The Worst Batman Character’s Police Brutality Is Disgusting But Important

WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Batman ’89 #4, on sale now from DC Comics.

One of Gotham’s most complicated characters is Harvey Bullock, a longtime police detective on the Gotham City police force who has a morally checkered history to say the least. Despite not exactly playing the book and yielding to the temptation of corruption on more than one a occasion, however, Bullock has often proved that his heart remains in the right place. He even became a valuable ally to Jim Gordon and Batman, rising to the rank of police commissioner in the main DC Universe.

However, in the comic book miniseries Batman ’89, which follows the original 1989 Batman movie universe, this world’s iteration of Bullock not only is more morally dubious than his DCU counterpart but reflects contemporary societal ills that makes this version more reprehensible than ever.

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With Bullock absent from the Tim Burton Batman films from which Batman ’89 continues its story, the comic book continuation had a relatively clean slate in introducing its incarnation of the grizzled police detective. Bullock initially backed District Attorney Harvey Dent when the attorney became frustrated by Gordon’s complacency in allowing Batman to wage his own war on crime, completely outside the conventional jurisdiction of the law. While Bullock backed Dent’s attempt to oust Gordon from his position as police commissioner through a no-confidence vote, Bullock grew enraged when Dent changed up his focus to call out the growing inequalities and injustices facing Gotham’s marginalized communities, including neglect from the authorities and unchecked police brutality. As Bullock showed his true face, matters come to a head in Batman ’89 #3 by Sam Hamm, Joe Quinones, Leonardo Ito and Clayton Cowles.

After a devastating arson breaks out in Gotham’s lower-income neighborhood and razes one of its most important local businesses, the community embarks on a protest towards city hall to petition for official municipal action in rebuilding their homes and livelihoods. Meeting this peaceful protest is Bullock at the head of a legion of fully armed riot police, operating in opposition to direct orders from Gordon to stand down in order to prevent the situation from escalating. And while thankfully the new Robin manages to defuse the situation and prevent additional violence, Bullock is admonished by Gordon for causing the biggest humiliation in the history of the Gotham City Police Department.

In the comics, Bullock was introduced by Dough Moench and Don Newton in 1983’s Batman #361 as a corrupt cop working to discredit and oust Gordon before turning over a new leaf and working for the good guys again. The Post-Crisis DCU would expand on Bullock’s more sordid history, including taking bribes, having links to organized crime and roughing up suspects. Bullock temporarily leaves the police force after he tips off the mob to kill a vengeful crooked cop, his darkest moment in the main DCU, but rejoins the force and works towards his redemption.

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So far Batman ’89 has shown a surprising amount of social conscience that certainly was not in the films that it narratively springboards off of and, in some ways, more than the main DCU comic book currently being published. The new Robin embodies the voice of the societally oppressed and the neglected, empowering the marginalized within Gotham with their own folk hero to represent them in a way that a certain billionaire playboy Caped Crusader never could.

To drive this timely, relevant message home, Bullock has been reimagined as the personification of corruption and abuse of power that his main DCU counterpart only hinted at making as big an enemy to the wellbeing of Gotham as some of its colorful supervillains.

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from Ultimate Comic Blog

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