Batman and James Gordon share a birthday. That is to say that in the very first panel of the 1939 Detective Comics #27, the Commissioner and Bruce Wayne shared the stage together. They have been virtually inseparable ever since. Like conjoined twins, with Batman’s impulsive id to Gordon’s more calculated ego, Gordon and Batman have maintained the most enduring relationship in the Dark Knight’s history.
Though Batman has the weapons cache and vehicle arsenal, he only maximizes their effectiveness through Gordon. Indeed, without him, the Dark Knight would be left to his own devices. Gordon is Batman’s eyes and ears in the corrupt Gotham City Police Department, and his primary partner throughout the city.
Amid his numerous animated and live-action adaptations, James Gordon has been depicted as a detective, lieutenant, sergeant and, most notably, commissioner. No matter his designation, Gordon has been a figure of hope for Bruce Wayne, a voice of reason for Batman, and a guardian of Gotham.
Here is Every Adaptation Of Commissioner Gordon, Ranked From Worst To Best:
15 Lego Gordon
Appearing first in Lego Batman: The Video Game, this bite-sized Jim Gordon was modeled after Gary Oldman’s portrayal of the Commissioner in The Dark Knight trilogy. In Christopher Nolan's movies, as in each of the video game iterations, Lego Gordon holds the keys to the Bat-signal. Indeed, that's where we first find the Commissioner in the games, shining Batman’s call sign into the sky.
Lego Gordon gets into more trouble than his live-action counterparts, but thankfully, Batman always answers the call. From fighting off Penguin’s henchmen and avoiding Bane’s violent attacks, to getting trapped by Harley Quinn and the Joker, Gordon often finds himself in a world of hurt. While the Commissioner’s casting for the upcoming The Lego Batman Movie has yet to be confirmed (despite wild rumors of Mariah Carey taking on the role), we’re looking forward to seeing Lego Gordon make his first appearance on the big screen.
14 Lyle Talbot, Batman & Robin 1949
Lyle Talbot was a stud. With over five (known) marriages and 150 movies under his belt, Talbot seldom wanted for anything during his Hollywood career. When he took on the role of Commission Gordon, he didn’t have an ounce of self-doubt, and it showed on screen. Just watch him light up the Bat-signal with utter confidence. When he gets the call that criminals are on the loose, he turns on this bizarre half-gramophone, half-TV and brazenly flashes it out the window. That’s how they do it in Gotham.
Batman & Robin was a 1949 movie serial and follow-up to the successful television show that ran just six years prior. Everything you loved about the original program returned, like ill-fitting cowls and a 1949 Mercury instead of a Batmobile. This time, however, Commissioner Gordon and the Dynamic Duo battle the Wizard, a shrouded foe bent on destroying Gotham via technological means.
13 Early Animated Shows
Before the 1990s re-established Batman in the world of animation, the Caped Crusader dominated the airwaves throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Ted Knight, the "Spaulding, get your foot off the boat" Caddyshack legend, had the honor of providing the voice to the first major animated adaptation of the Commissioner. In The Batman/Superman Hour, Knight gave life to James Gordon while also voicing Alfred Pennyworth, The Riddler, Scarecrow, Mad Hatter, The Penguin and more. This is quite a feat, to have single-handedly distinguished the primary foes of Batman’s Rogues Gallery. Then again, this is the same wild man who called for “the ‘ol Billy Baroo,” so it’s not that much of a stretch.
As for the other series in the pre-DCAU lineup, The Batman/Superman Hour was the first in a long-line of animated series with Commissioner Gordon. From Super Friends, to The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians and The New Adventures of Batman, Jim Gordon became an increasingly valuable asset and friend to Batman. While his role was less dramatically engaging than recent adaptations, these early animated series helped lay the groundwork for Gordon’s future.
