Year One

1939[1]

 

–FLASHBACK: From Secret Origins Vol. 2 #6. It’s been almost fifteen years since the tragic murders of Thomas Wayne and Martha Wayne, the parents of now 23-year-old millionaire heir to the Wayne Enterprises company and current college student Bruce Wayne.[2] Bruce has spent the past several years training his mind and body with hopes of becoming a policeman in Gotham City and finding his parents’ killer. We pick up Secret Origins Vol. 2 #6 with Bruce in his senior year of college as a criminology major. He is dating the lovely and intelligent senior theater major Julie Madison. In the early spring, Bruce and Julie see the Humphrey Bogart film Invisible Stripes. Bruce is particularly struck by its depiction of the criminal mind. (Of course, in real life, Invisible Stripes wasn’t released until December of 1939, but oh well.)

–FLASHBACK: From Batman #96, Part 2. April.[3] Bruce, recently turned 24-years-old and naturally a star collegiate athlete, earns the continued wrath of his arch-rival Joe Danton. Danton already had beef with Bruce dating back to the football season, but now the baseball coach benches Danton in favor of Bruce, angering Danton further. Shortly thereafter, Bruce and Danton duel in a fencing match. During the match Danton purposefully strikes an unprotected part of Bruce’s arm, giving him a nasty permanent scar. The fencing coach kicks Danton off the team. Later, Danton swears that he will one day get revenge on Bruce and the rest of the team.

–FLASHBACK: From Secret Origins Vol. 2 #6. Bruce and Julie graduate from college in early May 1939. The lovers immediately turn their relationship into a distanced one as Julie moves from Gotham to New York City to pursue a career in acting. Weeks pass, during which Bruce broods in his penthouse apartment, thinking only of how to avenge the deaths of his parents. In the final days of May, Bruce sits in his home and a bat flies in through the window, thus inspiring him to become the Dark Knight of Gotham, the Bat-Man. (Yes, he is originally called “The Bat-Man,” but for brevity’s sake I will refer to him simply as “Batman”. He will also be referred to by various nicknames, including “Dark Knight,” “Caped Crusader,” “Dark Detective,” “Masked Manhunter,” and “World’s Greatest Detective.”) As we learn in Detective Comics #235, Bruce, when making the decision to become the Dark Knight, also subconsciously recalls a Batman costume his father wore at a masquerade when he (Bruce) was three-years-old, although he won’t realize this for a long time. The backstory regarding the death of the Waynes and the pivotal scene where the bat flies through the window are also shown through flashback from Detective Comics #33, Batman #1, Batman #47, and Detective Comics #235. Donning a disguise, Bruce meets with tailors in a hotel and has them design the Bat-costume for him (sans gloves). Bruce designs his own utility belt, complete with crime fighting accoutrements, which he will constantly replenish and update. Batman’s first night on patrol is shaky and full of near fatal mistakes, but the rookie vigilante manages to nab gangster Slugsy Kyle and leave him tied up for the police complete with a note. The Slugsy Kyle sequence in Secret Origins Vol. 2 #6 is a panel-for-panel re-showing of an original flashback from Detective Comics #265.

–REFERENCE: In Detective Comics #265 and Detective Comics #148. Batman records the first entry into his “official casebook,” about Slugsy Kyle (as referenced in Detective Comics #265). Batman, from this point onward, will begin recording all of his adventures in great detail in this diary, which will be kept in a secure location at the Wayne Estate (as referenced in Detective Comics #148).

