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Comic Book / Batman: Year One

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"Without warning it comes... crashing through the window of your study... and mine... I have seen it before... somewhere... it frightened me... as a boy... frightened me... Yes, father. I shall become a bat."
Bruce Wayne

"Batman: Year One" is a four-issue story arc, by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli, of the regular Batman title (issues 404 through 407), published in 1987 by DC Comics.

The storyline follows the first year Batman begins to operate in Gotham from his disastrous first attempt in Gotham's red light district, to the battles with crime lords and corrupt cops alike, and even the first appearance of other people in tights and masks in Gotham. It also has (in Batman #404) the first appearances of mob boss Carmine "The Roman" Falcone, who would go on to have prominent roles in The Long Halloween and Batman Begins, and Catwoman's protegee Holly Robinson, who would later become the second Catwoman.

Batman: Year One is unique in the following: It was deemed the official origin story for Batman Post-Crisis, and remained canon despite other Cosmic Retcons until the New 52, where it would eventually be replaced by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's Zero Year. It is also canon to the "Dark Knight Universe", an Alternate Continuity comprised of Miller's other Batman stories, including All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder, Dark Knight: The Last Crusade, The Dark Knight Returns, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, and Dark Knight III: The Master Race.


After the launch of DC Rebirth, Zero Year initially remained in canon as the de facto origin story. However, at least parts of Year One would be made canon once again. Over time, Year One was referred to more and more, and now it seems that Zero Year is referred to in broad strokes and Year One is the canon origin, also being heavily referred to in the lead-up to Detective Comics #1000.

This comic heavily influenced Batman Begins, and Batman: Arkham Origins took some elements from it. In 2011, an animated adaptation in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies line was released; the adaptation is almost word-for-word.


This mini-series contains examples of:

