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Bizarro Back Issues: Commissioner Gordon vs. the Space Alien (1978)

Who’s the most normal member of Batman’s vast supporting cast? Well, even during the most bizarre years of Batman’s career — the age of Bat-Mite and Bat-Hound, the Zebra Batman, King Batman the First, Rip van Batman, and travels to alien worlds and different eras in time — at least one element of the Batman comic books remained relatively Earthbound: Batman’s pal Commissioner James Gordon. Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson were zipping around the world and across the cosmos, but Gordon stayed stoically behind his policeman’s desk, doing paperwork and carefully nurturing his ulcer. Throughout his long career, Jim Gordon has remained the everyman in a world of costumed freaks and superhumans, a guy whose existence (give or take a No Man’s Land or two) is just like yours and mine.

And then there was the time that Commissioner Gordon killed a space alien.

It all happened in Batman’s team-up title The Brave and the Bold #139 (January 1978), with art by one of the finest Batman pencillers, Jim Aparo, and script by one of the wonderfully wackiest writers on the DC Comics staff, Bob Haney. As William Dozier would have announced if this were an episode of the 1960s Batman series, “It’s another beautiful day in Gotham City!” Except there’s one small problem: Hawkman is there because there’s an alien bounty hunter on the loose, rampaging through Gotham and ruthlessly hunting down criminals! Batman’s having none of that (That’s his job!).

Here we see the bounty hunter’s space ship approaching Earth, which is noticed by Hawkman. Not too subtle! He should’ve just caught a ride with Space Cabbie. “Wait here…I’ve got a perp to find.” “Okay, but the meter’s running.”

Just what kind of crook could have committed crimes against intergalactic law so heinous that it would require extradition from America’s Paragon of Urban Decay? Carmine “The Roman” Falcone? Sal “The Fish” Falcone? Jimmy “I Have No Nickname” Falcone? Matches Malone? Harley Quinn? The Clock King? Orca the Whale Woman? Marsha, Queen of Diamonds? Nope on all of these!

Consternation uproar! Gotham’s most law-abiding man, Commissioner James Gordon, the man so good his middle name is “Worthington!” The man who cleaned up the mob, cleaned up the corrupt police department, and let his daughter his niece Barbara Gordon answer the door without checking to see who was there first! (Um, forget that last one.) That Commissioner Gordon?

So startling is this revelation, Batman stutters! “Gordon’s never been in outer space!” declares Batman. Actually, unless it’s been erased under New 52 continuity, Batman’s forgetting all those adventures that ran as Mystery in Space backups during the 1950s in which Jim Gordon served a couple years as a IPD (Intergalactic Police Deputy), cleaning up cosmic crimes and far-away felonies. Sure, it was hard to believe that Gordon would still smoke his pipe in all those artificial oxygen-rich atmospheres, but those were great stories, darn it!

Gordon’s denial of the accusation should be cool and reasoned and completely and totally believable! Actually, though, he’s sweating like a superperp under the white-hot bat-lamps. He’s acting so guilty that in another universe completely, Daredevil heard Gordon’s heart beat faster as he lied.

A hardened and professional policeman, Gordon holds onto his cover story for the length of one panel gutter before collapsing like a blubbering mess into the Batman’s strong, sympathetic, manly bat-arms. I’m thinking it’s a good thing that Gordon was never a secret agent because he’d be terrible keeping secrets from torturers. Except, of course, in the 1960s Detective Comics backup feature “Gordon, OSS,” in which a young Jim Gordon, Alfred Pennyworth, and Mademoiselle Marie ran guns and information for the French underground, taking their assignments from Ice Cream Soldier. Am I the only one who remembers all these great Gordon backup stories? Geez, DC ought to republish these in a big fat Essential Commissioner Gordon paperback.

Anyway, check it out: Aparo drew big guilt lines all around Gordon’s head!

Flashpoint! I mean, flashback! It’s the late 1930s (which means Commissioner Gordon is approximately 95 years old right now! It’s a good thing he and J. Jonah Jameson both took the life-extending Infinity Formula during the 1970s DC/Marvel crossover classic Frank Rock vs. Nick Fury treasury edition! … You should probably disregard everything in this parenthesis). While investigating a mob boss, Gordon sneaks onto the crook’s estate property — exactly in the job description of every new rookie cop on the beat. Suddenly, a blinding flash! No, not Jay Garrick, but brilliant, almost blinding light through which Gordon sees a figure raise a left hand far above its head. Gordon immediately shoots the figure. Did you think he was going to ricochet a gunshot off the moon, Jimbo?

