Batman: Year One (1987)

Dated Apr 8, 2023; last modified on Sat, 29 Jul 2023

Batman: Year One. Frank Miller; David Mazzucchelli. . . . 1987. Accessed Apr 8, 2023.

Miller and Mazzucchelli also did Daredevil: Born Again (1986) together.

In 1986, DC embarked on a reinvention of its characters' origin stories to match the times. However, Batman’s origin story didn’t change as it already captured the fears, frustrations and hopes of a readership coping with the realities of 20th-century urban life. Miller accepted the challenge to give Batman’s origin more depth, complexity and a wider context.

Miller’s run is considered THE Batman origin story to read. What makes it so special?

To me, Batman is a morally grey persona; unlike the boy scout Superman. He isn’t meant to be aspirational. He has a broken psyche. His enemies fear him. He acts outside the law, regularly butting heads with the government for being a vigilante. He’s an impressive detective. One of my favorite things about him is the aura surrounding him in the DC universe.

Of the 3 main DC heroes, I’ve always – even as a kid – liked him more than Superman or Wonder Woman.

Most of my snapshots from involve James Gordon. Feels more like a story about him than about Batman.


FLASS. So Father Donelley, he slips Gordon a fifty with the handshake and Chapter he looks at it like his hand’s got a disease. Then he throws the fifty in the padre’s face. Gives the squad a two-hour lecture. Puts Schell on probation. He’s just not fitting in, Gill.

BRUCE. I’m provoking him. I really shouldn’t. His eyes keep flicking away from the girls to me. He turns away for a second – a dead giveaway – he’s pretty fast – I won’t say he has a chance – but he’s fast. This is getting a little too good to me – better wrap it up – Idiot – never should have done this – have to get out of here before I draw attention – AAAA
HOLLY. Come on you guys – I got him –
BRUCE. Very good, Bruce. You’ve really put the fear of God into them.

A parallel to the trope about trying to “save” one member of a fighting couple, and the one to be saved turns on the intervener. At the end of the encounter, Bruce isn’t completely saving Holly, so Holly ensuring she’s on the right side of Stan makes sense for her.

Also a glimpse into a selfish reason for being a vigilante – going out seeking a fight.

COP 1. Hey – he didn’t move, man.
COP 2. He was going to.
COP 1. Needs a doctor.
COP 2. Maybe after he’s booked.

BRUCE. Father… I’m afraid I may have to die tonight. I’ve tried to be patient. I’ve tried to wait. But I have to know. How father? How do I do it? What do I use… to make them afraid? If I ring this bell, Alfred will come. He can stop the bleeding, in time. Another of your gifts to me, father. I have wealth. The family manor rests above a cave that will be the perfect headquarters… Even a butler with training in combat medicine. Yes, father. I have everything but patience. […] Without warning, it comes crashing through the window of your study… and mine. I have seen it before… somewhere. It frightened me… as a boy… frightened me… yes. Father. I shall become a bat.

Deciding to become Batman while almost delirious from a gunshot wound is on brand for Bruce as a tragic hero.

GORDON. It kicks. Gunpowder burns my eyes and fills my nostrils. A wad of lead flies… If that were a man – the wad would shatter his spine and he’d feel his legs go dead even as his heart explodes… Another kick. The wad would leave a neat, round hole and I’d see the horror in his eyes as it pushed half his brain through the back of his skull. I hate the gun. I hate my job. I keep practicing.

A lot of my snapshots have been about Gordon. In the , he has the richer story. How can he navigate a corrupt police force? Compare his attitude in shooting practice to that of the cop who shot Bruce because “Bruce was going to move”.

GORDON. "… I was in the process of single-handedly apprehending the felons," says Flass, and coughs. He looks around the room to see if anybody’s going to challenge him, and goes on…. “Then I heard giant wings flap. It flew down from the sky–” Somebody chuckles. Flass turns another shade redder. “– Its wings were about thirty feet across. It bellowed like… Well, I’ve never heard anything like it… One of the felons I had not yet disarmed produced a 357 magnum – he fired – point blank range, at the creature – and the bullet passed straight through the creature like it wasn’t there."

MAYOR. Two sides to everything, friends. Look at the long term. A few street operators are put out of action, yes – But the people of Gotham City have a hero. Makes them feel safe. And the safer they feel, the fewer questions they ask.

GORDON. The Comissioner didn’t want to miss this chance. Called in his friend Branden. Said he checked the building. Said it was due for demolition. Said nobody would be hurt – nobody – except a derelict or two – and Batman…

GORDON. The crowd is all screams and angry shouts. Then I hear a wrecking ball take out the wall – and a hardware store clatter across the street. A cheer goes up. They’ve made a hero out of him. Then the cheering disintegrates… and the screaming starts again…

GORDON. … and right now I should be talking to her – begging her to forgive me for the baby in her stomach and the way that I’m thinking about Essen – that’s right – call her Essen – forget how she felt – how her body and her lips felt – Barbara – I should talk to her. I shouldn’t be thinking – not about Sgt. Essen – and not about Batman. He’s a criminal. I’m a cop. It’s that simple. But – But I’m a cop in a city where the mayor and the commissioner of police use cops as hired killers… He saved that old woman. He saved that cat. He even paid for that suit. The hunk of metal in my hands is heavier than ever…

Gordon’s incorruptibility as a police officer is inspiring. I do like that he’s been given faults like infidelity though to add conflict to his persona.

ALFRED. Master Bruce – I’ve come across a fascinating piece in the Times. Concerns the effects of lack of sleep among the marginally sane… “marked increase in paranoia”… hmm…

“Marginally sane” is a nice descriptor for Batman.


The engine hums, gently, not quite convinced it should stop.

Last month Branden and his SWAT team calmed down a riot in Robinson Park. Didn’t even leave the statues standing.

They’ve got him cornered. They’ve got him outnumbered. They’ve got him trapped. They’re in trouble.


  1. Batman: Year One (#404). Frank Miller; David Mazzucchelli. . 1987. Accessed Apr 8, 2023.
  2. Batman: Year One (#405). Frank Miller; David Mazzucchelli. . 1987. Accessed Apr 8, 2023.
  3. Batman: Year One (#406). Frank Miller; David Mazzucchelli. . 1987. Accessed Apr 8, 2023.
  4. Batman: Year One (#407). Frank Miller; David Mazzucchelli. . 1987. Accessed Apr 8, 2023.