“I Am the Night” episode retrospective and DC Collectibles B:TAS Gordon review

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The latest wave of DC Collectibles Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures figures were released this month. Each figure was modeled after a character’s appearance in a specific episode and, in the case of Jim Gordon, that episode is “I Am the Night.”

“I Am the Night” originally aired on 11/9/1992. It was directed by Boyd Kirkland and written by Michael Reaves, and stands as one of the heaviest episodes of the series, forgoing larger than life rogues for a story centered around a wounded Commissioner Gordon and a Batman who is feeling the burden of his mission more now than ever. This was the kind of territory Reaves liked to explore most it seems as he also wrote such gritty episodes as “A Bullet for Bullock” and “Vendetta,” the latter of which still stands as the only episode of a children’s cartoon in which a cop suggests to “drag the bay” for bodies. “I Am the Night” gets right to the core of what makes Batman so great: it’s not that he can’t be beaten down by enemies or life itself, it’s that whenever he is at his lowest he always finds a way to rise back up.

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Right from the beginning, with its dark title card of an officer down and a musical score that is anything but chipper, you know this will be a very somber episode. There’s nothing thrilling, triumphant or the least bit hopeful to follow this either. The story opens with a Batman who feels that he has accomplished nothing, that the war on crime is a lost cause. But by episode’s end, Gordon will remind him that it is the lost causes that are the most worth fighting for.

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The plot takes us from the cave to Crime Alley, it is the anniversary of the Wayne murders and Bruce wishes to leave roses on the pavement. Leslie Thompkins is there to meet him and as Batman laments his mistakes, Gordon and Bullock are across town with Gotham SWAT preparing to bring down a gangster known as The Jazzman, who mutters about a grudge against Gordon as he removes a machine gun from his guitar case. And no, Jazzman isn’t from the comics or anything and he never shows up in another episode. In fact, if DC Collectibles ever makes a Jazzman figure, you’ll know they are officially scraping the bottom of the barrel.

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Back in the slums, a kid named “Wizard” (played by Seth Green) is being threatened by a couple of thugs when Batman steps in to the rescue. Not only is Wizard ungrateful, but the roses meant for the memorial have been crushed in the skirmish. The symbolism isn’t lost on Batman, who sinks further and further into despair, eventually going so far as to quote Nietzche as he stares into the Batcave’s abyss.

After handing Wizard over to Thompkins, who might guide another orphan back on the right path, Batman joins Bullock and Gordon. The ambush isn’t going well at all, but Batman turns the tide. Sadly, when he fight is over and The Dark Knight and Bullock look for their friend, they discover Gordon lying face down in a pool of blood. It’s a shocking moment, but since the title card kind of gave it away it doesn’t quite sting as much as it should.

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Not only do you have to love Batman: The Animated Series for taking risks with more mature episodes that focus on the relationships and the psychology of the hero, but you have to appreciate the patience the cartoon showed when it came to setting up major heroes and villains to come. For example, rather than give us Two-Face early on, we got to know Harvey Dent as an ally across a handful of episodes. And here, in episode 49, when we come back from commercial break to see a hospitalized Gordon, we get more foreshadowing of Barbara Gordon’s transformation into Batgirl as she, more than anyone, wants vengeance for what has been done to her father. Fun Fact: “I Am the Night” also marks the first time we see Barbara and Dick on screen together in the series.

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While all other supporting characters attempt to offer Batman some sort of comfort, Bullock vocalizes all the doubt Bruce had in himself at the beginning of the episode, blaming him for what has happened to the commissioner. And with our hero at his lowest point, the words of the detective shake him to the core. It could be argued that “I Am the Night” is Batman at his most vulnerable in the entire run of BTAS and while you’re not likely to find many fans who would call it their favorite episode, it’s dramatic character-development chapters like this that explain how the series has resonated with audiences for almost 25 years. I particularly loved the following scene in the cave where voice actor Kevin Conroy delivers emotional lines that marry the pain of the Crime Alley anniversary with the shooting of Gordon: Jim is the same age Thomas Wayne would have been today if he hadn’t died…

Bruce makes the decision to throw away the cape and cowl, but it’s a short-lived retirement. Grayson gives him the pep-talk he needs and somewhere, deep down Bruce knows that there’s no walking away now. That the path he’s chosen will be one filled with tragedy, and he accepts that because he is strong enough to take Gotham’s suffering if that means keeping just a few innocent lives safe.

Jazzman escapes from prison with the help of an inmate who looks identical to Spider Conway from “Vendetta” (also written by Reaves) and, true to the words he said in the warehouse at the start of the episode, he hunts down Gordon. And as you can imagine, attempting to kill Gordon when there’s an angry Barbara and a rejuvenated Batman running around doesn’t end well for Jazzman.

Not.

One.

Bit.

As Jazzman is subdued, Gordon wakes from his coma and says to Batman, never knowing that the superhero before him had struggled with such terrible self-doubt, “Got to keep fighting. Never stop. Words I try to live by… Maybe if I’d been younger, I could’ve been like you. Always wanted to be a hero.”

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Now let’s talk about the toy that pays homage to Gordon and uses accessories taken from “I Am the Night.”

Gordon was sculpted by Irene Matar and features big solid feet so he stands better than most other figures in the line. Of course, if DC Collectibles and Matar were being truly 100% faithful to Gordon’s appearance in “I Am the Night” he wouldn’t be able to stand at all. And where are the hospital bed and oxygen tube accessories?! Kidding aside, this figure is fantastic in both presentation and construction. Shoulder articulation is great and the jacket is flexible vinyl so it doesn’t impede movement. Elbows are fine, wrists pivot back/forth and swivel, and the head rotates on a traditional ball joint.

I love that Matar sculpted a bit of a paunch so the shirt hangs a bit over the belt, it’s an excellent detail. Knees bend, but it makes the 90’s trousers look even bigger (almost MC Hammer-like) if you squat Jimbo too much. Feet swivel, but there’s not much up/down movement. Overall I’m pretty satisfied with how well Gordon moves, he’s not really an active/acrobatic character, is he? Face it, you’re probably just going to pose him aiming the gun or shouting into the horn.

Speaking of the bullhorn, it and the pistol comprise the two main accessories. Gordon also comes with a white plastic stand featuring turn-around animation and a clear double-claw to hold him firmly in place. However, Gordon is so sturdy that you can stand him firmly without this apparatus, which is nice. He also includes some gripping hands, trigger hands– like six hands in total that you can easily swap out. There are no peg holes on the bottom of the feet, but he doesn’t budge anyway. Figures like Nightwing, Zatanna, etc.? Now those are the toys that desperately need pegholes on the feet.

I love the paint job, I love the sculpt of the head (those glasses were perfectly realized), and just…overall I love this figure. I think it’s one of the best to come out of this entire series (Creeper is still #1. Seriously, it has the best sculpt, paint, and accessories of the collection).

Batman: The Animated Series Jim Gordon by DC Collectibles can be found at various online retailers and your local comic shop for $25.00 or less. Batman-News.com would like to thank DC Collectibles for submitting this figure for review.

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