GOTHAM 101 – Detective James Gordon
The first official trailer for FOX’s new upcoming television series, Gotham, premiered yesterday. Pretty much any news leading up to this trailer had up pretty skeptical for a while. That is until the trailer. Expectations are still pending, but it’s safe to say that our nervousness for the show might be dwindling. In the trailer we meet some of the familiar players on the show like Jim Gordon, Harvey Bullock, Selina Kyle, Bruce Wayne, and Alfred Pennyworth.
But who are playing these legendary characters on Gotham? Today we’re looking at the show’s leading man, Ben McKenzie, as well as go over a brief history Detective James Gordon.
Ben McKenzie is no stranger to scripted dramas. In fact, he caught his big break as the dreamy Ryan Atwood on prime time soap, The O.C. There, he primarily played the outcast coming into the life of luxury by the Cohen family. And just like with every troubled newcomer, he came with some humungous baggage. After The O.C., McKenzie joined the ranks of L.A.’s finest in NBC’s cop drama Southland where he plays a rookie cop. It’s here that we start to see McKenzie break out of the cookie cutter mold of teenage heart throb with okay acting to someone who’s genuinely compelling enough to watch every week. And look at that, he also happens to be a cop this time. You could say that he’s been building up to become what could be the biggest role of his television career.
What you may not be aware of is that in 2011, McKenzie lent his voice as the Caped Crusader in Batman: Year One. He came off as extremely dry in that role, however. Then again Frank Miller’s material, no matter how you write it, comes off as very gritty but also very dry. That and voice acting is harder than you think. If Bryan Cranston hadn’t been there to steal every scene, we think he could have made a very passable Dark Knight.
In the comics and movies, we often know James Gordon as Commissioner of the GCPD. Believe it or not, folks, he was a regular beat cop at some point in his career. In the Post-Crisis era of DC Comics, Gordon was re-introduced to the world as a lieutenant transferring back to Gotham after serving in Chicago for the past 15 years. One of the things that solidified Gordon as being a man of integrity was his un-ending fight against corruption among his comrades within the entire Gotham police force. If the city was to become a safer place, then the people protecting it must be on the up and up as well. He’s a man fighting evil on all fronts, without getting fired. One could say that his job is way more difficult that the Batman’s.
His relationship with Batman has always been a dubious one. A straight-laced cop partnering with a vigilante who doesn’t follow the law. What drives their partnership is to make the city a better place, free from the wide-spread corruption brought on my gangs, mobs, and insane criminals. Pre-Crisis Gordon and Batman had a more open partnership with Batman actually being deputized into the GCPD. After the Crisis, their relationship was retconned into a more secretive one, further placing our champions of good on the fringes of right and wrong.
A small tid-bit about Gordon you may not know: before serving on the GCPD, the would-be commissioner was a special forces veteran who was shown to be very capable in hand-to-hand combat.
That’s not to say that Jim Gordon is without his own faults or demons.
In Gordon’s reintroduction to the DC Universe via Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, Gordon’s personal morals are tested with the association with his then partner Sarah Essen.
During the events of Year One, Gordon is already married to Barbara Kean and father to their son, James Jr. Throughout the storyline, Gordon and Essen have a fleeting affair. Once they realized that their relationship could no longer continue, Essen transferred to New York.
The damage was already done, however. Shortly after the events of Year One, Gordon’s wife, Barbara moved back to Chicago, taking James Jr. with her. Incidentally, this is pretty much the last time we hear about Gordon’s son in the comics. Until Scott Snyder’s Batman: The Black Mirror arc in 2011, James Jr. fell into the realm of forgotten characters.
Speaking of James Jr., all those years spent in obscurity have not been kind to him. It was revealed in 2011 (pre-New 52) that he spent the majority of his teenage years in an institution after mutilating the bus driver who insulted him moments before. After his release years later, he began to commit a series of murders and blamed them all on The Joker. He captured his step-sister Babs and nearly killed his mother before finally being thwarted by Commissioner Gordon and Batman (then Dick Grayson).
Post New 52, James Jr. retains his sociopathic tendencies and is revealed to be the driving force behind his parents’ divorce — he threatened to kill young Babs if she did not leave Jim.
It’ll be interesting to see in what place Gotham’s version of Jim Gordon will begin, emotionally and mentally, as well as the journey he’ll be set on alongside the young Bruce Wayne.