Batman: Year One
"Batman: Year One" is an American comic book story arc published by DC Comics which recounts the superhero Batman's first year as a crime-fighter. It was written by Frank Miller, illustrated by David Mazzucchelli, colored by Richmond Lewis, and lettered by Todd Klein. Batman: Year One originally appeared in issues #404–407 of the comic book title Batman in 1987. As well as recounting Batman's beginnings and early years in his crime-fighting career, the story simultaneously examines the life of recently transferred Gotham police detective James Gordon – eventually building towards their first encounter and their eventual alliance against Gotham's criminal underworld.
|"Batman: Year One"|
Cover of the first hardcover printing of Batman: Year One
|Publication date||February – May 1987|
|Batman: Year One||ISBN 0-930289-33-1|
|Deluxe Edition (softcover)||ISBN 1401207529|
|Deluxe Edition (hardcover)||ISBN 1401206905|
There have been several reprints of the story: a hardcover, multiple trade paperback editions (one in standard comics paper with simpler coloring and one deluxe version with rich detailing in the colors—both colored by Richmond Lewis) and it has been included in The Complete Frank Miller Batman hardcover. The story arc was adapted into an animated feature in 2011.
Batman (Bruce Wayne) is a superhero appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics who debuted in "The Case of the Chemical Syndicate", a story published in Detective Comics #27 (May 1939). He was created by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger to capitalize on the success of DC's other superhero Superman and was inspired by characters from pulp fiction stories, such as the Shadow. Batman's origin story was introduced in a two-page, 12-panel story by Kane and Finger from Detective Comics #33 (Nov. 1939). In the story, a young Bruce witnesses the murder of his parents Thomas and Martha at the hands of a mugger. Bruce vows to avenge his parents' deaths by fighting crime; he takes the persona of Batman after a bat flies through his window one night. For the story, Finger lifted elements from tales published in Popular Detective and The Phantom, while Kane traced artwork of Tarzan and from Junior G-Men.
In the years afterward, much of DC's continuity became convoluted and contradictory. Examples of this were present in Batman's origin: in a 1948 story, Finger gave the mugger a name (Joe Chill), and in 1956 wrote that he killed Bruce's parents on behalf of the mob. Finger also went on to suggest that the Batman persona was inspired by a bat costume Thomas wore to a masquerade ball. Other stories depicted Bruce traveling across the world to learn the skills he would need as Batman. In an effort to resolve continuity errors like these in the DC Universe, Marv Wolfman and George Pérez produced the 12-issue limited series Crisis on Infinite Earths. Wolfman's plans for the DC Universe after Crisis on Infinite Earths included relaunching every DC comic with a new first issue.
During the production of Crisis on Infinite Earths, Frank Miller became the writer of Marvel Comics' Daredevil. Miller had originally been the series' penciller, but editor Dennis O'Neil soon made him the series' writer. Sales rose dramatically after Miller began to write. For one critically acclaimed Daredevil story, Miller collaborated with artist David Mazzucchelli. Miller went to work for DC as well, and produced the influential four-issue limited series The Dark Knight Returns (1986). O'Neil also made the move to DC.
The contract Miller signed to produce The Dark Knight Returns also required him to write a revamped Batman origin story. While Miller handled the writing and artwork of The Dark Knight Returns, he simply wrote "Year One", while Mazzucchelli joined to pencil. In the past, Miller had been overwhelmed by having to handle both writing and illustration duties. Todd Klein was the story's letterer, while Mazzucchelli's wife Richmond Lewis handled coloring. O'Neil edited the issues. According to O'Neil, the contract Miller and Mazzucchelli signed to produce "Year One" in the ongoing Batman series guaranteed publication within 6 months.
"Year One" was originally conceived as a graphic novel. O'Neil, who had been asked to edit several issues of Batman, was friends with Miller and was able to learn of the story. Reflecting on poor sales of Batman, O'Neil caught Miller one day while on a walk in Los Angeles and convinced him and Mazzucchelli to serialize the story in the ongoing series. Miller was initially reluctant; he felt this would be hard because he had to ensure the story stayed canonical to the DC Universe, something he did not have to worry about when writing The Dark Knight Returns. In addition, Miller's pacing would have to be altered because of ongoing series' relatively small page counts. O'Neil reasoned that Crisis on Infinite Earths had completely remade the DC Universe, so Miller would be able to have the same creative freedom that The Dark Knight Returns provided. He also reassured Miller that he and Mazzucchelli "weren’t going to lose anything" by serializing it.