  • The '70s: While the book itself was written in the '80s, the story is set roughly ten years prior to the present day, landing it somewhere in the late '70s. Gotham City here is very similar to late 70's New York (especially the red light district) as seen through Taxi Driver and Miller's earlier work on Daredevil.
  • Amazon Chaser: Gordon notes that Essen's "arms are strong. Her whole body's strong."
  • Animated Adaptation: As stated above, this book has a Direct to Video movie that, while quite faithful to the book, expands on certain scenes to clarify things a bit more.
  • Author Appeal: Catwoman starts out as a prostitute. Yup, it's a Frank Miller comic, alright. Distressingly, Holly is also one, and she's only thirteen, if that. Bruce himself is more than a little disturbed by that. note 
  • Ax-Crazy: Branden and the GCPD SWAT team. They once put down a riot in Gotham's Not-Central-Park. Didn't even leave the statues standing. Their SOP seems to be: kill everything with fire.
  • Badass Boast:
    • Batman's speech while he's "convincing" Skeevers to testify against Detective Flass.
      Batman: You can never escape me. Bullets don't harm me. Nothing harms me. But I know pain. I know pain. Sometimes I share it... With someone like you.
    • And also:
      Batman: Ladies. Gentlemen. You have eaten well. You've eaten Gotham's wealth. Its spirit. Your feast is nearly over. From this moment on - none of you are safe.
    • Gordon deserves special mention as well:
      Gordon (internal monologue): He's had Green Beret training. It's been a while since I had to take out a Green Beret. *tosses Flass a baseball bat* Figure I should give him a handicap.
  • Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: At the start of the story, Gotham Police Department is made entirely of these, from the Commissioner on down. Lieutenant Gordon and his team seem to be the only cops who are doing what they're supposed to be doing...
  • Batter Up!: Gordon gets ambushed by a group of dirty cops who beat him to a pulp with baseball bats. Later on, Gordon confronts Flass with a bat of his own... but instead of attacking him with it, he tosses it to him and kicks his ass bare handed.
  • The Beard: Bruce hires one to pull an alibi on Gordon. The easiest five grand she ever made.
  • Berserk Button: For Selina Kyle: don't hurt or threaten Holly for your own good...
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Carmine Falcone and Commissioner Loeb.
  • Big "NO!": Gordon does this when his baby, little Jim Jr. is thrown off a bridge. (Fortunately, Bruce pulls a Big Damn Heroes and jumps after him, saving him in the nick of time, without his costume).
  • Big Sister Instinct: Selina toward Holly.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The bad guys are bad, but the good guys have their own problems. Even Gordon, The Last DJ, has problems with infidelity.
  • Blood Knight: SWAT leader Branden, who borders on Psycho for Hire.
    • This is probably the only time Frank Miller doesn't make Batman this.
  • Breaking the Bonds: After Bruce gets shot and arrested, he comes to in a police car. He tells them to stop the car, and when they don't listen, he breaks his handcuffs effortlessly.
  • The Bronze Age of Comic Books: Was written at the very end of it. This story arc, along with Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (also by Miller) and Watchmen (by Alan Moore) are often credited with starting The Dark Age of Comic Books.
  • Can Always Spot a Cop: Downplayed with Bruce's first night out crimefighting. Stan the pimp can tell he's someone in disguise, though he (understandably) mistakes Bruce for a vice cop instead of an independent vigilante.
    That crazy vet bit...thas old, man.
    • Later on, Batman himself plays the trope straight, identifying all the cops in a sting (meant to catch him) by name.
  • Canon Discontinuity: Notice how few people acknowledge Selina Kyle's backstory as a prostitute.
  • Cat Scare: Causing one officer to open up with a machine gun.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Bruce Wayne karate-kicking the tree in the first issue is later brought to mind in issue three, to be used a few pages later.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: A borderline case - as usual, Miller uses a lot of news broadcasts to further/hand-wave certain plot developments, but these are more for the readers' convenience; few if any of the characters are shown directly responding to them.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: In the extras, it's shown that David Mazzucchelli based Bruce Wayne's appearance from actor Gregory Peck.
  • Collector of the Strange: Much to Catwoman's chagrin, Commissioner Loeb has a $40,000 collection of...Peanuts memorabilia. It's a character point for him: He loves the honesty of Peanuts even though he's immensely dishonest!
  • The Commissioner Gordon: One of the subplots is of Lieutenant Gordon coming to trust Batman and become this.
  • Continuity Nod: "Hmf. I suppose you'll be taking up flying next, like that fellow in Metropolis."
  • Dark-Skinned Blonde: The girl hanging all over Bruce's arm when Gordon comes calling at the manor in chapter four.
  • Decoy Protagonist: While Batman is still a main character and his early days protecting Gotham are explored, Gordon's conflict with his corrupt fellow officers gets a lot more focus in this story.
  • Dirty Cop: The Gotham City Police Department is swimming with them, although Detective Flass is the most obvious example.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Catwoman's first heist results in Batman getting the credit. Her second heist does net her credit... as Batman's assistant.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Bruce makes a point of bringing this up in his internal monologue when he decides to rescue the corrupt cops from their burning car after he escapes from it:
    Bruce: Scum, maybe, but even scum have families.
  • First-Name Basis: Gordon realizes his affair is getting too serious when he starts calling her Sarah instead of Essen.
  • The Fettered: Both Batman and Gordon.
  • George Lucas Altered Version: the collected hardcover and paperback editions are completely re-colored by the original colorist, Richmond Lewis. The original colors are more vivid, pulpy, and in line with standard comic printing at the time. The new colors are much darker and moodier, and use a far wider color palette.
  • Happy Ending Override: Per later writers, Jim Gordon's family life goes straight down the shitter in subsequent years. Despite the marriage counselor, his wife ultimately leaves him - in Greg Rucka's retelling, she doesn't even do it to his face. Those who ship him with Sarah - and indeed, The Dark Knight Returns did introduce Sarah as future!Gordon's wife - probably won't feel much better knowing that Sarah gets killed by the Joker. Oh, and that adorable little baby boy Batman saved? Grows up to be one of America's most vicious serial killers.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: About Selina's outfit.
    Holly: "I mean it's pretty queer — I mean —"
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Two words—dominatrix Catwoman. The fact that such appeared in a Frank Miller comic isn't surprising.
  • Hero of Another Story: While Batman and Jim Gordon are the mains, Assistant D.A. Harvey Dent makes a few appearances here and there, and is mentioned to have been (trying) to combat Gotham's corruption long before either of them. He's secretly working in cahoots with Batman.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: Gordon shoots Bruce Wayne, who he mistakes for one of the men kidnapping his son, and steals his motorbike to chase after them. Bruce then steals a bike and pedals like mad after Gordon.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Selina Kyle, who mostly seems to be a dominatrix-for-hire, is protective toward the younger Holly Robinson and already likes cats.