–FLASHBACK: From Detective Comics #205. Bruce, with plans on warring against crime firmly in mind, moves to a remote location just outside of Gotham. This palatial mansion estate, which Bruce dubs “Wayne Manor” will be his primary residence for the rest of his life. Intending to use a barn on the edge of the property as his vigilante HQ, Bruce actually winds up falling through the earth, discovering a large cavern that runs beneath the entire property. Bruce immediately begins construction on an underground bunker HQ in this cavern. As we learn in Batman #64, the caves below Wayne Manor are linked via a maze of natural underground passageways to the historic Anderson Caves that run for miles underground. The Anderson Caves were last inhabited by runaway slaves and Confederate spies during the Civil War. The actual cavern under the Wayne property itself was used as a hideout for lawman Jeremy Coe in the 1650s (as we learn in Detective Comics #205). Note that, while the flashback from ‘tec #205 refers to Batman’s underground HQ as the “Bat-Cave” right away, Batman won’t actually expand his bunker into the rest of the cave until Year Six. Thus, he doesn’t actually use the word “Bat-Cave” until that time. Note that keeping the Bat-Bunker hidden is no small task, especially since it is connected to publicly-known geologically surveyed caves. We must assume that, aside from sophisticated security and camouflaging methods, Batman uses his vast resources to erase geological history records in order to keep this secret safe.

–REFERENCE: In Batman #12, Batman #48-49, Detective Comics #165, and Batman #34, Part 4. Batman decides to start collecting keepsakes from his nightly patrols and turns a room in Wayne Manor into what will become his Hall of Trophies (as referenced in Batman #12). By the middle of Year Four, Batman will have at least 800 trophies, meaning he will collect multiple trophies every single time he goes out on patrol. The trophies will cover a wide purview of items, including pistols, bazookas, machine guns, knives, brass knuckles, poison bottles, large baubles, superhero memorabilia, and super-villain ephemera. If we assume Batman catalogs even old shell casings and bullets collected from crime scenes, it comes as no surprise that he will collect so much so fast. Batman will also consistently add newspaper clippings into various scrapbooks, framed wanted posters, various busts, and Batman, Robin, and Joker posters into the Hall of Trophies as well (as referenced in Batman #34, Part 4 and Batman #48-49). Note that, while specifically not trophies, Batman will also keep an elaborate wardrobe of dozens of different Bat-costumes on site (as shown in Detective Comics #165).

–Detective Comics #27
The day after apprehending Slugsy Kyle, Bruce meets with his good friend Gotham City Police Department Commissioner James Gordon.  Bruce and Gordon both indulge in a shared favorite pastime of smoking tobacco and briefly discuss the mysterious Batman.  Bruce then accompanies Gordon to a crime scene where industrial tycoon David Lambert has been murdered.  Batman makes his second appearance at the home of Lambert’s business partner Steven Crane, but is unable to prevent his murder.  However, Bruce does take out the killers and retrieves an important clue as to who hired them; a business contract.  Lambert’s third business partner, Paul Rogers, hears of the murders and flees to Lambert’s fourth and final partner, Alfred Stryker.  At Stryker’s home Batman shows up just in time to save Rogers’ life from the mastermind of the vile plot; Stryker, who falls to his death while struggling with the Caped Crusader.  Batman had learned from the contract that Stryker stood to gain complete control of Apex Chemicals if his three other partners died. Afterward, Bruce and Gordon chat again. (The aptly named “Case of the Chemical Syndicate” is also retold through flashback from Secret Origins Vol. 2 #6, which notably highlights Batman’s sleek 1939 roadster—a precursor to the Batmobile.)

–FLASHBACK: From Secret Origins Vol. 2 #6. Immediately after returning home after the “Case of the Chemical Syndicate,” Bruce phones Julie in New York and puts her at ease by telling here that he will not pursue his dream to become a policeman. Of course, he doesn’t tell her that he has instead become the Batman.

–REFERENCE: In Batman #12, Part 2. Bruce has already completed construction of a bunker beneath Wayne Manor, which contains a secret tunnel to an abandoned barn on the edge of the property. As Batman, from this point on, he will now leave and enter from this tunnel. Batman will also store multiple versions of the Batmobile, Robinmobile, and several versions of the Batplane in this underground garage.

–REFERENCE: In Secret Origins Vol. 2 #6. Bruce visits his fiancée Julie in New York City a week after the “Case of the Chemical Syndicate.” Julie is acting in a Broadway play. Bruce will travel to NYC to visit her on occasion—visits that we will simply have to imagine invisibly scattered throughout our timeline.

