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 Gordon found annoying. ("Some day, I'll nail his feet to the floor.")
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.
When Councilman Arthur Reeves accused Batman of assassinating several mob bosses, Gordon refused to participate in the manhunt Reeves was trying to organize. "It's garbage, Councilman! The Batman does not kill! You want him, you get him. I'll have no part of it." Batman was eventually cleared.
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 known 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: after she was killed by Scarecrow, Gordon went mad with grief, and, discovering Batman's secret identity, sent the GCPD on a manhunt into the Batcave, and finally released Bane from Stonegate Penitentiary to bring him in. When Batgirl awoke from her toxin-induced coma, she decided to tell her father the truth. But Gordon said it wasn't necessary: he loved her and trusted her decisions, whatever they might be.
Some years later, after Gordon had retired, Barbara took his place as Commisssioner.
Character and Appearance
Gordon most often appeared wearing a trench coat and glasses. A hard-worker, he usually directs police business from behind a desk, but is still a handy shot with his pistol when necessary.
He is usually a mild-mannered man, which leads some unobservant people to believe he is easily intimidated - to their regret.
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.
Although Batman: The Animated Series was inspired in part by the successful 1989 film, that film's Gordon was portrayed as a well-intentioned but ineffective bumbler, whose main job is to call for Batman and then get out of the way.
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 GCPD, 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 GCPD 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.
The animated Gordon's marital status is not clear. He is shown living alone with Barbara, indicating that he is either widowed or divorced.
An ex-Marine, Gordon is still a tough fighter even in his old age.