  • Iconic Attribute Adoption Moment: This sees Batman initially strike out crime-fighting disguised as a common thug, and doesn't assume his cape and cowl until after his first outing goes horribly wrong. He realizes a big part of it is because the criminals weren't at all afraid or intimidated by him, so he decides to up his theatricality...
  • Instant Sedation: Some kind of tranquilizer gun Batman uses to knock out the chauffeurs at the socialite party he sneaks into. There's also Batman's blowgun in the apartment shootout scene.
  • It's Personal: Falcone wants Batman hunted down and killed for tying him up in his underwear inside his own home.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • In a poor attempt to act affable, Flass gets rid of a frail Buddhist monk who's nagging Gordon for donations by picking up the monk by the collar and tossing him aside like a rag-doll. He also beats up a kid allegedly to disarm him of a switchblade. It's a comb.
    • Not to mention Loeb's decision to try to corral Batman... by firebombing a building full of winos.
    • There also a near-literal example, combined with a Pet the Dog for Batman. SWAT agent Pratt gets annoyed and tries to shoot the cat used as a Cat Scare. Not much later, Batman punches him through a wall over it.
  • Knight in Sour Armour: Gordon
  • The Mafia: Since this is Batman's first year out, none of his iconic Rogues Gallery has shown up yet. Thus, these guys take the role of the bad guys.
  • Mythology Gag: The title of the first chapter: "Who I Am and How I Came to Be" is a reference to the title of the original Batman origin story: "The Legend of the Batman: Who He Is and How He Came to Be".
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Branden and his SWAT team are often referred to as this, Gordon even calls them "Gestapo".
  • Neck Snap: Catwoman does this to a random mook using her legs, which is somewhat of a character violation as in the modern-day comics Catwoman almost never kills.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Wayne takes on a pimp selling underage girls in the Red Light District, and the girl he's pimping stabs him in retaliation. Then everyone else proceeds to gang up on this outsider who's attacking one of their own.
  • Oh, Crap!: The reaction of Falcone crime family and corrupt officials when Batman tells them he's coming after them.
  • Papa Wolf: Do not mess with Jim Gordon's son.
    • Mama Bear: When a pimp is abusing Holly Bruce tries to intervene. When he attacks the pimp Holly stabs him with a knife. When Bruce knocks her aside Selina leaps from the hotel room to kick his ass.
  • Painting the Medium: Gordon's narration has a printed font on a yellow background, while Batman's is cursive on white.
  • Le Parkour: Bruce Wayne relies on it while pursuing some kidnappers across the city, during the day.
  • Period Piece: Not for the original mini-series, which was written in the mid-80s, but for the animated adaptation which is incredibly faithful; it's been more than a generation since Hare Krishnas offered people literature at train stations or airports, for example.
  • Predatory Prostitute: Catwoman herself starts out as one of these, which is why she provides the page image, a Hell-Bent for Leather dominatrix living in Gotham City's Red Light District who doesn't hesitate to jump in when she witnesses a brawl break out on the street between Bruce Wayne and several other people.
  • Pretty in Mink: Martha Wayne wears a white fur coat (it's when she gets shot, but otherwise counts).
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: The plot point of the Gotham city police dropping a bomb on a building from a helicopter seems like the sort of outlandish thing you could only expect from a Frank Miller comic book, but it actually happened in Philadelphia two years before the comic was released.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: Gordon's part in the story plays like Serpico, a sole honest cop trying to clean up a corrupt department, but with Batman.
  • Resigned in Disgrace: This befalls Loeb at the end after Flass testifies against him.
  • Rich Idiot With No Day Job: Bruce cultivates this image as a cover, since who would suspect lazy, good-for-nothing Bruce Wayne with, well, Batman? Gordon however is not convinced.
  • Save the Day, Turn Away: Batman saves Gordon's baby without his mask. Gordon says he's blind without his glasses, and tells Batman to flee the scene before the cops arrive.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: Gordon is shown with these when he's pissed off.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: The thief boy about to fall to his death according to Batman.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Batman, out of costume, just saved Gordon's infant son's life and hands him the child. Even though he's personally met and spoken to Bruce Wayne, Gordon blames the loss of his glasses for his (claimed) inability to recognize the man he's talking to and standing two feet away from.
  • Sequel Hook: The last few frames is of Gordon revealing he received a letter from a guy calling himself "The Joker" who is threatening to poison Gotham's water supply.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Ironically, the corrupt Detective Flass and Commissioner Loeb seem to be the only cops that don't smoke.
  • Spotlight-Stealing Squad: The book feels more like "Gordon: Year One" than "Batman: Year One," since Gordon's story makes up the bulk of the comic.
  • Supporting Protagonist: Especially in the film, Jim Gordon comes across as the true main character of the story, even being the first in the end credits, than the title character who is shown more as a supporting character.
  • Super Hero Origin: The point of the story is to show off the origins of Batman, Gordon, and Catwoman (although the last has been retconned out and in of continuity).
  • SWAT Team: Brandon and his squad are less police officers than a bunch of trigger happy goons enforcing Commissioner Loeb's will. Of course, the bunch of them are all completely outclassed by Batman.
  • Switching P.O.V.: The arrival of Gordon and Bruce to Gotham, in the begining of the story. Gordon arrives in train, and thinks he should have taken a plane... and Bruce arrives in plane, and thinks he should have taken the train.
  • Talkative Loon: Albert Blume, a paranoid schizophrenic who holds three children hostage in chapter two.
    Blume: Spider nasty don't noise it—no lunch. No lunch.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Gordon struggles with the fact that he should be pursuing the obviously righteous Batman, who is, according to the law, a criminal.
  • Trigger Happy: Lt. Branden and his SWAT team.
    Holly: Selina! Things are blowing up near the park!
    Selina: Maybe Branden's cornered a jaywalker.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: The series details not only Bruce Wayne's becoming Batman, but By-the-Book Cop Jim Gordon becoming The Commissioner Gordon.
  • Unreliable Voiceover: In chapter two, Flass is narrating the story while Batman attacks him for taking money from drug dealers. Naturally, what he says and what happens are polar opposites. When Gordon beats him up earlier in Chapter 1, he thinks that Flass will doubtless make up a story about twenty attackers and never admit the truth.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: After Bruce protects Holly from her violent pimp, she stabs Bruce in the leg.
  • Verbal Tic:
  • What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: Bruce's first night home to Gotham, he patrols the streets "just for recon". It quickly turns into an epic screw-up where the prostitutes he thinks he's protecting attack him, the cops shoot him without question, and he nearly bleeds to death.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Bruce shows no hesitance in laying punches on Selina when she attacks him.
  • Wretched Hive: This story portrays Gotham at its dirtiest.