WHAT IS A BATMAN CHRONOLOGY AND WHY IS IT NECESSARY?
The Real Batman Chronology Project, which started in 2009, tracks the narrative continuity of DC Comics via the lens of Batman, plotting each of his appearances into detailed timelines. To the average comic book reader or especially non-readers, simple questions arise: “Doesn’t one just read the comics in the order they are published? Why does there need to be a project dedicated to ordering comics? And if it really is so difficult to figure out a reading order, surely there must be a lot of projects similar to the Real Batman Chronology Project online, right?”
Ultimately, these questions all combine to form the bigger question of “Why is my site necessary?” I’ll try to answer as best as I can. First of all, my site is necessary due to the sheer complexity of how the superhero genre delivers its stories. Superhero universes exist in comics as a vast collection of interconnected serialized fictions. Every Wednesday, dozens of titles come out continuing the story from the previous week’s batch of titles. And all of these titles–week to week, month to month, and so on—tell an ongoing über-story in which the events and characters of said titles all exist in the same shared world, directly influencing each other. (To show how many ongoing titles are released, we can look at a selection of publications from a random Wednesday in 2015: Dark Horse put out 10 comics, DC put out 25, IDW put out 10, Image put out 15, Marvel put out 20, and various indie companies combined to put out 30.) DC and Marvel don’t tell you in what order to read them or how to organize them. Now, to be clear, the Big Two do publish trade paperbacks and their issues are all numbered and can be read in some sort of an order. But when it comes to stitching every title together to make the über-story that tells the whole tale, that is not a task that either company really gets bogged down in. How can all these titles possibly function cohesively? Holistically, the comics form a puzzle and it’s how the pieces fit together that really interests me.
But why Batman? Why is he so important? Well, he’s not just an awesome character. He’s quite popular, in case you didn’t know—he shows up in almost every DC title at some point or another. Batman is the primary lens through which DC Comics has been able to tell a consistent narrative for the past 75 years-plus. Technically, in the DC Universe, everything kind of revolves around the Holy Trinity of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman—but the Dark Knight of Gotham City seems to be prominently featured a tad more than the others. Therefore, sticking with Batman appearances for this project allows for the easiest opportunity to determine passage of time, character age, where events occur, where things need to be rearranged, how things come together, or how things fail to come together. Of course, a ton of variables have to be considered and the process gets complicated. This is the reason why there are so few attempts at what I’ve done. The few attempts that exist—in niche areas of the Internet and in a few rare books—have either been quickly abandoned or left incomplete. Because Batman’s past is so richly complicated, it has not been successfully evaluated and analyzed from the narratological perspective of serial-continuity. I’m sort of a masochist for continuing my project with such diligence! But I do so because my ultimate goal is to show that continuity should and can equal congruity. One of the reasons that the Real Batman Chronology Project has been so successful and has remained the preeminent source of comic book continuity information on the internet is because its foundational focus revolves heavily around simple knowledge and respect for the concept of fictional canon.
Please click on the following link to continue reading the next part: FICTIONAL CANON: WHAT COUNTS?.
ABOUT THE SITE CREATOR/PROJECT MANAGER:
Collin Colsher is a writer, filmmaker, teacher, and comic book scholar that currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He is the creator of The Real Batman Chronology Project and disCONTINUITY. Collin also serves on the jury for the annual Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize, which is sponsored by the US Library of Congress.
- COLLIN COLSHER: I should clarify, when I say “DC” I refer to the corporate beast that is “DC the company.” Same goes for “Marvel.” Unfortunately, the business of comic books has a long documented tradition of screwing over some creators, writers, and artists. The unethical treatment of workers in the comic book “industry” isn’t something that I will tackle very often on this site, but I felt there should be at least something said. All superhero comics, including Batman books, are the products of many different creative minds, but in the end it is the corporate bigwigs, publishers, and editors that control the characters and the worlds in which they live—even if most of the time these said bigwigs, publishers, and editors have contributed little or nothing towards either. Thus, from a narratological perspective, innovation and strong continuity or story development are tough things to achieve in the capitalist consumer-driven market. It’s a sad state of affairs, and probably a topic of discussion for another venue, but it is interesting to see how the hierarchical dynamics of the mainstream superhero comic book genre directly affect how story and character are shaped. On the other hand, to play devil’s advocate for a moment, I love comics. And without Disney, Warner Bros, and other conglomerates, my favorite characters and stories would not exist in the forms they do today. Plus, it is my wholehearted belief that comic book art and stories, despite everything (and despite what Alan Moore says), are evolving for the better every year! So, as you can see, the complexity of the issue only gets more complicated as you peel back layer after layer.↩