The Commissioner Gordon
is a Reasonable Authority Figure
that acts as an ally to the local Super Hero
and provides the chief connection between the Super Hero
and the official authorities. In other words, he's the one in charge of the Bat Signal
. He's often a police detective or commissioner, but mayors, district attorneys, and other government officials can fill the role too. Whatever his job, he'll be trying to do good through legal and mundane means, while the hero's methods will be more exotic, and possibly (though not necessarily) illegal.
If the Super Hero
is loved and accepted by the community and the government, the relationship can be open and public. If the hero is in the "hated and feared" category, their relationship will probably be a source of political conflict for The Commissioner Gordon
. He'll try to to keep it a secret or downplay it.
How helpful the character really is can vary. He could be a bumbler that would doom the city if he didn't have someone helping him. When played straight, he'll be either a valued teammate or a begrudging ally. He'll make short work of most routine crime, but when a Super Villain
starts attacking the city, he know it's time to pick up the red phone
and call his partner.
A related trope appears in Private Detective
series, where the detective always has a Friend on the Force
. Compare also to the Inspector Lestrade
, who brings seemingly unsolvable cases to the Great Detective, and The Brigadier
, when it is applied to a senior officer in the military.
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Anime & Manga
- Batman's Commissioner James Gordon is the trope namer, and the various media include numerous different versions—much as the exact rank and function of The Commissioner Gordon as a trope varies depending on how cynical or idealistic the series is. In Batman: The Animated Series, for example, he's the commissioner by the time the story starts and is hesitant but supportive towards Batman; in The Batman, he's the new commissioner and the one that is responsible for changing the police department's behavior toward the Bat. In the Darker and Edgier Batman Begins, he's a lowly sergeant—lieutenant, though, by the end of the film—and possibly the only completely honest cop in Gotham PD (and even then "no rat", although he says there's no-one to rat to). (He becomes commissioner in the second film after Loeb's death and collaring the Joker.)
- Deconstructed at Batman: No Man's Land: Sarah Essen explains that Gordon tried to get a job outside Gotham City when No Man's Land was declared, but had been laughed at because he couldn't keep his city safe without the help of a vigilante. She warns the officers to not speak about Batman around him anymore.
- The Batman also featured, for the first two seasons, both Ethan Bennett (a personal friend of Bruce Wayne, who had a tragic accident and underwent a, er, Face Heel Turn) and Ellen Yin, before Gordon came along. What happened to Ellen Yin, you ask? Good question.
- Batman's sidekick Robin has had a few of these over the years; on his first solo adventure he befriended an ex-DEA agent who was on the same case as he was. When his book went solo, he encountered Sheriff "Shotgun" Smith, and recently he's been allied with rookie Officer Jamie Harper.
- Batwoman, who has replaced Batman as the starring character in Detective Comics, seems to be growing this relationship with Captain Maggie Sawyer, head of the Major Crimes Unit. They are still feeling out their relationship, having had only a single brief meeting while "on duty" as of Detective Comics #862, but the scene was juxtaposed with Batman meeting with the real James Gordon to highlight the parallels. Of course, considering that Maggie was previously seen hitting on Kate Kane when the two met at a society ball, their relationship might spread into areas that Batman and Gordon never went.
- Batgirl's police contact in the ongoing Batgirl series is Detective Nick Gage, an officer newly arrived in the Gotham City Major Crimes Unit. She also knows the real Commissioner Gordon both in and out of costume, as she is being mentored by Barbara Gordon, his daughter; her working relationship with Jim is relatively minor, mainly greetings-in-passing as they go to various emergencies. An unusual twist in the Batgirl/Gage relationship is the age disparity and Batgirl's infatuation with the detective, since this makes the real Gordon uncomfortable when he sees the obviously-teenage Batgirl clearly flirting with the thirty-something detective. It did, however, lead to one of the greatest line's Jim Gordon has ever uttered:
(As she swings by Gage and Gordon, giving Gage a smile and a small wave
) "Hey, you!" Detective Nick Gage
(Off Commissioner Gordon's look
) "What?" Commissioner Gordon:
"'Hey, you'?" Gage:
"No one raises an eyebrow when you talk to Batman." Gordon:
"I'm pretty sure Batman's legal, detective!
