BATMAN ON FILM, 'The Dark Knight Fansite!' Est. 1998.

OPINION

BATMAN: THE EARLY YEARS

Author: Bill Ramey
Wednesday, March 14, 2007

BATMAN BEGINS tells the story of the origin of The Batman on the big screen. The saga of Gotham’s vigilante protector’s early years continues in the upcoming sequel, THE DARK KNIGHT.

In BEGINS, we saw exactly why and how Bruce Wayne became “The Bat-Man.” We witnessed the beginning of his partnership with a Gotham police detective named Jim Gordon -- who will go on to become the city’s Commissioner of Police.

In THE DARK KNIGHT, we will see The Batman take on his arch-enemy -- The Joker -- for the very first time. Also, another crusader for justice will join the team of Gordon and Batman and make it a trio: Harvey Dent, Gotham’s new district attorney.

But what of The Batman’s early years in the comic books? Luckily, there are some real gems -- in the form of trade paper backs and graphic novels -- that provide the details of The Dark Knight’s early years fighting crime in Gotham.

Here in chronological order -- or at least the best that I can determine -- are the stories of The Batman's "Early Years" recommended by BATMAN ON FILM.


BATMAN: YEAR ONE
This is absolutely THE starting point.

“BATMAN: YEAR ONE” is a four-part story arch in BATMAN written by Frank Miller with art by David Mazzucchelli (pencils) and Richmond Lewis (colors). It was first published in 1987 and appeared in issues 404-407. It was then published as a trade paperback/graphic novel and is one of the most popular single Batman stories of all time.

The story details the start of Bruce Wayne’s career as The Batman in Gotham, as well as Jim Gordon’s with the Gotham City Police Department. For the most part, it is considered cannon by DC Comics and is the official origin of Batman in current DC Universe continuity.

The Batman doesn’t face any supervillains in YEAR ONE, only police/city government corruption and organized crime. However, Gordon does mention The Joker at the end of the story.

YEAR ONE was one of the books/Batman stories that had a large influence on 2005's BATMAN BEGINS.


BATMAN AND THE MONSTER MEN
& BATMAN AND THE MAD MONK

BATMAN AND THE MONSTER MEN and BATMAN AND THE MAD MONK together make up the 2-part “DARK MOON RISING” series written and drawn by Matt Wagner and feature the adventures of a “Year One-ish” Batman. In fact, in a 2007 interview with BATMAN ON FILM, Wagner says that the “DARK MOON RISING” stories are set somewhere “inside the spaces of the last several panels” of YEAR ONE.

Both MONSTER MEN and MAD MONK depict The Batman’s first encounters with villains that are more than the standard mobsters, thiefs, muggers, etc. that he took on in YEAR ONE.

MONSTER MEN has The Batman squaring off against Dr. Hugo Strange and his army of “Monster Men” that Strange has created at Arkham Asylum via genetic engineering. It is based on the story, “Dr. Hugo Strange and the Monsters” from BATMAN #1 in 1940.

MAD MONK is a sequel to MONSTER MEN and tells the story of The Batman’s first encounter with the supernatural (or does it?).

The two stories were published from late 2005 thru early 2007 and feature a young and optimistic Bruce Wayne (and Batman). Bruce’s girlfriend Julie Madison -- and homage to Batman’s Golden Age -- plays an important role in both stories. It is based on the story, “BATMAN AND THE VAMPIRE,” which was found in DETECTIVE COMIC numbers 31 and 32 in 1939.


BATMAN: THE MAN WHO LAUGHS
THE MAN WHO LAUGHS is a 2005 graphic novel by Ed Brubaker and Doug Mahnke, and is considered to a sequel to BATMAN: YEAR ONE. It tells the story of Batman's first encounter with The Joker in post-Crisis continuity. The title is a nod to the Victor Hugo book of the same name, which is indirectly one of the inspirations for The Joker.

The story is based on The Joker’s very first appearance in 1940 found in BATMAN #1.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This graphic novel is currently out of print and is hard to find. Perhaps DC will see fit to re-issue this book next year as the release of the live-action film THE DARK KNIGHT nears.
UPDATE: This title will be re-released in early 2008.


BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN
THE LONG HALLOWEEN was originally a 13-issue comic book limited series written by Jeph Loeb with art by Tim Sale. It originally ran from 1996 to 1997. It has been collected in TPB/graphic novel form and is a favorite among Batman fans.

TLH is the story of the formation of the crime-fighting team of The Batman, Gotham Police officer Jim Gordon, and Gotham District Attorney Harvey Dent. The trio combine their individual talents and strengths to bring down Gotham mafia don Carmime Falcone, who was first introduced in BATMAN: YEAR ONE. It also details the “Rise of The Freaks” as a major criminal element in Gotham City and many characters from Batman’s famous rogues gallery are featured in TLH.

Perhaps most importantly, TLH is the story of the fall of Harvey Dent and the origin of his evil alter-ego, Two Face.

It is believed that TLH has a huge influence on the upcoming film THE DARK KNIGHT -- in particular the Batman/Gordon/Dent relationship.


BATMAN: DARK VICTORY
DARK VICTORY is the sequel to THE LONG HALLOWEEN by the team of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. It was originally published from 1999 to 2000 as a 14-part limited series.

DV depicts a series of murders involving Gotham City police officers by a mysterious serial killer only known as “The Hangman.” Central to the storyline is a territory war between Two-Face (the former hero Harvey Dent) and what remains of the Falcone mob, now led by Carmine’s daughter, Sofia Falcone.

Running concurrently with the aforementioned plot, DV is also the story of the origin of the first Robin, Dick Grayson.

Buy 'BATMAN: VENOM!'

BATMAN: VENOM
BATMAN: VENOM a 5 part story arch that appeared in LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT issue numbers 16-20 in 1991.

In a nutshell, this the story that introduced the drug “Venom” into the Batman mythos And it enters Batman’s universe with a bang, as The Batman himself gets hooked on Venom and fights to overcome his addiction. Venom is a sort of steroid that gives it’s user extraordinary strength, but it is very addictive and alters the user’s personality.

VENOM is set during the early years of Batman’s career, though exactly where is hard to determine -- most likely after after all the aforementioned stories except for DARK VICTORY.

Well that’s about it. I should note that The Joker’s “origin” was depicted in THE KILLING JOKE back in 1988 -- although it’s not sure whether The Joker remembers his beginning correctly. "Sometimes I remember it one way, sometimes another," says The Clown Prince of Crime in TKJ. "If I'm going to have a past, I prefer it to be multiple choice! Ha ha ha!"

Also, according to WIZARD, there will be a multi-issue story arch in the comic BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL that will explore the origin of The Joker. BATMAN CONFIDENTIAL is the new Batman monthly that presents stories of The Batman’s early years.

If you have a suggestion or any further information on this particular Bat-subject, feel free to shoot BOF an email!

UPDATED: BOF's have suggested the following: BATMAN: SHAMAN, BATMAN: GOTHIC, ROBIN: YEAR ONE, and BATMAN: FOUR OF A KIND.

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