This page is for the Post-Crisis ex-wife of James Gordon and should not to be confused with Gordon's daughter also named Barbara Gordon (Batgirl/Oracle).
Before Barbara, James Gordon, in some pre-crisis stories, was married to an unnamed woman and with her had a son named Tony Gordon. Some accounts depict her having died. Later on "Earth 1" continuity, there was a woman named Barbara Kean, and was Jim Gordon's fiancee. The earliest version of Gordon's wife can be traced back all the way to World's Finest #53 (August 1951).
Frank Miller created the modern Barbara for Batman: Year One in Batman #404 (February 1987).
Major Story Arcs
Batman: Gordon of Gotham
Before Jim Gordon comes to Gotham, he is a beat cop in Chicago living with Barbara. The two are shown to have a rocky relationship that gets repaired by the end.
Batman: Year One
Gordon arrives in Gotham with Barbara pregnant with their son James Gordon Junior. Gordon starts an affair with Sarah Essen at this time, which the corrupt Gotham Police use to try and ruin Gordon. Barbara sticks with him however. At the end of the story their son James is kidnapped but rescued by the Batman.
Batman: The Long Halloween / Dark Victory
Shows Barbara is friends with Gilda Dent as are their respective husbands with each other. Some time after the events of the Long Halloween, Barbara is shown to have left again but returns briefly during the events of Dark Victory.
Barbara was then divorced from Jim Gordon and living with their son James in Chicago. (Batman: Turning Points #1)
The divorce is also shown in Batman: Night Cries when James Jr. is slightly older.
One story in Batman Annual #13 implied she had died, this was later ignored.
As Gordon tries to draw a line between work and home, he gets a phone call from Harvey Bullock telling him to go to the Gotham City Aviary. When Gordon arrives, Bullock informs Jim that the aviary cages are all automated from the control room and there is some troubling video footage from the security cameras that Jim needs to see. Gordon sees the image of a man who resembles his son James Jr. This troubling assumption begins to trouble Gordon and soon he becomes haunted by the visions of past unsolved case files that involved murdered children.
Just as Gordon reached the clinic, he is stopped by Det. Bullock who has some really bad news. Bullock says the Joker has escaped Arkham and something horrible has happened to Gordon's ex-wife. Gordon acts quickly by warning Leslie about James then he calls in a small task force to station themselves at the clinic and wait for James to return. Gordon must put the hunt for his deranged son in the hands of his brothers in blue while he accompanies Bullock. Bullock tells Gordon that he received an anonymous phone call from someone who said Barbara Gordon is going to die at the Gotham Plaza Hotel. Gordon and Bullock reach the hotel room where Barbara was staying at and as Gordon entered, he notices a light coming from the bathroom. Gordon falls to his knees in tears because he has found his beloved ex-wife nude in the bath tub with a crimson smile across her face.
Gordon rushes Barbara to the lab at Wayne Enterprises while Bullock calls in Oracle and tells her what has just happened. Oracle reacts by calling Dick and having him meet her father at the lab. Oracle runs a few tests on her mother while Dick injects the anti-Joker Venom. Fortunately, Gordon got to his ex wife just in time to save her and the Joker Venom was a derivative of the original. Gordon at this point wants Joker's head on a pike for all the misery he has brought to the Gordon's but Dick convinces Gordon that there is no way the Joker could have escaped Arkham and found out where Barbara was so quickly. Dick promises Gordon that he will find Joker and make him talk.
Back at the lab, Gordon sat by Barbara's side as Bullock escorted Oracle back to her apartment. Barbara eventually wakes up and when she laid her eyes on Gordon, she immediately began to scream for help. A doctor comes rushing and injects a sedative into Barbara. Gordon finally realizes that James injected the Joker Venom into his mother as a way to get back at her for institutionalizing him while at the same time he wanted Gordon to think the Joker was responsible for the attack on Barbara in order to bait him into killing the Joker. If Gordon knows how calculating his son can be then he would guess that James has already realized his plan to manipulate everything is falling apart which leaves only one person left for him to torture; his sister.
Bullock drops Barbara off at her apartment doorstep and just as she entered her apartment, James closes the door right behind her. James and Barbara enter a discussion about on how depraved he is. James respects Barbara because she is the only one who can see him for what he is. Barbara replies to his compliment with a scoff. Oracle always knew James was disturbed and most of those people that he has already killed were actually victims rather people who had it coming. In short, Barbara's realizes that James tries to find flaws or start something with another person just so he can justify as well as satisfy his violent tendencies. James smiles and his respect for his sisters deduction has reached new lengths.
With the company wide reboot of the New 52, Barbara's role was once again changed. It is revealed she had been married to Gordon was the biological mother of Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) but had left when she was just a child. She returned to Barbara's life as an adult, though their relationship is strained.
Death of the Family
Barbara Kean-Gordon is kidnapped by the Joker and taken to the Cherry Hill Skate Ring. There the Joker cuts off her ring finger and when Batgirl comes to her aide, Joker presents it to Batgirl as a token of marriage. Batgirl tries to fight to save her mother, but the Joker reveals either she marries him or he will blow up her mother. Batgirl agrees and leave Barbara at the skate rink.
All-Star Batman & Robin
In Frank Miller's Dark Knight Universe (Earth-31) which has its timeline split after Year One, shows Barbara as an alcoholic while Gordon talks to Sarah Essen on the phone in All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder.
The Dark Knight Trilogy
Gordon's wife has a tiny cameo in the Chris Nolan film Batman Begins, she can be seen through the window of Gordon's house attending a child, Played by Llyssa Fradin.
She has a larger role in the 2008 sequel The Dark Knight. Here she is Gordon's wife with two children James Jr. and an unidentified little girl; possibly Barbara Gordon. Part of the plot to catch the Joker involved Jim Gordon faking his own death much to the dismay of his wife who had not been in on the plan. Gordon however reveals this to her after the Joker has been caught. At the film's climax, Two-Face kidnaps Gordon's family and threatens his son, much like the corrupt police do in the ending to Batman: Year One. She is played by Melinda McGraw.
Barbara Kean Gordon doesn't appear in the final movie The Dark Knight Rises, though her absence is justified by the fact that she left Commissioner Gordon for Cleveland with their children.
Batman: Year One (2011)
In the animated adaptation of Batman: Year One, Barbara is voiced by Grey DeLisle.
Barbara Kean is recurring character in FOX TV series Gotham, played by Erin Richards. She is Gordon's fiancee and unlike her comic counterpart is an upper class, wealthy art gallery owner living in a luxurious Gotham apartment. She is also revealed to have been in a romantic relationship with GCPD detective Renee Montoya.