Batman Wiki
Batman Wiki

Batman: Year One is the title of a Batman comic story arc written by Frank Miller, illustrated by David Mazzucchelli and colored by Richmond Lewis. It originally appeared in issues #404 to #407 of DC's Batman comic title in 1987. It is one of the first examples of the "limited series within a series" format that is now prevalent in American comic books, with the intent of future printings in trade paperbacks.

Originally conceived as a graphic novel, editor Denny O'Neil convinced Miller to serialize the story into four parts, reinforcing its canon status to monthly readers.

There have been several reprints of the story: a hardcover, multiple trade paperback editions (one in standard comics paper with simpler coloring and one deluxe version with rich detailing in the colors and both colored by Richmond Lewis) and it has been included in The Complete Frank Miller Batman hardcover.


The story recounts the beginning of Bruce Wayne's career as Batman and James Gordon's with the Gotham City Police Department.

Bruce Wayne, aged 25, returns home from training abroad in martial arts, manhunting and science for nearly twelve years. In Gotham, he bides his time, waiting for the right moment to strike, all the while preparing himself. Gordon, meanwhile, has moved to Gotham from Chicago with his pregnant wife, Barbara Kean-Gordon, and pursues a career in law enforcement. His first time out patrolling reveals to him the disturbing nature of law enforcement in Gotham as a senior officer, Detective Flass, assaults an unsuspecting teenager for "staying out late". Gordon is disgusted with his partner's behavior towards all the "offenders" Jim feels that he has to straighten things out.

Bruce makes preparations - registering at a hotel to provide an alibi, giving himself a fake scar to disguise himself - before going out for his first street mission. He enters the Red Light District of Gotham. A young prostitute named Holly Robinson tries to proposition him. Her pimp, angry because he knows Bruce isn't the type to hire prostitutes, forcefully drags her away. Bruce confronts him and gets into a fight, and a few others join in. Selina Kyle, a dominatrix in the slums of Gotham, jumps from her window and fights with Bruce; he is stabbed in the thigh by Holly.

The police arrive on the scene, shoot Bruce and then throw him into the back seat of their car. On the way to the station, he manages to escape by causing the corrupt officers to wreck their squad car. After pulling the unconscious officers out of the car Bruce returns home, bleeding from his various wounds. There he sits, looking for inspiration, something he feels will strike fear into the hearts of criminals. A bat crashes into the room through a window and perches on a sculpture of his father, to which Bruce immediately responds. He has found what he is looking for, stating the words "Yes Father, I will become a bat."

Gordon tries to clean up GCPD, but on the orders of the corrupt Commissioner Gillian B. Loeb, is attacked and threatened by fellow officers. After recovering, he visits the house of one of these officers, where they have gathered to play poker. He waits for Detective Flass, who he knows is responsible for organizing the attack. Flass is the last to leave, and Gordon tails him into the woods, where he proceeds to attack the drunken officer.

Bruce goes out for the first time as Batman and stops a trio of teenagers from stealing a television. A brief struggle ensues, resulting in the Dark Knight's first victory. The legend quickly grows with Batman attacking criminals with increasing boldness, including Flass, who was present at one crime, receiving a pay off from the criminals. One night, when the corrupt city leaders and gangsters like Carmine Falcone gather for a dinner party, Commissioner Loeb explains why Batman is politically advantageous to themselves, assuming he would never bother them; meanwhile, Batman sneaks onto the grounds, puts the guards to sleep and sets up stage lights around the window that comprises one of the dining room walls. He cuts the electricity, throwing the room in darkness, blows a hole in the outside wall and then activates the lights. He gives the men and women a dire warning that he is just as determined to deliver them to justice as well, then leaves. Meanwhile, Selina Kyle is inspired to become a costumed cat burglar when she sees Batman in action and becomes Catwoman.

The police try to capture Batman numerous times, but Bruce is too elusive and alert to fall for their traps. In addition, the maverick district attorney, Harvey Dent, becomes Batman's secret ally. After a night of following useless leads, Gordon and his partner, Detective Sarah Essen, see a truck barreling down the street. They give chase and Gordon hands the wheel over to Essen as he tries to get into the vehicle. An old, homeless woman stands in the way of the truck and is about to be run over just as soon as Batman jumps in and shoves her out of the way. The bus runs into a wall and Gordon briefly blacks out, only to awake moments later and find Essen holding Batman at gunpoint. She is momentarily distracted when she turns to ask if he is all right and Batman takes advantage to disarm her and flee into an abandoned building.

