Thursday, March 10, 2016

Talbot to Simmons, a Look at Commissioner Gordon Through the Years

As you've probably already heard, JK Simmons has been cast as Commissioner James Gordon and is set to appear in 'Justice League'. To commemorate the occasion, I thought it would be fun to take a look at his predecessors. I'm only mentioning the most notable appearances of Gordon in pop culture, otherwise we'd be sitting here all day (and I'm already working on quite an extensive list for something else).

 © Columbia Pictures Corporation
 Lyle Talbot (Batman and Robin, 1949)
While the first serial (1943) makes no direct mention of the Commissioner, this second serial begins with the Batman/Gordon dynamic firmly in place. In doing so, it would set the template of virtually all Batman adaptations to come. Also, if you're able to ignore the flimsiness of the costumes (or make it work by excusing it as realistic. That's what I do), this serial is absolutely worth a watch. It's definitely better than its predecessor. This is the only version I can think of that has the batsignal placed inside Gordon's office. Which, in a way, makes sense. Why would he want to go out in the shitty Gotham weather every time he wants to turn on the signal if he's the only one operating it anyway? Of course, meeting up with Batman on a rainy rooftop does look significantly cooler, so that option does win out in the end.

© 20th Century Fox Television, ABC
Is it just me or does Batman look weirdly awkward?
 Neil Hamilton (Batman television series 1966-1968, Batman the Movie 1966)
I'm generally excluding television on this list, but this one made it to a film, so it counts. Besides, how could I ever ignore West-era Batman? Playing the straight man in a show as surreal as this without coming off as insane for ignoring the weirdness around you can't be easy. Somehow, though, Hamilton manages to do exactly that. For this he should be applauded. Now, to make a superficial observation, I never understood why they didn't give him a moustache and a pair of glasses since that's the only thing stopping him from looking pretty much exactly like his comic book counterpart at the time.

© Warner Brothers
 Pat Hingle (Batman 1989, Batman Returns 1992, Batman Forever 1995, Batman and Robin 1997)
This is the Gordon of my childhood, live action wise. Never the less, I feel like there were some missed chances over the four films. Particularly his relationship with Batman was drastically underutilized. It makes sense in the first of the films, where Batman is just starting out, but in later films it feels like the character is unjustly pushed to the background. Never really forming the friendship with Batman we see in the comics. None of this is Pat Hingle's fault of course, he did fine with the little material that was given to him.

© Warner Brothers, FOX
 Bob Hastings (Batman: The Animated Series 1992-1995, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm 1993, World's Finest 1997, SubZero 1998, The New Batman Adventures 1997-1999, Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman 2003, several video games and cameos)
As with the 60's show, I'm counting this on account of film adaptations and it being inignoreable. In my eyes, this is one of the two quintessential Gordons (the other being the next entry). When reading the comics, Gordon's voice sounds suspiciously like Hastings' in my head. So, in many ways, he is to Gordon what Kevin Conroy is to Batman (one would struggle to find much higher compliments).

© Warner Brothers
 Gary Oldman (Batman Begins 2005, The Dark Knight 2008, The Dark Knight Rises 2012)
One of the very first promotional images releases for Batman Begins was that of Oldman as Gordon. It was at that precise moment that I knew Batman Begins was going to rock. His performance more than lived up to expectations. But that's not all that surprising, considering Gary Oldman is a god amongst men.

©Warner Brothers, FOX
 Ben McKanzie (Gotham 2014-still running)
I thought this Gordon was notable enough to warrend a mention. However, I have not yet seen 'Gotham', so I owe you the actual description. Will watch the show soon though, at which point this entry will be updated.

©Warner Brothers

 J.K. Simmons (The Justice League Part One 2017)
I like JK Simmons, but never once thought of him as a Gordon type figure. However, now that the concept is out there, it seems like some pretty solid casting. I'm sure he'll do well.

 Honorable mentions
Dick Van Dyke (Batman: New Times 2005), Mitch Pileggi (The Batman 2004–2008), Gary Cole (Batman: Under the Red Hood 2010), Bryan Cranston (Batman: Year One 2011), Kurtwood Smith (Beware the Batman 2013-2014)

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