Comic History 101: Batman: Year One

Last week we looked at how Brian Michael Bendis reinvented Spider-Man for a new generation with Ultimate Spider-Man. However, Bendis wasn’t the first writer to create a new origin story for a character stronger than the original. Jump back to the late eighties comic book industry, after years of tireless work from writers and artists comic books are finally being taken seriously. The New York Times and many other critical bodies are starting to pay attention to comic books. It’s the dawn of a new era for the industry. There’s just one problem though, the majority of character DC Comics have set to take over this new age of comics have years of laughable continuity. Superman has a million stories in his stable about suddenly gain weight or fighting shamelessly poor villains and Batman seems to be in the precipice of something great but he is held back by an origin lacking depth. That’s where Frank Miller stepped in.

A New Batman a For A New Era


By Eighty Seven, Frank Miller was well on his way to securing his place as a comic book icon with his amazing run on Daredevil and The Dark Knight Returns squarely under his belt. As Miller was looking for his next big project, the heads of DC Comics approached him and asked him to take Bruce Wayne back to the drawing board. The heads at DC and Miller himself wanted to retcon large chunks of Batman’s origin so that he could move closer to a new image as the ‘dark knight’.

Bruce Is Back And More Of A Badass Than Ever Before!


Miller decided to focus on the period when Bruce first came back to Gotham after his years of training. This kept the fundamental first chapter of Bruce’s story, around his parents deaths, while also giving Miller the chance to follow the characters of Jim Gordon and Catwoman from their origins in Gotham. The plot sees Bruce Wayne become Batman as he fights the corruption of Gotham’s crime empires both in the streets and the police force. With the exclusion of Catwoman, there are no other super villains and instead the piece chooses to adhere to a sense of visceral realism. It was for this very reason that the fans loved it.

In An Era Before Butt Hurt


It’s hard to really measure the reception at the time as it was pre-Internet and before most of the comic book reviewing systems were in place. It’s fair to say the book sold well and was at least successful on some level as it began to gain traction in the circles of Batman fans. More recently, IGN ranked the series 2nd in its top Batman stories. Across metacritic sites such as Amazon and Good Reads the book seems to score four to five star ratings consistently from the fanbase, often sited as a modern classic. But it’s not quality or success of the series that really matters when discussing Batman: Year One, it’s the legacy.

The Birth Of Batman


Pretty much every film, comic and video game adaptation of Batman since the release of Year One has taken a little piece of Miller’s work with it. It was in Year One that we really saw Batman becoming violent towards his enemies. It’s worth noting that the enemies began to change as well, many villains became mafia bosses or crime lords after a fashion. This created more complex stories around psychosis and corruption. The Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy took many notes from Year One and the visceral realism of Miller’s Batman. This has lead to Batman Year One becoming essential reading for all Batman fans. Next week we will be jumping back to the world of Indy comics, looking at how Preacher showed comics could have balls.

…That’s this week’s Comic History 101!!! Check back on Friday for a new Covert Coot article!!!

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