[World of Bats] Batman: Year One!

Hello everyone and welcome to the World of Bats: The Batman Book Club! First off, I would like to say to everyone: Happy New Year! We hope your first days of the new year – the new decade – are going strong!

So because of this thought of Years, for this month of the Batman Book Club, we’re going to be focusing on the theme of Years. For the first week of this month, we’re starting with perhaps the most important year for the titular character, and one of the most iconic Batman stories in modern history: Batman: Year One, written by Frank Miller and drawn by David Mazzucchelli!

Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham City to start his one-man war against the system of crime and corruption that took away his family. Jim Gordon comes to Gotham City, a good cop surrounded by the corrupt, trying to survive and protect his family. This is the story of their first year, and if they are going to survive, they are going to have to work together…

Any thoughts, ideas, and vows to your parents’ graves are welcome, and we also have some discussion questions to warm things up:

  • Batman Year One is considered a cornerstone classic of modern Batman stories. If this is your first time reading it, does it hold up to the hype? If you’ve read it before, what did you think when you first read it, and what do you think of it now?

  • As much as this book is a Batman origin story, it’s also the story of Jim Gordon. What do you think of this take on the character? Did his actions in this story make you think less of the character, or find him more compelling in his flaws?

  • This story isn’t just the origins of Batman and Jim Gordon, but of Selina Kyle, the Catwoman. This version of the feline fatale has a decidedly darker, grittier take, going from heiress with amnesia to a prostitute stealing her way out of poverty. This has been considered a controversial move as the years went on. What do you think about this take on Catwoman? Is it a problematic take, or is there something of worth in it?

  • Putting aside all the other big main characters of this story, who was your favorite side character within these four issues?

  • What was your favorite moment in the book?

Here’s a link to the issues, nicely bundled together courtesy of whoever does the Storyline collections on DC Universe! And not just because it’s neatly bundled in here, let’s also discuss the animated movie starring Gotham’s Ben McKenzie and everyone’s Lex Luthor fan-cast Bryan Cranston.

Which brings us to another question to you, the members of the club and anyone else participating: Would you rather talk about the animated movie just in this thread, or would you be interested in doing a Watch-A-Long for this and similar movies/TV episodes throughout the month? Let us know in…The Bat-Poll!

  • Stick to just talking about it in thread.
  • Watch-A-Long!

0 voters

If you wish to join the World of Bats club, you can follow the link here, and if you have any questions, you can contact me, Jay_Kay, as well as @BatJamags and @Aquamonc137.

NEXT WEEK: Fear…The Reaper!

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I usually just ramble on rather than using the discussion questions as a basis for my thoughts, but in this case, I will respond directly to some of the questions provided.

  • Batman Year One is considered a cornerstone classic of modern Batman stories. If you’ve read it before, what did you think when you first read it, and what do you think of it now?

When I first read it, I was severely disappointed. I found it to be a good Jim Gordon story and a poor Batman story. My feelings have softened on it considerably, but I still question if it’s a suitable backstory for the mainstream Batman continuity, which is just way too fantastical to fit with such a mundane and hyper-realistic starting point.

I enjoy it far more when I treat it as its own thing (or as an origin story for the DKR Batman), and there always seems to be a strong disconnect between stories that are designed to follow Year One (e.g. Legends of the Dark Knight) and the regular monthly Bat-books. When I can pretend that it’s in its own little Elseworlds bubble to the side, I’m able to appreciate the “Batman as Taxi Driver” approach as a valid take on the world of Gotham.

  • As much as this book is a Batman origin story, it’s also the story of Jim Gordon. What do you think of this take on the character? Did his actions in this story make you think less of the character, or find him more compelling in his flaws?

The best thing about this story is its characterization of Gordon (even if it flies in the face of pre-existing continuity and leaves subsequent books scrambling to determine when exactly he became the commissioner). His affair with Essen, while initially off-putting, ultimately makes his character more interesting and complex. (And hey, if you like Sarah, you can read DKR, and if you don’t like Sarah, you can read No Man’s Land. Everybody wins!)

  • This story isn’t just the origins of Batman and Jim Gordon, but of Selina Kyle, the Catwoman. This version of the feline fatale has a decidedly darker, grittier take, going from heiress with amnesia to a prostitute stealing her way out of poverty. This has been considered a controversial move as the years went on. What do you think about this take on Catwoman? Is it a problematic take, or is there something of worth in it?

