Gotham’s Mayors of the Modern Age (Part 1)

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.

LOTDK #11: Mayor Wilson Klass. This klassy guy thinks Batman is bad for business, but Hugo Strange is totally dope.

Mayor Wilson Klass. This klassy guy thinks Batman is bad for business, but Hugo Strange is totally dope.

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.

LOTDK #170: Mayor Gill. The only ever mention of his name in comicbookland.

LOTDK #170: Mayor Gill. The only ever mention of his name in comicbookland.

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.

Huntress: Year One #5: Mayor Hamilton Hill. Is this the one and only appearance of Ham Hill in the Modern Age? I think it is! But we'll never truly know.

Huntress: Year One #5: Mayor Hamilton Hill. Is this the one and only appearance of Ham Hill in the Modern Age? I think it is! But we’ll never truly know.

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).

Swamp Thing #53: Mayor George Skowcroft. Batman tells his honor to be cool with LGBTQSwamp relationships.

Swamp Thing #53: Mayor George Skowcroft. Batman tells his honor to be cool with LGBTQSwamp relationships.

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?

Batman - Run, Riddler, Run!: Mayor Julius Lieberman. This really speaks for itself.

Batman – Run, Riddler, Run!: Mayor Julius Lieberman. This really speaks for itself.

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.

Batman #524: Mayor Armand Krol. The dawn of a new era—a politician that feels as slimy as the real thing.

Batman #524: Mayor Armand Krol. The dawn of a new era—a politician that feels as slimy as the real thing.

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!

About Collin Colsher

Collin Colsher, the creator of The Real Batman Chronology Project and disCONTINUITY, is a writer, filmmaker, teacher, and comic book historian that currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He has lectured at various universities, libraries, and book fairs. Collin has also served on the jury for the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize, which is sponsored by the US Library of Congress.
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10 Responses to Gotham’s Mayors of the Modern Age (Part 1)

  1. tiptupjr94 says:

    Hey. Hamilton Hill is mentioned in Harvey Bullock’s profile in Who’s Who Update ’88 #4.

    Justice is served…

  2. Rhett Khan says:

    With that mortality rate, it’s easy to understand why the Gotham mayor job doesn’t draw a lot of top-shelf political candidates.

  3. tiptupjr94 says:

    Hey, Collin. I recently got The Batman Files, an AMAZING book that brilliantly weaves Batman’s byzantine post-Crisis history into a semi-coherent narrative (though it does have some flaws) and it’s rekindled my interest in the nitty-gritty of pre-New 52 continuity. It specifically confirms that Wilson Klass WAS mayor throughout the entirety of Year One.

    Anyway, I was also skimming through the Essential Batman Encyclopedia, another book that has some weird errors but was apparently meant to be authoritative upon release in 2008 – it invokes the pre-Crisis Earth-1 and 2 dichotomy as well as the various reality changes and alternate worlds when details contradict each other, and sometimes blends some of those things together – but it has something interesting to say about Gotham’s mayor history. Here’s THIS book’s version:

    – Wilson Klass
    – Hayes (Batman 207)
    – Hamilton Hill
    – George P. Skowcroft (yes, I guess that’s his name – served as “acting mayor” in aftermath of Hill’s forced resignation.)
    – unnamed mayor who was killed by Deacon Blackfire’s followers
    – “several briefly tenured mayors followed” after THAT (!!)
    – Mayor Lieberman
    – an unnamed man who abruptly replaced Lieberman – it’s implied THIS is the guy from Run Riddler Run? Haven’t read that story in a long time.
    – Armand Krol
    – Marion Grange
    – Daniel Danforth Dickerson III
    – David Hull
    – unnamed woman

    Missing is Mayor Gill and Chubby Chesterfield, but… yeah. Wow. I might put Hayes after Gill in my head-canon, as the general mayor for the early Dick-as-Robin era… but then, that WOULD make Gill the one who dies in Gotham After Midnight? It would be nice if some of the unnamed mayor slots lined up with that guy, and the one who appears in Huntress Year One, which would seemingly go… *after* the Hamilton Hill era? So that HAS to be either Hill or Skowcroft, I guess? But I agree, Hill should probably be canon (I can’t even find any references to him in The Batman Files though.) …Man, I’m not sure who I want that Huntress mayor to be.