When cops arrive on the scene, the commissioner is quick to call in the trigger-happy Branden and his squad to drop a bomb on the building, which the Commissioner claims has already been scheduled for demolition. While dodging the fire from the explosion, Batman's belt (which contained explosives) catches fire, and he is forced to discard it. After suffering two dizzying gun wounds, Batman escapes into the secure basement and survives the blast. A crowd gathers outside the building. Stuck with only a blow gun and 3 darts, Batman uses a small device in his boot to summon thousands of bats from his cave to the building. A battle occurs as the police storm into the building and hunt him down. He incapacitates some and even saves a cat, jumping out of the building (after throwing a police officer forcefully through a wall) and takes advantage of the chaos that occurs when the bat colony arrives to speed away on a police motorcycle and escape.

Gordon has a brief affair with Essen. During the affair, he is confronted by the Commissioner, who threatens to inform his wife of the affair if he doesn't comply. Gordon, after bringing his wife to an interview with Bruce Wayne, whom he and others suspect of being Batman, stops the car in the driveway on the way back and tells her about his affair. Essen later leaves for New York.

Months pass and Batman overhears the local mafia boss, Carmine Falcone, planning revenge against Gordon. Selina Kyle, frustrated because she feels her petty crimes aren't enough, interferes and attacks the group. Batman does not appear, but helps Selina from the shadows, throwing small bat-shaped blades laced with tranquilizers at some of the men. Bruce, while working out, figures out the plan based on the part of the conversation he was able to record.

Gordon is called away by the police to investigate a robbery. On his way out, a mysterious motorist entering his garage raises Gordon's suspicions, as Gordon has never seen the motorist. He returns to the garage only to find his wife and baby being pulled into a car. He shoots and kills the men trying to take his wife, who survives; however, one assailant is unharmed. The car leaves with Gordon's baby in it, and Gordon shoots the motorist, takes his motorcycle and follows. The motorist, Bruce, is unharmed thanks to a bullet-proof vest. He attempts to leave, but not before Barbara threatens to shoot him. She lets him go when he promises to save her baby, takes a bicycle from a passing stranger, and pursues Gordon and the car.

Gordon shoots out a wheel on the car and it crashes into the side of a bridge. The don's hired knife, his nephew, exits the car, baby in hand. A struggle ensues and the baby is thrown off the bridge, followed by Gordon. However, Bruce had already arrived and dived after the baby before Gordon even falls over the rail. Gordon, having lost his glasses in the struggle with the hitman, thanks Bruce (whom he claims to not recognize due to his aforementioned missing glasses) and makes it clear that he won't turn him in.

Dent and Batman's efforts bear fruit with Flass, who is persuaded to turn damaging states evidence against his superiors, including a disgraced Commissioner Loeb, who is forced to resign. Although his immediate replacement, Grogan, is apparently worse, Gordon is content for the moment with receiving a job promotion and family counseling with his wife. The story ends with the new Captain Gordon waiting on the rooftop of the GCPD headquarters for Batman, to discuss a criminal calling himself the Joker and his scheme to poison the reservoir.



original title advertised to readers

After the overwhelming success of Miller's 1986 Dark Knight limited series, Jenette Kahn and Denny O'Neil were eager for Miller to continue to reinvent Batman for them with a canonical prequel story. Mazzucchelli and Miller originally intended the story for publication as a prestige format graphic novel called The Batman.



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Following Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1986, DC rebooted many of its titles. Year One was followed by Batman: Year Two, but the 1994 Zero Hour crossover erased it from continuity. In another continuity re-arrangement, Catwoman: Year One (Catwoman Annual #2, 1998) posited that Selina Kyle had not actually been a prostitute, but, rather, a thief posing as one in order to commit crimes.

The story was continued in the 2005 graphic novel Batman: The Man Who Laughs, following up on Gordon informing Batman about the Joker, and thus recounting their first official encounter.

Year One was the first appearance of Mafia don Carmine Falcone, in 1998 Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale expanded his characterization in Batman: The Long Halloween and Batman: Dark Victory, two 13 issue limited series that recounted Batman's first, second, and third years as a crime-fighter, also re-telling of the origins of Two-Face and Dick Grayson. Two other stories, Batman and the Monster Men and Batman and the Mad Monk tie into the same time period of Batman's career.

Launched in 1989 following the success of Tim Burton's feature film, the title Legends of the Dark Knight examines crime-fighting exploits from the first three to four years of Batman's career. This title rotated in creative teams and time placement, but several stories directly relate to the events of Year One, especially the first arc "Batman: Shaman". Following the title's 2007 cancellation, Batman Confidential began publication, depicting Batman sometime between Year One and The Long Halloween.