- In the comic Ex Machina, The Great Machine tries to establish a working relationship with the commissioner of the NYPD. She tries to beat him to death with a nightstick and when he gets her to stop smacking him she explains that his most recent "heroism" sent two of her officers to the hospital with injuries that could have been fatal. When The Great Machine drops his superhero act, runs for mayor under his real name and wins, he keeps the commissioner on, explaining that she was one of the first people to make him realize that his acts of heroism were not helping the situation and he needed to change tactics.
- Captain Josh Winters from Jon Sable, Freelance.
- Commissioner Eustace Dolan from The Spirit.
- When DC began publishing The Spirit, a not-quite-in-any-continuity Batman/Spirit crossover featured Dolan and Gordon as friendly rivals.
- Classic Superman had Inspector Henderson (originally from the radio series, then the George Reeves TV series, before becoming a Canon Immigrant). The current version (and the animated series) has Inspector Maggie Sawyer and Lieutenant-Inspector Dan Turpin of the Metropolis Special Crimes Unit.
- With Maggie in Gotham and Dan retired and possibly a fatality of Final Crisis, a new Inspector Henderson is now head of the Metropolis Metacrimes Division.
- In mainstream continuity Spider-Man has had a whole parade of police liaisons. The most famous are probably Jean DeWolff and George Stacy. They're both dead now. The closest fit post-BND is Captain Watanabe, who is Genre Savvy enough to give Spidey the benefit of the doubt when it looks like he's killed someone in an issue where several supposedly dead people are reappearing (naturally, Mysterio was behind it all).
- The Golden Age Starman had Woodley Allen of the FBI (the uncle of his Love Interest) and Inspector Bailey, as well as Billy O'Dare (although, as a beat officer, he was more of a sidekick). His son, the Modern Age Starman had O'Dare's son, Clarence, the police department's official Superhero Liason Officer (and eventually Comissioner), and his four siblings.
- During his run as one of the writers of Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Tristan Huw Jones introduced NYPD Liutenant Gordon Miller, who has a cooperative relationship with the turtles when it comes to street-level crime, particularly those related to The Foot and the gang war portrayed in "City at War".
- Shvaughn/Sean/Shvaughn Erin, the Legion of Super-Heroes Science Police liason.
- Kommissarie Pontus Kask in Bamse - if you count Bamse as a superhero, that is.
- In All Fall Down, ex-superhero Plymouth fills this role for Sophie, training her in the use of her powers and coordinating her efforts with the US Government.
- Daredevil has had a few through the years. When he lived in San Fransisco with the Black Widow, there was Lt. Paul Carson. After returning to New York, he had Lt. Nicholas Manolis (a subversion, since Manolis was eventually corrupted and then assassinated by the Kingpin). During Ed Brubaker and Andy Diggle's runs on the book, Detective Andy Kurtz.
- Moon Knight has Detective Flint, a low ranking over-the-hill Last DJ who's well aware that he and Moonie are both second stringers. Doesn't mean he likes dealing with him any more.
- In Paperinik New Adventures after a nasty first encounter, lieutenant Mary-Ann Flaggstar starts collaborating with the protagonist for things out of her jurisdiction.
- Robert Dowling plays this role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer where the SFPD are dealing with the vampire threat and once he clears Buffy's name for her misdeeds works with Buffy and Spike, enters into a relationship, then tries to hold out against a vampire nest. Due to circumstances beyond her control Buffy forgets about him, freaks when she remembers and tries to make amends and break up. Dowling is incredibly forgiving on both counts, to the point Spike and Willow are upset that he wasn't.
