The final season of the Batman origin series Gotham finally gets a home release on 29th July 2019, bringing this sprawling, and at times epic, tale to a close. But now that it’s over what are fans left to do? What if people want more of the tales of the world’s greatest detective in his early days? Well, here are 5 great Batman origin stories that you should make the time to check out.
Batman: Year One
Written by Frank Miller, and with art by David Mazzucchelli, Batman: Year One is cited by many fans to be the ultimate telling of the hero’s origins. Originally published in 1987 by DC, the story sees a young Bruce Wayne return home to Gotham after spending the better part of a decade and a half travelling the world, training. He finds his city an even worse den of crime and villainy than when he first left, and is determined to do something about it. At the same time, James Gordon transfers to the Gotham police force, and is faced with the corruption throughout the institution.
The story sees the two of them having to find ways of fighting the corruption that haunts the city, and discovering an ally in each other. It also marked huge changes for the DC universe, as other writers brought future stories into line with the events of Batman: Year One in order to make it a more cohesive part of the universe.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
The animated film Batman: Mask of the Phantasm was a continuation of the popular Batman Animated Series, and is considered by a lot of people to be one of the best Batman films every made, animated or otherwise. Telling the story of a mysterious new killer arriving in Gotham, the Phantasm, who targets gangsters and crime lords, the story also tells the origins of Bruce Wayne as Batman.
This was something that hadn’t been done in the animated series, and rather than focusing on the murder of Bruce’s parents, chose to approach it when Bruce was older, having been training already to become Batman and on the cusp of his crime-fighting career. We see a Bruce who is desperate to not be a vigilante, who wants to instead break his promise and find love. It was a much more personal and emotional origin story that had never been told before, and one that pleased many fans.
When the New 52 changed the DC Universe in 2011 things became uncertain for a lot of characters, and many people found themselves asking which stories still counted, and which ones were no longer considered canon. In an attempt to update the Batman origin story, and answer some of these questions, writer Scott Snyder created the year long event Zero Year.
Featuring the first encounters between Batman and characters such as The Riddler, Penguin, the Red Hood Gang, and Jim Gordon to name but a few, the event took some direction from Batman: Year One, but told a much bigger and more epic story than the smaller, more intimate tale from the 80s. The story established a new origin for the latest incarnation of Batman, and parts of the story were even incorporated into the final season of Gotham.
The Nolan films are some of the best loved Batman films around, but thanks to the spectacular performances in The Dark Knight, and the somewhat dissapointing ending in The Dark Knight Rises people seem to forget about Batman Begins, a film that is not only the best live action Batman origin but the best of the trilogy.
Whilst other films have featured Batman at the beginning of his career, or had flashbacks to the death of his parents, no film spent as much time showing Bruce travelling the world and learning his skills. We got to watch him developing the Bat Suit and the gadgets he would need to help stop the villains. Tying the films main villain into his past, in the form of Ra’s al Ghul, was also a great move as it meant that this exploration of his past was integral to the story, and made it more important than just background detail.
Batman Begins was a grounded and well told origin story that melded the real world and the comics well. It had some great performances (Bale’s best in the role), and had twists and secrets that shocked the audience.
Batman: Earth One
The Earth One books produced by DC Comics are a series of What-If stories, set in a world where the pantheon of DC heroes don’t exist, and reflects a more real world approach. One of the most popular of these series is the Batman: Earth One line. Thanks to the already grounded nature of Batman, his Earth One books were some of the most successful in the series.
The Earth One book tells a very familiar origin story, yet takes the time to make some more connections between Bruce and his future enemies and allies. In this story Bruce’s parents aren’t the victims of a random mugging, but targetted by Oswald Cobblepot because of his father’s bid to be mayor. Bruce grows up with a rivalry with Harvey Dent, the future Two-Face. And Alfred Pennyworth was the head of security at Wayne Manor before being made Bruce’s guardian, leading Alfred to be in a position to train the young crime-fighter.
The book, much like Batman: Year One, also told an origin for James Gordon as he transfers to Gotham Police, and sees him team up with their star detective, Harvey Bullock. The events of the book not only shape Bruce and Gordon, but also shows how Bullock goes from the grinning wonder cop to jaded alcoholic fans know due to the horrors he encounters.
An brilliant retelling of the Batman origin, one that adds layers of mystery and conspiracy that weren’t originally there to begin with, fans of Gotham will see a number of familiar elements in this book.