WAITING FOR HISTORY TO HAPPEN

It's been a while since I last posted, so I figured I'd let everyone know what's up.  I've continued to make changes (additions, subtractions, story shuffling, corrections, major edits, and minor edits) over the past several months.  If you haven't noticed, you just haven't been paying attention!  We are in the home stretch now with the intriguing and amazing Grant Morrison run which began oh so long ago, and when it reaches its climax you can bet your bottom dollar that it will be recorded in annals of "The Real Batman Chronology Project."  So, by the start of 2011, the timeline might look a little different since "The Return of Bruce Wayne" seems to have major implications which will undoubtedly shake Batman's history to its foundations (and beyond).  Likewise, when Batman becomes a franchise, which Batman do we track?  I suppose we track them all!  So, stay tuned.  I have a lot of work ahead of me...


UPDATE:  I'm pretty much caught up and back on track (as of April 2011)!  If you guys and gals see anything wrong PLEASE let me know!  --CC

A TIMELINE THAT DC FOLLOWS?

These last two posts have been about age and slightly about DC's "official" timeline of Batman's history and how it differs from mine.  This is long overdue, but here is DC's timeline. (Building this timeline is an interesting endeavor as well since, like my chronology, it must also be created or fabricated.  As I've always stated, there really can be no definitive chronology which can be taken as gospel, especially since any chronology must constantly shift to meet the never-aging characteristics attributed to these fictional characters).

When I constructed my chronology, I did so moving forward, building what seemed like a chronological listing of stories, and then reading them page after page, ordering them along the way.  To create a timeline which DC seems to utilize, we almost have to work backward.  What are the current references to ages and how many "years ago" do flashbacks in current issues seem to imply?  These are the current clues which tell us roughly how many years the Caped Crusader has been crusading.  Here are a few important ones.  Tim is 17 years-old (Red Robin).  Bruce is around 40 years-old (said to be nearly turning 40 an in-story year ago in Batman RIP).  Bruce met Silver St. Cloud nearly 10 years ago (Widening Gyre).  There are many more, but these tidbits from three major current storyarcs give us a pretty decent idea that Batman, according to DC is around his 14th year in costume.  This is a quick skeleton list, not detailed, for obvious reasons.  I will refer to my chronological listings as BY1 for Bat-Year One, BY2 for Bat-Year Two, etc...  Here we go.



DC YEAR ONE:  Frank Miller's Year One still holds tried-and-true (even with horrible additions of Batman peeing his pants, thanks Kevin Smith).  Therefore, DC Y1 is almost exactly the same as BY1.

DC YEAR TWO:  As Valheru mentioned, DC Y2 comprises many stories referenced from the Kane/Finger era (i.e origins of most of Batman's rogues gallery).  BY2 through BY5 comprised mostly of LOTDK tales, which according to DC, just aren't canon anymore.  (Or if they are, they are compressed into near oblivion and all placed into DC Y2).  Venom would take place here followed by Long Halloween.  JLA either debuts here or in DC Y3.

DC YEAR THREE: Dark Victory occurs.  Dick Grayson debuts as Robin.  DC Y3 is basically the end of BY5 and the first half of BY6 combined.

DC YEAR FOUR:  This year comprises many Batman and Robin stories referenced from the Golden Age and some from the Silver Age (the Englehart stories, think "Popcrime").  DC Y4 is roughly the second half of BY6 and parts of BY7.  Silver St. Cloud debuts.  Current storylines in 2010 tell us that Bruce has known Silver for nearly ten years, thus giving us a fine reference for where we currently should be.

DC YEAR FIVE:  This year comprises many Batman and Robin stories referenced from the Silver Age, which is basically the rest of BY7.

DC YEAR SIX:  More Batman and Robin stories referenced from the Silver Age.  BY8 fits here.

DC YEAR SEVEN:  This is the "Penthouse" year.  Dick goes to college with a very early enrollment.  The Saga of Ra's Al Ghul occurs.  This is BY9.

DC YEAR EIGHT:  Dick becomes Nightwing.  Jason becomes Robin.  The Crisis on Infinite Earths occurs.  This is BY10.

DC YEAR NINE:  Barbara is paralyzed by Joker in Killing Joke.  Jason is killed by Joker in Death in the Family.  This is BY11.

DC YEAR TEN:  Tim becomes Robin at age 13.  Zero Hour and Knightfall occur immediately afterward followed by Cataclysm and Road to No Man's Land.  BY12 through BY15 are all highly compressed into this one single year.

DC YEAR ELEVEN:  No Man's Land takes place this year.  BY16 synchs up with this year pretty well.

