A TIMELINE THAT DC FOLLOWS?
The section of the website regarding age makes reference to DC’s “official” timeline of Batman’s history and how it differs from mine. This is long overdue, but here is DC’s MODERN AGE timeline. (Building this DC timeline is an interesting endeavor as well since, like my chronology, it must also be created or fabricated. As I’ve always stated, there really can be no definitive history that can be taken as gospel, especially since any chronology must constantly shift to meet the never-aging lineaments attributed to these fictional characters. Thus, the complicated historiography of—or multiplication of chimeras in relation to—Batman continues on.)
The reason I have my timeline lasting 23 years is based upon information taken directly from within comic books. If you literally read every Batman comic book from 1986 through 2011, noting all the changes of season, topical references, references to time, editorial notes, character aging, and character development, you wind up with a mix of contradictions. But if you whittle that down, forming the BEST POSSIBLE combination of these contradictions, you’ll soon find that there IS a (semi-)concrete timeline. When you decide to add in all the other DC characters (besides the Bat-Family) you’ll find that things need to shift and fit-to-form even more in order to make things readable, understandable, and believable from a narrative perspective.
Towards the end of any superhero-verse timeline (meaning usually somewhere around fifteen to twenty-five years following a reboot), most mainstream companies will start to contradict their own timeline for fear that their characters are getting too old or stagnant. That’s when you start getting strange editorial tags and bogus time references—an attempt to stave off the eventual need to hit the restart button entirely. Such is the case with the Modern Age. DC was chugging along in relative real-time for about fifteen to twenty years and then all of a sudden time seemed to stand still (even though events kept on happening and characters kept on living their complicated little lives). Furthermore, earlier stories noticeably changed from beefy texts from which to glean information into mere compressed reference material, cast into the distant void of their own historical chronologies while losing all semblance of what we’d call substance.
Chris J. Miller’s unfinished but inspirational project, The Unauthorized Chronology of the DCU, is a brilliant example of a Modern Age timeline that regards everything THE WAY IT IS WRITTEN (post retcons, of course) as canon. His timeline also mirrors mine in length.
So really, we shouldn’t think of The Real Batman Chronology Project as expanding DC’s “official” timeline. It’s actually a case of DC needlessly shrinking their own. When I constructed my timeline, I did so moving forward, building what seemed like a correct chronological listing of stories, and then reading them page after page, ordering them along the way. To create a timeline that DC seems to utilize, we almost have to work backward. The persuasive bits of evidence with which to determine DC’s version? The latest possible references to ages (i.e. how old did DC say their characters were at the bitter end of the Modern Age) and how many “years ago” do flashbacks in the latest issues seem to imply? These are the final clues in the Modern Age that tell us roughly how many years the Caped Crusader has been crusading. Here are a few important ones (according to DC). Tim is 17-years-old going on 18 (Red Robin in 2011). Bruce is possibly nearing forty-years-old (said to be in his thirties in Batman RIP). Bruce met Silver St. Cloud nearly 10-years-ago (using Widening Gyre by Kevin Smith as a reference since it came out in 2010-2011 despite the fact that it is non-canon). There are many more, but these tidbits from three major 2011 story-arcs give us a pretty decent idea that Batman at the end of the Modern Age, according to DC, was around his 14th or 15th year in costume. This is a quick skeleton list, not detailed, for obvious reasons. I will refer to my chronological listings as BY1 for Bat Year One, BY2 for Bat Year Two, etc… Here we go.
DC YEAR ONE: Frank Miller’s “Year One” still holds tried-and-true. Thankfully the horrible addition of Batman peeing his pants (thanks Kevin Smith) isn’t canon. Therefore, DC Y1 is almost exactly the same as BY1.
DC YEAR TWO: As site contributor/fellow Batmanologist Valheru states, DC Y2 comprises many stories referenced from the Kane/Finger era (i.e origins of most of Batman’s rogues gallery). BY2 through BY5 comprises mostly of LOTDK tales, which according to DC, just aren’t canon anymore. (Or if they are, they are compressed into near oblivion and all placed into DC Y2). Venom would take place here followed by The Long Halloween.
DC YEAR THREE: Dark Victory occurs. Dick Grayson debuts as Robin. The JLA debuts here. DC Y3 is basically the end of BY5 and most of BY6 combined.
