A Love/Hate Relationship
There’s never a shortage of police shows on TV: Hunter, The Commish, Hill Street Blues, Third Watch, NYPD Blue, The Shield, CHiPs, C.S.I., The Untouchables, Cagney & Lacey, Law & Order (and all of its spin-offs), Cops, America’s Most Wanted, World’s Wildest Police Videos and the list goes on and on and on and on. Face it, we love our cops. They’re the thin blue line that separates us from the gun wielding bad guys that threaten our otherwise peaceful existence. They’re the first to put their lives on the line for us, the average working men and women. They’re our heroes.
We love them as long as they’re on TV. But when they step out of the TV and into our lives, we hate them. We hate them because they have power. They have authority. They have the ability to take away our precious freedom, and this scares us.
Oddly enough, this hatred of police officers seems to continue into the realm of comic books. Whenever Marvel, DC, or any of the other comic book publishers run a straightforward cops-and-robbers series, it’s usually canceled within one year of its run.
In recent years the mainstream comic book publishers have tried to branch out beyond the capes and tights superhero genre that the industry is built on—DC/VERTIGO and Marvel MAX are perfect examples of this—but we fanboys don’t want it. We don’t want anything but our primary colored heroes kicking the snot out of a cackling villain in some gaudy costume. And we don’t want anything else than our heroines in cleavage-revealing spandex performing high kicks to the bust line of equally sexy bad girls. (RE: The Baroness and Evil-Lyn anyone?)
But that doesn’t mean the publishers don’t try over and over again; sometimes they even hit a gem. Preacher, Transmetropolitan, 30 Days of Night, and Y—The Last Man are perfect examples of non-superhero comic books making it into mainstream comic culture. Still, where are the police books that mirror our love for TV cops?
They’re certainly out there, but it’s in the independent and mini-comic sections where you’ll find the best of the best. Jack Rabbit Maverick Dick and C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation are the first and only two that come to mind, that’s how few and far between these books are. Sure, we could throw in Stray Bullets for good measure, but that’s a crime book more than anything else.
Image has the superhero friendly Powers, the New York based Marvel Comics responded to 9/11 with The Call of Duty, and now DC has put out Gotham Central. As you might suspect by its name (and publisher) this new ongoing title is set in the same city that Batman protects, but unlike Image and Marvel’s police comics, Gotham Central builds on characters we already know. These are the detectives that hurry to a crime scene after Batman’s already done his (and their) job. They’re the ones he’s been delivering the evidence to for years, and now they’re finally taking center stage.
But, it’s a little too late. For years, through TV, movies and comics, we’ve seen the almost father-son relationship between Commissioner James Gordon and Batman blossom. Like all fathers and sons, they’ve had their ups and downs, with trust and loyalty sometimes flung out the window, but they always bounce back, having learned something about themselves and one another. But in the not so distant past DC Comics decided to shake things up for Batman and his fans, and through several stories (RE: The Killing Joke, No Man’s Land, and Officer Down) DC slowly built to Gordon’s retirement.
As a longtime comic book reader, I’ve always had a fondness for Commissioner Gordon. Here’s this damn good cop, a man of conviction, yet he all but handed over the city’s law enforcement to one man. What would compel such a strong man to do such a thing? This is what I’ve always wondered about Jim Gordon and now DC has finally decided to publish a comic about the GCPD, but with Gordon gone it’s too little too late.
No matter how pointed the writing is, no matter how gritty the art is, no matter how muted the colors are, no matter how accessible this book is to new comic book readers, I worry that without Jim Gordon, the most recognizable and beloved cop on the GCPD, Gotham Central will go the way of other mainstream police comics: retirement.