Over the years, Commissioner Gordon’s been a notorious nicotine fiend. I’m okay with that. I know it’s a part of the history of the character. He’s bounced from pipes to cigarettes and back again. I’m not going to get all politically correct here because it’s a part of his image, and I know it’s hard to quit. The problem here though, is that DC has had him quit puffing the old cancer sticks before, and for all the right reasons, so why not keep him that way?
There were three men in a boat with four cigarettes and no matches. How did they manage to smoke? That was one of the earliest riddles given by the Riddler in the classic Batman ’66 TV show’s first episode, Hi Diddle Riddle. That was before the riddles got so hokey that ball-point bananas and lie-berries were the answers, of course. And if you need the answer to the one above (and enjoy some clever word-play), the answer is:
They threw one cigarette overboard, and the boat became a “cigarette lighter”.
Well, I guess it was only a matter of time before that cigarette which was thrown overboard finally showed up again. It reappeared in Batman #1, in the hand of Commissioner Jim Gordon. It had nothing to do with the story and the Riddler was nowhere around, but that image of him lighting up a cigarette was still puzzling for me regardless. This is one conundrum which has me stumped, and maybe someone out there can help me figure it out…
So riddle me this, readers: Why is Commissioner Gordon smoking again?
Sure, when he became the all-new Batman for a while he quit smoking. Again. That was the story, and I guess it was necessary that he smoke before he quit in order to show how serious he was about taking on the mantle of the Bat.
But more importantly, years ago, they once gave him a freaking heart attack brought on by smoking! It was a public service announcement they ran in DC comics back in 1993, and it remains an iconic and haunting image which still gets the message across even now. In fact, that was the first thought which crossed my mind when I suddenly saw him once again brandishing a cigarette. Because when they ran that advert, the comic books followed suit at the time, and they didn’t show him smoking again for quite a while. They kept their word that Jim Gordon had learned the simple truth that smoking kills.
The non-smoking Commissioner Gordon wasn’t any less of a character for having quit smoking. In fact, he seemed better than ever. But now, once again, he’s back on the nicotine bandwagon, and that image of him smoking again didn’t make him seem tougher. It may be an image fans are familiar with, but it seemed so unnecessary. It was a small thing, and certainly wasn’t the worst thing about the issue, but it just felt wrong to me.
Thanks to some less-than-stellar issues, nobody has any clue what DC’s Rebirth even is anymore. With every passing issue of each comic, it seems less about hopeful, brighter beginnings and more about superficial changes to their dismal 52 universe only to boost sales. Maybe it’ll get better, but I’d hate to think that DC’s Rebirth is simply an excuse to bring back some of the worse ideas from older comics, as well as a couple of good ones.
Smoking may be a part of Commissioner Gordon’s past, but it has little place in the present and the future.
Like the Electric Blue Superman, AzBats, Aquaman riding a giant pink seahorse, Wonder Woman becoming a kung-fu secret agent and Hal Jordan becoming a psychopath, it’s something best left behind. If it’s John Constantine, fine, let him smoke himself silly because for him it’s practically a character trait and led to the excellent Dangerous Habits storyline where he had lung cancer. But Gordon? No. Not after that public service advert years ago. That hit home harder than many full Batman stories.
Granted, I can’t imagine too many kids being inspired to want to grow up to become Commissioner Gordon. On playgrounds all around the world, kids pretend to be costumed heroes, not the guy who stands on a rooftop telling them who the latest villain in town is. So sure, kids aren’t going to look at him like he’s a role model in any way. That’s probably a good thing because nobody wants to grow up to become a man whose marriages ended in infidelity, divorce, and murder, has a psychopathic son, a daughter who was paralysed, became hated by his own police force for exposing corruption and then a laughing stock because he relies on a vigilante.
Still, Gordon’s a great character and one the fans love. He has heart. He’s a tough cop and proud of it. He may not eat right, exercise or take vacations, but he’s one of our heroes. He doesn’t need a smoke to jump-start his day, to get him through the night or to mellow out the long hours anymore. Over the years, DC has run a lot of anti-smoking adverts. Messages like Tobacco Is Whacko If You’re A Teen hopefully inspired kids to make the right choice, yet none of them got the message across, like Gordon having a heart attack.
But now he’s smoking again, so what does that say? I know it’s a story choice, but it just seems like a poor one, especially so soon after the passing of DC legend Darwyn Cooke from lung cancer just a few months ago. Come on, DC, if you’re going to try and have us believe in your heroes again – better heroes, which we need, as you would say, now more than ever – then start by getting the basics right. Gordon’s a fictional hero and it doesn’t make him less of one in my eyes if he’s smoking… but he could be more if he wasn’t.