Comics on Film: The State of Batman in 'Dawn of Justice'

Comics on Film: The State of Batman in 'Dawn of Justice'

Dec 10, 2014

NOTE: This may contain reference to minor spoilers for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

As a massive fan and commentator on all matters related to the superhero, I tend to pride myself on, generally, being reasonable. While comic book and superhero fans are growing more prevalent with each passing year, and the characters continue to bleed over into other media, fans still have to fight against this image of being socially inept, awkward hyperbolists.

At the same time, though, fans who love the source material can also help point out that an adaptation of a previous work should be held to similar rules to a base story featuring the characters. In an X-Men film, Wolverine should have his claws, and he should come from a mysterious government weapons program that helps to give him his pathos. Superman should be the last known survivor of a distant planet, and be raised by a couple from the American heartland. These are just some of the things that make these characters who they are, and what makes them special when compared to others in similar genres.

So, when a rumor surfaces about one of the most fundamental supporting characters of an iconic superhero missing from a major story featuring that hero, I tend to get a little worried. Especially when that hero is Batman.

 

Detective Comics #27, and the Evolution of Batman and Gordon

Most fans of the Dark Knight know that he made his very first comic book appearance in Detective Comics #27 in 1939, now over 75 years ago. That story, "The Case of the Chemical Syndicate," introduced readers to the duel identity of Bruce Wayne and Batman, and the darker, harder-edged brand of heroism exhibited by Batman when compared to the more gung-ho, vibrantly colored adventures of Superman introduced the year prior.

In addition to Batman, the other major character introduced in that first story was the police commissioner, Jim Gordon. Gordon would prove to be nearly as timeless an icon as Batman himself, fueled by a similar desire to see justice carried out within the domain that would come to be known as Gotham City. As the comics evolved into a bit of a more grounded type of storytelling on into the 1980s, Gotham City became a more corrupt and dangerous place, making Gordon's virtuousness stick out like a sore thumb. The partnership between him and Batman became even more special, since they now exhibited a bond of purpose: cleaning up a city that desperately needed it.

On film, not a whole lot of service was paid to the dynamic between Batman and Gordon in the works of Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher. The 1990s animated series gave that service, though, followed by the trilogy of films directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Christian Bale as Batman and Gary Oldman as Gordon. Wider audiences were finally given a context for why these two men worked so well together, and had a bond beyond just typical friendship: they were allies, fighting a war together.

 

Batman v Superman

Which brings us to the forthcoming film featuring the Dark Knight. Taking place after the events of Man of Steel, the latest film will introduce the concept of a shared DC Comics-based cinematic universe, propelling us even closer to a full team-up of the Justice League on film. Batman, of course, will play an important part of that, but the new film will give us a decidedly different vision of Batman as he prepares to join the Justice League. One that is tired and weary, one that has battled many of his greatest adversaries, and one that has suffered loss.

The current rumor, as it stands, that one of those losses is Jim Gordon. Not within the film, but at some point in this Batman's past.

As an unexpected move, I have to hand it to director Zack Snyder and screenwriter Chris Terrio: if this ends up being true, then it will be a unique and fundamental way to shake up the world of Batman. Gordon has been at the Dark Knight's side even longer than Robin has been, and for comic book fans there are few alliances as sacred as the one between the mysterious vigilante and the solidly virtuous police commissioner. Still, though, that comic book fan inside me is "panging" a little bit. Not out of outrage or concern for the movie, necessarily, as much as concern for Batman himself.

Anyone who's read Batman comics for a solid length of time will tell you: in many stories where Batman has towed the line between fully abandoning himself to his darker instincts, Gordon has been the deciding factor that has pulled him back from that abyss on multiple occasions.

Without Gordon there to provide that moral center in the middle of the battlefield, what does that push Batman to do? What, perhaps, could he already have done? Of course, Batman is an intelligent hero who will likely do everything he can to potentially honor the memory of the commissioner if and when the time came, but the idea of that partnership not being represented in the new incarnation of the character's existence on film does concern me.

I'm a Commissioner Gordon fan. I think he's absolutely one of, if not the best supporting character in comics and on film. Will I still see the movie? Absolutely yes. Is it still worth looking forward to? Again, absolutely yes. I'd be lying, though, if I said I wouldn't miss those glasses with a wise pair of eyes behind them and a moustache below them, because without that man, Batman might be just a little less human than he would be otherwise.

As with everything, though, we'll have to wait and see what happens.


Chris Clow is a geek. He is a gamer, a comic book expert and former retailer, the Junior Editor at GeekNation.com, and a freelance contributor to The Huffington Post and Batman-On-Film.com. You can find his weekly piece Comics on Film right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog, and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.

 

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