DC YEAR TWELVE:  Our Worlds At War followed immediately by Bruce Wayne Murderer and Bruce Wayne Fugitive and then Hush, JLA: Obsidian Age, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, Death and the Maidens, War Games, OMAC Project, and Under the Hood, and Infinite Crisis52 begins.  DC Y10 is BY17, BY18, BY19, and the beginning of BY20 all squashed into one single year.

DC YEAR THIRTEEN:  52 concludes.  Countdown occurs. Grant Morrison's run begins with Batman and Son, followed by Ressurrection of Ra's Al Ghul, Trinity, Batman RIP, and Final Crisis.  DC Y13 comprises of the tail end of BY20, all of BY21, and the very beginning of BY22. Jezebel Jet mentions Bruce is “over thirty-years-old” (i.e. guesses he is “in his thirties”).

DC YEAR FOURTEEN:  Battle for the Cowl starts this year.  This is the rest of BY22 leading up to where we are now with Batman and Robin, Red Robin, and the Return of Bruce Wayne.



So there you have it.  This timeline effectively matches up with everything that DC is currently publishing and seems to be the historical foundation upon which current Batman stories are being told.  It is interesting to compare this insanely compressed history with the, albeit still highly compressed, dense and detailed chronology I've built.  I wonder if I should make a "compromise-chronology" which merges the two into what would surely be the ultimate chronology of chronologies.  It would probably be a waste of time since both of these timelines will be completely altered in 20 years or, god forbid, 10 or even 5 years from now.

A QUESTION OF AGE Part 2

Bruce Wayne.  According to my chronology he is (as of February 2011) 48 years-old.  Does this seem too old?  Too young?  Maybe you're thinking, "Bruce looks (is drawn to look) a hell of a lot younger than 48."  Well, that argument can be thrown right out the window due to several factors.  Bruce has been resurrected from the dead by metahuman power (Super Powers), re-generated by a Lazarus Pit (Birth of the Demon), healed by the Holy Grail (The Chalice), psychically healed by metahuman power (Knightquest), killed and resurrected magically (JLA: Obsidian Age), mended in an Apokoliptian healing-chamber (Superman/Batman: Torment), sent to live as a god for thousands of years on ancient Earth-1 (Trinity), nourished by the Fountain of Life at Nanda Parbat (Ressurection of Ra's Al Ghul), enlivened by the "lazarus machine" at Vanishing Point (Return of Bruce Wayne), and re-animated by Metron after dying and visiting the New God afterworld (Return of Bruce Wayne).  There's a good chance Bruce will look young, fit, and healthy well past his prime.  But how did I get to 48?

First, let’s begin with DC’s version of Bruce’s life.  DC tells us (in Frank Miller’s Year One) that Bruce becomes Batman at age 26 in Year 1.  Robin comes along in Year 3 (age 29).  In Batman #416, which takes place shortly before Jason Todd’s death, Nightwing says that he became Robin 6 years ago.  So, when Jason dies in what must be Year 9, Bruce is 35.  After Zero Hour retcons and “sliding time scales," we get to various Greg Rucka ‘tec tales and mini-series (Death and the Maidens), where we are told Bruce’s parents died roughly 25 years ago.  If Bruce’s parents died when he was 8 (as we are told in Zero Hour), that means Bruce should be 33 around the time of Death and the Maidens, Hush, and other tales of that era, which is impossible.  Even DC editors realized this paradox pretty quickly, which is why those “25 years ago” blanket statements were quickly ignored.  Therefore, the next possible reference we can use (and the primary reference that DC editors use) is the age of Tim Drake.  Tim Drake shows up a few months after Jason’s death (Year 10) and is at age 13 when he debuts as Robin.  Now, according to DC editors, he is currently 17.  Therefore, 4 years have passed since Year 10, making the current year, number 14, with Bruce at 40 years of age.  This coincides with Grant Morrison’s run in Batman RIP, where we are told that Bruce is turning 40.  This also confirms that Batman, according to DC writers and editors, is in his 14th year of costumed adventuring.

This is all fine and dandy, but unfortunately, in order for this version of events to fit correctly into any chronology we must ignore the fact (as we did regarding the life and times of Timothy Drake) that seasons change, holidays come and go, and time literally is shown passing over the years.  Again, we would have to assume that from the time Tim became Robin all the way up to the current Red Robin storylines, only 4 years have passed.  Put another way: The Death and Return of Superman, Knightfall, Cataclysm, No Man's Land, Bruce Wayne Murderer, Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, Countdown, Batman RIP, Final Crisis, 52, Battle for the Cowl, every single Morrison and post-Morrison JLA story, and a nearly uncountable number of other tales all take place in a mere 4 years!  Again, no way, Jose.

