I’m taking advantage of the long holiday weekend and am taking a few days off, so I’ve asked my official unofficial researcher John Wells to provide one of his in-depth answers to a recent question…
What exactly is and is not considered “canon” for Batman at this point? With Crisis, Zero Hour and various other retcons, it’s hard to tell. At one point or another, stories such as BATMAN: YEAR TWO, lots of the stories Doug Moench wrote pre-Crisis (Nocturna and all that) and the Silver St. Cloud stories have been declared non-canon. What are their status? And which story arcs, if any, from LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT are canon? Thank you!
— Jeffrey Kramer” Jeffreywkramer@hotmail.com
Unlike Superman and Wonder Woman, Batman never had his pre-Crisis continuity abandoned wholesale but, as you’ve said, things aren’t exactly as they once were. Originally, for instance, Batman had Robin at his side when he first met pretty much every big-name villain in his rogues gallery other than Hugo Strange. Post-Crisis, the debuts of nearly all of the big guns have been crammed into the pre-Robin era and the Boy Wonder was left with first-timers like the Mad Hatter (ROBIN: YEAR ONE #1), Clayface (SECRET ORIGINS #44), Cluemaster and Killer Moth (ROBIN: YEAR ONE #2).
Nonetheless, Batman’s pre-Crisis stories make a pretty durable spine for the post-Crisis Dark Knight’s history. The retcon that claimed Batgirl was trained by Batman before she’d met Robin (LEGENDS OF THE DC UNIVERSE #s 10-11; THE BATMAN CHRONICLES #9) has reverted to the first version of her origin with Killer Moth (originally presented in DETECTIVE COMICS #359 and reaffirmed in SECRET FILES & ORIGINS GUIDE TO THE DC UNIVERSE 2000).
DC also thought better of the idea of Batman fathering a child by Talia in 1987’s SON OF THE DEMON, allowing both it and its sequel, BRIDE OF THE DEMON, to fall by the wayside (though the events of those two stories haven’t been contradicted by anything in the mainstream series). Meanwhile, Batman and Talia’s son has figured into two separate alternate futures (KINGDOM COME and THE KINGDOM: SON OF THE BAT and BATMAN: BROTHERHOOD OF THE BAT and BATMAN: LEAGUE OF BATMAN #s 1-2).
And then there was the post-“No Man’s Land” notion that Batman was regarded as an urban myth by the people of Gotham and had never been captured on film or witnessed in public places (the focus of stories like BATMAN #584 and BATMAN: OUTLAWS #s 1-3). Even if one ignores the thousands of stories that indicated otherwise, it’s a ludicrous idea. Gotham’s citizens and the news media believe in the existence of a whole catalogue of costumed villains but assume it’s been the police who’ve captured and recaptured them? In a world of ubiquitous camcorders and security cameras, Batman has managed to go twelve-plus years without being captured on film? And what about Tim Drake’s claims to have followed Batman and Robin’s adventures on television and newspapers? In the face of questions like this, the urban legend angle seems to have quickly fallen out of favor.
As near as I can determine, “Batman: Year Two” is still canon with the slight revision that Batman was incorrect in identifying his parents’ murderer. In 1994’s DETECTIVE #678, Batman traveled to an alternate reality in which Joe Chill had not been the gunman and evidently came to the conclusion that Chill wasn’t the killer in his case, either. A few weeks later, BATMAN #0 declared, “the crime would go unsolved, the killer’s identity never known.” The rationale for the change was that, for Batman, “the killer would become a symbol of the faceless crime lurking in every shadow.” It seemed kind of pointless to me. I note, though, that current Batman writer Ed Brubaker intends to re-explore the Wayne murder case, having (in BATMAN #s 591-595) re-introduced mobster Lew Moxon (originally the man who hired Chill to kill the Waynes, as per 1956’s DETECTIVE #235) and arranged for Batman to acquire the police evidence files from the crime (BATMAN #603).
Likewise, “Batman: Year Three” is still canon (1989’s BATMAN #s 436-439) but with substantial details added in 1995’s ROBIN ANNUAL #4 and 2000’s ROBIN: YEAR ONE. LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #100 (1997) included Denny O’Neil’s non-canonical spin on the origin of Robin, one that deviated from all the other versions in a couple important respects:  Dick Grayson didn’t become Robin and learn Batman’s true identity until after they brought Boss Zucco to justice; and  Zucco died at the end of that encounter. This one’s not canon despite the fact that a flashback panel in ROBIN: YEAR ONE #1 mistakenly referred to Zucco’s death. (He was actually jailed.) We’ll assume that Dick regarded Zucco as dead in his eyes even though the man who instigated his parents’ deaths was still taking up space in a prison cell.
LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #s 46-49‘s depiction of Cat-Man as a deranged serial killer was pretty flatly contradicted by Alan Grant’s story in CATWOMAN #26 and SHADOW OF THE BAT #s 43-44, which spun off the character’s pre-Crisis origin, not to mention the rest of his post-Crisis stories, which don’t reflect this sort of characterization. LEGENDS #s 89-90 set the origin of the second Clayface, Matt Hagen, in the pre-Robin era, which doesn’t jibe with DC’s history in “Mud Pack” (SECRET ORIGINS #44; DETECTIVE #s 604-607), where Batman hadn’t even fought the first Clayface (Basil Karlo) until Robin came along.
