Thoughts on a Villain: James Gordon, Jr.

Scott Snyder’s rise to comics superstardom lay in his American Vampire series and his run on Detective Comics before the advent of the New 52. One of the most memorable events of Snyder’s run on Detective is the reintroduction of James Gordon, Jr., the son of Commissioner Gordon.

But James is nothing like his dad (or his sister, either). Junior is a psychopath. He is a menacing force that terrorizes the pages of “The Black Mirror” almost from the inception of the run. But what kind of villain is he?

James Gordon, Jr. starts out as this mysterious force, a blast from the past, if you will. He hasn’t been to Gotham in years. His activities are little known to his father. And barely followed by his sister, Oracle. How can the world’s foremost heroic hacker and information broker be stumped and stymied by her own brother? 

Oracle, however, suspects that her brother is not only a psycopath, but also a murderer. As the arc runs the course, that assumption is proven horrifically true. James Gordon, Jr. has to have a body count in the dozens, probably far more, if the box with keys is anything to go by. And it is clear that James’s first murder occurred when he was no more than ten. Scary. Hell, the kid even creeped out another serial killer. And, he gets on rather well with the Joker. Think about that. 

As the arc progresses, James Gordon, Jr. begins to take center stage as the main antagonist for the entire run. And, as such, there begins to be hints of a plan, of something sinister, at work. 

Junior’s plan is revealed to be two fold. First, he plans to poison the baby formula with a drug that will increase the likelihood that those children will become psycopaths like him. Secondly, he plans to murder his sister and stake his claim to being Dick Grayson’s Joker. 

During Barbara’s kidnapping, she calls her brother out. During the majority of the arc, Junior has been a menacing presence. In many ways, more frightening than any of Gotham’s usual array of villains. But, as his plans are revealed and take shape, James becomes just another villain, just another Gotham crazy. 

Is she right? Does James, Jr.’s shifting into more traditional supervillain territory render him less a threat than he was before? 

My reaction is to agree with Oracle. James is far more frightening when the reader doesn’t know what he is going to do. For Oracle, dealing with a villain that wants to poison baby formula to create more psycopaths (and then ham it up) is par for the course. But not knowing when Junior is finally going to come for her? Not knowing when she would, “wake up  with your hands around my throat,”? That is, I think, truly frightening. 

So, why does James Gordon, Jr. become just another bat villain? I don’t know. Perhaps it is the genre itself that forces the change. I don’t know. It does take a little bit of the bite out of the character though. 

And, of course, there is his moment of villainous hamming. Obviously, the intention is to cast James Gordon, Jr. as Dick Grayson’s Joker. Okay, now he is Batgirl’s Joker, but anyway. 

So, what does this tell the reader about Dick Grayson’s character? Well, it is plainly stated in Junior’s rant, so I won’t rehash it (if you haven’t already read Batman: The Black Mirror, you should).

Is a supervillain less frightening than a run of the mill serial killer (or psychopath)? Is that because the audience knows one is fictional while the other is, often times, too real? And, thinking of the impossible, what would a world where superheroes and supervillains really did exist look like? Hmm, thoughts for another day. 

Next time: I’m a teenager with superpowers. I want to be a superhero (or supervillain)!

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Posted on January 23, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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