Miller has said he kept Kane and Finger's basic story for "Year One" but expanded it. In writing the story, Miller looked for parts of Batman's origin that were never explored. He left the core elements, such as the murder of Bruce's parents, intact, but reduced them to brief flashbacks. Bruce's globe-trotting adventures was something Miller removed, as he found uninteresting. Rather than portraying Batman as a larger-than-life icon as he had in The Dark Knight Returns, Miller chose to characterize "Year One"'s Batman as an average, inexperienced man trying to make a change in society because Miller believed a superhero is least interesting when most effective. Examples of this include Batman underestimating his opponents, getting shot by police, and his costume being too big. The story's violence was kept street-level and gritty, emphasizing noir and realism.
In illustrating, Mazzucchelli sought to make "Year One" look grimy, dark, and muted. His interpretation of Gotham City was designed to symbolize corruption, featuring muddy colors that gave the impression of the city being dirty and needing a hero. The newsprint paper used in Batman was unable to reproduce the bright coloring and visual effects of The Dark Knight Returns, so Mazzucchelli took on "Year One" with a more grounded and darker approach.
In accordance with Wolfman's plans, O'Neil initially saw "Year One" as the start of the second volume of Batman and expected the first part to be its first issue. However, Miller rejected this idea. He explained: "I don't need to slash through continuity with as sharp a blade as I thought. Doing the Dark Knight has shown me there's been enough good material ... I didn't feel that fleshing out an unknown part of Batman's history justified wiping out 50 years of [adventures]." Thus, the four "Year One" issues bear no continuity to past issues of Batman.
|"Chapter One: Who I Am – How I Come to Be"||Batman #404||February 1987|
|"Chapter Two: War Is Declared"||Batman #405||March 1987|
|"Chapter Three: Black Dawn"||Batman #406||April 1987|
|"Chapter Four: Friend in Need"||Batman #407||May 1987|
One of the earliest collections of "Year One" was released in The Complete Frank Miller Batman, published by Longmeadow Press in 1989. A dedicated collected edition, Batman: Year One, was published as a trade paperback in October 1997 (ISBN 0-930289-33-1). It is 96 pages long and contains the four "Year One" issues.
DC released a hardcover "deluxe edition" of Batman: Year One (ISBN 1401206905) to coincide with the release of Batman Begins in April 2005. This release includes introductions by Miller and Mazzucchelli, the original penciled artwork, promotional and unseen Batman art, Lewis's color samples, and some pages of the original script, for a total of 144 pages. This edition was rereleased as a 136-page trade paperback in January 2007, with an introduction by O'Neil (ISBN 1401207529). New versions of this edition were released in 2012 and 2017 (ISBN 1401272940).
To celebrate Batman's 75th anniversary in November 2014, DC released a sample of "Year One" as a part of its DC Comics Essentials line of promotional comics. In 2015, a special package was released that contained the story and its film adaptation (ISBN 1401260047).
In November 2016, DC released a 288-page DC Comics Absolute Edition of Batman: Year One. It comes in a slipcase with two hardcover books: one that reprints a remastered version of the story, with refined coloring; and another that reprints the original, unaltered story from 1987. Both books contain over 60 pages of bonus materials, including Miller's complete scripts.
The story recounts the beginning of Bruce Wayne's career as Batman and Jim Gordon's with the Gotham City Police Department. Bruce Wayne returns home to Gotham City at the age of twenty-five from training abroad in martial arts, man-hunting, and science for the past 12 years, and James Gordon moves to Gotham City with his wife, Barbara, after a transfer from Chicago. Both are swiftly acquainted with the corruption and violence of Gotham City, with Gordon witnessing his partner, Det. Arnold John Flass, assaulting an African-American teen for fun without any fear of repercussions.
After refusing a proposition from teenage prostitute Holly Robinson while visiting Gotham's red-light district, Bruce is reluctantly drawn into a brawl with her violent pimp and is attacked by several of Holly's fellow prostitutes, including dominatrix Selina Kyle. Two police officers shoot him and take him away in their squad car, but a dazed and bleeding Bruce breaks his handcuffs and causes a crash, dragging the police to a safe distance before fleeing. He reaches Wayne Manor barely alive and sits before his father's bust, requesting guidance in his war on crime. A bat crashes through a window and settles on the bust, giving him the inspiration to become the Batman.
Gordon focuses on purging corruption from the force, but on orders from his corrupt superior, Commissioner Gillian Loeb, several officers led by Flass beat him, with Flass personally threatening Gordon's pregnant wife. In revenge, the recovering Gordon tracks Flass down, beats him, and leaves him naked and handcuffed in the snow.