Here’s how I see things.  Let's start with Frank Miller's Year One.  Bruce arrives back in Gotham from his training and traveling abroad in January at age 25.  By April he is 26 and has become Batman.  Pre-original Crisis tales always put Bruce's birthday in February, so that fits with Miller's Year One.  According to my chronology, 22 full "Bat-Years" (running from April to March) transpire (up to 2011) making Bruce 48 years-old.  (26+22=48).  Seems simple, right?  Of course not.  Let's start with the one solid fact we know, according to the gospel of Saint Frank: Bruce is 26 in April of his first year as Batman, having just turned 26 two months prior.  According to my chronology, Bruce's first year as Batman is 1989.  During Zero Hour, which was published in 1994, we learned (canonically) that Bruce's folks died in autumn when he was 8 years old.  If Batman's first year is 1989 and he is 26, then that means Bruce's folks died in 1971, which in turn means that the February 8th years prior to that (the one in which Bruce was born) was in 1963.  1963 to 2011.  Do the math.  Bruce is 48 years-old.

This age also works when we contrast it to other characters around him, such as Dick Grayson and Tim Drake.  Bruce is 26 when he starts as Batman.  Six years later Dick Grayson arrives on the scene.  Bruce is 32.  Four years later, Dick becomes Nightwing.  Bruce is 36.  Three years later, Tim becomes Robin.  Bruce is 39.  Nine years later (during which time we have the vast amount of stories I listed above) we are up to our current point and Bruce is 48.  I’ve done a ton of compression to make this work, but unlike DC editors, I haven’t ignored stories or the literal passage of time which is definitively shown in the comics.  Don’t get me wrong, I like DC’s version because it’s simple and works well, especially if you want to say “the New Earth created during Infinite Crisis did the same thing the original-Crisis did: it wiped out everything prior and created a new timeline loosely based upon seventy years of stories which took place before it."  If that is the case, then you can say (although it’s still a bit of a stretch) that Tim was only Robin for 4 years and Bruce is now only 40 years old.  If we did that, then our chronology would look a bit different.  We would have a bunch of bulleted notes and only the stories after Infinite Crisis would be considered true canon.   Come to think of it, I may invent a timeline/chronology that fits into the DC editors’ mentality just to have a compare-and-contrast chronology within this blog.  HOWEVER, I can't blatantly ignore the passage of time and disregard hundreds (if not thousands) of stories to make a neat little package.  Hell, I've already ignored all of the Golden Age, Silver Age, and Bronze Age.  DC wants me to ignore the bulk of the Modern Age too!

But now I’m just rambling.  DC says Tim is 17.  I say he’s 20.  DC says Bruce is 40.  I say he’s 48.  We are both right.  Isn’t that weird?

A QUESTION OF AGE

So how old are these comic book characters supposed to be anyway?  Damn, what a question.  The one that DC doesn't want you to ask.  But, let's try to answer it anyway starting with a most annoying conundrum: figuring out how old Tim Drake is.

BUT FIRST, let me say that the DCU doesn't run on a system which allows for us to give specific ages to these characters.  Batman debuted in 1939, then re-debuted in 1985, then re-debuted whenever DC wants to say (1989-ish, 1994-ish, whatever).  Like the scientific laws of time, the laws of age also act differently in the DCU.  The multiverse has its own unique timeline which DC writers and editors follow, one that is distinctively different than mine.  Basically, the point I'm trying to stress here is that because my timeline is specific, I'm attempting to give the characters on my timeline specific ages.  So, don't let anyone ever tell you how old Bruce Wayne is, or how old Tim Drake is, or how old Dick Grayson is, or how old Tweedle-Dum is.  They will all always have "approximate ages" that rarely change.  I'm not trying to tell anyone how old Batman characters are.  I'm simply doing what I've been doing on this blog since day one: attempting to construct and/or suggest a detailed, specific, and realistic canonical chronology.  And like I've said since day one: this is technically an impossible task.  We can't inject realism (in the form of chronological time and age restraints) into a science-fiction unreality that has a seventy-five year history which ignores conventional passage of time.  BUT, we sure can have fun trying.

Okay, let's get back to the "Real Batman Chronology Project" version of Tim Drake.  I'm specifically examining Tim because he is an excellent case study for the unique durational phenomena which occur in the DCU.  To really understand the problem (if it may indeed be referred to as a problem) here, one must be well-versed in the history of the character as originally depicted by DC editors and writers.  So here is that history in a nutshell.  (I suggest reading this next paragraph and skipping over anything in parenthesis regarding "Bat-Years" and then re-reading the paragraph again, in full.  This exercise will help you to better understand the point I'm making).