DC YEAR FOUR: This year comprises many Batman and Robin stories referenced from the Golden Age (think “pop-crime”). DC Y4 is comprised of large chunks of BY7.
DC YEAR FIVE: This year comprises Batman and Robin stories referenced from the Golden Age, but begins to transition into the Silver Age, which is basically more of BY7. Batman’s Black Casebooks (as gleaned from Batman #678) tell us that by “5 years into the mission” the majority of Golden Age tales have already taken place.
DC YEAR SIX: More Batman and Robin stories referenced from the Silver Age. The remaining parts of BY7 and pretty much all of BY8 fit here.
DC YEAR SEVEN: This is the “Penthouse” year. Bronze Age stories galore. Dick goes to college with a very early enrollment. The Saga of Ra’s Al Ghul occurs. Damian is conceived. This is BY9.
DC YEAR EIGHT: Dick becomes Nightwing. Jason becomes Robin. The Crisis on Infinite Earths occurs. This is BY10.
DC YEAR NINE: Barbara is paralyzed by Joker in Killing Joke. Jason is killed by Joker in Death in the Family. This is early BY12.
DC YEAR TEN: Tim becomes Robin at age 13. Zero Hour and Knightfall occur immediately afterward followed by Cataclysm and Road to No Man’s Land. BY12 through early BY16 are all highly compressed into this one single year.
DC YEAR ELEVEN: No Man’s Land takes place this year. The rest of BY16 synchs up with this year pretty well.
DC YEAR TWELVE: Our Worlds At War followed immediately by Bruce Wayne Murderer and Bruce Wayne Fugitive and then Hush, JLA: Obsidian Age, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, Death and the Maidens, War Games, OMAC Project, and Under the Hood, and Infinite Crisis. 52 begins. DC Y12 is BY17, BY18, BY19, and BY20 all squashed into one single year.
DC YEAR THIRTEEN: 52 concludes. Countdown occurs. Grant Morrison’s run begins with Batman and Son, followed by Ressurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul, Trinity, Batman RIP, and Final Crisis. DC Y13 comprises all of BY21 and the first third of BY22. Jezebel Jet mentions Bruce is “over thirty-years-old” (i.e. guesses he is “in his thirties”). It has been mentioned in a note above, but bears a reminder, that Damian debuts in Batman and Son at age ten. This means, like DC does with the short New 52 timeline, Damian’s aging process is artificially sped-up. He would only have been in existence for about five or six years at this point, and yet he’s ten-years-old.
DC YEAR FOURTEEN: Battle for the Cowl starts this year. This is the rest of BY22 leading up to Batman and Robin and the start of Red Robin.
DC YEAR FIFTEEN: Batman and Robin and Red Robin continue. The Return of Bruce Wayne and Batman Incorporated occur. Flashpoint happens at the end of this year. This is BY23.
So there you have it. This timeline effectively matches up with everything that DC published in the Modern Age and seems to be the historical foundation upon which Modern Age Batman stories were told. It is interesting to compare this insanely compressed history with the, albeit still highly compressed, dense and detailed chronology I’ve built. I wonder if I should make a “compromise-chronology” that merges the two into what would surely be the ultimate chronology of chronologies. It would probably be a waste of time, though, since both of these timelines are essentially null and void following Flashpoint.
-  COLLIN COLSHER: It is possible Silver St. Cloud debuts here. Kevin Smith’s storylines in 2010-2011 (from Widening Gyre) tell us that Bruce has known Silver for roughly ten years, thus giving us a reference for the placement of her debut. Even though Widening Gyre is non-canon, at the very least, it shows us the mindset of DC publishers towards the end of the Modern Age. If we choose to ignore Smith’s storyline references because they are non-canon, then we can move Silver’s debut to DC Y7. ↩
-  AIDAN K: In the DC timeline, there must be the assumption of accelerated aging on Damian’s part, as he is conceived during DC Y7 and is ten-years-old during DC Y13. ↩
-  ZILCH: A neat point of reference in regard to DC’s version of history is the DC Universe: Legacies series. While problematic in some areas, it gives a good range to the age of the Modern Age DCU in Paul Lincoln’s daughter, Diana, who was born at the start of the Modern Age. In the issue that details Crisis on Infinite Earths she is some where between pre-teen and teen, so at Crisis the modern heroes (Supes, Bats, etc…) have been around for 8-12 years. I would call it 10-13, but I want to give as much space as possible for the teen heroes’ ages. Therefore, DCY10 seems appropriate for the Crisis on Infinite Earths.
