Dark Knight Rises contributions?

  18. Most of the blog needs an update to include TDKR material, I just need to find some extra time. Research takes the longest itself, interviews etc