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Batman: Year One

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Batman: Year One

"Year One," later referred to as "Batman: Year One," is an American comic book story arc published by DC Comics, and recounts 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 to #407 of the comic book title Batman in 1987.

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.


  • Plot 1
  • Critical reaction 2
  • Continuity 3
  • Other releases 4
  • Adaptations 5
    • Live-action film 5.1
    • Animated film 5.2
  • Influence in other adaptations 6
    • Batman: Mask of the Phantasm 6.1
    • Batman Forever 6.2
    • The Dark Knight trilogy 6.3
    • Video games 6.4
  • References 7
  • External links 8


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, manhunting, and science for the past 12 years, and James Gordon moves to Gotham 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 Detective Arnold John Flass assaulting a teen for fun.

On a surveillance mission to the seedy East End, a disguised Bruce is propositioned by teenaged prostitute Holly Robinson. He is reluctantly drawn into a brawl with her violent pimp and is attacked by several prostitutes, including dominatrix Selina Kyle. Two police officers shoot and take him 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 a bat.

Gordon soon works to rid corruption from the force, but, on orders from Commissioner Gillian Loeb, several officers attack him, including Flass, who personally threatens Gordon’s pregnant wife. In revenge, the recovering Gordon tracks Flass down, beats and humiliates him, leaving 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 thieves. Batman soon works up the ladder, even attacking Flass while he was accepting a drug dealer’s bribe. After Batman interrupts a dinner party attended by many of Gotham’s corrupt politicians and crime bosses to announce his intention to bring them to justice, including Carmine "The Roman" Falcone, Loeb orders Gordon to bring him in by any means necessary.

As Gordon tries in vain to catch him, Batman attacks Falcone, stripping him naked and tying him up in his bed after dumping his car in the river, further infuriating the mob boss. Assistant district attorney Harvey Dent becomes Batman’s first ally, while Detective Sarah Essen and Gordon, after Essen suggested Bruce Wayne as a Batman suspect, witness Batman save an old woman from a runaway truck. 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 dropped on it, forcing Batman into the fortified basement, abandoning his belt as the explosives inside catch fire. A trigger-happy SWAT team led by Branden is sent in, whom Batman attempts to trap in the basement. They soon escape and, after tranquillising Branden, Batman dodges as the rest open fire, 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. Selina Kyle, after witnessing him in action, dons a costume of her own to begin a life of crime.

Gordon has a brief affair with Essen, while Batman intimidates a mob drug dealer for information. The dealer comes to Gordon to testify against Flass, who is brought up on charges. Upset with Gordon's exploits, Loeb blackmails Gordon against pressing charges with proof of his affair. After bringing Barbara with him to interview Bruce Wayne, investigating his connection to Batman, Gordon confesses the affair to her.

Batman sneaks into Falcone’s manor, overhearing a plan against Gordon, but is interrupted when Selina Kyle, hoping to build a reputation after her robberies were pinned on Batman, attacks Falcone and his bodyguards, aided from afar by Batman. Identifying Falcone’s plan as the morning comes, the uncostumed Bruce leaves to help.

While leaving home, Gordon spots a motorcyclist enter his garage. Suspicious, Gordon enters to see Johnny Vitti, Falcone’s nephew, and his thugs holding his family hostage. Gordon decisively shoots the thugs and chases Vitti, who has fled with the baby. The mysterious motorcyclist, now revealed to the reader as Bruce Wayne, rushes out to chase Vitti. Gordon blows out Vitti's car tire on a bridge and the two fight hand-to-hand, with Gordon losing his glasses, before Vitti and James Gordon Junior fall 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 evidence and testimony, and Loeb resigns. Gordon is promoted to captain and stands on the rooftop waiting to meet Batman to discuss somebody called The Joker, who is plotting to poison the reservoir.

Critical reaction

David Mazzucchelli autographing a copy of the collected story at a June 28, 2012 signing at Midtown Comics in Manhattan.

Batman: Year One has received widespread critical acclaim. IGN Comics ranked Batman: Year One number 2 on a list of the 25 greatest Batman graphic novels (behind "The Dark Knight Returns", also by Miller) and said that "no other book before or since has quite captured the realism, the grit and the humanity of Gordon and Batman so perfectly."[1] The website added, "It's not only one of the most important comics ever written, it's also among the best."[2]

Writer Matthew K. Manning in the "1980s" chapter of DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle (2010) praises the story for both Miller's "realistic characterization" and Mazzucchelli's "brilliant iconic" artwork.[3] Batman: Year One left one review team speechless after reading it over in 2013 only able to quote Jim Gordon from the 2012 film The Dark Knight Rises (partially inspired by The Dark Knight Returns which was also written by Miller) saying "When you have someone that plunges their hands into the filth with you, you'll understand", referring to Miller's and Mazzucchelli's writing duo.


