Who Is James Gordon
As with any comic book character who has been around for decades (first appearance was in Detective Comics 27, which also featured the debut of a certain Dark Knight), Jim Gordon has gone through many retcons. I will do my best to make as much sense as possible out of them here.
There is very little detail available about Jim Gordon’s early life. The only two cities that come up repeatedly in his history are Gotham and Chicago, so it’s entirely possible he was born in one of those two places, but it has never been stated for certain, nor is anything known about his childhood or family. At some point, he joined the Army, and worked his way into the Green Berets, where he learned a lot about weapons, tactics, and hand to hand fighting. Eventually, he left the military and joined the Gotham City Police Department.
As a rookie officer in Gotham, he was disgusted by the rampant corruption in the city in general and police in particular, but he couldn’t do anything about it. Matters came to a head for the young Gordon when he was involved in an ugly line of duty shooting. A corrupt cop and his wife were stealing from a warehouse when Gordon ran across them. They started shooting, and Gordon fired back. Gordon killed them both in the fight, but their son, acting as a lookout, survived. He would later return to Gotham as the supervillain Wrath, a kind of twisted mirror of the Batman. To cover up for the corrupt cops, Captain Gillian Loeb arranged for Gordon to be transferred to Chicago.
Jim Gordon served with distinction in the Chicago PD. While living here, he met and married Barbara Kean-Gordon (also sometimes identified as Barbara Eileen Gordon). The two had a son, James Gordon, Jr. Also at some point in this period of time, Jim had an affair with his sister-in-law, which would eventually result in the birth of a young girl who would also be named Barbara. Possibly in part because of this affair, Jim moved his family back to Gotham City while his son was still a toddler (Pre-Crisis, Gordon had a son named Tony who was eventually killed, but there has been no mention of him since, and it is commonly believed he was retconned out).
Gordon was now a detective, and his time in Gotham was far from boring. Gordon met a detective sergeant named Sarah Essen, and began an affair with her. Gordon also encountered a man who had just embarked upon his own campaign to clean up Gotham — a vigilante who was called the Batman. Initially somewhat mistrustful of the masked man, Gordon would eventually become one of Batman’s most trusted allies. Gordon broke off his affair with Essen, and later, his wife left him, taking their son back to Chicago. Little to nothing is known of them after that point. Driven and largely alone now, Gordon fought his way up through the ranks of the GCPD, overcoming resistance from corrupt police and politicians, as well as dealing with entrenched gangsters like the Falcones, as well as the emerging super-criminal element. While still early in his career, Jim’s brother and sister-in-law died, and Jim adopted Barbara, who would later become the first Batgirl, then Oracle. Barbara was crippled, assaulted, and kidnapped by the Joker in an attempt to drive Jim Gordon insane, but he resisted, proving stronger than the madman had believed.
Years later, after Gordon had become Commissioner and married his former lover Sarah Essen, Gotham was wracked by a series of natural disasters and abandoned by the federal government, becoming a No Man’s Land. Gordon and a few dedicated cops stayed on, fighting for what was right. Towards the end of this time, the Joker struck at Gordon once more, murdering Gordon’s wife Sarah. Batman stepped aside and allowed Gordon the chance to take his revenge- Gordon shot the criminal in the leg, refusing even then to commit murder. Gotham was eventually rebuilt, Batman’s war on crime has continued, and James W. Gordon has remained one of his staunchest allies. Gordon has lost and regained his position as Commissioner, but always managed to regain his rightful place.