–FLASHBACK: From Detective Comics #227. Batman begins training with Barrett Kean, master of makeup and disguise. While not specifically shown on our timeline, we must imagine a series of disguise lessons that occur over the course of the next few weeks.

–FLASHBACK: From Detective Comics #234 and World’s Finest Comics #65. Batman introduces himself to Commissioner Gordon. Gordon, while remaining cordial and friendly, summarily dismisses Batman and implies that amateur vigilante methods are too dangerous and unnecessary for Gotham. Batman will soon be placed on the GCPD’s most wanted list.

–REFERENCE: In Batman #69, Part 2. Bruce (as both Bruce and Batman) joins Gotham City’s volunteer fire squad. The squad is led by Jim Garth and has over a dozen members, including actor Roger Lyons, millionaire Edgar Mead, reformed crook Albert Starr, zoo vet Wilber Frost, and lawyer Harry Dore. Obviously, the fire department has different more accepting views on Batman than the police department does. Batman and the squad will deal with a few fires over the course of the next few weeks.

–REFERENCE: In Batman #48. June, 1939. Batman solves the “Venice Murder Case” and collects a gondola as a trophy. Since I’m fairly certain the “Venice Murder Case” is not from an actual written story, I’m not sure who the villain was or if Batman actually traveled to Italy—it could have been Little Italy in Gotham.

–Detective Comics #28-29
Batman next shuts down a gang of jewel thieves led by the monocled Frenchy Blake.  After being linked to the criminals by mistaken policemen, Batman defeats Blake’s whole gang and gets a signed confession out of him before dropping him off at police headquarters with another Bat-note attached to the villain.  Detective Comics #28 is also notable because the Dark Knight debuts the use of a Bat-rope that he conceals within his utility belt.

After nabbing Frenchy Blake, Batman meets his first ever supervillain, Karl Hellfern, better known as Doctor Death!  It’s a pretty sure bet that if you wear a monocle in 1939 you are evil.  Doctor Death, a chemical mastermind, sends a message to Batman in the personal ads of the Daily Globe telling him to pick up a letter at a specific post office.  I’m not sure how this works since anybody can read the newspaper and thus, anybody could show up to collect the message.  But gaping plot hole aside, Bruce receives the letter, which brags about a murder that will be committed in a downtown penthouse.  Batman suits up by wearing gloves and knee pads with suction cups.  Using these cups to scale the tower Batman is attacked and takes a bullet courtesy of Doctor Death’s main henchman, the behemoth Indian bodyguard Jabah.  After narrowly escaping the building, Bruce is patched up by the Wayne family doctor.  (Bruce makes up a cockamamie story about accidentally shooting himself and the skeptical doc doesn’t buy it for a minute).  The next day Bruce spots Jabah on an errand to execute someone on behalf of his master. Bruce saves the would-be victim and trails Jabah back to Doctor Death’s HQ. That night Batman infiltrates Doctor Death’s mansion and engages him in a battle that results in the torching of the entire building and the apparent death of the super-villain. Of course, unknown to Batman, Doctor Death survives. Detective Comics #29 is also notable because Batman debuts the use of “choking gas” smoke pellets.

–REFERENCE: In Detective Comics #33. After getting shot in ‘tec #28, Batman decides to wear a bulletproof vest from this point forward. Although, the Dark Knight will soon abandon the vest, finding it cumbersome.

–REFERENCE: In Batman #69, Part 2. Batman and the volunteer fire squad, ironically and tragically, are unable to put out a fire at the home of its leader Jim Garth. Garth is badly burned, but survives. However, his entire family is killed.

