'Harley Quinn' reveals a hilariously tragic new side to Commission Gordon
The upcoming animated Harley Quinn series (premiering November 29 on DC Universe) delivers a ludicrous amount of hilarity and violence in its first episode, but between a buzzkill Batman and an amusing talking plant that’ll remind you of the testicle monster from Rick and Morty, the funniest character in the series is a version of Commissioner Jim Gordon unlike anything you’ve seen before. He might be Batman’s closest ally in the Gotham City Police Department, but he comes off as wackier than the Joker — and infinitely funnier to watch.
After catching a preview of the first episode in which Gordon casually flicks the Bat signal on and off out of boredom and then invites Batman to a BBQ at his house, Inverse spoke with the show’s co-creators Justin Halpern and Patrick Schumacker at New York Comic Con about their vision for Harley Quinn and what makes this version of Jim Gordon so grim yet hilariously weird.
“What would Commissioner Gordon actually be like if he was the Commissioner of the Gotham Police Department, saw what he saw every single day for 27 years, and never went to therapy? What would that look like?” Halpern tells Inverse. “He’d be so fucked up and constantly on edge.”
Halpern confirmed that Gordon has a “big role” in the series that might surprise viewers with a long arc for such a damaged man.
Harley Quinn takes place at a point in time where Batman, Harley, and the host of other heroes and villains in Gotham City have been around for decades. Within the first episode, Harley spends a year locked up in Arkham Asylum, dismayed because the Joker never shows up to bust her out. For Jim Gordon, it’s just another 365 very stressful days that inch him towards his third decade as a cop in a city full of superpowered villain.
Gordon’s just a regular man with a regular mustache who’s been collaborating with a buff dude in a bat costume to deal with serial killer clowns, a brilliant luchador addicted to venomous gas, a green lady who can somehow control plants, a crocodile man, somebody else who’s just sort of made out of clay, and — the list goes on and on.
“He’s got a thankless job,” Halpern says. “He’s doing the day-to-day grunt work, filling out all the paper work, and he’s oftentimes maligned. That ultimately drives a man to madness.”
Wouldn’t you go a bit mad, especially when superheroes do most of the heavy lifting, making you feel inadequate? He’s lonely and considers Batman a friend, but he Caped Crusader could care less.
“His marriage is falling apart,” Halpern adds. “He’s drinking too much and has no real friends.”
Voiced by Christopher Meloni, Harley Quinn’s Jim Gordon sounds like a manic, borderline insane Elliot Stabler (Meloni’s Law & Order: SVU character) or even his character from Happy, but Halpern and Schumacker say they drew inspiration from was of Meloni’s weirdest previous roles.
“Wet Hot American Summer was kind of a touchstone for the character,” Schumacker says, referencing Meloni’s shell-shocked Vietnam war veteran and camp chef named Gene who talks to a can of mixed vegetables and humps refrigerators in the middle of a crowded cafeteria.
Schumacker and Halpern urged Meloni to lean into these weirder comedic instincts with the character. “Our show never gets that wacky,” Halpern says. “Gordon never humps a refrigerator, but he does make some very interesting friends along the way.”
Similar to series protagonist Harley Quinn, Gordon’s arc is about defining himself on his own terms without focusing on his relationship to someone else. For Harley that’s letting go of the Joker. For Gordon that probably means that he needs to stop desperately seeking Batman’s approval.
If Harley is our triumphant, badass hero, then it’s Commissioner Jim Gordon who ironically becomes the farcical clown that delivers the bulk of the show’s comic relief.
Harley Quinn premieres November 29, 2019 only on DC Universe.