Silver St. Cloud’s relationship with Bruce Wayne (DETECTIVE #s 469-476) does remain part of continuity, having recently been reaffirmed in BATMAN #600. A post-ZERO HOUR sequel to that legendary run of stories didn’t fare as well. LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #s 132-136 (by Archie Goodwin, James Robinson, Marshall Rogers and Bob Wiacek) dealt with Bruce’s brief reunion with Silver but the story’s pivotal flashbacks to the Wayne family history prevented it from being canonical. In this account, Wayne Manor was said to have been built by Bruce’s grandfather, Jack. In current continuity, according to SHADOW OF THE BAT #45 and others, the structure dates back to the Civil War and siblings Solomon and Joshua Wayne.
The Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale LONG HALLOWEEN/DARK VICTORY opus wasn’t tied to mainstream continuity, allowing them the leeway to kill Year One-era characters (like Lieutenant Flass, who survived into the present in the core series’ wedding of Jim Gordon and Sarah Essen) and portray a romantic relationship between Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne that post-Crisis continuity had prohibited. The revised history had declared that Catwoman had never been captured and that Selina had never met Bruce or Alfred (BATMAN #499 and others). That said, the aforementioned Ed Brubaker has included the Bruce-Selina romance as canon, anyway (in places like BATMAN #600, CATWOMAN (current) #10 and CATWOMAN SECRET FILES #1).
That same issue of SECRET FILES also officially banished a Catwoman story (ACTION COMICS WEEKLY #s 611-614) that has long been regarded as non-canon. The episode had killed off Selina’s pal, Holly (alive and well in the current series), but the detail that threw everyone into an uproar was a scene in which Catwoman threw two security guards from a skyscraper window to their deaths in order to frame Holly’s killer for the murders. Even setting aside Catwoman’s aversion to killing, the sequence didn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Batman: Year One indicated that the pre-Catwoman Selina Kyle had been a prostitute, a development that seemed a bit too adult for a character still being marketed to children. Perhaps in acknowledgment of this, DC has shied away from that characterization since Zero Hour. 1994’s CATWOMAN #0, for instance, established that the young Selina had become wealthy as a cat burglar and that the hooker persona had been a subsequent ruse to separate potential customers from their cash the moment they were alone.
A number of LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT stories were set in the present-day and are definitely canon. These include #s 27 (“Destroyer”), 51 (Ragman team-up), 59-63 (KnightQuest/ KnightsEnd), 116-126 (No Man’s Land), 142-145 (a flashback to the recent past with Ra’s al Ghul, Talia and the Joker), ANNUAL #s 1 (Joker framing sequence), 2 (the wedding of Jim Gordon and Sarah Essen) and 3 (“Bloodlines”).
LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #s 11-15‘s early history of Hugo Strange was affirmed in BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHTS #s 8-11 but it’s less clear whether the sequel from #s 137-141 is canon. The origin of Venom (#s 16-20), the story of how Leslie Thompkins discovered Batman’s alter ego (#s 21-23), the account of Batman’s first clash with the Joker (# 50), the Jason Todd flashback (#100), the Green Arrow team-up (#s 127-131) and the last Balloon Buster story (ANNUAL #7) all seem to be canonical, too. ANNUAL #5 depicted Kirk Langstrom’s first transformation into Man-Bat. In current continuity, DETECTIVE #400 apparently represents Kirk’s first regression into the creature. And Bob Overdog’s Bat-Mite hallucinations (in LEGENDS #38 and BATMAN: MITEFALL) were mentioned in BATMAN & SUPERMAN: WORLD’S FINEST #6.
There are a few other stories involving villains like the Joker, Two-Face and the Riddler that I’m hesitant to make a final judgment on. The average LEGENDS story, though, eschews established characters (aside from Captain Gordon) altogether and those could easily be slotted into continuity if anyone wanted to.
Certain aspects of Doug Moench’s original run on Batman (DETECTIVE #527 to BATMAN #400) are no longer in continuity, most notably Alfred’s daughter Julia. I’m not so sure about Nocturna, though. ROBIN #s 101-105 recently introduced a character apparently intended to be the new Nocturna but she never actually took the name and was different enough from the original that I’m inclined to think they could co-exist. Moench’s “Black Mask” arc is definitely still in continuity, something that was reaffirmed as recently as CATWOMAN SECRET FILES #1.
For the most part, writers don’t even bother flashing back to the era represented by comics from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s when Dick Grayson was in and out of college, Batgirl was in Washington and Batman was going it alone. As a consequence, most of the Batman-related stories written by Robbins, O’Neil, Maggin, Rozakis, Wein, Conway and Moench can still be accepted as canon even if they haven’t officially been recognized as such. This fascination with the Year One-Year Two incarnation of the Dark Knight has its advantages.
— John Wells
Thanks, John, as always for the excellent work.
Join us again next week for more questions and answers. And don’t forget my daily Anything Goes Trivia at http://www.wfcomics.com/trivia.
Copyright ? 2000 to 2003 by Bob Rozakis. All Rights Reserved.