–FLASHBACK: From Detective Comics #231. Batman chases after bank robbers, but when a young boy named John Vance gets caught in the middle, the robbers flee but vow to kill Vance since he is the only witness to the crime. Batman brings Vance, who happens to be a gifted child athlete, back to the Batcave (which should correctly read Bat-Bunker since Batman wouldn’t be calling it that yet[4]) and gives him a mini version of the Bat-costume. Batman and Batman Junior hit the streets and take down the bank robbers, a group led by Birrel Binter. Binter is sentenced to a long jail term but vows to get revenge one day. Batman Junior retires after this single mission, but Batman will keep constant track of Vance’s whereabouts for the next two decades.

–FLASHBACK: From Detective Comics #38, Batman #32, Part 2, and Infinity Inc #6. Bruce decides to visit Haly’s Circus. At the show Bruce watches in horror as John Grayson and Mary Grayson, the trapeze artists known as the Flying Graysons, fall to their grisly deaths in an “accident” orchestrated by Tony Zucco.  Their 8-year-old daredevil son Dick Grayson is left orphaned. Feeling that Dick is a kindred spirit and wanting to help the boy avenge his parents’ deaths, Batman takes him under his wing and reveals his secret identity to him.  Dick swears an oath to uphold the vigilante effort at all costs and begins an intensive training program that lasts “many months.” Dick’s training is intensive and includes both physical and mental education. Bruce, as part of the training, takes Dick to the public library as well (as referenced in Detective Comics #106). Bruce also legally adopts Dick as his ward. Bruce and Dick will live in both Wayne Manor, just outside Gotham, and in a downtown apartment. We won’t see Dick again until his training is complete, but we must assume that the training is intense and occurs whenever Bruce has time.

–Detective Comics #30
Less than a week after the supposed death of Doctor Death the badly burned and heavily bandaged supervillain returns!  After reading of a mysterious chemical death that resembles Doctor Death’s MO in the paper, Bruce decides to investigate by visiting the bereaved wife of the victim.  She tells Bruce that she and her husband were indeed threatened by Doctor Death, who was after their diamond collection.  Bruce then suits up as Batman and waits by the diamond safe for Doctor Death to make a move.  Doctor Death sends his new henchman, the Cossack brute Mikhail, to retrieve the loot.  The Dark Knight trails Mikhail to a pawn shop where Mikail drops the diamonds.  Batman then follows Mikhail to his apartment where they fight and the latter winds up with a broken neck!  Batman then returns to the pawn shop only to discover that the pawn broker is actually a disfigured Doctor Death in disguise.  The Caped Crusader easily defeats him and leaves him for the cops.

–FLASHBACK: From Detective Comics #234. Commissioner Gordon brokers a truce between the GCPD and Batman—(up to this point the GCPD has been under strict orders to arrest Batman)—in order to bring the Dark Knight along on a robbery case at the Museum of Time.  Gordon wants to observe the Dark Knight’s detective abilities in person. Batman catches the crook and finally earns the respect of Gordon.  Bear in mind, even though there a few other cops present at the Museum of Time case, Gordon’s endorsement of the Dark Knight is a private one. Gordon won’t publicly endorse Batman for another two years. Thus, Batman (and later Robin) will still be considered illegal vigilantes and will continue to be hunted down by the cops.

–FLASHBACK: From World’s Finest Comics #65. Commissioner Gordon continues to analyze the crime-fighting methodology of Batman. Batman helps Gordon solve a tough murder case and convict a man named Smith. Again, as stated above, don’t forget Gordon’s endorsement of the Dark Knight is private. He won’t publicly endorse Batman until Bat Year Three.

–FLASHBACK: From Detective Comics #244. Batman chases the gangster known as Bard into a circus.[5] Australian boomerang expert Lee Collins, on tour with the circus, helps the Dark Knight capture Bard by deftly tossing his aboriginal weapon at the villain. Afterward, Collins trains Batman in the art of the boomerang and even constructs him a bat wing-shaped Batarang as a gift. Thus, the debut of the first ever Batarang! Afterward, Batman keeps the original Batarang as a trophy for the Hall of Trophies and begins producing more to use on regular patrol (as referenced in Detective Comics #244).

