Welcome to the Golden Age Batman chronology, which details the history of the Batman of the pre-original Crisis EARTH-TWO. As you will see (or may have already seen) in my other era chronologies, there is really no correct timeline when constructing a chronology that exists within the DC multiverse/omniverse. I merely can suggest what I perceive to be the best and most accurate reading order based upon facts gleaned from within the pages of the comic books themselves. With that in mind, we can begin to tackle the Golden Age.
Golden Age Batman refers to the original Batman that debuted in Detective Comics #27 in 1939. By 1964 DC publishers had already rebooted much of the entire DC Universe nearly eight years prior (starting with Showcase #4), but had yet to reboot Batman and Robin. Thus, in 1964 DC publishers decided it was finally time to let Batman and Robin join the rest of the DCU in the more sophisticated Silver Age. However, instead of simply erasing the long history of the Golden Age Batman, DC publishers executed a curious and innovative maneuver. The new rebooted adventures of Batman and Robin in the Silver Age, complete with a fresher and younger Dynamic Duo starting anew, were written as taking place on DC’s primary Earth, Earth-One. Golden Age Batman and Robin then became the Batman and Robin of a completely alternate Earth, Earth-Two. The continuities of the Earths One and Two continued forward from that point, but separately–although the Batman of Earth-One did cross paths with his Earth-Two counterpart in a few interdimensional multiversial tales in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. A unique part of Earth-Two was that it seemed to operate with the normal laws of time, meaning it progressed in relative real-time. In May of 1939 when ‘tec #27 was released, Bruce Wayne was just finishing his training and had just graduated from college. If we assume he was 21 years-old when he finished school and turned 22 in February 1940 (Bruce’s birthday in the comics) then by 1979 he would have been 61. This seems to jibe pretty well with events in Earth-Two’s history. Batman does age and even retires and has a daughter that grows into adulthood. Likewise, Robin grows into adulthood as well (although there are a long stretch of stories in the 50s and 60s where Robin seems to be aging way too slowly for comfort—we have to “age him” in our minds a bit in those decades). I mentioned 1979 specifically since that is the year when Earth-Two Batman is killed.
Both Earth-One and Earth-Two are completely destroyed and erased from existence in 1986 with the mega-crossover event Crisis on Infinite Earths. The 1986 Crisis functioned as DC’s second major reboot–the first being the Silver Age reboot that slowly occurred from 1956 to 1964. Crisis on Infinite Earths destroyed the majority of the multiverse and created one single new Earth that would go through many retcon events over the years, many bearing a “Crisis” name tag. Eventually, the new post-original-Crisis Earth (the DCU’s primary Earth of the Modern Age) would retain the name of Earth-0. But the story of the Modern Age is a story for another section of this site.
Since the Golden Age (the epoch featuring the pre-original-Crisis Earth-Two) operates mostly in real-time I’ve started the chronology in 1939. Obviously, this section of the site is still a work in progress, so things will fluctuate here and there consistently. Feel free to help out or offer a few pointers via comment or e-mail. If you offer any helpful information I will definitely give you credit in a footnote.
Thanks to the wonderful resources provided by Aaron Severson, The Unofficial DCU Guide, The DC Comics Database, Michael Norwitz, Mike Voiles, and Chris Jarocha-Ernst. And of course, thanks to anyone else who helped and/or inspired me.
- COLLIN COLSHER: I originally (and inaccurately) said that the reason for the delay of the Batman reboot into the Silver Age was due to the success of the campy 60s TV show starring Adam West and Burt Ward. Of course, this is incorrect since Batman wasn’t on the air until 1966.
PAPA SPANK!: It’s indeed a fact that the campy TV show did not air until 1966. 1964 was the introduction of the yellow circle and Julius Schwartz retooling of Batman. During that period Batman actually became less campy and more realistic for a very short time. Sillier characters like Batwoman, Batgirl and Batmite would be dropped without explanation, which actually makes sense for your chronology! That said, one shouldn’t be afraid to move stories over to the Silver Age if they don’t mesh well with the Golden Age.
COLLIN COLSHER: A question arises. Why did Batman take so much longer to join the rest of the Silver Age reboot? Were sales of Batman and Detective Comics really that much higher than other DC books in the late 50s and early 60s?
PAPA SPANK!: While I don’t know how well Batman titles were selling in relation to other DC books at the time, what little internet research I’ve done suggests the reason for the retool was actually due to declining sales. I also think the transfer from Earth 2 to Earth 1 was a complete accident on their part. While most Silver Age heroes had emerged many year prior, the famous “Flash of Two Worlds” that made the Silver Age a distinct alternate world had only appeared three years earlier. Continuity at this time wasn’t really paid very close attention to. I think it was only later that it was retroactively decided that only Silver Age Batman had the yellow circle. It also seems to be agreed upon that anything before 1955 was definitely Golden Age Batman. This leaves the period between 1955 and 1964 ambiguous. I like your idea of having the Golden Age end at 1964, as it ties in nicely with Infinite Crisis adding in more Golden Age continuity into the Modern Age (thanks to Grant Morrison).↩
- COLLIN COLSHER: It is also worth mulling-over an important fact that is fundamental to understanding all of these chronological listings: During DC’s huge company-wide reboots, it’s not just universes that are being erased, the entire timelines associated with each universe are being erased. For example, with Crisis on Infinite Earths it’s not as if Earth-One’s and Earth-Two’s timelines simply end with a cataclysm in 1986. If that were the case, then any reference to future tales or stories that occur after 1986 would be null and void. The entire timelines are already complete. 1986 is simply the focal point of an event that sucks dry and evaporates the entire Golden Age timeline from the before the Big Bang to the End of Days. And likewise, it wipes the entire Silver Age timeline from its pre-Big Bang to its End of Days. To better understand this concept we must also adopt a general scientific view of time as another dimension of space—as a where instead of a when. In the case of the original Crisis, 1986 isn’t just a calendar year for our intents and purposes; it is also the point in time (or space-time) where the universe-collapsing anomaly occurs. Furthermore, it is necessary to understand that the event is exactly that, an anomaly (albeit one deliberately started by a villainous force) that ceased to exist on any timeline until its inception. The same system can be applied to Flashpoint in 2011. The Modern Age timeline doesn’t simply end dead in its tracks in 2011. Remember, the entire Modern Age timeline is already complete (from the Dawn of the Gods to the Big Bang to the End of Days). Flashpoint is merely a space-time anomaly that occurs at the physical point 2011. This anomaly erases the entire Modern Age timeline, not just the universe.↩