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Prior to the 1984-85 DC maxi-series Crisis on Infinite Earths, Bullock was a crooked police detective under instructions from Gotham City's Mayor Hamilton Hill |Hamilton Hill to sabotage Commissioner Gordon's career. His method of doing so was to pretend to be exceedingly clumsy, thereby spoiling whatever Gordon was trying to do, seemingly accidentally. After inadvertently giving Gordon a heart attack, however, Bullock turned over a new leaf. His character later developed into a well-meaning cop who (probably) was exceedingly clumsy, similar to the later animated version. He also formed a close bond with Robin, based initially on their mutual love of old movies. Subsequent to this, he was a Bishop in the spy organization Checkmate.
Following the continuity changes brought about in most of DC's comics by Crisis, Bullock was perhaps the most controversial police officer in the Gotham City Police Department. His colleagues in the Major Crimes Unit will swear up and down that he is a good cop, despite his reputation for taking bribes, police brutality, and ties to organized crime being on the top. However, he also has elements of the earlier character including a fondness for doughnuts and a hidden sentimental streak. This new post-Crisis Bullock was retconned as having been loyal to Gordon from the start. Even before he made detective, he stayed by Gordon during one of the Joker's earlier rampages. He saves Gordon's life with careful driving and helps him work through the clues. Ultimately, without Batman's assistance, Bullock and Gordon stop the Joker from causing an explosion that would have leveled Gotham City. During the entire case Bullock plays the part of (or was) the "bad cop," intimidating and threatening whoever needed it.
Bullock is badly injured during a confrontation with the KGBeast, who has gained control of a small nuclear device. Robin and several members of the Gotham City Police department, Hitch, Gordon and Montoya, brave the surroundings, a burning chemical plant, partly to save his life. Bullock actually dies during this incident but is saved by CPR administered by Robin. Mackenzie "Hardback" Bock, a newcomer to the force, becomes involved, helping Robin carry Harvey out of harm's way. The nuclear bomb is then neutralized by Batman.
In the Batman: Cataclysm storyline, Bullock confronts a villain named Anarky in a shopping mall when an earthquake hits Gotham City. He is badly wounded when a bar of metal goes through his own arm, but makes his way back to police headquarters. When he learns Gordon is missing, he ejects the metal by hitting a wall and instantly starts a search. Gordon is soon recovered, shaken but essentially unhurt, from the rubble of his own office. Later, Gotham is shut down and closed off by the government in the incident known as No Man's Land. Bullock, Montoya, Bock and several other officers willingly stay behind to assist Gordon. Bullock sticks by Gordon through the loss of many fellow officers and the schism of the group that remains. In the end, efforts led by Lex Luthor re-open Gotham and the remaining officers are given their jobs back.
Bullock has also been one of Batman's biggest foes on the Gotham City Police Department, but has not gone to the extremes that others have to apprehend the vigilante. His last partner on the GCPD was Renee Montoya.
In the "Officer Down" storyline, an assassin attempts to kill Jim Gordon. Afterwards, a vengeful Bullock reveals the assassin's location to the Mafia, thereby indirectly killing the shooter. When evidence of this comes out, he resigned from the force.
He then appears occasionally as a private detective in Gotham Central.
Back on the Force
As part of DC's "One Year Later" storyline, Bullock has returned to the GCPD, with the understanding that he is not allowed a single mistake. The circumstances behind this are unknown, the only clue so far being the line, "Six months since Harvey Bullock made his discoveries." Batman and Bullock have made their peace, agreeing to give each other a second chance.
DC animated universe
His animated counterpart in Batman: The Animated Series is only vaguely similar to this persona, and is voiced by Robert Costanzo. While he is still a staunch opponent of the Batman, and has something of a gruff, tough guy exterior, he is much more benign (and closer to the later Pre-Crisis version). Bullock tends to alternate slightly in his role and nature. At times, he is nothing more than an oafish, incompetent comic relief character, while other episodes show him in a more serious context as a capable detective. Many episodes blend both of these aspects, thus giving more dimensions to the character. Despite his somewhat corpulent appearance, he is shown in a few episodes to be a capable fighter.
He was featured prominently in the episode "P.O.V.", in which he and two other officers were questioned about how and why an important bust ended in colossal failure. In his recounting, the voice over contrasts with what happens on screen, the clear implication being that what we see is what really happened, while Bullock's voice over tells quite another story, one in which he is painted in a much more positive and competent light. The effect given in the series is that of an honest, if not exactly by the book, cop who "looks" like the stereotypical corrupt officer.
Although he dislikes Batman at first, Bullock develops a grudging respect for the Dark Knight when Batman saves him from a shark in "The Laughing Fish". It is also revealed that Bullock knows the existence of the Batcomputer, but how Bullock learned of it is unrevealed. Bullock, along with Commissioner Gordon, Mayor Hill and Carl Rossum, is saved again by Batman in the two-part episode "Heart of Steel", when he and the others are abducted for HARDAC's master plan to create robotic duplicates out of Gotham's Officials and take control of the city. The android Bullock has a notable fight scene against Batman in said episode, although Batman defeats the duplicate by pushing him off a building and onto the Bat-Signal.
Bullock earned the scorn of ex-wrestler and criminal kingpin Killer Croc after Bullock sent him to prison for killing a trade union member. Croc swore revenge on Bullock, and attempted to frame him for murder in the episode "Vendetta."
In "A Bullet For Bullock", directly adapted from Detective Comics #651, Bullock teams up with Batman to find out who is behind several attempts on his life. At first, it appears to be a Mob Boss, Vinnie "The Shark" Starkey, behind it, but it is later revealed that it was actually his own landlord, having been driven crazy by Bullock's attitude towards him (even Bullock's untidiness), meaning Bullock's personality had generated enemies in the unlikeliness of people.
Despite their mutual dislike for each other, Bullock does show genuine regret when he hears of Batman's supposed demise in "The Man who killed Batman". This version of Bullock later made small guest appearances in Superman: The Animated Series and Static Shock (Where the latter suggests him to be even more incompetent than previously suggested, thinking Static is Robin).
In the comic based on the animated series, Bullock was forced to resign after the Penguin became mayor. As with the DCU version, he became a private detective.
BBC Radio 1 adaption of Knightfall
In the 2008 film, The Dark Knight, Keith Szarabajka plays Detective Stephens, a gruff, stocky character remarkably similar to Harvey Bullock. This is comparable to Monique Curnen's role as Detective Anna Ramirez, who is directly based on Renee Montoya.