–Detective Comics #31-32 (“BATMAN VS THE VAMPIRE”)
Bruce makes another visit to see Julie in New York, where she is still acting on a Broadway show.  Julie, while under a hypnotic spell, tries to murder somebody!  Bruce takes her to a quack therapist who recommends a relaxing trip to “the land of werewolves,” AKA Hungary.  Bruce and Julie depart on a ship overseas.  When Julie goes into another hypnotic trance Bruce discovers that the hooded supervillain known as The Monk is responsible.  Bruce immediately dons his Batman costume and fights the Monk aboard the ship.  Batman chases the Monk to his HQ in Paris where the former falls into a trap and fights a colossal gorilla.  The Monk escapes again, this time to his castle in his native Hungary.  With Julie safely in a hotel in Paris, Batman debuts the Batgyro and flies to Hungary to go after the Monk.  After attacking one of the Monk’s stagecoaches Batman apprehends his servant Dala, who turns out to be a vampire!  Batman drags Dala to the Monk’s castle only to learn that the Monk is also a vampire, who not only has the powers of hypnotism, but can turn into a werewolf as well.  The Monk easily dispatches Batman into a pit full of werewolves, but the Dark Knight is able to escape.  When the morning sun rises, the Caped Crusader finds the Monk and Dala sleeping in their coffins and kills them both with a gun loaded with silver bullets.  “Batman vs The Vampire” is also notable because Batman uses the Batarang in action for the first time—although it’s misspelled “Baterang.” I should also mention that writer Gardner Fox reveals that Batman’s hometown is New York. Of course, this was later retconned to Gotham City.[6]

–Detective Comics #34
This story takes place right after “Batman vs The Vampire” concludes, therefore ‘tec #34 is before ‘tec #33.  Batman, who has just killed the Monk and Dala, returns to Julie at their Paris hotel.  In Paris, Bruce runs into an old acquaintance, Charles Maire.  However, Bruce is horrified when he sees that Maire is missing his face (à la Faceless Redrum or The Question).  Maire explains that Duc D’Orterre, former leader of the Apache gang, had coveted his (Maire’s) wife.  When she refused him, D’Orterre burned Maire’s face off with a sci-fi ray gun.  Bruce dons the cape and cowl and goes after D’Orterre to obtain revenge on Maire’s behalf.  At D’Orterre’s mansion Batman is captured and forced to undergo the pain of a giant spinning wheel torture device and a room full of bizarre anthropomorphic talking flowers.  Yeah, not quite sure what to make of that one.  After Batman escapes, he tracks down D’Orterre.  The wily villain winds up dying in a car crash while struggling with the Dark Knight.

–Detective Comics #33
When the Dirigible of Doom floats high above Gotham and uses a death ray to destroy buildings, thousands perish.  An angry Batman goes after the man responsible, the self-styled Napoleon, Dr. Carl Kruger.  Batman tackles Kruger, his lieutenants, and his small army known as the Scarlet Horde head on and nearly gets killed in the process.  Batman later tries to sabotage the dirigible and almost dies again, taking a bullet in the back and losing a lot of blood, but surviving thanks to a bulletproof vest.  The Dark Knight then comes up with one final plan that involves reinforcing the Batgyro and a kamikaze run into the dirigible.  The Caped Crusader parachutes to safety.  Kruger is spared from the destruction of the dirigible only to fatally crash his escape plane into the river while trying to mow down Batman.

–FLASHBACK: From Detective Comics #35—and referenced in a flashback from America vs. The Justice Society #1. Batman used his personal handgun in Detective Comics #33 to blow up some ray machines, but prior to this had not actually shot anyone besides the vampires in Detective Comics #32. However, Detective Comics #35 shows an opening splash page with Batman holding his smoking handgun. Admittedly, the opening splashes, like covers, are not always canon. However, a flashback from America vs. The Justice Society #1 shows Batman in 1940 swinging down upon two criminals with a gun in his hand, mirroring and canonizing the ‘tec #35 splash that occurs here and now.

