An experienced police officer, James Gordon was also unique among many of Gotham's civic leaders in his trust of Batman.
Gordon was already Head of Police when Batman first appeared in Gotham, and was first on the scene at the tragic deaths of John and Mary Grayson. He was inadvertently responsible for putting the young Dick Grayson in Bruce Wayne's custody, fostering the friendship that would become their partnership as Batman and Robin.
Over many cases, he and Batman shared information and formed a strong friendship. Their respect for each other was equal: Gordon often felt that Gotham City would fall apart without Batman, while Batman felt that the city needed someone like Gordon watching over it "24 hours a day".
Despite their mutual respect, Batman still had an incurable habit of disappearing in the middle of Gordon's sentences, something that particularly annoyed him.
When Gordon received a near-fatal gunshot wound from an old enemy, Jimmy "The Jazzman" Peake, Batman was plunged into self-recrimination and doubt. He told Robin that Gordon was more than a friend, he was like a father—he was even the same age Thomas Wayne would have been had he lived. But Gordon recovered, and his never-flagging determination inspired Batman to keep going.
His daughter, Barbara, was also a skilled crime fighter. Although she was later trained by Batman, as Batgirl, on at least one occasion she credited her skills to being Gordon's daughter.
At one time, Gordon was framed by Two-Face for accepting bribes from Rupert Thorne, with the help of corrupt Deputy Commissioner Gil Mason. Barbara donned a bat costume and, with the help of the Dynamic Duo, cleared her father's name.
When Barbara was kidnapped by Mr. Freeze, Gordon made sure to let Dick Grayson know that he approved of his relationship with Barbara.
Barbara secretly feared that her father would disapprove of her secret life as Batgirl. When she was hit with a dose of Scarecrow's toxin, this fear became a full-fledged nightmare as she experienced an intense extended hallucination: after she was killed by Scarecrow, Gordon went mad with grief. Upon discovering Batman's secret identity, Gordon sent the GPD on a manhunt into the Batcave, and ultimately even cut a deal to release Bane from Stonegate Penitentiary to bring Batman to justice. The hallucination reached a violent climax as Bane double-crossed Gordon and used the Bat-signal to knock both Gordon and Batman off the GCPD roof, plummeting to their apparent deaths as Barbara finally bolted awake with a cold sweat.
Upon awakening from her toxin-induced coma, Barbara decided to tell her father the truth about her life as Batgirl. Barbara explained her nightmare to Batman, who told her that he understood. But when Barbara tried, Gordon said it wasn't necessary: he loved her, she's a grown woman, and he trusts her decisions, whatever they might be.
Years later, after Gordon had retired, Barbara eventually became Commissioner herself. In a discussion with Terry McGinnis, Barbara told him that her father was one of the few people who knew what happened to Robin the night Batman fought the Joker for the last time, and of the Joker's true fate. He promised to keep it secret, and likely did so until he passed away.
Character and Appearance
Gordon most often appeared with white hair, a thick white mustache, while wearing a brown trench coat and thick, horn-rimmed glasses. In his youth, Gordon had red hair like his daughter Barbara Gordon.
A hard-worker, he usually directed police business from behind a desk, but is still a handy shot with his pistol when necessary. He was usually a mild-mannered man, which lead some unobservant people to believe he is easily intimidated—to their regret. He also hated going to the dentist, which only worsened after he was nearly the victim of one of the Joker's infamous crime sprees at the dentist.
James Gordon is one of the most familiar faces in Batman's universe, one of his allies from the earliest days. He fulfills a necessary function of supplying Batman with information, and of shielding him from the disapproval and sometimes hostility of other police officers and civic leaders.
In the comics and animated media, Gordon is often portrayed as the "day" version of Batman, carrying on the same fight but through the normal channels. The parallel between the two men is explored in the comics storyline Batman: Year One, which shows Gordon moving from Chicago to Gotham to take up a minor officer's post on the GPD, at the same time Bruce Wayne makes his debut as Batman. Sickened by the corruption within the force, Gordon feels a grudging admiration for the vigilante, even as he is appointed head of a task force to catch him. At first, Gordon is committed to doing his assigned job, but comes to accept Batman's intentions, and his necessity, after Batman takes down a mob boss and saves Gordon's newborn son from a hitman. Batman precipitates a shake-up of the department's corrupt hierarchy, allowing Gordon to climb the ladder to commissioner. Elements of this storyline are incorporated into the film Batman Begins.
In the comics, Gordon has been married twice, and has at least two children. His first wife, Barbara, whom he later divorced, bore him a son, James, Jr. He later divorced Barbara and married Sarah Essen, a fellow GPD officer. His second marriage came to an end when Sarah was murdered by the Joker during the No Man's Land storyline. In the comics, Barbara (Batgirl) seems to have been adopted.
Sarah's death, followed shortly by a near-fatal shooting from an old enemy, convinced Gordon to retire, though he has since returned.
The animated Gordon's marital status is not clear. He is shown living alone with Barbara, indicating that he is either widowed or divorced.