Welcome to this new column series, Batman in the New 52, where each week, I will be taking a look at what Batman is up to in DC's new continuity. If you take a look at the spread of titles being published from August 31, 2011, it is clear that DC thinks very highly of their "Batman family" of characters. Of the fifty-two titles in September, eleven of them fall under that banner, and four more feature Batman (or a character related to him) on a team. Fifteen Batbooks in September, and eighteen in October, with more promised for 2012. Only four/five of those are titles that actually feature Batman in a solo role, but I'm sure we can expect him to appear and interact with Catwoman, Batwing, Batwoman, and others in their books as the months go by. In light of this high exposure of the character, I hope you enjoy this series that recaps his activities each month and focues on how they relate to his place in this new continuity.
My experience with the character dates back to before the Tim Burton films, and I've read several stories from previous eras, including quite a few Golden Age books. I have a decent grasp on the character's history, though perhaps only in outline in some places. I haven't really been reading in the months leading up to this relaunch of the DC line, so when they say these books should be accessible to fresh readers, I am that fresh reader.
I want to use this introductory post to go over a few points that we know so far about Batman and how things may have changed for him in this new continuity.
First, Batman's timeline has been abbreviated. Actually, the entire DCU now seems to have existed for about five years, as far as superhero activity is concerned. Batman is an exception to this, in that he operated in secret before this. Jim Lee has said Batman has been around longer than five years, and I've heard as much as ten, though I wasn't able to find a source on that number specifically. There are two aspects to this that I find interesting. First, Damian has often been described as being ten years old, but it's also been implied that part of that may be due to accelerated growth. Whatever the case is, Damian's age still seems to be intact. Batman had his marriage with Talia seven to ten years ago (early in his career), and Damian was the result. How the history of the other Robins works out is more of a mystery. Dick Grayson needs enough time to have been Robin, joined the Teen Titans, become Nightwing, and then had all the major highlights of his life that came after the Crisis. And logically, it seems to me that a Batman who takes on a brightly colored sidekick is not a Batman who is only whispered about among frightened crooks. So did Dick Grayson start his career within the five year limit? Certainly, the Teen Titans didn't exist until after that started. And then we have to squeeze Jason and Tim into those five years as well. I've heard it said that Jason was Robin for three years, but I think he's the most likely candidate to have that time abbreviated closer to five minutes. I'm really not sure how it's all supposed to work, and I get the feeling that DC doesn't really want us to think about it too much.
The other side of Batman's history being longer than five years is that he now predates Superman by a far sight. Action Comics will be telling the story of the early days of Superman's career, which began roughly five years ago. Despite his being described as "the first superhero" in solicit text, Batman now definitely predates him. While I'd accept a fan's interpretation that they started about the same time, with maybe Batman getting into costume a few weeks or months before Superman's first public activities, the fact that we now officially have years of activity from Batman predating Superman is new. I find, though, that it doesn't bother me as much as I'd expected (even though I'm a rather passionate Superman fan). Bruce Wayne wants to strike fear into people's hearts, so he puts on a bat costume to beat up thugs. These aren't superhero tactics; they're vigilante justice. And I can see his career never passing the level of back-alley vigilante until some time after other superheroes start showing up. I don't expect DC to say that he was recognized or sanctioned by Commissioner Gordon or any other official before the five years began.
The final main point about Batman's role in this new DC continuity that I find interesting is that he started the Justice League. In the Silver Age, Batman was one of several heroes who came together spontaneously to fight a major threat, and they kept getting together after that, and so the League was born. After the Crisis, Batman's role in the early days of the League was written out of history. In more recent years, the idea that Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman have been the guiding hands behind all the years of the League was introduced. But Batman has never been the one to start the Justice League. Possibly, the closest he's come to that role is when the League had fallen apart as a result of "Breakdowns", and after Superman had used a large team of various heroes in "Panic in the Sky", Batman suggested to Superman that he be the leader of a new League. However, suggesting that a hero start a team, and gathering the team yourself, are two different things. In this new Justice League origin, it seems that we'll spend the first few issues watching Batman's first encounters with many of the new heroes, such as Green Lantern in issue #1 and Superman in issue #2. And somehow he brings them together to fight the new Big Bad of the opening arc (whose identity has been revealed, but I won't spoil it here).
Superman was DC's biggest hero for decades, but ever since the Tim Burton films, Batman has been consistently the bigger seller. Now, with Superman having two solo titles and a family of four books, and Batman starting with four solo titles and a family of eleven books with plans to grow from there, it seems that Batman is going to be taking a new role as the starting impetus of the DC superhero world. Let Batfans rejoice!
Next week: A look at Batman's activities in Justice League 1 and any pertinent knowledge we gain from the wrap-up of Flashpoint.
Posted by Jon Wilson