12 Batman: The Telltale Series
Episode 1 of Batman: The Telltale Series may have only recently been released, but it has quickly earned a favorable reputation. While the video game delivers solid action moments, it complements the visceral world of the Arkham games with its more thoughtful, narrative-driven gameplay. Batman: The Telltale Series starts by putting gamers in the driver's seat of the Caped Crusader's split psychology. While beating down baddies as Batman and navigating the political world as Bruce Wayne, users will also encounter a complex Lieutenant Gordon. Not yet the Commissioner, this Gordon is still climbing the corporate ladder and following the corrupt Mayor's will. While sporting the signature mustache and framed glasses, Gordon (voiced by actor Murphy Guyer) is masculine and gruff, clearly exhausted by his job and the rampant fraud around it.
In the first episode of the series, the Lieutenant begrudgingly executes a search warrant ordered by the Mayor. While his beat cops rummage through Bruce Wayne's belongings, it becomes clear that James is quietly questioning the Gotham City Police Department's allegiance. When Episode 2 becomes available next month, we'll expect to see Gordon forge a much needed alliance with Batman.
11 Beware the Batman
In Cartoon Network's Beware the Batman, the Dark Knight carries a healthy ego. His intuition is in peak form, and he proudly touts his investigative abilities as 'The World's Greatest Detective." Given the brashness of this CGI Batman, its not surprising that a younger James Gordon would align himself against the Caped Crusader. Indeed, they both appear to represent polar opposites of the justice spectrum. While his daughter, Barbara, believes in the value of Batman, Lieutenant Gordon considers him a criminal who must be treated like all the others eroding Gotham's safety.
Voiced by Kurtwood Smith, Gordon steadily becomes a sympathetic character who struggles to see Batman as anything but a villain. He views vigilantism as a distinctly criminal trait that must not be tolerated. After Barbara is endangered by Tobias Whale, however, the thick-necked Lieutenant eventually has a change of heart. This leads to some enjoyably droll sequences between Gordon and Batman as their fledgling partnership begins.
10 Pat Hingle, Batman 1989 – Batman & Robin
Pat Hingle was a distinguished actor with nearly two-hundred acting credits to his name. Despite his credentials, however, few Batman enthusiasts will consider his role as Commissioner Gordon among the most dynamic interpretations of the character. By no fault of his own, Hingle's Gordon seemed to be swimming out of his league for his entire four-movie stretch. Though he starred in Tim Burton's 1989 Batman and retained the role through Joel Schumacher's Batman & Robin, Hingle's Commissioner Gordon never amounts to more than a sideline cheerleader for the Caped Crusader.
While Hingle embodied the Commissioner's fealty to justice in Batman and Batman Returns, his talents were fully drowned out in the reckless theatricality of Schumacher's stylized Gotham. Towards the end of the ill-fated Batman & Robin, Gordon is seduced by Uma Thurman's Poison Ivy, to whom he surrenders the Bat-signal and access to Gotham Police headquarters. We're all for a bit of Batman fun, but not at the expense of the Commissioner's dignity.
9 Neil Hamilton, 1960’s Batman TV Series
The Batman TV series landed smack dab in the middle of the 1960's, full of the archetypes and humor of the era. Adam West's sensationally serious performance allowed the rest of the cast, particularly Batman's villains, to go haywire. Technology was still limited back in the mid-century, however, and Batman learned of his investigative duties via Commissioner Gordon. Played by the refined Neil Hamilton, this English-sounding Gordon has a mainline to Wayne Manor. In many episodes, and Batman: The Movie, Hamilton's Gordon uses the red Bat-phone to alert the Dark Knight of the latest criminal attacks.
This Commissioner is commanding and forthright, though he always seems to surrender his team's wisdom and instead resort to Batman's prowess. It's a hilarious study in gross incompetency. Every time the Gotham City Police Department strives to crack a riddle, they shrug their shoulders and turn their heads to the Bat-phone. Commissioner Gordon simply accepts their inadequacies and thanks his lucky stars that Batman is real.