- Tucker plays this role in Facing The Future Series. As the Mayor of Amity Park, Tucker gains the resources for new ghost hunting equipment, and can use his political clout to shield Team Phantom from public scrutiny, as well as cover up some of their activities.
- Officer Albrecht from The Crow becomes Eric's biggest ally in his Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Unfortunately, his aiding a vigilante eventually gets him suspended, at which point he takes a more active hand in things.
- Monsieur Badoit is this for Pistolet in The Black Coats Salem Street
- Karrin Murphy of The Dresden Files could probably count. As head of Chicago's Special Crimes Unit she is more or less Harry Dresden's liaison to the Chicago Police Department.
- As of Changes, she's probably finished playing this role, and Ghost Story confirms this. Then again, Harry himself transcended the role of Chicago's protector and now protects reality itself, though he'll probably keep policing Chicago when it's needed.
- Police Commissioner Stanley Kirkpatrick who acted as both ally and antagonist to Richard Wentworth in The Spider.
- Subverted by Police Commissioner James "Wildcat" Gordon (yes, really) in The Whisperer series of pulp stories. He's actually the Whisperer himself.
- Detective Hardin is Gordon for Kitty Norville. She treats a loose werewolf like a serial killer, and a fight for dominance between rival vampires like a gang war as soon as dead bodies turn up, so she has to go to the local publically-acknowledged werewolf for advice sometimes.
- The Memory Wars: Although Lt. Frank Powell's relationship with Nathan is initially quite antagonistic, he has become this by the end of Silent Oath.
- Commissioner Gordon from The Sixties Batman TV Show is a example so straight, it could be a parody.
- Former detective, now beat cop, Quentin Lance has taken on the role for Oliver Queen on Arrow.
- In the various adaptations of the property, The Green Hornet has had his own The Commissioner Gordon:
- In the radio series, the Hornet saved Police Commissioner James Higgins from a blackmail plot. Higgins returned the favor by rendering the Hornet covert assistance and funneling him information. (The fact that Higgins was a friend of the family of Britt (the Green Hornet) Reid served to cement that relationship after Higgins learned the Hornet's true identity.)
- In the 1966 TV series, District Attorney Frank P. Scanlon knew that Daily Sentinel publisher Britt Reid was also The Green Hornet, and worked closely with the Hornet while maintaining the pretense of being after the Hornet, who was officially a wanted criminal. (William Dozier, producer of the series, was also producer of the contemporaneous Batman series, and converted Police Commissioner Higgins into DA Scanlon in order to minimize the similarities between the shows.)
- In the 1990s NOW Comics Green Hornet comics (which spun the Hornet story into a multi-generational saga), Police Commissioner Higgins was the ally of the first Green Hornet (Britt Reid I, the radio Hornet). The second Hornet (Britt Reid II, the TV series Hornet and nephew to the first Green Hornet) worked with DA Scanlon. The third Green Hornet (Alan Reid, nephew of the second Hornet) didn't serve long enough in the role to develop much of a relationship with Scanlon (he was killed on his first mission as the Green Hornet), but his successor as the Green Hornet (Paul Reid, his brother) worked with Scanlon until the latter's retirement. When Scanlon retired, Paul's cousin Diana Reid ran for and won election as Scanlon's successor, and she continued the close association with the Green Hornet that Scanlon had developed.
- Subverted in the movie, where Scanlon knows nothing of the Green Hornet's identity, and is trying to use Britt's newspaper to further his career and hide the fact that he works with the mob. Though Britt initially attempts to work with him, the closest they come is when Scanlon attempts to hire the Green Hornet to kill him.
- City of Heroes has a whole host of detectives, all of whom are Shout Outs to television/film detectives. The relationship is completely open, with calls for superhero help going out over the police radio.
- Detective Mosley of New Orleans PD, is this, as well as a childhood friend to protagonist Gabriel Knight.
- Twilight Heroes has Officer Rand as questgiver.