Batman: Year One exists not only in the mainstream DC continuity, but also 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, Spawn/Batman, and All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder.[4]

Following 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 1998, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale created Batman: The Long Halloween and Batman: Dark Victory, two 13-issue maxiseries that recounted 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. Following the 2007 cancellation of Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, Batman Confidential began publication, depicting Batman's early years, although some of these stories take place several years after Miller's Year One story because Batman is depicted wearing his "yellow oval" costume.

Other releases

"Batman: Year One" was released in 1995 by Battleaxe Press comics in South Africa under the serial numbers of Batman 1 to 4 as an introduction to the character.


Live-action film

In 2000, Warner Bros. hired Darren Aronofsky to write and direct a reboot of the Batman film franchise.[5] This reboot was to be based on Batman: Year One. Accordingly, Aronofsky collaborated with Frank Miller who finished an early draft of the script.[5] 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.[6] It was eventually shelved by the studio then both Aronofsky and Miller moved on to other projects.[7]

In 2005, Christopher Nolan began his series, with the reboot film Batman Begins, which draws inspiration from Batman: Year One and other stories (see below).

Animated film

In 2011, a film adaptation was released by DC Universe Animated Original Movies based upon Frank Miller's original story arc. It was produced by Bruce Timm, co-directed by Lauren Montgomery and Sam Liu.[8] 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.[9] The movie premiered at Comic-Con, with OVA available in October.[10]

Influence in other adaptations

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

In the acclaimed 1993 animated film Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (based on Batman: The Animated Series), creators Bruce Timm, Paul Dini and Alan Burnett draw aspects from Batman: Year One during the flashback scenes.

Batman Forever

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. Some of the more direct interpretations include:

  • The close relationship between Bruce Wayne and Commissioner James Gordon.
  • The scene where Bruce Wayne 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 a bat. This scene was used in a deleted footage involved further back story to the film. It involved Bruce waking up after being shot in the head by Riddler. They stand on the platform where the Batmobile was,then rotates downward to another level where the sonar-modification equipment is kept, from the special Batsuit to the hi-tech weaponry. Bruce then discovers the cavern where he first saw the image that inspired him to become Batman – a giant bat. Inside he finds his father's Red Diary. It reminds him of the injustices committed against his family, and of how, in his small way, he felt responsible and helpless. The giant bat then appears and Bruce raises his arms and the shot shows that they are one. Bruce now remembers who he is and goes with Alfred to solve the riddles left throughout the film.
  • The scene where Bruce being a child falls into the cave and see a bat as his inspiration and his fear (also used in Batman Begins).

The Dark Knight trilogy

Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins and its sequel The Dark Knight are set during the same timespan and adopt several elements directly from the graphic novel. Some of the more direct interpretations include:

  • Major characters like Commissioner Loeb, Detective Flass and Carmine 'The Roman' Falcone who are featured prominently in Batman Begins.
  • The scene with Bruce Wayne returning from years of training abroad on board a plane reminisces the first page of the graphic novel.
  • Christian Bale's 'street attire' in Batman Begins mimics the clothes in the first issue of Batman: Year One when Bruce is walking down the Lower East End.
  • In the final act of Batman Begins, while being cornered by the GCPD at Arkham Asylum Batman uses a high-frequency device to attract his bats from the cave. This is taken from the third chapter of the graphic novel when Batman does the same thing at the abandoned tenement fire.
  • The concluding scene where Batman and Gordon are on top of the police headquarters continues, to an extent, the final page of the graphic novel where newly promoted Jim Gordon waits for Batman to arrive. In both the book and the film, Gordon announces the coming of a new threat: The Joker.
  • During the famous viral marketing for The Dark Knight, an audio clip was available that depicted Harvey Dent walking up to a hostage situation and subduing the threat. While this may not be a direct adaptation, it does resemble the scene with the hostage situation in Batman: Year One, only replacing James Gordon with Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). Although the entire incident and Dent's role occurs out of earshot and thus did not require Aaron Eckhart to play out the clip.

In an article for The Missing Slate entitled "Back to the Beginning: The Evolving Influence of Batman: Year One" 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".[11]

Video games

The video game Batman: Arkham Origins, a prequel to Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City, takes some inspirations from the comic. It mentions the corruption of the GCPD and features characters such as a younger Captain James Gordon, Commissioner Loeb and GCPD SWAT Team Leader Branden. Batman is considered a vigilante by the police and must evade them. A costume from that game was also available as DLC for Arkham City, and returns for use only in multiplayer in Arkham Origins.


  1. ^ The 25 Greatest Batman Graphic Novels, Hilary Goldstein, IGN, June 13, 2005
  2. ^ Batman: Year One Review, IGN, June 17, 2005
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External links

  • Batman: Year One Movie Official Site
  • Batman: Year One Movie Official Fan Page
  • Batman: Year One @ The World's Finest
  • Current edition at DC Comics ISBN 0-930289-33-1
  • Deluxe Hardcover edition at DC Comics ISBN 1-4012-0690-5

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