8 The Batman
Out with the old, and in with the new. The Batman ushered in a fresh take on the franchise and ran counter to the established continuity. With animation led by Jeff Matsuda (of the Jackie Chan Adventures fame), The Batman presented a variety of aesthetic tweaks to the characters and world of Gotham while making its own mark on the narrative. Though left out of the first season's storyline, Commissioner Gordon (voiced by Mitch Pileggi) makes his grand entry in the sophomore follow-up. This Commissioner wastes no time vouching for Batman. While most of Gordon's dramatic arcs begin with him doubting the ethics of the Caped Crusader, The Batman makes the Commissioner his number one advocate from the start.
This series also involved Barbara Gordon and her Batgirl alter-ego (in addition to showing her in the future as the wheelchair-bound Oracle). The Commissioner's storyline overlaps with Barbara's, which helps make up for his less-than-engaging relationship with Batman.
7 Arkhamverse Gordon
The Arkham games are the culmination of Batman’s relationship with Jim Gordon. While Arkham Asylum puts the Commissioner in harm’s way and under the watch of Harley Quinn, Arkham Knight contains the reveal we’ve always wanted to see: Batman unveiling himself as Bruce Wayne before Gordon’s eyes. Considering he first denied the Dark Knight’s existence in Arkham Origins, and then vehemently rejected Batman’s vigilantism, Gordon comes full circle by the end of Arkham Knight. It’s hardly shocking when a de-cowled Batman tells Gordon, “You’ve been a good friend. The best I could ask for. You were there at the beginning, now…you get to see how it ends.” It's a moving moment in their truly storied partnership.
While the Arkham series has contained multiple depictions of Gordon (attaching different voice actors for each portrayal), all have contributed to his mythology. From his physically imposing stature in Arkham Asylum to his more vulnerable presence in Arkham Knight, these are among the most robust adaptations in Gordon’s career.
6 Recent DC Animated Films
The post-DCAU Batman oeuvre shows Gordon in his prime. After the Nolan films promoted Gordon to a central presence in Batman’s life, the animated world followed suit. Though he only makes a cameo appearance in Batman: Under the Red Hood, the adaptation of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns further enhances Gordon’s partnership with the masked vigilante. David Selby’s voice lends a curmudgeonly tone to this aging Gordon (that sounds highly reminiscent of Tom Skerritt), but that’s part of the appeal to Frank Miller’s adaptation. With origins stories and the awkward years in the rear-view mirror, the Commissioner knows Batman’s true identity and fosters a legitimate and honest friendship with him.
More recently, Richard Epcar portrayed Gordon in Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts and its sequel, Monster Mayhem. While those direct-to-video features were more focused on Batman’s marquee villains, The Killing Joke has since become the boldest adaptation of Commissioner Gordon. Though Gordon is accustomed to danger, The Killing Joke finds him in humiliating and degrading situations that only Alan Moore could concoct. Voiced by Ray Wise, The Killing Joke makes Gordon the setup and Barbara its punchline.
5 Ben McKenzie, Gotham
As the first live-action small screen adaptation of Batman since the 1960s, Gotham arrived on the scene with high expectations. While the show has been hit-and-miss with audiences, Ben McKenzie has established a compelling new take in the long line of Jim Gordons. Youthful, violent and impulsive, McKenzie's Gordon knows no fear. After joined the GCPD, however, he is moved by the sight of an orphaned Bruce Wayne and vows to avenge his parents. Though the Gordon of Gotham began with compassion, he steadily distances himself from the character's roots as an honest cop.
As season two developed (and as season three approaches), Gordon’s illicit alliance with the Penguin introduced a bevy of conflicting elements. McKenzie's Gordon has amassed a significant body count at a time when the new Commissioner seeks to purify the GCPD of its soiled past. For once, this Gordon may be on the wrong side of the law.
