“Year One Era” (1-10)

INTRO TO THE “YEAR ONE ERA”: HOW MY MODERN AGE TIMELINE DIFFERS FROM OTHERS

 

Much of the information in the Modern Age section of the Real Batman Chronology Project was directly influenced by the unbelievably amazing “Unauthorized Chronology of the DC Universe” by Chris J. Miller. The domain registration has lapsed on Miller’s site, originally at http://dcu.smartmemes.com/, but you can still check it out via the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. If you haven’t seen this site, then you aren’t a true continuity buff or worthy of the title “comic book nerd.” This herculean effort is truly inspirational and I encourage everyone to check it out!

However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t explain why my chronology explicitly (and purposefully) differs from Miller’s “Unauthorized Chronology,” other chronologies on the web, and DC’s own version of things. Many other timeline projects 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 my list. For example, many timelines list Two-Face debuting in Year Two and Robin debuting in Year Three shortly after the JLA. My chronology lists Two-Face debuting in Year Four and Robin debuting in Year Six shortly before the JLA.

The Real Batman Chronology Project differs because, unlike many other timelines on the web, it DOES NOT compress, shorten, or exclude The Long Halloween or Dark Victory. 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. 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 from my timeline to get to a universe where Two-Face, Robin, and the JLA debut earlier.

One could pitch an argument that compromise (retconning/time-compression) is necessary in order to jibe with DC editorial and these other Modern Age timelines, especially since the Real Batman Chronology Project time-compresses many arcs in Modern Age Batman’s later years, especially after Year 14. I am against that argument, however, because the temporal tightening that goes on in the latter end of the timeline doesn’t alter narrative or change in-story details (except in quite rare unavoidable cases). The majority of the time-compression happens simply via the elimination of gaps and ellipses (i.e. breathing room) in-between stories. Most topical references have to be ignored as a result of this compression, but narrative isn’t erased or changed wholesale.

Another reason to go against retconning/shortening The Long Halloween and Dark Victory is that these titles are limited series that take place in Batman’s past. Written and published with 20/20 hindsight, 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. On the opposite end of the spectrum from these flashback limited series lie the average ongoing monthly issues, which are more prone to being affected by time-compression and retcons due to the tricky nature of long-form serialized storytelling by multiple creators. Monthlies tend to contradict other monthlies because there are 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 gather all the pertinent puzzle pieces of the universal line, which means only after a lengthy time has passed since initial publication.

I can’t speak for the various opposing chronologies out there, nor can I speak for DC itself, but I can quote from Miller’s website notes to explain his mindset, which surely reflects the mindsets of those who disagree with my opinions. By laying out Miller’s timeline-building blueprint, I can compare and contrast my own architecture to his, which gives a better overall idea as to why our timelines don’t sync-up.

First, Miller puts the debut of Two-Face and the first appearance of Robin earlier in order to match his timeline as closely as possible to what DC probably had in mind. 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.”

While Miller—and a lot of other folks—believe that both stories co-exist together as they were originally published (without much or any alteration), that is just not possible. While the opening part of Batman Annual #14 (the Rudolph Klemper bit) has been canonized via Matthew Manning’s The Batman Files, occurring immediately before the start of The Long Halloween, I think The Long Halloween IS 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 basically taken it), 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.

Miller slight goes even further in relation to Dark Victory. 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.” Because of this sentiment, Miller retcons Dark Victory from a FULL YEAR down to A FEW WEEKS, 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.

In regard to Miller’s early placement of the JLA debut, it would seem that he regards JLA: Year One as canon primarily because the “origin” piece in 52 #51 shows a flashback to JLA: Year One, specifically an image of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Flash, and Black Canary fighting the Appelaxians. This “JLA origin” also says that the founding trio doesn’t join full-time until later. Miller’s timeline canonizes JLA: Year One and a seminal flashback scene from Justice League of America Vol. 2 #0, despite the fact that they contradict each other. Here is Miller’s rationalization for doing so, which I take issue with: “[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 delay that comprises JLA: Year One. I’m not so sure that it is. Plus, JLA:Year One was retconned so much by later stories that it basically only exists as mere quasi-canon anyway. Also, the flashback from JLofA Vol. 2 #0 clearly reads as if it is occurring very shortly after the Appelaxian affair (as opposed to a full year later). The reference to Robin in JLofA Vol. 2 #0 solidifies the idea that the Appelaxian affair has to happen after the Boy Wonder’s official debut (and after he has met Superman). This fact is NOT reflected in Miller’s chronology, which goes against the simplest answer by having Robin debut AFTER the Appelaxian attack.

