Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Simple Batman Timeline (That Makes Sense)

Ruining a Good Thing (For No Reason)

DC seems to be determined to mess up one of the few great franchises they have, and it all stems from the rather asinine belief that the DCU can only be 5 years old.  What possible difference could it make if the DCU has been around for five years as opposed to, say, 10, 15, or even 20, I have no idea.  Apparently, someone at DC seems to think that five years of history will be less confusing to readers than 20 years of history, which suggests that at some point they're going to actually cover all five years of that history, which we all know isn't true.  For that matter, comic book readers have been dealing with continuity for decades -- we're not stupid, but DC seems determined to treat us like we are.

Oh, and the whole "new reader friendly" bit is bunk.  That might have been a reasonable goal back when the New 52 launched, but at this point the books are losing sales, not gaining new readers.  DC has managed to stop bringing in new readers while alienating the readers they did have, which is a nifty talent.

Here's the other thing: allowing for a longer history does absolutely nothing to undermine the few positive, successful changes that have come from the New 52*.  It does nothing to Wonder Woman's new origin, Superman's new costume, or...well, has anything else in the New 52 actually worked?  If anything, it actually embraces the fact that both Animal Man and Swamp Thing regularly hint at a longer, shared history.

*I say this as a guy who thinks DC should revert back to old continuity, just keeping the few, aforementioned things that have worked.  But I'm willing to compromise.

Courtesy of http://mattkrotzer.deviantart.com/
Funny enough, we were initially led to believe that Batman (and Green Lantern) would see their histories more or less stay intact, but the edict from on high calling for a five year box for stories suddenly made such things as there having been 5 Robins over Batman's career make little sense.  And so, in an effort to crush Batman's history into this tiny little box, they made changes.

The first and, really, most obvious, was Stephanie Brown.  She was a main offender in two ways: five years was too short of a period for there to have been more than one Batgirl, and five years was way too short of a period for there to have been 5 Robins.  Wiping Stephanie out of existence dropped the number of Batgirls to (technically) 3 (wiping out Cassandra Cain and the old version of Huntress wiped out 2 more) and dropped the number of Robins down to 4.

From http://gabzillaz.deviantart.com/
Still, 4 Robins in 5 years was too many, particularly given that Dick Grayson had to grow up enough to want to quit and there had to be enough time for Jason to die (and come back).  So it was time to drop Tim Drake as Robin.  No, this time around, Tim has always been called Red Robin and he was Batman's partner, not his sidekick.  Then, of course, they can just say that Damien just recently became Robin and presto!  There have only been 2 Robins in 5 years.

The problem with all of that, of course, is that it still doesn't make any sense.  For this new timeline to change any of the things they want it to change, Batman would have had a Robin while he was teamed up with his partner, Red Robin, or otherwise those years are a wash.  And if there was no Robin during that time, then why change Tim to Red Robin?  If Tim is younger than Dick (which seems to be established by Tim being in the Teen Titans), then for this new timeline to fit, he was Red Robin while Batman's sidekick was Jason Todd.  And if that's the case, where the hell was Batman's partner when his sidekick was killed?

As stupid as all of that sounds, the worst part is that it's unnecessary, because no one was asking for answers to these questions.  Comic book fans have a long history of ignoring continuity errors for the sake of good stories.  I would think it would be impossible to read anything Bendis has ever written and not have cultivated that skill.  And look -- his books sell a lot of copies.  Comic book fans manage to get by without getting answers to questions they do have -- we certainly didn't need answers to questions we weren't even asking.

36, 24, 23, 19, 18, 18, 10

So one night I decided to figure out how a Batman timeline would make sense, at least as far as the ages of the Batman and Robin team.  Because this is the kind of ridiculous shit I think about.

I had to start with Batman, of course, and in doing so, I had to think about how old he could have been in Year One.  I also had to consider how old he seems now.  He's old enough to be a father, but not too old to be running around doing the things that he does.  I also considered the fact that he was probably stuck in boarding school after his parents died, so the earliest he'd be free of that would be 17.

Let's say, then, for the sake of argument, that Batman begins his career at the age of 22.  I think the guy we see in Year One is extremely mature of a 22 year old, but let's chalk that up to 5 years of studying and training abroad.

Batman's initial solo adventures seem to hold a great deal of fascination for writers, so we don't want to limit that well.  It would be easy to bring Robin on board after a single year, but let's make it two so we're not trying to cram too many stories in.  This means that Batman is 24 when he takes Robin under his wing.  Dick Grayson was the Boy Wonder, so in keeping with that, he shouldn't be a teenager, but he also shouldn't be too young, so 12 sounds about right.  It also makes him half Batman's age, which has a nice symmetry to it.

Dick eventually out grows being Robin, and it would make sense that he would do so at 18, when he became an adult.  That gives him and Bruce six years together as the Dynamic Duo, establishing the impressive legacy that all future Robins would have to live up to.

Jason Todd, the Robin gone bad
Batman goes another year flying solo until taking Jason in as the second Robin.  Jason's back story sets him at being at least a bit older than Dick, so we'll go with 14.  One of the keys to the mythology of Jason is that his time was tumultuous, but brief, so let's say he dies after only a single year as Robin, when he's 15, Bruce is 32, and Dick is 20.

It's clear from "A Lonely Place of Dying," that Tim intervenes not long after Jason dies because Batman has gone off the deep end.  But it's a while after that before Bruce allows Tim to wear the green and red, so let's say another year.  Tim should also have been in high school at this point and was considerably more mature than Dick or Jason, and if I made Jason 14, then I'll make Tim 15.  Bruce would be 33, Dick 21, and Jason would have been 16, just a year older than Tim.

Tim Drake pre-horrible red legs
Just like Dick before him, Tim out grows being Robin when he becomes an adult.  This coincides with the addition of Damien to the cast.  This means that Tim is Robin for 3 years, minus the few weeks that he quit and was replaced by Stephanie Brown, who was roughly the same age as him -- note that when Tim becomes Red Robin and Stephanie becomes Batgirl, she's starting college.  So they're both 18 at this point.

Damien being Damien, he's 10.  It's a part of his character that he's the youngest Robin.  Which means, at this point, with Stephanie and Tim 18, the resurrected Jason is 19, Dick is 24, and Bruce is 36 -- which means Damien could have actually grown up normally as opposed to being accelerated in a lab.

It would be pretty easy to work Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl into this as well.  She's probably a year younger than Dick, which means if she shows up when she's 13, Bruce and Dick have been together already for two years.

Current Robin, Damien Wayne
In the end, that's just 14 years worth of history.  Sure, it's nearly 3 times the amount DC is supposedly shooting for, but consider this: that's 73 years worth of stories squeezed down into 14 years.

No One Cares But Me

In the end, though, none of this will happen.  Nothing even remotely like it will happen.  Batman is the one franchise that keeps selling for DC no matter what.  The can muck with it all they want and people will still buy the books.

The only way any of this comes close to fruition is if the DCU returns to its post-Crisis, pre-New 52 continuity.  In that regard, though, I hold out hope.  At some point DC is going to need to get readers' attention again and those universe altering crossovers usually do pretty well for them.

(Note: This was originally published on kylegarret.com on 1/12/13.  As we all are now aware, Damien is no longer with us.)

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