“He pulled a ‘hi’ on me…I had to shoot him!”

Uh oh, Young Jimmy Gordon! That perp you just shot was an alien making first contact on Earth! Maybe this is why the alien races of the DC Universe hate Earth. “We, the combined races of Universe-1, have sent one selected member among our many species to offer a branch of peace to this planet Earth. With their great capacity for intelligence and compassion, they will surely welcome us and offer to exchange ideas and cultures with us…oh no, wait, they shot him.” The aliens’ eventual revenge? Picking Hal Jordan as Sector 2814′s Green Lantern.

“Well, this is one E.T. who won’t be…phoning home.” (whips on sunglasses, music by The Who starts playing)

Well-trained and ethical man that he is, Jim Gordon immediately hides the body to cover up his crime. Gordon’s reasoning: Orson Welles’s infamous War of the Worlds broadcast at Halloween, 1938. Also: the appearance that year of that pesky red-yellow-and-blue garbed alien over in Metropolis who insisted on wearing his underpants on the outside, frightening powerful labor and union leaders. Well, he’ll learn to wear them on the inside sooner or later.

Commissioner Gordon readily admits that he’s guilty of a crime and of covering it up, but Batman’s not sure. ORLY, Batman?

Batman’s pretty quick to acquit his pal of a covered-up accidental crime. The way Batman sees it, this was a mishap and Gordon’s record since then has been so exemplary that this alien bounty hunter has to be in the wrong!

Let’s look at it a different way for a moment.

Young alien Br’yne was so excited that his dad took him on a trip to Earth, his favorite planet! So infectious was his delight that his father, Th’yne, ignored his usual good sense and piloted his spaceship through a shortcut, an area of Earth that his home planet had named “Crm’lly”… a region of ill-repute and danger. Suddenly, from out of the darkness, a weapon fired twice, and Th’yne fell to the ground, mortally wounded, his ceremonial p’rl bead necklace breaking and falling around him.

Br’yne returned to his home planet and vowed to become a force against the evil that murdered his father that fateful night. He studied under the greatest crimefighters in the galaxy, honing himself into the universe’s greatest warrior against law-breakers. But, his tactics against the underworld still lack something. A drama, a flair…what? Br’yne contemplated this in his space home when suddenly: A bounty hunter was thrown through his domicile’s force screen, landing at By’rne’s feet! “That’s it!” he declared. “I shall become…a bounty hunter!” “Very good, sir,” said Al’ed, his faithful robot servant. “Shall I warm up the Bounty-Huntermobile?”

Makes ya think, doesn’t it?

Back on Earth, we’ve got a Brave and the Bold story goin’ on and there’s no time for Imaginary Stories or What Ifs, because Commissioner Gordon has spent an entire issue practicing his Big Dramatic Shakespeare Speech, and he must get it out without flubbing it:

Batman and Hawkman (oh yeah; forgot he was in this story) leap to Jim’s aid by jumping in front of the shot!

Surprise! It’s all OK that James Gordon shot a man-lien and then covered it up, defying both Earth and cosmic laws, because he has two pals who fight for law and order. The moral of the story, boys and girls? Have two friends who are lawmen. You’ll be glad you did!

End of episode: freeze frame on everyone laughing uproariously after Sergeant Bullock says something funny about donuts. Batman wryly observes that Gordon will have no sad songs sung for him (directly countering the wisdom of the great Elton John).

I’d like to think this whole meshugganah story still exists in continuity, even in today’s grim Dark Knightiverse. And if it doesn’t, well, then DC should re-make it! Except this time I’d replace the generic alien bounty hunter with kickass 1990s DC character Lobo.

This ends The Brave and the Bold #139, and nobody ever mentioned that time Gordon shot an alien again. Well, until eight months later when DC built another entire story around the event in World’s Finest #252. But that’s a Commissioner James Gordon with alien-shooting action story for another time!

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