Someone get Jeffrey Wright a DC Universe subscription.
Over the weekend, the actor and star of HBO's Westworld shared his weekend reading on Instagram, revealing that he's been doing some research into his newest role as Jim Gordon in the upcoming DC superhero movie The Batman from director Matt Reeves. While some superhero actors are often seen reading more recent comics, Wright is going really old school. And it may reveal the Commissioner Gordon fans will meet in 2021.
In an Instagram photo with the caption, "Background reads for the culture. In the beginning..." Wright showed a copy of Batman: The Golden Age Volume One, a trade paperback collection of the earliest Batman comics in history. The tome Wright showed off carries Batman's first 18 issues in Detective Comics (the anthology comic Batman debuted), and the first three issues of his own series Batman beginning in 1940.
As the earliest stories in Batman's 80-plus year history, not to mention the fact they were written for a 1939 audience, the comics make for some rough reading compared to other obvious influences of The Batman, like Batman: The Long Halloween or Batman: Year One.
Wright's deep dive doesn't just give him serious nerd cred. It's also telling of the noir tone Reeves is going for with his movie, which will portray a rookie Batman just two years into a long and painful career fighting Gotham City crime.
But do the comics also hint Wright's Jim Gordon won't be familiar? In these early stories, Jim Gordon doesn't look like the working class crusader against crime he's usually portrayed as. pick up any new Batman comic and you can smell the stale coffee and nicotine gum radiating from the Commissioner's breath.
That's not the case in these early Detective Comics issues that Wright is reading. Instead, he's a dapper, silver fox who likes to puff cigars with Bruce Wayne, totally clueless his close friend leads a life as the new "Bat-Man" fighting criminals. (And Gordon wouldn't find out for close to 75 years.) Gordon doesn't even formally strike a partnership with Batman until Batman #7, which is not included in Wright's copy of Volume One.
While the basics to Commissioner Gordon — older gentleman representing authority in the Gotham City police, forms a working relationship with Batman — have remained the same for decades, the earliest Batman comics didn't have the complete image of Gordon worked out. It took many years, many creatives contributing ideas, and changing cultural norms to transform Gordon out of his remarkable tailored suits and into the looser threads of an overwhelmed commissioner in a city overrun with kooky crime.
It's still possible the Gordon modern audiences are most familiar with will also be Wright's Gordon. But given that Matt Reeves is rebooting Batman from the ground up and bringing him back to his beginnings, it's just as possible Wright will also bring Gordon back to how he began: Relaxed on his home sofa and enjoying Wayne's company with a cigar in-hand.
The Batman opens in theaters on June 21, 2021.