|First appearance||Batman #405 (March 1987)|
|Created by||Frank Miller|
|Full name||Sarah Essen|
|Team affiliations||Gotham City Police Department|
Sarah Essen (a.k.a. Sarah Essen Gordon) is a fictional character in DC Comics. She is in most continuities the wife or love interest of Police Commissioner James Gordon. She is Gordon's former partner and later takes up the mantle as the Commissioner after Jim is demoted by Mayor Armand Krol. She was first seen in Batman #405.
Sarah Essen Gordon first appeared in Batman #405 and was created by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli.
She first appears in Batman #405, part of the Batman: Year One storyline. Then simply Sarah Essen, she is a detective partnered with then-lieutenant James Gordon. A woman of German descent, her exact age is never revealed, but it is later revealed in Greg Rucka's novelization of the "No Man's Land" storyline that she is 12 years younger than Gordon. Sarah's detective skills are shown during her attempts with Gordon to catch the Batman; she guesses (correctly) that he is Bruce Wayne by virtue of Bruce's history and the money needed for Batman's arsenal. She and Gordon, who was married at the time, start a brief affair. But when the corrupt Commissioner Gillian B. Loeb attempts to blackmail them, Gordon ends the affair and confesses his actions to his wife Barbara. Sarah leaves Gotham City for New York City soon afterwards.
Editor Denny O'Neil later chose to revive the character as both an investigator and a love interest for Gordon. When she returns in Batman #458 (January 1991), it is explained that Sarah had married a New York cop who was killed in a drug bust. Gordon had long since divorced, and the two begin a serious relationship, eventually resulting in Gordon's proposing to her on a night when the police station is under attack by a trio of supervillains with electrical powers. The two get married in Legends of the Dark Knight Annual #2 (1992).
When James Gordon is demoted by Mayor Armand Krol in Batman #519 (June 1995), Sarah is given the job in his stead. Gordon later resigns from the Gotham City Police Department in the same issue. She takes on Gordon's collaboration with Batman and Robin, but does not like the job. Later, Sarah herself is fired from the GCPD by Krol, who is now a "lame duck" after recently losing in the mayoral election against Marion Grange. Essen is replaced as Commissioner by Andrew Howe, a close friend of Armand Krol. Grange later re-instates James Gordon as Commissioner, and also re-hires and promotes Sarah to serve as liaison between the GCPD and the mayor's office.
Sarah is murdered by the Joker in Detective Comics #741 (February 2000), at the end of the "No Man's Land" story arc. The Joker had kidnapped dozens of infants and was holding them in the basement of the police station. Sarah is the first to reach the Joker's position. Although she has him at gunpoint, the Joker tosses an infant at her, and Sarah instinctively drops her weapon to catch the child, saving it from injury. The Joker then shoots Sarah in the head after saying a cold "Merry Christmas". The Joker (for the first time in his criminal career) apparently finds no humor in her death, as he is shown frowning as he walks away silently. He promptly and willingly surrenders to the police, who arrive immediately afterwards. Batman and Gordon catch up with the Joker soon after discovering Sarah's body. Batman steps aside, unable to bring himself to intervene. Enraged, Gordon is tempted to kill the Joker, but instead shoots him in the leg. The Joker is at first enraged by this act, screaming that he will never walk again, but then realizes the humor in it and begins to laugh hysterically because he had done the same thing to Gordon's daughter Barbara (in The Killing Joke). At Sarah's funeral, her stepdaughter Barbara comments, "I always called her Sarah, and now it's too late to call her Mom." 
In the Post-Infinite Crisis continuity (as seen in flashbacks in 2011's Detective Comics #875), Gordon and Essen were married much earlier, when Gordon was still a lieutenant, and she had a more active role in raising her stepdaughter.
In The New 52-rebooted DC continuity, Sarah's marriage with James Gordon has never taken place, even after the DC Rebirth event. But, it is returned in Infinite Frontier.
Main article: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Sarah was an unseen presence in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, an alternate future story. In it, she is Gordon's loving, stay-at-home wife. Gordon, by now a retiring police commissioner, inwardly repeats, "I think of Sarah. The rest is easy", as a kind of mantra. She is only glimpsed near the end, when she and Gordon embrace in silhouette. However, in the movie adaptation of the story's second half, Sarah makes two brief appearances: one at home sending Gordon out for groceries, the other embracing him having fled their home after it is destroyed by fire. She also appears when Gordon gives his retirement speech.
Main article: All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder
In issue #6, Gordon is talking to Sarah on the phone. Though he is married to Barbara at the time, dialogue indicates that Gordon still loves Sarah. As shown by the events of The Dark Knight Returns, set in the same continuity, they eventually marry.