In summation, Miller’s chronology significantly alters both The Long Halloween and Dark Victory by mega-compressing them both into extremely shortened versions—and, in the case of the latter, nearly erasing it entirely. Miller also regards the formation of the JLA differently, misinterpreting flashback references while squeezing-in a messy JLA: Year One side-by-side with contradictory narrative. But Miller isn’t alone. There are plenty of scholars and comics journalists that have followed his path. How can various timelines be so perfect (tooting my own horn here, sorry) and yet so opposing? It’s frustrating, but it boils down to a simple difference of opinion. My take dictates the direction and scope of my chronology while giving it validity. Could I be wrong? Like I always say, there’s no real answer. Luckily, aside from these three key areas—the Two-Face, Robin, and JLA debuts—the Real Batman Chronology Project links-up pretty squarely with most timelines, including Miller’s, in every other way.

One final note about “how best to use my chronology as a reading guide.” It’s probably much more enjoyable NOT to break up story arcs and read them exactly as my timeline lists things. Rather, it is probably more enjoyable to read arcs as they were published or collected as trade paperbacks (i.e. as complete stories). If you are reading everything for the first time, I’d use my chronology as a basic framework to go off of. For instance, there’s no better place to begin in the Modern Age than with Frank Miller’s Year One. Maybe “Shaman” can follow afterward. For those that are already quite familiar with the texts and have read most of the narrative already, it might by an interesting exercise to then go back and read things in the EXACT order from my chronology. But as a first go, I wouldn’t recommend trying to do it. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t an endeavor to read superhero comics in “correct” chronological order, but, even so, it can be a really fun endeavor, should you choose to engage.[1]

 

__________________________________________________________________________

 

INTRO TO THE MODERN AGE <<<< | >>> SALAD DAYS >>>

 

>>> MODERN AGE YEAR ONE

 

 

  1. [1]COLLIN COLSHER: Here is an “essential” comprehensive list of Modern Age Batman trade paperbacks in chronological order. Bear in mind, these aren’t necessarily the best stories, but the most important available in collected trade format. Of course, there are great single issues that are collected in random “best of” trades as well, but those are harder to insert into a list.

    Year One by Miller/Mazzucchelli
    Batman & The Monster Men by Wagner
    Prey by Moench/Gulacy
    Batman & The Mad Monk by Wagner
    The Man Who Laughs
    Shaman by O’Neil/Hannigan
    The Long Halloween by Loeb/Sale
    Dark Victory by Loeb/Sale
    Dark Detective by Englehart/Rogers (aka Strange Apparitions)
    The Collected Saga of Ra’s al Ghul by O’Neil/Adams
    The Crisis on Infinite Earths
    Justice League International Vol. 1 by Giffen/MacGuire
    Ten Nights of the Beast
    Arkham Asylum by Morrison
    Justice League International Vol. 2
    Cosmic Odyssey by Starlin/Mignola
    Killing Joke by Moore/Bolland
    A Death in the Family by Starlin/Aparo
    Birth of the Demon
    Vengeance of Bane
    Knightfall/Knight’s End
    JLA: New World Order by Morrison
    JLA: American Dreams by Morrison
    JLA: Earth-2 by Morrison/Quitely
    Cataclysm
    — “No Man’s Land” (the government declares Gotham a wasteland, cut-off from the rest of society)
    — “Bruce Wayne: Murderer/Fugitive” (Bruce is framed for murder)
    — “Hush” (introduction of Hush)
    — “War Games” (crime war involving Black Mask, Stephanie Brown as Robin)
    Identity Crisis
    The OMAC Project
    — “Under the Hood” (Jason Todd returns)
    Infinite Crisis
    — “Black Case Book” (beginning of Grant Morrison run)
    — “Batman and Son” (introduction of Bruce’s son with Talia al Ghul, Damian)
    — “Batman RIP” (the final Bruce Wayne story-arc before Final Crisis where he “dies”)
    Final Crisis
    Batman & Robin: Batman Reborn
    The Return of Bruce Wayne
    Batman Incorporated Vol. 1
    Batman Incorporated Vol. 2

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *