McGraw Bat-Signals "Commissioner Gordon"

Last week, CBR News spoke with artist extraordinaire Ladrönn about the covers he's created for the series of one-shots spinning out of Tony Daniel's "Batman: Battle for the Cowl," the DC Comics miniseries that sees numerous Bat-proteges and associates fighting for the right to become the next Dark Knight.

The first of said one-shot titles arrives in comics stores next week: "Batman: Battle for the Cowl - Commissioner Gordon." Written by Royal McGraw ("Detective Comics") with art by Tom Mandrake ("The Spectre"), the one-shot showcases Gotham's most selfless and most trusted non-caped hero, police man James Worthington Gordon.

CBR News spoke with McGraw about writing the legendary Commissioner Gordon, a character who made his debut in the same comic book that introduced the world to Bruce Wayne and his alter ego, The Batman, way back in May 1939, in "Detective Comics" #27.

CBR: First off, did this project spin out of your work on "Detective Comics?"

Royal McGraw: Not in any direct way, no. But that is not to say it didn't, either. Freelance writing assignments tend to have a "soft" quality to them - that is to say, you spend time getting a pitch for Project A perfect and, of course, it gets back-burnered. Meanwhile, because you were producing quality work on Project A, somebody offers you a chance to write Project Z. I guess what I'm trying to say is that things always work out - just usually not in the way you anticipate.

Are you a long time fan of Batman and the Batman mythos?

Of course. That's a silly question. Every last penny of my allowance went to buying the "Knightfall" comics. And how many times did I watch the two Tim Burton Batman movies? And the "Batman" movie game on the NES. And "Batman: The Animated Series." I'm fairly certain there were long stretches of my childhood in which every sentence I uttered contained the word "Batman." Actually, now that I think about it, this may be true of my twenties, as well.

For this one-shot, Commissioner Gordon is your lead. What makes him such a great character?

Because he is a great character. This sounds like a cop out answer, I know, so allow me to explain. Years ago, Bruce Wayne watched helplessly as his parents were gunned down in front of him. Now, as a direct result of this tragedy, Bruce feels compelled to dress up like a giant bat and punish criminals and, in doing so, avenges his personal tragedy over and over again. A lot of superheroes get origins like this. It explains the "why" of it all.

James Worthington Gordon, on the other hand, does the right thing solely because it is the right thing to do. There is no compulsion there, no mania driving him. He is simply a good man who does good - no matter the cost. And, oh boy, there has been cost. He lost a marriage, lost custody of his son, lost his second wife, nearly lost his niece. The list of horrors is interminable. Yet, despite this, Gordon still does the right thing every time. So, yes, it is a circular piece of logic, but Gordon is a great character precisely because he is great.

Mr. Freeze is a pretty cool villain. [Apologies - Editor] Was it your choice to include him in the book?

Yes and no. As I mentioned before, these freelance assignments tend to be on the "softer" side. While I was involved in the discussions of which villain or villains would make an appearance, I cannot recall who first said the word "Freeze." My guess would be that editor par excellence Michael Siglain had that flash of insight. He possesses wisdom beyond his years. For instance, when I suggested that Commissioner Gordon should square off against the ungentle ungulate, Zebra-Man, he pretended not to hear me. See? Wisdom.

All joking aside, Victor Fries is a fantastic villain. He wields awesome powers, draws on deep-seated feelings of loss, and exudes a peculiar kind of tragi-comic arrogance that is an absolute tickle to write.

God, I really want to say "He's frosty!" Because he is kind of frosty, you know, the attribute defines him, but I won't. Partly because it smacks of an Akiva [Goldsman, writer of "Batman Forever" and "Batman & Robin"] joke and partly because the day Frosties started shipping in chocolate and vanilla the word "frosty" lost all sense of mystery for me.

Any chance the Commissioner will be the next Batman after "Battle for the Cowl?"

Oh, yes. It could happen. But even if old J.W. doesn't wind up donning the cape and cowl, you shouldn't count him out just yet. A whole lot of very dark things are going down in Gotham and I promise you that Commissioner Gordon - one way or the other - will be right in the thick of it.

How so?

Well, think about this for a second: here is a man who entrusted the safety of his city to Batman. Batman then repaid that trust by disappearing twice in the space of a few years. Now, I wouldn't go so far as to say that Gordon blames Batman for all the havoc that is currently occurring in Gotham but I would suggest that Gordon will likely be a little more pro-active in his law enforcement techniques from here on out and also a little wary of offering that same level of trust to any vigilante ever again. Stay tuned. This won't be going where you think it will.

Will you be doing any more work on the Bat-books?

I am currently talking with DC about a few different projects - some branching directly out of this issue and the devastating events of "Batman: R.I.P." and "Battle for the Cowl." You'll be the first to know when the next assignment firms up.

And what about new work outside Batman?

There are a couple of excellent small press titles, "Warlash" and "Crawdaddy," that I've recently had some involvement with. You can find out more information about these titles and get links to their official websites via my website.

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