The new DC Comics Cinematic Universe hasn't quite launched with the bang that Warner Brothers was hoping for, with the reception for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice being mixed at best. Though the fan response was tepid, there are still many chances coming to redeem the new direction, like the highly anticipated Justice League movies.
Commissioner Gordon has a rich history on the big and small screens and that legacy is about to be re-imagined for Justice League by none other than J.K. Simmons. As the cameras get rolling on Justice League, Simmons is talking Gordon and comparisons to his other famous on-screen comic book persona, J. Jonah Jameson, of Spider-Man fame.
In a recent interview with Collider J.K. Simmons drew some conclusions about the difference between playing the head of the Gotham City Police department and the head of the Daily Bugle:
"There are easy comparisons to make. I wasn’t a big comic book reading kid, so I did a fair amount of reading when I was playing Jameson, who was very much the comic relief in those movies. Even in the comics, he was a blowhard who was all bark and very rarely bite. My understanding, from what I’ve learned so far about Commissioner Gordon, is that he’s the older guy with the mustache who relates with our hero in a certain way. Other than that, it’s a vastly different character and much more of a stronger, impactful character in the DC universe."
Gordon made his first appearance on-screen in the 1949 Batman and Robin serial. Actor Lyle Talbot holds the distinction of portraying the first Gordon, in this version he was a dapper older man with a mustache, but other than that a pretty typical police commissioner. The next time we'd see Gordon in live action was the iconic version by Neil Hamilton in the 1966 Batman television series and the live action film. Hamilton's Gordon was a good friend of Batman and an eager, if not sometimes helpless, partner to his crime fighting escapades.
It would take two decades to get another on-screen Gordon, and the actor would reprise the role for four films, despite three director and three Batman actor changes. The role was taken by Pat Hingle, who began as a no-nonsense big city commissioner that was in pursuit of the vigilante Batman in the 1989 Batman film. This marked the first time that Batman and Gordon weren't pals on-screen. That doesn't last long, because by the time the sequel, Batman Returns, hit screens Gordon was already keenly aware that Batman was his ally. In Batman Forever and Batman & Robin Gordon had degenerated to a bumbling goof who was pals with the Caped Crusader, much like in the 1966 series.
The torch then passed to Gary Oldman in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. Oldman began the role as a younger Gordon, eventually gaining the promotion to Commissioner during the second film in the series. His Gordon was perhaps the most accurate to the modern era comic books that we've seen yet. The last Gordon of note is the brash, younger version of James Gordon on Fox's Gotham television series, portrayed by Ben McKenzie.
No matter which spin Simmons puts on the character, it was vitally important that Warner Brothers assemble the best of the best to pull off their new universe, and with J.K. Simmons on board things are looking up.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is now playing in U.S. theaters. Suicide Squad will arrive on August 5, 2016, followed by Wonder Woman on June 2, 2017; Justice League Part One on November 17, 2017; The Flash on March 16, 2018; Aquaman on July 27, 2018; an untitled DC Film on October 5, 2018; Shazam on April 5, 2019; Justice League Part Two on June 14, 2019; an untitled DC film on November 1, 2019; Cyborg on April 3, 2020; and Green Lantern Corps on June 19, 2020.