4 DCAU Gordon
Animation has the advantage of time. With eight-five episodes under its belt, Batman: The Animated Series had the luxury of building a rapport between the characters and the audience. It's little wonder, then, that Bob Hastings' voice became the gold standard for the Commissioner Gordon. Like Efrem Zimbalist Jr. achieved with his interpretation of Alfred Pennyworth, Bob Hastings owned the DCAU era of Gordon and appeared in almost every major release overseen by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini.
From The Animated Series and Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero, to The New Batman Adventures and Static Shock, the creative executives at Warner Bros. knew they found their James Gordon and never let him go. Indeed, DCAU Gordon's physical appearance only slightly changed throughout his twenty-year run. Featured with white hair and a sympathetic face, the Hasting's Gordon was clearly of the old breed. Virile and forthright, yet distinctly vulnerable, he was a fixture of Batman's animated world.
3 Gary Oldman, The Dark Knight Trilogy
Batman was lucky to attract Christopher Nolan, and Nolan was fortunate to bring Gary Oldman into Gotham. The brilliant character actor might not have been an obvious choice for the role, but Gary Oldman turned James Gordon into one of the best parts in The Dark Knight trilogy. We first meet him sans-glasses in Batman Begins with his comforting arms on a broken Bruce Wayne. In stark contrast to the cold and officious demeanor of Commissioner Loeb (Colin McFarlane), Sergeant Gordon promises young Bruce that the world hasn't ended. It's a touching scene carried by Oldman's palpable pity for the suffering boy.
After the Joker poisoned Loeb, Gordon moved from Sergeant to Commissioner and became further embroiled in the danger of Gotham. As his reliance on Batman grew, their partnership culminated at the end of The Dark Knight, when Batman allowed Gordon to use him as a scapegoat. From eluding Bane in The Dark Knight Rises to firing projectiles in the Batmobile in Begins, Gary Oldman's James Gordon is far and away the most exciting live-action adaptation on record.
2 Batman: Year One
Though it's called Batman: Year One, this Frank Miller adaptation is equally interested in the beginning of Lieutenant James Gordon. This origin story rewinds the clocks to the days when Batman was a new commodity and Gordon a fledgling officer striving to serve justice. Backed by the raw voice of Bryan Cranston, James Gordon chews the scenery with a rugged fearlessness equal to the Dark Knight. Armed with baseball bats and fully-loaded sidearms, this Gordon is downright mean.
While Bruce Wayne struggles to find his footing as the Caped Crusader, Gordon demonstrates his aptitude for combat by taking down enemies with brief cases and vicious haymakers. With ruddy hair and a mustache to match, Cranston's Gordon is the most fully realized animated version of the character. While being reminded of his integral role in helping Batman defend Gotham, we also witness the complexity of Gordon himself. Torn apart by his job and his family, his wife and his lover, this Gordon is as conflicted as they come. We can only imagine the results should Bryan Cranston ever take on a live-action role as Commissioner James Gordon, but at least for now, he's got someone standing in his way...
1 Honorable Mention: J.K. Simmons, DCEU
"Were you rushing or dragging?" Those who are familiar with J.K. Simmons' work in Whiplash know the actor's ferocious power. In the upcoming Justice League, the Oz veteran and former Sam Raimi Spider-Man alum will take the reigns of the new Commissioner Gordon. While there's no word on whether the requisite mustache will return (we imagine it will), we can confirm that this Gordon will be the most physically fit and commanding adaptation yet. Simmons hardly minced words when he distanced himself from the past by saying, "People of my generation remember Commissioner Gordon as this jolly, ineffectual Santa Claus type, and I think over the years in the comics there’s definitely much more of a badass side to him...I like the idea of Commissioner Gordon as a guy that can take care of himself, a guy that’s a real partner to Batman, not just a guy that turns on the bat signal and goes, ‘Help! Help, Batman!'"
Then there are the photos of Simmons pumping serious iron with veins screaming for relief. It's safe to say that this Gordon will be more in line with Batman: Year One and less with Pat Hingle.
What's your favorite adaptation of Commissioner Gordon? Let us know in the comments!