One of my favorite tropes within the superhero genre is the concept of legacy heroes. These are characters who pass down or have their mantel appropriated by an array of individuals across time. The Flash and Robin are two examples of heroes that had multiple characters take up the mask in different periods of history for numerously varied reasons. In the instance of Robin, some of the characters had tragic backstories where they witnessed the death of their loved ones whilst others were simply caught stealing the Batmobile’s tires and given the job. The cool thing about legacy heroes is how everyone has their own favorite of the bunch. It is endlessly interesting to see how each person’s choice is so different but at the same time so alike someone with a completely different favorite character. There is one superhero in particular has a ton of individuals that have taken up the mantle through his long life in the comic industry with all of them having their own share of enthused fans. I am, of course, talking about the grumpiest chum of Gotham City: Batman.
Go ahead and google Batman Replacements to see who has already taken up the name of Batman in the main DC universe and you will be overwhelmed. Not only do each of the Robins become Batman at some point, but there are a seemingly endless futures and alternate timelines with superheroes that haven’t even been born yet that may become the Caped Crusader. Out of all of those choices, however, there is one character that stuck out to me as a prime candidate to replace Gotham’s favorite billionaire crime fighter. That person is Commissioner James Gordon, and he is my favorite successor to the Dark Knight by a nano meter (Dick Grayson and Terry McGinnis were really close). He only wore the cape and cowl for 10 issues (among a handful of guest appearances in other series) during Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Superheavy Arc, but Gordon stuck out as the prime candidate to be the new darkness/night/Batman for 3 reasons.
I like the set up of Jim Gordon’s RoboCop-esque position in the government. He functions as a police officer of sorts, but he is given more resources and a team to work with for bigger cases. Also, Jim wears a mechanical exo-skeleton that makes him look like a bunny-eared behemoth, so kudos there. While I am a huge fan of the man against the world type of backstory where someone has to fight against the system to save the world from itself, the concept has been executed to death. Maybe a “legal” Batman is exactly what to world needs to shake up the status quo, especially when Jim Gordon is the one at the
helm cowl. He’s a spectacular police officer with years of experience, but he isn’t an all-knowing god. Other characters are given a chance to shine when the situation gets dire instead of them simply waiting for Batman to show up to automatically fix everything. This allows the city as a whole to feel as though they are saving the day, which would (hopefully) bring everyone closer together during times of terror.
Also, I love this Batman’s toys. Bruce Wayne may utilize a mechanized suit every once in a while (quick shout out to Greg Cappullo’s spectacular art and designs), but I have fallen in love with the mechanical marvel that Jim Gordon lovingly dubbed “Rookie”. On top of that, there is a humongous Bat Truck along with a Bat Blimp that is at his disposal at all times. It sucks that Jim’s tenure as Batman was so short because I wanted to see each tool be used to the fullest. The only time we see the Bat Truck is when it is tossed out the Bat Blimp to flatten a giant brick Batman (this series gets kind of weird at times). The cool thing is that, despite all of these tools and teammates that he utilizes, Jim also still has room to use his own skills and long years of knowledge on the force for his advantage. The tool are just an extension of the man to solve a dilemma as opposed to them being a deus ex machina.
Another aspect of Jim Gordon as Batman that I enjoy is how he is more public in his actions. Bruce Wayne definitely does his fair share of charity work that has kept the city afloat for years, but the majority of his activities to help his home are done in secrecy with a cowl. I get it, he’s a character that uses mystique and symbolism to show anyone can stand up to save the day. Bruce also does a lot with his money to provide for the community in a way that he can’t do with his time that is endlessly important for countless Gotham citizens. That said, there is a value with a hero being visible in more than just charity work. People like the feeling that their guardians are more than just stoic figures that they only see once if they are lucky. Being able to interact with them allows a community to grow closer to these individuals and more willing to help them during times of need. Jim Gordon, in the 10 issue run, definitely had to work in the shadows at times to get information to solve a case. But he also made an effort to be seen in the daylight and keep the public informed of any situations so that they would know that there is someone out there protecting them from giant plant-themed super villains.
Side Note: I should add that Jim Gordon doesn’t want to be the big man in charge that rules the city with an iron fist. If anything, he wants to do what Bruce does: inspire his community to do better through example. He also wants to show the world that the systems in place do work and that they can be there for you. In that regard, he sort of like Captain America with mechanical bat armor instead of a shield.
Note 2: Marvel, please give Captain America a mech suit in the comics.
I cherish Bruce Wayne as Batman and the major lesson he teaches people: loss does not have to lead to tragedy. With a ton of hard work and perseverance, anyone can overcome any pain inflicted upon them to turn it into a positive. The problem with Bruce is that, at times, his internal pain can also be his greatest weapon. He not only pushes those he cares about away but he can also put himself through inhuman challenges because he believes that he needs to make up for short comings. While Jim Gordon is no stranger to tragedies big and small, these things do not motivate him to do the right thing. He is a simple character to understand: he wants to do the right thing because he feels as though he has a duty to help his community. Jim definitely has his moments of turning away from those he cares about, but he is more quickly to turn to them when the situation demands it. In short, I appreciate Jim Gordon because he shows that tragedy does not always have to be a guiding force to do the right thing.
Every superhero works in their own way. What is inspiring for me may not hit you in the same spot, and that’s alright. Differing opinions are what makes the world a more varied and interesting place. Comment below about your own favorite Batman and see what other people choose. Maybe even take some time to think about why someone made their choice to expand your horizons. And if you get the chance, pick up a few issues of the discussed character’s run to see if it is something you would enjoy. Who knows, maybe trying new things may help you discover a part of yourself that you never thought existed.
I’ve been Superguy, and you’ve been awesome.Go Batman!