Absolute Year One

Absolute Edition

Year One also exists in the same continuity as the other storylines in Miller's "Dark Knight Universe", consisting of Dark Knight, its sequel Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Spawn/Batman and All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder. Needless to say, of these only Year One is considered to be part of mainstream DC continuity. However Earth-686, one of the alternate earths revealed in 52, is essentially the Millerverse.

Adaptations and Influence

2011 animated feature

Year One model

Original character model sheet by Jon Suzuki.

Animators Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery directed a Year One animated feature for Warner Home Video. Jon Suzuki created the character models for the feature, staying as true to Mazzucchelli's style as possible. The muted color palette of Richmond Lewis was also more evident on Suzuki's original models than the final animation.

Attempted live-action adaptations

Year One was one of many projects developed at the studio over the years on trying to get a fifth Batman installment. Others listed included Batman Unchained, Batman: DarKnight, Boaz Yakin's Batman Beyond, and Wolfgang Peterson's Batman vs Superman. For years Joel Schumacher claimed it was his dream project.

Darren Aronofsky was going to direct a very loose film adaptation written by himself and Frank Miller. The project never received the greenlight from WB because they found it to be too violent and with many differences with the comic. Ultimately the project resulted into Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins, as WB is not interested in releasing a Batman movie that does not contain a Batmobile or any other major vehicles or supervillains.

References to other media

When Bruce is heading for the Red Light District, he makes references to the "Finger Memorial", "Sprang Mission" and "Robinson Park", all of which are named after Golden Age Batman writer Bill Finger, artist Dick Sprang, and artist Jerry Robinson.

The nocturnal scene depicting Gordon and Essen in a bar called "Hopper's" is a graphic allusion to Edward Hopper's painting Nighthawks.

The moment when Bruce decides which method he will use to fight crime is widely regarded as a reference to Edgar Allan Poe's poem The Raven, by the kind of chamber he is in and the bust over which the bat lands.

References in other works

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm shows a rather similar early vigilante effort by Bruce Wayne before he decided to dress in a bat-uniform. Later in the story Batman is trapped a derelict building and evades a SWAT team while injured. It differs in that he once tried to be "normal" in pursuit of a romantic relationship, it is only when the girl cut off their relationship that he reverts to his original plan for single-minded a war on crime.

The events of Batman Begins featured numerous influences from Year One, including the characters of Commissioner Loeb (though much less corrupt) and Arnold Flass (visualy modified to more closely resemble Harvey Bullock). The bat swarm sequence appears in a slightly different context. The Memory Cloth Cape comes from a Wayne family company, in Year One its mentioned that light weight plastics from the company where used to create the Bat-Glider. The 2008 sequel has a similar final showdown where Batman falls while saving Gordon's child, forming a special bond between the pair. Both movies show Batman evading and fighting SWAT.

Elements of this story were also included in Batman: Arkham Origins, including the Gotham City Police Department being notoriously corrupt under the control of Commissioner Loeb, Gordon's initial antagonism of Batman for the latter's vigilante methods, and an event in the extortion tapes where Loeb and Black Mask alluded to a failed attempt to have Arnold Flass "beat some sense" into Gordon. In addition, another extortion tape, also with Loeb, featured Loeb telling Harvey Bullock to keep tabs on Gordon as well as possibly arrange a honeypot trap on him, indirectly referring to Gordon's affair with Sarah Essen.

Although operating as an origin series, Gotham took inspiration from Year One, most notably during the first season. Elements include Jim Gordon starting out at the GCPD, and the series depicting Carmine Falcone's control over the Gotham City Police Department. Other characters from the comic included Arnold Flass, who appeared half-way through season 1 as an enemy of Jim Gordon, and Sarah Essen, although she was re-imagined as the captain of the precinct, with no romance involved with Gordon.

The Batman starring Robert Pattinson takes place in his second year of vigilantism, but still draws heavily from Year One. Zoë Kravitz's skin tone and hairstyle resembles Mazzucchelli's drawings of Selina Kyle. It also uses the original title "The Batman" that the series was teased to readers as.


The image of Bruce sitting and bleeding while waiting for inspiration is reused in the Elseworlds tale Batman: In Darkest Knight, though instead of a bat flying through the window, a dying Green Lantern summons him and bestows him with the ring.

The fact that Miller based Bruce on a young Gregory Peck is coincidental to a much-discussed hoax. In 2004, Mark Millar wrote about a failed attempt by Orson Welles to adapt a feature film of Batman in 1946. Although this has since been proven fictional, it is true that Welles attempted to star as The Shadow in a film adaptation, which never got off the ground.