    Anyway, the deluge of unnamed mayors after Skowcroft is fascinating. And it doesn’t link most of them to specific stories, because I guess they wanted us to suffer. I’ll read up on more stories from this era and try to get a better handle of things. But yeah, I was just reading about that and then remembered your mayor post, so I wanted to share. Kind of interesting!

    • Definitely interesting! Weird that Hayes gets included. I don’t think there was ever a reference to him in the Modern Age was there? And there really is no need for so many random unnamed mayors on the list. I did notice that I completely forgot to mention the mayor assassinated during The Cult. This seems to NOT be Skowcroft and is indeed some random person that has replaced Skowcroft. The mayor killed in Run Riddler Run is 100% Mayor Lieberman. I’m not sure if they show his replacement in that story, but I know for sure they definitely don’t name him. I think Armand Krol could very easily be right afterward. Thanks for the comment, as always, tiptup!

      OH, also Matthew Manning’s Batman Files. Haven’t read it, but from what I understand it contains a TON of very specific and detailed information about the life of the Modern Age Batman, lifted from Batman’s diary entries, case files, and journals (as “discovered and collected by Manning”). The Batman Files originally came out in 2011 right around the same time as the New 52 reboot. I wonder if the material within The Batman Files is meant to be canon for the Modern Age—a sort of recapitulation of published material, adding more specificity, with foreknowledge of the impending closure of the timeline. I’ll have to pick this book up if I can and give it a serious gander.

      Manning also did The Superman Files as well, which surely includes mentions of Batman and the Justice League.

      • tiptupjr94 says:

        *Sorry for the late response* but yeah – it is very cool. The author is familiar with all the weird little Year One-era stories and Bruce Wayne’s billion girlfriends and all that stuff. There’s an afterward about continuity and how things don’t always match up but he tried to “force together every piece of the puzzle of Batman’s life.” It also says Mike Marts donated his time and resources – so yeah, a lot of DC editorial’s opinions on continuity at the time probably made it into this book.

        There are newspaper clippings, police reports, and journal entries that cover all kinds of things that were previously asterisks on continuity – there’s an article on Jim’s becoming commissioner, a report on Mad Hatter’s debut (which DOES echo the pre-Crisis version and apparently took place on November 2 of Year 2 – I’ll give you that one for free!) and Batman’s first encounters with Calendar Man, Solomon Grundy, etc. So I’ve used this book in sorting some things out on my own timeline as well.

        With that being said, I’ve kind of had to handwave some things. The order of clippings and articles seemingly indicating the debut order of the early villains can get a bit suspect, and he – for example – has a journal page about Batman adopting the yellow-oval suit before an entry about the formation of the Club of Heroes, and has Bruce dating Jillian Maxwell and Skye Peters before Julie Madison. But overall, it’s very insightful and attentive to detail, and I think you’d enjoy it.

  4. Anonymous says:

    So… how do we know definitively that Skowcroft doesn’t succeed the mayor who is assassinated in Gotham After Midnight? Interesting post, by the way.

    • Thanks. That’s the thing. We don’t know definitively of any specific scenario at all. Skowcroft could very likely be the mayor that succeeds the assassinated mayor from Gotham After Midnight. Even labeling the mayor from Gotham After Midnight as Gill is a slight presumption on my part, albeit an educated one.

      However, we shouldn’t ignore a reading of the Modern Age that excludes Hamilton Hill entirely, especially since he isn’t named (or even technically shown). Therefore, I’m not against a timeline that eliminates Hill and has Skowcroft straight after Gill/Gotham After Midnight mayor. (The timeline could go Klass then Gill then Skowcroft.) I just personally like the inclusion of Hill after Gill. Ham Hill was such an integral part of the end of the Bronze Age, it seems fitting to have him at least in the background of “Dark Detective” and the Penthouse Era.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yeah, true. It’s pretty astounding to me that Hamilton Hill isn’t even alluded to in 25 entire years of post-Crisis comics. Seems right up Grant Morrison’s alley. In fact, it’s so bizarre that I suspect there may have been a specific editorial mandate against mentioning him. I wouldn’t put it past ’em.

        But I *did* catch that reference in the Under the Red Hood movie. Hmm.

        As I’m sure you know, there’s all sorts of rumblings in The New 52 about the return of the old continuity, or at least elements of it. I’m sure referencing Hamilton Hill isn’t too high on their priority list, but hey! IT COULD HAPPEN.

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