INTRODUCTION TO THE “YEAR ONE ERA”
I’d be remiss if I didn’t explain where my chronology explicitly (and purposefully) differs from other chronologies on the web and from DC’s own version of things. There are a bunch of chronologies on the web that list things differently than I do for the first ten years of Batman, including Chris J. Miller’s The Unauthorized Chronology of the DC Universe, which was a major inspiration and help to me while creating this site.
How does my chronology differ from Miller’s and so many others’ chronologies on the internet? Others seem to have important events (such as the debut of Two-Face, the appearance of Dick Grayson as Robin, and the formation of the JLA) a few years before when they appear on your list. For example, many timelines list Year Two as Two-Face’s debut year, Year Three as Robin’s debut year, and a little later in Year Three as the JLA’s debut year as well. My chronology lists Two-Face’s debut in Year Four, Robin’s debut in Year Six, and the JLA debut after that but also in Year Six.
Why does my chronology differ in these ways? It’s simple. The Real Batman Chronology Project, unlike many other timelines on the web, DOES NOT compress, shorten, or exclude The Long Halloween or Dark Victory—hence, the reason for my placement of the aforementioned important Batman moments in history. The Long Halloween is the ultimate and final origin story for Two-Face. Likewise, its sequel Dark Victory is the ultimate and final origin story for Robin. The ONLY way to have Two-Face debut in Year Two is to retcon a shorter Long Halloween that goes here and now. The ONLY way to have Robin debut in Year Three is to basically chisel the entirety of the yearlong Dark Victory series into mere weeks. And the only way to have the JLA debut in Year Three is to already have eliminated the three years necessary to house The Long Halloween and Dark Victory. Furthermore, one would probably need to eliminate many of the Legends of the Dark Knight stories that I refuse to exclude on my timeline to get to a universe where Two-Face, Robin, and JLA debut earlier.
But why don’t I just compromise or submit in order to jibe with DC editorial and the majority of other Modern Age timelines (including Chris J. Miller’s)? I mean, what’s the big deal, especially if The Real Batman Chronology Project compresses a ton of shit in the later years anyway? Well, devil’s advocate, you are wrong when you say that I compress things willy-nilly later on. While things DO admittedly get compressed and tightened-up, especially after Year 13-14, most of the “compression” that goes on is not ACTUAL OUTRIGHT ALTERATION or SHORTENING of stories (although that does happen in some rare exceptions)—it is, instead, mostly smooshing stories into close proximity with one another OR it is simply moving things around to work better with other stories. This mostly means that gaps/ellipses are eliminated in between monthly issues and topical references get cancelled-out, but the whole stories aren’t erased or whittled away into nothing!
But why are monthly titles in the later period of the chronology ripe for compression, alteration, and retconning while limited series about tales from yesteryear are not? First, monthlies tend to contradict other monthlies. You have a ton of different creators and editors working hand-in-hand to build an entire multiverse in relative real-time. This makes it so that the contradictory-prone monthlies can only align correctly (or be aligned correctly) by retconning their narratives to fit neatly into a timeline, but only after one can fully gather all the pertinent puzzle pieces of the universal line, which means only after a lengthy time has passed since their initial publications. ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THINGS, limited series that flash-back to yesteryear, like The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, are written and published from a point where hindsight is nearly 20/20. They are retroactively fitted into the timeline AS OPPOSED TO already in existence on the timeline and then retroactively CHANGED. Stories like The Long Halloween and Dark Victory mirror Frank Miller’s “Year One” in the sense that they are NOT malleable and function with SPECIFICITY. Again, this is all just a matter of opinion, but I think my take dictates the direction and scope of my chronology and gives it validity.
While I can’t speak for the various opposing chronologies out there, nor can I speak for DC itself, but I can quote from Chris J. Miller’s chronology notes to explain his mindset, which I’m sure reflects the mindsets of many of my peers that differ with my chronological opinions. And I can respond to those quotes to explain exactly why I disagree and how that is reflected within my timeline.
First, Chris J. Miller puts the debut of Two-Face and the first appearance of Robin earlier in order to link his timeline as close to what DC’s idea of things probably is. He also gives credence to Batman Annual #14 as the legit origin for Two-Face and credence to “Batman: Year Three” flashbacks (from Batman #437) as the legit origin of Dick becoming Robin. To quote Miller: “Superficial differences (in dialogue, etc.) notwithstanding, a close look at the details reveals that The Long Halloween story is clearly meant to expand upon the [shorter] Batman Annual #14, not supersede it. However, note that the internal timeline of Long Halloween cannot be fully reconciled with other known events, as it would delay Two-Face’s debut until late Year Three—while its sequel, Batman: Dark Victory, would push Robin’s debut all the way to Year Five.”
