Politics in the DCU have always fascinated me. But instead of a sociopolitical examination of superhero comics, I thought I’d take a more direct look at a specific aspect of politics in direct relation to chronological narrative. In other words, I wanted to crack open some back issues and take a simple gander at who hung their hat on the mayoral hatrack for the city of Gotham. Once upon a time, before the New 52, there was the glorious Modern Age of Comic Books. Gotham City of that era was quite a different place with quite a different history. The highest elected official of the most corrupt city in America always had it rough. Let’s look at these much-maligned mayors of Gotham.
The first mayor of Gotham (when Batman debuts) is Wilson Klass, who we first see in the amazing “none of you are safe” speech from Batman #405 (Frank Miller’s “Year One”), which takes place in his palatial tax-fraud mansion. Klass isn’t actually mentioned by name until “Prey” by Doug Moench/Paul Gulacy (Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #11), which overlaps with Miller’s “Year One” in November.
Following “Prey” and “Year One,” Klass is removed from office, having been outed as a corrupt politician in league with the gangsta Falcones and clown-connoisseur Gillian Loeb.
Next up is Mayor Gill (first name unspoken), who believe it or not only is mentioned once by name in a lone Legends of the Dark Knight issue—LOTDK #170, part of the 2003 “Irresistible” arc by Tom Peyer/Tony Harris. Harris models Gill after Richard Nixon and Peyer pens him as the winner of a recent election (obviously the one to replace Klass). The exact placement of the whole “Irresistible” arc is tricky, but it seems to begin towards the end of Miller’s “Year One” and end somewhere in Year Two, thus linking the election that occurs directly to the aftermath of Klass’s fall from grace.
Throughout the first ten years of Batman’s career, following Klass’ removal, Gotham’s mayor either appears or gets mentioned multiple times in various different Bat-books. However, as noted, the only time a specific name is mentioned in this “Year One Era” in conjunction with the mayor is in LOTDK #170 when Batman says rescues the tied-up politico and exclaims, “Mayor Gill! Who did this?” One could easily presume that Gill is the mayor for the whole “Year One Era” after Klass except for the fact that 2003’s Gotham After Midnight #7 by Steve Niles/Kelley Jones, which also takes place in the middle of the “Year One Era” (roughly Year Six), shows the assassination of Gotham’s mayor (who, of course, goes unnamed in the issue). This means explicitly that TWO men act as Gotham’s “Year One Era” mayors in-between Klass and Skowcroft (who is the mayor by Year Eleven).
So, if one of these two gentlemen has to be Gill and the other has no name, it has to be assumed that the other is Hamilton Hill. (I know, I know, Gill and Hill sound way too similar, but what can you do?) But why Hamilton Hill? Who is this fella and where does he come from? Hamilton Hill is one of the most famous Batman mayors and was the final mayor of the Silver Age (or Bronze Age, if you prefer), appearing as a corrupt puppet of super-crime boss Rupert Thorne from 1981 through 1985. Hill’s popularity as a shrewd and conniving character was so great (partly due to the fact that he was neatly shaped by Gerry Conway) he even later appeared as the mayor for the entirety of the original Batman the Animated Series TV show and also as Gotham’s mayor in just about every DC animated continuity and video game universe thereafter. (His character was much nicer in these versions, but oh well.) The animated Under the Hood film specifically placed Hamilton Hill as the “Year One Era” mayor of Gotham as well.
Even though Hamilton Hill is never once definitively shown, mentioned, or referenced as having ever existed in the Modern Age proper, since we know 100% that there have to be two mayors in-between Klass and Skowcroft, Hill seems like a logical choice to fit as one of them. Hill was the final Bronze Age mayor, so logic follows that the unnamed final Bronze-portion-of-the-“Year One Era” mayor should be Hill too. Although, we should note that, in the Bronze Age, Hill debuted years after Rupert Thorne’s debut in Englehart’s “Dark Detective” arc (also known as “Strange Apparitions”), which is quasi-canonical in the Modern Age (Year Nine) thanks in part to a bunch of winks, nods, and mini-flashbacks in various Bat-books. Therefore, in the Modern Age, Hill has to debut before Thorne—in Year Six after Gill is assassinated by Midnight. Remember when I said Hamilton Hill is never shown or referenced in the Modern Age… well, in Year Six’s Huntress: Year One, we meet and are actually shown (!) a corrupt mayor of Gotham. While he goes unnamed, I think this is our first and only look at Hamilton Hill in the Modern Age! Of course, there is no way to prove this, but I’m sticking to it.
Mayor Skowcroft follows in Year Eleven, fully-named “George P. Skowcroft” on the DC wikia page for Swamp Thing #53. I don’t actually recall his full name being given in the comics, but I guess it was. Skowcroft is
most only famous for having to wage war against Swamp Thing when the latter’s wife is arrested for bestiality (for having sex with a swamp monster).
Julius Lieberman was mayor a quick two years later, appearing in a very few number of comics, some canon, some not. Most notably, he appeared in Run, Riddler, Run where he ineptly hired a team of thugs decked out in Iron Man suits to forcibly eject minorities from their homes in an effort to expedite the gentrification process for big real estate firms. This scandal is likely why, within less than a year, we see a replacement for him in Armand Krol. Are you noticing a trend of Gotham’s mayors being very, very terrible?
Krol is no different than his predecessors. He’s rich, White, male, fear-mongering, reactionary, Right-wing, soul-selling, asshole. The only difference is maybe his hatred of Batman, which is a predominant part of his character—that is until Batman saves his life during “Knightfall.” Krol, despite then becoming super-pro-Batman and extremely anti-Jim Gordon, then becomes the center of screw-up after screw-up after screw-up, blaming Jimbo for all of his messes and ultimately promoting Sarah Essen-Gordon (Gordon’s wife) to commissioner. Krol ends up shamed and voted out of office before succumbing to a fitting gruesome death at the hands of the “Clench” virus.
For editors at DC in the 1990s, the invention of Krol marked a decidedly hard narrative turn for the overall Batman line—going from including Gotham’s mayor as a passive secondary character to an active central character in the overall serialized mythos. Krol sets the tone for what will become a very important figure for the world of the Dark Knight—a leader of the city with a character ranging from scummy to hypocritical to promise-breaking to naive to corrupt to flip-floppy to many more attributes that have come to define the idea of the elected official in the current state of American politics today. While Krol may have represented the dark side of the spectrum, his character paved the path for even more introspective and complex mayoral figures down the road, including both other dark figures and new positive candidates that actually will shine a little brighter and even function altruistically.
One final note to end. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the only other mayor shown in the Modern Age: Charles “Chubby” Chesterfield, who is only shown ONTE TIME (in the Black & White Second Feature from Batman: Gotham Knights #19, in which he dies). This B&W second feature, however, is non-canon, as is Chubby’s reign as mayor.
Coming soon in Part Two… Marion Grange! Daniel Dickerson! David Hull! An unnamed female that was referenced only once in 52! And Sebastian Hady!