Monday, 5 October 2009

Calendar Man strikes again.

Hello, hello. I seem to be alternating between right-brain and left-brain posts, so before the next part of Countdown to the End of Time let's have some more Bat-chronologising.

The first part's here.
The second part's here.
The third part's here.

And this would be the fourth.

Since it's come up though, let's have some disclaimers first...

This is an attempt to generate a plausible chronology for a bunch of recent Batman stories.

This is not important. Playing this sort of game teaches you as much about how stories work as playing The Sims teaches you about raising families and making friends. It's a decadent, mechanical amusement.

This is not an attempt to generate a reading order. I do not propose you wait until after Batman and Robin#3 to read the first page of RIP.

This is not an attempt to find out what order these stories 'really happened in'. As they just made them all up. The scoundrels!

This is not an attempt to find out DC's secret masterplan. Most of the time editorial seem appropriately (see "This is not important") disinterested in this sort of thing, and when they do have a go at it have a tendancy to overcomplicate things unhelpfully. This project treats the published comics as the only primary sources.

This is not exhaustive. The only comics considered in this project are those listed in this project. So it's entirely possible that some detail from, say, Cry for Justice could stuff the whole thing up. I'll sleep.

This is not impartial. Let's say you've got two different stories in which Mary comes to terms with the death of her little lamb, and nothing to indicate which of them happened first. When someone producing a chronology of those stories puts them in order, they're making a decision as to which saw Mary really come to terms with the death of her little lamb. A certain amount of subjective privileging of The Stories I Like is unavoidable.

This is not very interesting. My workings are shown below for transparency rather than with the expectation that they'll offer a riveting read. You might want to just scroll down to the actual chronology at the bottom of the post.

Okay, that out of the way, here we go. And we're into the Reborn era now, which should be a dizzying whirl as everyone's gone non-linear on us. Winnick's jumping between three four different time periods in one issue of Batman, Yost's having flashbacks within flashbacks in Red Robin, and Morrison's now catching up with his flashforwards from last year. We may end up doing this more by the page than by the issue.

Batman #687 then, which is variously set 'YEARS AGO', 'TODAY', 'FOUR WEEKS AGO' and 'TWO WEEKS LATER'. The 'YEARS AGO' section is a long-range flashback to a young Dick and a yellow-ovaled Bruce training and anticipating the day when Dick'll be in the cowl. It's somewhat outside the bounds of this project, so we'll leave it where it is. The 'TODAY' section is set post-Battle for the Cowl, with a Dick who's accepted that he's now Batman, but not accepted accepted it. He's still wearing the Nightwing costume and not getting out of the Batmobile (which is not yet the flying model). Damien's dressed as Robin, but not in his final costume. The section concludes with the move to the penthouse.

'FOUR WEEKS AGO' takes us back to a time when Tim was Robin and shows Superman and Wonder Woman returneing Bruce's cowl. A service is held for Bruce, quiet except for Dick having a little shout about the need to conceal Batman's death from the world at large. This obviously has to go somewhere between Final Crisis and Battle for the Cowl, and I'm inclined to place it quite early after Dick's return to Gotham in Nightwing #152-3. It sits well there for Alfred too, before the Outsiders special. 'TWO WEEKS LATER' takes us to a sample adventure of the new, wisecracking Dick Grayson Batman, as he (presumably) stops the Scarecrow from doing something nasty involving a bridge. Gordon and the GCPD are around, but don't interact with Batman or express any expectation of his involvement one way or the other, so it's hard to judge how much contact they've had with him by this point.

Batman #688 goes easier on us. There're just two time-frames 'THREE WEEKS FROM NOW' and 'NOW', with 'THREE WEEKS FROM NOW' being unambiguously the follow-on from the end of #690.

The 'NOW' sequence may give us trouble though - Gordon's seen using the Bat-Signal in a peculiar way for "the fourth time in ten days"...turning it on then off again after five minutes "to let him know we're here". The implication seems to be that he's not yet used it properly to summon DickBats. However we do see it used fully in Batman and Robin's first arc...which would seem to happen before events here; The 'NOW' section of Batman #688 is very concerned with Batman's very visible public profile since coming back in force, but by the end of B&R#3 then Batman's return is still a rumour. We'll see how this plays out when we look at Batman and Robin #1-3, but it's possible that we're either going to have to go against the grain of the Gordon scene here or the Le Bossu scene there.

#689 carries on from there, though not without the possibility of other adventures inbetween. Dick says he's lately been occupied with catching Arkham escappes and a separate wave of organised crime head by He Knows Not Who. The flying batmobile makes it out of the garage this issue, which we'd not seen it do in Batman previously, and we're told that the hover-tech's been working fine for weeks. #690's a direct continuation from here, and clearly establishes Penguin's new working relationship with the Black Mask, which would seem to place it before Batman and Robin's second arc.

Well, we'll have to stop there with Batman for a while, as we don't get the last part of this arc till next week and I've not got the sense to wait. So far it's looking like this...

Batman #687 - Four weeks ago sequences.
[...lots of stuff..]
Batman#687 - Today sequences.
[...probably B&R #1-3...]
Batman#687 - Two weeks later sequences.
Batman#688 - 'now' sequence.
[possible gap]
Batman #688's Three weeks from now sequence.

What shall we do next? Streets of Gotham I think.

"The signal goes on and he shows up. That's the way it's been, that's the way it will be." says Gordon, so by Streets #1 then we're after B&R#2's "It's been a long time..." The Harley scene also works as a prelude to Gotham City Sirens #1. It'd be nice to place this issue after Batman #689 and assume that the foam gun used here is a small-scale application of the tech first tested in that issue, but there's nothing compelling us to. The issue leads directly into #2.