This is a HUGE differing point of view between Miller’s timeline and mine and one of the main reasons our timelines look so different. As he has, I have read both Batman Annual #14 and The Long Halloween very closely. While Miller (and a lot of other folks I’ve talked to online) believe that both stories co-exist, I don’t think it’s possible at all. I think The Long Halloween IS indeed meant to supersede Batman Annual #14, which means, as Miller fears, Two-Face’s debut is indeed pushed back. Although, because I’ve included way more Legends of the Dark Knight stories than he has, my timeline pushes Two-Face’s debut back not to Year Three, but to Year Four. Likewise, Miller laments the fact that if The Long Halloween is to be taken as unaltered gospel (which is how I have taken it) then Robin’s debut gets pushed back to Year Five. Again, with my added year’s worth of LOTDK tales inserted, Robin’s debut gets pushed back to Year Six.
But Miller goes even further than he does with The Long Halloween when disregarding Dark Victory. To quote his caveat: “If most of the [Dark Victory]’s specific holiday references are disregarded, and the crimes depicted are read as merely holiday-themed, the timeframe can be compressed.” So, Miller retcons Dark Victory from a FULL YEAR down to LESS THAN A MONTH, making it so that the Hangman (Sofia Gigante) doesn’t kill on holidays, but merely is a holiday-themed killer. This is a HUGE liberty that Miller takes to make his timeline work—one which I am unwilling to do.
Could I be wrong? Like I always say, there is no real answer. I could very easily erase a year by compressing things heavily in Year Two and Year Three, putting Two-Face’s debut into Year Three and Robin’s debut into Year Five, but that would be the closest my timeline would ever get to matching Miller’s.
In regard to Miller’s placement of the JLA much earlier than mine, Miller regards JLA: Year One as canon primarily (as far as I can tell) because of the “origin” piece in 52 #51, which shows Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Flash, and BLACK CANARY fight the Appellaxians (sic). This “origin” piece also says that the founding trio doesn’t join full-time until later. This all does seemingly refer to the events of JLA: Year One, while keeping the seminal flashback scene from Justice League of America Vol. 2 #0 canon as well. Here is Miller’s notation that I take issue with though: “[The JLofA v.2 #0 flashback scene depicting the Big Three forming the JLA] is a notable change to ‘New Earth’ history as compared to post-Crisis canon. The relevant flashback scene seemingly implies that it takes place in the immediate aftermath of the founding battle with the Appellaxians, but a reference to Robin precludes a date earlier than this. The origin recap in 52 #51 confirms the delay as well.”
While a “delay” it does indeed confirm, we are not specifically told that the delay is the full-year JLA: Year One delay. And I’m not so sure that it is? Also, I DO read the flashback from JLofA Vol. 2 #0 as occurring very shortly after the Appelaxian affair, which means the reference to Robin, in my evaluation, solidifies the idea that the Appelaxian affair has to happen after Robin’s official debut (and after he has met Superman). This fact is NOT reflected in Miller’s chronology, which has Robin debuting AFTER the Appelaxians attack.
So to re-iterate, Miller’s chronology, as he states openly in his caveats, along with others’ chronologies, exclude many Legends of the Dark Knight stories and significantly alter both The Long Halloween and Dark Victory by mega-compressing both series into extremely shortened versions—and in the case of the latter, nearly erasing it entirely. And he, along with other chronologists, regard the formation of the JLA differently, reading flashbacks and textual references differently than I do and factoring in JLA: Year One as more than a retconned reference arc, whereas I do not.
It’s frustrating, I know. How can various timelines be so damn perfect (tooting my own horn here, sorry) and yet so damn different? It’s just how it is. Luckily, my Real Batman Chronology links up pretty squarely with most timelines, including Miller’s Unauthorized Chronology of the DCU once you get to around 1999. Keep your eyes peeled for changes and updates, though. I’m always looking to make my chronology better. There must be a few compromises I can make to link my timeline up with the rest of the world (which, in the long run, would be a very good thing).
Phew. I hope you learned something in there. If you didn’t read all of the Modern Age Intro or the “Year One Era” Intro, no worries. On to the meat and potatoes.