COLLIN COLSHER: DCU: Legacies does imply that the original Crisis occurs in Year Ten, but it still seems to work better for everything else if it’s in DC Y8. However, if one does push it later, it would unfortunately squeeze back Jason’s Death, Babs’ paralysis, and some other stuff into an uncomfortably compressed DC Y10. Up to the reader, but despite the implication in DCU: Legacies, I think DC still meant for the original Crisis to go in DC Y8. ↩
-  VALHERU: That DC-version timeline really looks funky, doesn’t it? The Silver and Bronze Ages are basically Y4-8, the Dark Age (or whatever you want to call the post-Crisis/pre-Modern Age) [COLLIN COLSHER: I called it the “Year One Era”!] is Y9-11, and 2001 through 2011 is roughly Y12-14. So basically Batman’s first 50 years of publication are 6 Years (excluding Miller and Loeb’s artificial Y1 and Y3), and the last 25 publication years are 6 more (and if the Years of NML and 52 were compressed, the slack would likely go to the Modern Era, not the Silver/Bronze).
See, that’s why I support a graduated timeline: We really can’t be treating the heavily-retconned pre-Modern Years as the same kind of temporal years that pass in the Modern Age, nor can we treat Gotham’s chronology equal to the wider-DCU’s. Loeb’s retconned Y3-4 of Long Halloween and Dark Victory simply don’t exist in the rest of the DCU (it’s even questionable whether Dark Victory exists much at all); the year of NML didn’t seem to pass in the rest of the DCU, and vice-versa 52‘s year without Batman is more like a week without him in Gotham. When Batman says he plays by different rules than other heroes, he’s not just talking methods: He’s operating on a whole ‘nother temporal plane.
COLLIN COLSHER: Yes, I am quite annoyed that so much slack went to the Golden, Silver, and Bronze Ages, instead of the Modern Age, but if we go by Tim Drake’s four years of aging, then the slack goes where it goes… which leads us to the fact that the DCU does indeed abide by an alternate scientific system of time (or one that lacks science). Trying to apply time to something that so clearly rejects the idea of time is, as I’ve always said, a futile effort. The chronological order of my project is, however, correct even if the applied times and dates are wacky. Regarding the application of specific times and dates to a structured order, there are a myriad of possibilities (including a graduated timeline) that can be applied to the organized events of Batman’s life, and this is a game that can be played an infinite number of times. A whole ‘nother temporal plane indeed… Sometimes it’s best not to think about it (although it’s a little too late for us)!
IAN @ TRADE READING ORDER: The DC version of the timeline is definitely insanely compressed. However, it kind of makes sense with so much having gone on in terms of issues in the Silver Age/Bronze Age, whereas the Modern Age has all been about storytelling events—meaning things are actually changed after the issues, versus just containing a lot of pages. So, it feels a lot more weird to have that ten to twenty years compressed versus the 1960s-1980s twenty year block. Nice analysis! ↩
-  AIDAN K: Here’s another alternative. Looking at a couple of lines in Morrison’s “RIP,” I came up with ~18 years in the Bat-suit (at the time of the reboot). Funny that we get a third answer. I think 18-19 years as Batman is a fair compromise down from your 22 years (or up from your DC’s 15 years). Here’s my reasoning: First, we have from the Black Casebooks that “5 years into the mission” is still the Silver Age, though it appears to be the tail end. Add eleven years for Damian’s age (assuming no accelerated growth in the Modern Age), a year for his gestation/time for Bruce and Talia to fall in love in a whirlwind three months, and a buffer year between the Silver Age and Saga of the Demon [where Dick leaves, etc.] and we get roughly 18 years of Batman.
COLLIN COLSHER: As I always say, there are an infinite number of possibilities. I am open to all of them. However, my challenge to Aidan’s timeline is that the “five years into the mission” line from Batman #678 actually tells us that much of the GOLDEN AGE stuff—NOT Silver Age—occurs in the first five years of Batman’s career. Nor does it definitively mean that the Golden Age stuff immediately ends after five years. Thus, my reasoning for adding a four or five extra years is to accommodate the vast number of stories being squeezed into continuity, which includes the Silver Age tales. This is also the reason for my version of events lasting 23 years instead of merely 18. ↩