As Gordon becomes a minor celebrity for several brave acts, Batman strikes for the first time, attacking a group of small-time criminals. Batman soon works his way up the ladder, even going after Flass while he's accepting a payoff from a drug dealer. After Batman interrupts a dinner party attended by many of Gotham's corrupt politicians and mobsters, including kingpin Carmine "The Roman" Falcone, to announce his intention to bring them to justice, Loeb orders Gordon to bring him in by any means necessary. While Gordon tries in vain to catch him, Batman goes after Falcone, stripping him naked and tying him up in his bed and dumping his car in the river, infuriating the mob boss. Assistant District Attorney Harvey Dent becomes Batman's first ally, while GCPD Detective Sarah Essen and Gordon witness Batman save an old woman from a runaway truck, after Essen suggested Bruce Wayne as a Batman suspect. Essen holds Batman at gunpoint while Gordon is momentarily dazed, but Batman disarms her and flees to an abandoned building.
Claiming the building has been scheduled for demolition, Loeb orders a bomb to be dropped on it, forcing Batman into the fortified basement, where he abandons his utility belt as it catches fire. A SWAT team led by a trigger-happy commander, Sgt. Branden, is sent in and attempts to trap Batman in the basement. After tranquilizing Branden, Batman dodges bullets as Branden's team opens fire on him, barely managing to survive after two bullet wounds. Enraged as the team's carelessly fired bullets injure several people outside, Batman beats the team into submission and, after using a device to attract the bats of his cave to him, he flees amid the chaos. After witnessing him in action, Selina Kyle dons a costume of her own to begin a life of crime.
Gordon has a brief affair with Essen, while Batman intimidates one of Falcone's drug pushers for information. The associate contacts Gordon and agrees to testify against Flass, who is brought up on charges. Upset with Gordon's exploits, Loeb blackmails Gordon to drop the case by threatening to give his wife proof of his affair. After bringing Barbara with him to interview Bruce Wayne to investigate his connection to Batman, Gordon confesses the affair to her. Batman sneaks into Falcone's manor, overhearing him discuss a plan to deal with Gordon, but is interrupted when Selina Kyle, hoping to build a reputation after her robberies were pinned on Batman, attacks Falcone and his bodyguards, with Batman assisting her while remaining hidden. Identifying Falcone's plan as the morning comes, Bruce removes his costume and goes to help.
While leaving home, Gordon spots a motorcyclist enter his garage. Suspicious, Gordon enters to see Johnny Viti, Falcone's nephew, and his men holding his family hostage. Gordon shoots the thugs and chases Viti, who has fled with his infant son. The mysterious motorcyclist, now revealed to the reader as Bruce Wayne, pursues Viti as well. Gordon blows out Viti's car tire on a bridge and the two fight hand-to-hand, with Gordon losing his glasses before knocking Viti, still holding James Gordon Jr., over the side. Bruce leaps over the railing and saves the baby. Gordon realizes that he is standing before an unmasked Batman, but says that he is "practically blind without [his] glasses", and lets Bruce go.
In the final scenes of the comic, Flass turns on Loeb, supplying Dent with the evidence and testimony needed to implicate him, and Loeb resigns in disgrace. Gordon is promoted to captain and stands on the rooftop waiting to meet Batman to discuss somebody calling himself the Joker, who is plotting to poison Gotham's reservoir.
DC's post-Crisis on Infinite Earths revamp was a major success, raising sales 22% in the first year, and DC beat Marvel in direct market sales for the first time in August and September 1987. The four "Year One" issues were no exception to this. Two years before the relaunch, Batman had all-time low sales of 75,000 copies per month; "Year One" sold an average of 193,000 copies an issue, numbers not seen since the early 1970s. Despite this, it did not outsell other books like Uncanny X-Men, and the collected edition sold well but never matched the sales of The Dark Knight Returns. The story, with the noir-inspired narrative and ultra-violent tone, quickly caught the attention of readers. The Los Angeles Times wrote that "Year One" offered an interesting and entertaining update to the origin of Batman.
"Year One"'s characterization, particularly that of Batman and Gordon, has been praised. Hilary Goldstein (IGN) compared their journey to friendship to the plot of the film Serpico; they found that the two characters' respective story arcs—with Gordon's "illustrat[ing] the corruption in Gotham" and Batman's detailing "the transformation from man to myth"—offered an exploration of Batman's world like no other. Glenn Matchett (ComicsVerse) wrote that, unlike The Dark Knight Returns, "Year One"'s Batman is more vulnerable and inexperienced, which made the story more memorable. Nick Roberts (Geek Syndicate) thought the characters seemed believable, and comics historian Matthew K. Manning called the characterization realistic and grounded.
The story's depiction of Gotham and darker, realistic, mature and more grittier tone and direction, compared to other contemporary Batman comics at the time, has also been acclaimed. Journalist James Lovegrove described "Year One" as a "noir-inflected pulp tale of vigilantism and integrity, focused on a good man doing the right thing in a dirty world" and noted the brutality of the fight sequences. Jason Serafino (Complex) wrote that by ignoring many of Batman's trademark gadgets and villains and focusing in the core essentials of the titular character, Miller managed to present Batman in a relatable and thrilling way, which felt both fresh, unique and reinvigorating, while still being faithful to the spirit of the character. Goldstein found every moment memorable, writing "Miller does not waste a single panel" in presenting a gritty and dark story. Matchett agreed; he offered particular praise for the scenes depicting Batman clashing with the police, calling them the moment Batman began to become a legend.