It’s a problematic take, full stop. There’s really no excuse for it other than Miller’s penchant for writing women as sex workers. In his mind, realistic = gritty = sleazy = prostitution. He had already gone down this path with Selina in DKR, which further explains why I see this story as a more suitable prequel to that series than to the main canon.

That said, certain later books have handled the idea better than others. The Mindy Newell Catwoman miniseries embraces the new origin but then goes on to make sense of how she could be so skilled at self-defense. (Answer: Wildcat.) Jordon Gorfinkel, on the other hand, tried to say that she wasn’t reeeeeally a dominatrix in Catwoman: Year One, which is more frustrating than just outright rejecting the Miller origin altogether.

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Interesting – I guess I never thought of it as being too realistic because it felt like a good example of the whole “crime gets crazier as Batman comes to Gotham” idea; especially when one considers spiritual sequels like The Long Halloween and Dark Victory.

Also, it’s interesting to call this Taxi Driver with Batman when a lot of people who are likely fans of this story rag on Joker for basically being heavily evocative of Taxi Driver and King of Comedy with a Batman paint over it.

I will second the recommendation of the Mindy Newell Catwoman series. I read that recently after the announcment of Zoe Kravitz as Catwoman in the next movie gave me an itch, and it is really good.

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This is my first time reading year one and it honestly does love up to the hype. I’ve always meant to read it, I just never got around to it. Since I’ve already read zero year, I figured now is a perfect opportunity. I don’t know if it’s because of the order I’ve read Batman content, but I actually like and appreciate this origins story best and it does justice for me. Mr.Knox is right on the money as far being primarily a story focused on Gordon, but it was neat to see a rusty Batman nearly drop a thug and get his brains bashed in, all due to poor planning and prep.

I honestly didn’t like Selina as a prostitute, but that’s just my own view as well seeing how she lives happily ever after with bruce, in Tom King’s run.

My favorite side character would have to be Loeb. Primarily because Long Halloween and Dark Victory were my first Batman reading material. It was cool to see exactly how corrupt and how much you hate the guy. Real piece of work…that ties into my favorite moment, rather my favorite part of this book is how I can see how a lot of the plot elements are set up for Long Halloween. I really liked and appreciated that the most about this. I’ve placed year one in my favorites already because of it.

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I like that, but I wish that Miller had included more of it. I’m not exactly a fan of Batman: Earth One Vol. 1, but I think it nailed the “novice Bruce” idea better than Miller did.

That said, I do love the tree kick, especially in light of more recent homages/parodies.

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Yeah, definitely one of the best parts of the book is seeing Bruce really learn as he goes, as he makes mistakes and uses his wits to survive. Helps him feel more human.

It’s also a fun narrative bridge to Dark Knight Returns, seeing him go from “lucky amateur” to “lucky old man.”

I have always been able to enjoy this story and most of its elements, and I think that it is an essential read for any Batman fan, but I’ve always found certain parts of it hard to accept as the backstory for the mainstream continuity. Mostly, I don’t like this version of Catwoman, which I will address in more detail in a minute. I’m good with everyone else’s story here though.

One of the things that I really enjoy about Year One is Jim Gordan’s story. Everything about Gordan’s story here only makes his character more compelling for me. His mistakes and flaws only give his character more depth.

As for Selina’s part in this story, it’s always struck me as quite off-putting. Maybe my opinion here is influenced by the fact that I’m a girl. I’ve often wondered how the majority of women felt about this story compared to how the majority of men felt. I have to agree with @AlexanderKnox statement about how Miller seems to think that realistic = gritty = sleazy = prostitution when it comes to writing about women. This is so true.

I’m a really big Catwoman fan and the reason that I love this character so much is because of her strength and personality. Catwoman has always been defiantly independent and she never relies on anyone, especially any man. Any man who wants to have anything to do with Selina Kyle is going to have to prove himself her equal. At least that’s how Catwoman’s character is typically represented. The prostitute “house mother” representation that we see in Year One is simply a disservice to her character. Not to mention the fact that it glorifies prostitution.

My favorite side character has got to be Detective Flass. He’s the quid essential “love to hate him” character. You just want to see him get clobbered right in the face, and then he does! It’s so satisfying and you just can’t help but laugh at him. I love it when Gordan says, “now Flass, tell us what you know about Batman, Try not to exaggerate.”

I think that Batman’s “failed” attempt to stop the TV thieves is my favorite part. There is an element of comedy to it, but then becomes suddenly very sobering. I feel like it represents an important moment in the birth of the Batman.