- Lt. Bernie Kominsky of the Apollo City police's Super Villain Unit works with local superheroines Lady Spectra And Sparky.
- Director Anderson of the Space Patrol in Space Kid
- From Lightbringer, Police Chief Eddie Crane is contacted by the eponymous superhero and remains his ally, though the mayor is not happy about this.
- Pretty much every Global Guardians Campaign had a The Commissioner Gordon. Some of the more popular ones were Aaron Stonebender (Mayor of Key West, Florida), Abigail Farmer (Chief of Police for Mobile, Alabama), Archibald Pertwee (Her Majesty's Liason to Majestic), and Captain Fiorello LeGuardia Perconte (Commander of the 52nd Precinct, New York City).
- Mayor Haggar in the Weebl & Bob "Team Laser Explosion" episodes; he usually only calls to say that he's been kidnapped.
- Red Panda has a reluctant one in Chief O'Mally.
- Shadow Hawk from Epic Tales has Lt. Luke Bennet.
- In the Whateley Universe, there's SWAT Captain Tilley of the Boston Police Department, who has officially deputized all of Team Kimba (after the fact), even though they're underage.
- The Fellowship from The Questport Chronicles has the Lord of the Supreme Council.
- In Batman: The Animated Series, one episode had not only the Trope Namer himself, but a politician named Corcrane taking this role to a new vigilante, "The Judge", in an effort to jump-start his career in Gotham — at least until Two-Face, who had barely survived a trap placed by the Judge, tried to use him as bait to kill both of them. When Corcorane tried to buy his way out with embezzled money, the Judge immediately tried to kill Corcorane until he was saved by Batman, who revealed the Judge to be a new personality of Two-Face. (Somehow, the Judge knew Two-Face's secrets and also that they couldn't meet in person but didn't figure out the reason was the fact they were the same person.)
- Commissioner Barbara Gordon, in Batman Beyond. The former Batgirl takes over her father's job, and was initially bitterly uncooperative to Bruce (implicit to have been her lover at some point in the past) and his young protege. She warms up a little to his protege after he saves the life of her husband.
- "The Mayor" from The Powerpuff Girls — A Stupid Boss. His level-headed and Sexy Secretary, Miss Bellum, fits a bit more.
- Mayor Blank from The Tick — a relatively straight example, in a very weird world.
- Cosgrove, on Freakazoid!, who was sort of a The Commissioner Gordon parody. Then again, what wasn't a parody on that show?
- Captain Fanzone from Transformers Animated. Okay, so he doesn't like machines much, but he's on their side, probably because they're rather more adherent to the law than Decepticons are.
- In keeping with the general superhero parody motif, Darkwing Duck had one of these: J Gander Hooter, head of the secret agency SHUSH. You're not cleared for what the letters stand for. This is highlighted when Hooter is taken out of action, leaving his number two in command: Grizzlikov, a by the book sort of guy who loathes Darkwing. Note that the real police in Saint Canard aren't overly fond of Darkwing.
- SWAT Kats had Callie Briggs, the Deputy Mayor. Sweet, sexy, and the heroic version of The Woman Behind the Man. When trouble threatens, Ms Briggs puts down the paperwork note and contacts the two mechanics/garbagemen/vigilantes with access to air force military hardware. She also openly flirts with them when they come out in their civilian guises after her car breaks down.
- Not that she knows it's them, though.
- Mighty Orbots had Rondu, who was literally A Father to His Men because one of them was his daughter!
- The Zeta Project had Agent Lee develop into this after the title character saved her life at great personal risk to himself. Unfortunately, she's not in as much power as most examples on this page, so actually helping him out is difficult. By the time Agent Bennett shows shades of this, the series is almost over.
- In Gargoyles, Detective Elisa Maza and later her partner Matt Bluestone are allies of the Gargoyles.
- In South Park, Sergeant Yates is this to Mysterion. The Coon also tried to invoke this with him, with less success.