Before the New 52 in 2011, Batman: Year One existed in the mainstream DC continuity, and in the same continuity as the other storylines in Miller's "Dark Knight Universe", consisting of The Dark Knight Returns, its sequel The Dark Knight Strikes Again, The Dark Knight III: The Master Race, The Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade, Spawn/Batman, and All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder. Following the New 52 reboot, Batman: Zero Year replaced Year One as the official origin for Batman and Year One was relegated to the continuity of the other Frank Miller storylines.
After Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC rebooted many of its titles. Year One was followed by Batman: Year Two, but the 1994 Zero Hour: Crisis in Time crossover erased Year Two from continuity. In another continuity re-arrangement, Catwoman: Year One (Catwoman Annual #2, 1995) posited that Selina Kyle had not actually been a prostitute, but, rather, a thief posing as one in order to commit crimes.
Launched in 1989, following the success of the film Batman, the title Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight examines crime-fighting exploits primarily, not exclusively, from the first four to five years of Batman's career. This title rotated in creative teams and time placement, but several stories directly relate to the events of Year One, especially the first arc "Batman: Shaman". In 1996 and 1999, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale created Batman: The Long Halloween and Batman: Dark Victory, two 13-issue maxiseries that recount Batman's early years as a crime-fighter following the events of Miller's original story and retold the origins of Two-Face and Dick Grayson. The Year One story was continued in the 2005 graphic novel Batman: The Man Who Laughs, following up on Gordon informing Batman about the Joker, and thus recounting their first official encounter. Two other stories, Batman and the Monster Men and Batman and the Mad Monk tie into the same time period of Batman's career, filling in the gap between Year One and the Man Who Laughs. The comics Robin: Year One and Batgirl: Year One describe his sidekicks' origin stories.
Joel Schumacher's Batman Forever, although set during another timespan, adopts some elements directly from the graphic novel. Schumacher claims he originally had in mind an adaptation of Frank Miller's Batman: Year One. The studio rejected the idea as they wanted a sequel, not a prequel, though Schumacher was able to include very brief events in Batman's past.
After the critical failure of Batman & Robin, several attempts were made to reboot the Batman film franchise with an adaptation of "Year One". Joss Whedon and Joel Schumacher both pitched their own takes. In 2000, Warner Bros. hired Darren Aronofsky to write and direct Batman: Year One. The film was to be written by Miller, who finished an early draft of the script. The script, however, was a loose adaptation, as it kept most of the themes and elements from the graphic novel but shunned other conventions that were otherwise integral to the character. It was shelved by the studio in 2001, after an individual who claimed to have read Miller's script published a negative review on Ain't It Cool News. In 2016, Miller explained that the film was canceled because of creative differences between him and Aronofsky: "It was the first time I worked on a Batman project with somebody whose vision of Batman was darker than mine. My Batman was too nice for him. We would argue about it, and I'd say, 'Batman wouldn't do that, he wouldn't torture anybody'".
In 2005, Christopher Nolan began his series with the reboot film Batman Begins, which draws inspiration from "Year One" and other stories. Batman Begins and its sequel The Dark Knight are set during the same timespan and adopt several elements directly from the graphic novel. Major characters like Commissioner Loeb, Detective Flass and Carmine 'The Roman' Falcone are featured prominently in Batman Begins. Film critic Michael Dodd argued that with each major motion picture focused on the Dark Knight's origins, the odes and references to the Year One comic increased. Comparing Mask of the Phantasm with Batman Begins he noted that "...Phantasm was a Batman story with Year One elements, while Batman Begins was a Year One story with added features". The film's end scene, with Gordon revealing the Joker's arrival in Gotham, mirrors the end of Year One.
In 2011, an animated adaptation was released as a DC Universe Animated Original Movie. It was produced by Bruce Timm, co-directed by Lauren Montgomery and Sam Liu. It features the voices of Benjamin McKenzie as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Bryan Cranston as James Gordon, Eliza Dushku as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, Katee Sackhoff as Sarah Essen, Grey DeLisle as Barbara Gordon, Jon Polito as Commissioner Loeb, Alex Rocco as Carmine 'The Roman' Falcone, and Jeff Bennett as Alfred Pennyworth. The movie premiered at Comic-Con, with a Catwoman short shown in October.
In August 2020, The Batman director, Matt Reeves revealed that the upcoming HBO Max series focusing on the Gotham City Police Department would be a prequel to the film and would take place during Year One.
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