–REFERENCE: In Detective Comics #35. Batman befriends the unofficial “Mayor of Chinatown,” Wong. Wong becomes Batman’s secret Chinatown informant.

 

 

>>>NEXT:  YEAR TWO>>>

  1. [1]COLLIN COLSHER: Before we start, some important rules. I’ve included flashbacks in a specific way. If a flashback is first revealed—let’s say in Year 15, hypothetically—the flashback may or may not be mentioned in Year 15, but the actual events that occur in said flashback will be placed one the timeline exactly when they originally occurred attached to bullets listed as “flashback.” Similarly, story references will be listed as bullet “references.” And likewise, important narrative events that don’t include Batman will be listed as “notes.” Therefore, any “references,” “flashbacks,” or “notes” occur chronologically at the spot where they are situated on the timeline. Any character names (or group names) highlighted in red denote the first appearance of a reoccurring character (or group). Some of these red items may appear only once in the Bat-verse, but appear elsewhere throughout the DCU, and thus have been given the crimson treatment as well.
  2. [2]COLLIN COLSHER: Some sources list Bruce’s age when he graduates college as 21-years-old. However, America vs. The Justice Society of America #1 shows us that Bruce was born in 1915. Thus, Bruce should be 23 at this point (turning 24 around April of this year). His parents were murdered in 1924, when Bruce was nine-years-old (as we learn in Secret Origins Vol. 2 #6). The exact date of the Wayne murders is given in Detective Comics #265: November 25.
  3. [3]COLLIN COLSHER: A note about specific month listings on the Real Batman Chronology Project. Usually, if something has a specific month listed beside it and does not have a “reason why” listed along with it, it has to do with its chrono-spatial relationship with other stories (which may give much more detailed information). Unfortunately, a lot of my specific month listings will not have a “reason why” attached, including this one. However, no matter what, there is always a reasoning behind my attachment of a precise month to a story. The explanation for the month is probably something I had down on my personal scratch sheet/working calendar, which is a wildly complicated sight to behold in and of itself. The process of timeline-building is very exhaustive. Obviously, topical references and editorial notes are taken into account, but so are in-story clues and dialog as well. Once I have a bunch of items placed relatively where I think they go, I cross-check each story with every other story on my timeline to make sure that they aren’t contradicting each other.
  4. [4]COLLIN COLSHER: For some, Detective Comics #231 is hard to rationalize on the Earth-2 timeline because it is written in 1956 (two years after Showcase #4, which debuts the proto-concept of Earth-1 and 2) yet still flashes-back to a Year One where there exists a Batcave and modern Batmobile. However, there is absolutely no way to prove that Edmond Hamilton and Sheldon Moldoff ever had any intention of writing this story for a new Batman on a new Earth in 1956. In fact, the much more Bat-authoritative Bill Finger and Dick Sprang made the same continuity error as far back as 1945!
  5. [5]Credit to SEAN LEVIN on placement.
  6. [6]PAPA SPANK!:  Batman’s hometown being New York is indeed later retconned to Gotham. However, ‘tec #31 still takes place in New York. Secret Origins Vol. 2 #6 establishes that Julie Madison was performing in New York and that Bruce made visits to her.  I think we can safely assume that ‘tec #31 takes place during one of those visits.

2 Responses to Year One

  1. Papa Spank! says:

    Although Batman’s hometown being New York before later being retconned to Gotham is true, I actually see no reason why ‘tec 31 can’t take place in New York. Secret Origins establishes that Julie Madison was performing in New York and that Bruce was to visit her in a week. (Although we should assume the trip got delayed otherwise all of the events from ‘tec 27 to 34 all take place withing 2 weeks!). I think we can safely assume that ‘tec 31 is when Bruce finally takes his trip over to New York. Unless ‘tec 33 happens directly after Bruce arrives back from Paris I think we can also assume that this story does indeed take place in Gotham.

  2. lolo says:

    in the –Detective Comics #35-37 section, the last sentence implies batman dies

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