We first see Tim Drake chronologically through flashback in Batman #436.  He appears as a toddler that seems to be around 3 years-old, where he witnesses the deaths of the Flying Graysons at the circus (Bat-Year Six on my chronology).  Tim's next appearance is his debut in Batman #440 (Bat-Year 13) where he is 13 years-old.  He meets Batman and Nightwing and becomes the new Robin.  In Robin #1 (Bat-Year 14), which is a "Knightquest" tie-in, Tim gets his driver's license early due to the fact that he needs to be able to drive his disabled father around.  It's not long after "Knight's End" that we are told that Tim is 15 years-old and in the 10th grade.  In "Bruce Wayne: Murderer?" (Bat-Year 17), Oracle tells us that Tim is 15.  Tim celebrates his Sweet 16 in Robin #116 (Bat-Year 18).  In Identity Crisis and Robin #136 (both in Bat-Year 19), Tim is still 16.  52 takes place and functions as a literal year of time (passing from Bat-Year 20 into Bat-Year 21), and after it is over Tim is 17.  By the time Tim becomes Red Robin (Bat-Year 22) he is still 17.  So, everything looks okay, that is until you look at the Bat-Year numbers.  We go from Bat-Year 13 to Bat-Year 22 (9 years), but Tim starts out at 13 and only ages to 17 (4 years).  There are five whole years missing there!

Even if my chronology were completely incorrect (which it isn't), take a look at the fact that DC tells us that Tim is 17 years-old before 52.  If 52 is literally one year long, how is it possible that Tim didn't age a year older during that year!?

Why does this inconsistency exist so blatantly?  Around 2006, DC editors decided that they wanted Tim Drake to remain a "perpetual teenager" who doesn't really age.  Basically, the editors exclaimed, "the hell with continuity, Tim is better as a teen!"  Of course, you and I both know this is bullshit.  At this point DC editors were fine with keeping Tim 17 years-old with the intention of keeping him that way for as long as possible.  In fact, in the current ongoing Red Robin series, Tim is still supposed to be 17.  Essentially, my opinion is that DC really fucks up when it comes to Tim's age, which is why he was seen in high school well past a time where he should have been in high school and also why he now keeps being referred to as a minor.  I've also read in the Comic Book Resources forums that DC editors wanted to age certain characters (including Tim) using a rough formula of 4 years of written material equaling 1 actual chronological year.  If that was the case then Tim would indeed be 17, since he turned 16 in Robin #116, which was published in 2003.  However, this formula is completely irrelevant since writers have shown definitively that several "in-story years" have come and gone since 2003.  Writers show holidays, different seasons, etc...   Both age and time (duration)  use the exact same units of measurement.  Therefore, you can't have one formula for age and a different formula for the passage of time, which what ostensibly has occurred in the DCU.

How can this be reconciled?  An easy retcon would be to make it so that Tim became Robin at age 8 instead of 13.  Here's the obvious problem with that: I can believe in the existence of a 10 year-old Robin (albeit one that has been genetically engineered since birth to be a super-warrior) since it's been shown to me in the form of Damian Wayne.  However, I have serious trouble believing in the existence of a normal, non-genetically engineered 8 year-old child as Batman's sidekick.  Plus, if you do make Tim's Robin debut at age 8 that completely erases the fact that he watched the Flying Graysons die.  I guess, an easy additional retcon would be to throw out that little tidbit entirely.  Another retcon is to throw out the idea of a chronology all together and (similarly to what I've already said above) ignore the fact that seasons change, holidays come and go, and time literally is shown passing over the years.  In this retcon you would more or less assume that from the time Tim arrived on the scene as Robin all the way up to the current Red Robin storylines, only 4 years have passed.  Put another way: The Death and Return of Superman, Knightfall, Cataclysm, No Man's Land, Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, Countdown, Batman RIP, Final Crisis, 52, Battle for the Cowl, every single Morrison and post-Morrison JLA story, and a nearly uncountable number of other tales all take place in a mere 4 years.  This is ludicrous to a point where I needn't even comment!  So, what can be done?

Here's what I've done.  The "Real Batman Chronology Project" has retconned things so that Tim becomes Robin at age 11 (in Bat-Year 13).  This allows for Tim's 16th birthday to still take place where it originally was meant to in Robin #116 (July, Bat-Year 18), thus eliminating most inconsistencies regarding his age up to that point.  After that, very minor inconsistencies are sparsely peppered throughout the comics compared to what my chronology says, but there aren't any huge problems until the early issues of Red Robin, where Tim is referred to as a minor, when he should be 20 years-old.

Another great reference to comic book character ages is Chris Miller's Table of Birthdates.  (Chris lists Tim's current age at 22 because he has kept Tim's Robin debut at age 13, hence the 2 year age difference compared to our chronology).



In writing above about formulaic consistency, the ontology of my own personal "age theory" and "age retcons" must be applied not only to Tim, but to other characters as well.  Bruce Wayne, for example, is actually less of a problem than Tim due to the fact that DC has always been very vague regarding his actual age.  But, just to be thorough, we'll tackle him next to round out the full argument and analysis.