The moment earlier in the story when Bruce is debating over whether or not to ring the bell - this is the moment where the idea of the Batman is originally born. Profound as that moment may be, to me, the scene with the TV thieves represents the moment where the Batman is truly born. This is where Bruce realizes just how serious this thing that he is attempting to do really is and that if he doesn’t devote every bit of himself to doing this thing and doing it right, then people are going to die.

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Hey all! I’m new to Batman and DC in general, so far I’ve seen The Dark Knight trilogy, as well as Joker. I’ve also played the Arkham video game series. Haven’t read any comic books yet but I want to check out Year one! That being said I would love to have a watch along for Year One as I haven’t seen it yet! Probably a stupid question but how exactly do watchalongs work exactly? Do we just start the movie at the same time? Glad to finally be apart of the DC Family!

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Well Howdy and welcome to the Bat Family! TDK trilogy, Joker, and Arkham games is a great place to start! Year One is great and the movie adaptations is spot on. The best way to do watchalongs is to view the movie on one device preferably a tv or tablet while at the same time on a different device tablet/phone/laptop you can join in the comments here in the community. There will be a designated time and thread created in the Community Events section for the Watchalong. Also no worries I had no idea what a watchalong was until I got on the DCU.
Again welcome to the Bat Family and to DC in general! There are a ridiculous amount of comics on here and a great selection of Batman video content I think you will love!

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That gets back to one of my general gripes about the book: even now, I find Bruce very two-dimensional when compared to Gordon (and when compared to Bruce’s more multi-faceted depiction in DKR). It doesn’t help that Bruce lacks a full arc–he doesn’t exactly accomplish much by the end other than forming a working relationship with Gordon. He doesn’t put away Falcone. He doesn’t confront Catwoman. He doesn’t even get anything to say at the end of the final issue.

I wouldn’t have as much of a problem with Bruce being a supporting character in Gordon’s story if the first issue hadn’t set up the narrative to be about both of them equally. In the end, what has Bruce learned? It doesn’t seem to be that he can be a hero without the costume, despite his heroic rescue of the baby. The final page appears to preclude that interpretation. In short, Gordon’s story ends; Bruce’s story stops. A nitpick I have with Year Two may also hold for Year One: perhaps it needed a fifth issue to give everything more breathing room.

None of these things make Year One bad, per se. They just make it lacking as a Batman origin story compared to some of the alternatives (Untold Legend, The Man Who Falls, and even Zero Year) because Bruce Wayne isn’t really the protagonist of the story.

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That’s definitely a good point, something I never fully thought of. Part of me wonders if maybe that has something to do with the way the story is framed, less being a set beginning, middle and end and more “this is what happened between January and December of 19XX.” But then again, Gordon still has a pretty complete arc by the end.

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So it definitely looks like there’s interest in Watch-A-Longs! So let’s figure out a time for it. Would, say, Friday work for people? Are there any other WALs going on around that time?

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So I read this years ago and read the first 2 issues again last night. will finish them tonight. Really great takes on this story in here so far. I have to agree with Knox on a lot of it though. I do love this story but have always looked at it as more of a Gordon story and a great one on that. I kinda always looked at this story as more part of the DKR world. I’m weird with cannon though and pick and choose stuff. I will say I feel Zero Year is a better telling of Bat’s first year to me, I know they had much more time to flesh out the story but still better. I have never been a fan of Millers take on Selina. Not so much that I don’t believe she was tricking at some point in her life but it does seem uncharacteristic of her but really just her personality. IDK I just don’t care for this take.
I will say that I think this is one of the rare cases were the movie is better than the comics. I have seen it recently this last year again and now having gone back to read some of it, I feel they did a better job with the dialog and making things more coherent.

Does anyone know what Gordons military backround is because for some reason I always thought he was a green beret and not Flass.

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In current continuity, he has a background as a Marine via Scott Snyder, but I don’t know about any military background in previous continuities.

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Oh yeah I remember that now. Gosh I was not a fan of the Gordon Batman near the end of that run.

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I thought it was an interesting idea that just didn’t really have a lot of room to do much with. Not as good as, say, Dick Grayson Batman, but certainly better than Azbats.

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I would be curious to know which one folks like better, the comic or the movie. I know they are almost shot for shot the same but I feel the dialog is better in the movie. maybe a poll for the WaL thread?

Found the relevant panel:

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you know…you spoil me!

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