Becoming the Batman: Two Eras, Two Origins, One Dark Knight

An introduction to The Dark Knight’s origin stories.

If you have landed on this page, there is a good chance you know something about Batman.  His story has been re-envisioned time and time again.  Like a snug pair of gauntlets though, Batman’s origin story is not one-size-fits-all.

Batman: Year One

Batman’s most well-known origin story is perhaps Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One.  In this gritty drama, filled with police corruption, in a Gotham plagued with crime, Bruce Wayne struggles to find his path towards rescuing his city from the criminal underworld.  If you are a fan of Gotham (TV) or Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, the pages of this story should feel very familiar to you.

Batman: Year One - Cover art by David Mazzucchelli
Batman: Year One – Cover art by David Mazzucchelli

This book is as much a Jim Gordon story as it is a Batman story.  We see Gordon’s first days as a member of the Gotham City Police Department (GCPD).  You can feel Gordon’s disdain for the seemingly hopeless city.  Gordon faces off against his fellow GCPD officers, as well as his inner struggles with the stresses of being a good cop in a bad town.

For Bruce Wayne, we witness him grow from an inexperienced vigilante in street clothes, to the Caped Crusader known as Batman.  Bruce experiences growing pains in his return to Gotham after a long training venture.  He finds that although he is a trained fighter, master of disguise, and intuitive detective, it takes something more to defeat the enemies he will face.

We will revisit Miller’s Year One in future posts.

Batman: Zero Year – Secret City

If you prefer your Batman just a hint brighter, with the slightest dash of humor, Scott Snyder’s Batman: Zero Year-Secret City may be more palatable for you.  This updated origin story pays plenty of homage to Frank Miller, while simultaneously telling its own unique tale.

Unlike Year One, Zero Year features a lot less Gordon and a lot more Alfred.  This story actually develops the relationship between Bruce Wayne and his butler, Alfred Pennyworth quite extensively.  Gotham (TV) fans should enjoy seeing more of their favorite butler, as well as a young Master Bruce (before his parents’ murder).  This may be one of the first times we get to see little Bruce genuinely happy for several panels come to think of it!

Batman: Zero Year - Secret City - Cover art by Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, and FCO Plascencia
Batman: Zero Year – Secret City – Cover art by Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, and FCO Plascencia

This story offers a more high tech version of Batman, complete with ‘electro adhesion bonded’ boots and a grappling gun that responds to voice commands.  Similar to Miller’s story, Bruce uses disguises even before dressing like a giant bat, although these disguises are a bit more advanced.  Bruce/Batman’s main adversary in this story is The Red Hood Gang and their mysterious leader.  Gotham fans may remember the gang from their appearance in the episode “Red Hood.”  Zero Year also features The Riddler as a second antagonist.

Once again, we will explore Zero Year in future posts

If you want to see how a billionaire became a bat, these are two excellent stories to start with.

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