Streets #2 is where Hush escapes, so we're before all further references to his antics as FakeBruce in Sirens and B&R and whathaveyou. We're in a new Batmobile, but it's not the flying one. Dick encounters Black mask, but is given no reason to suspect that he's at the top of the new food chain, so we could still be before Batman #689 if we need to be. Kate Spencer is DA by this point, which we'll have to remember when we come to build the Second Features in. The JLA appear to be Firestorm, Zee, Vixen, John Stewart and Doctor Light at the time, should that later turn out to be relevant, and R'as is watching events with amusement.

Streets #3 is set long enough after the preceeding issue for Hush's reign of Benevolance to have built up a head of steam. Penguin references the events of Batman #690, so we're after that. Dick and Damien are able to call on the League and the Outsiders. Zsasz rebrands himself. Hush is under the Bat-family's thumb by the end of the issue.

Streets #4 shows enough time has passed since the last issue for both the Bat-family's arangement with Hush and Zsasz's new operation to have become established. Dick references the events of Sirens #1. He also mentions Two-face being at large, which might turn out to be a problem if Batman #691 ends with him captured, since Penguin's monologue in Streets#2 puts us after that story. Looking at solicits, it seems that this story won't be picked up on again until Streets #7.

Makes sense to do Sirens next, since Dini bounces a few characters between the books, and the first issue opens with Selina telling us it's two months on from Battle for the Cowl. We're explictly after Streets#1 and before Streets#4.

Sirens #2 follows on directly from the first issue...well, alright, except for a 'THREE YEARS EARLIER' sequence, but I'm not fussing about with that. Hush has gone public with his stimulus package, and his level of autonomy suggests we're between Streets #2 and #3.

Sirens #3's a fill-in, which picks up where #2 left off ("Harley's been taken!") and then follows the Riddler rather than the main cast. Dick's involved, but there's nothing to tie it to any particular events in his life. By the end to picks up the ongoing plot where it found it.

Sirens #4 picks up directly after #3...the Joker (or possibly 'the Joker') is watching the same broadcast as the Riddler. The reference to Hush having moved into the Elliot estate, and being free at Batman's leisure shows we're actually after Streets #3.

So the Diniverse chronology is quite straightforward...

Streets #1-3
Sirens #1-4
Streets #4

...and appears, from the Black Mask references and Dick's relationship with Gordon, to be set entirely after what Winnick's up to.

Lets do the first arc of Batman and Robin next. It features...
...the widespread assumption that Batman's dead, placing it before the media blitz of Batman #688.
...possibly the first field use of the flying Batmobile ("Told you it would work")
...scenes of Dick decamping from the Batcave.
...Alfred saying, "And so begins in earnest your first week as Batman"
...Dick's (facetious?) comment that he could offer Tim his old job back.
...The first time in months that Batman responds to the Bat-signal.
...The timeframe catching up with RIP's flashforwards.

Other than the fact that it makes Gordon's fooling around with the Bat-Signal in Batman #688 look a little strange, this fits perfectly before that issue. And since there's nowhere else that Batman's 'first week' can go, there we have it.

So as things stand...

Batman #687 - Four weeks ago sequences.
[...lots of stuff..]
Batman#687 - The 'TODAY' sequences.
Batman and Robin #1-3
Batman #681 and #676's 'SIX MONTHS LATER' sequences (concurent with the conclusion of the above)
Batman#687 - The 'TWO WEEKS LATER' sequences.
Batman#688 - The 'NOW' sequence.
Batman #688 - The 'THREE WEEKS FROM NOW' sequence.
Streets of Gotham #1-3
Gotham City Sirens #1-4
Streets of Gotham #4

Red Robin #1 and, arriving in Madrid, Tim needs to work out the aggression of "the last few weeks".

In the flashback sequence then Tim's discussing Damien's role as Robin with Dick. Damien's seen in his final costume during this, which could place us after Batman #687, as could Dick being Bat-suited up. We've not moved out of the Batcave yet and The Batgirl costume is still available.

It took Tim 'a few days' to get out of Gotham and 'a few more to figure out where to start'. As of the end of the issue he's been in Europe over seven days. That'd seem to put the present of this narative roughly contemporary with Batman #688's 'TWO WEEKS LATER'.

#2's flashback takes place the day after the first issue's. It also appears to show Harper still in Gotham, which I'll have to remember in case I ever decide to sych all this up with the Superman books. The narative in the present continues on directly from the previous issue.

#3's flashback seems to be, given the failure of Cassie's earlier attempts to contact Tim, a sequel to the flashback in the previous issue. Through Cassie's call to Dick it then leads into the flashback in the next issue. Dick's got the flying Batmobile in #4's flashback, but there's nothing to suggest it's flown yet.

Obviously, Tim's European/Middle Eastern adventures in the present of Red Robin take place over an extended period of time, so I'll just put them as starting round about the same time as the end of Batman #687 and note that much of what follows occurs concurrently.

Right! What's left?
Well, there's Outsiders (which I've not caught up on yet, and I've a terrifying feeling is going to make me have to think about incorportating FC: Revelations).

Batgirl (with which I'll wait until there's a few more issues out before thinking about).

Detective Comics (which I'm not sure what I want to do with yet, since its placement is so intentionally vauge). The Second Features (which I can't be bothered with this afternoon)

The new Batman and Robin arc (which I'll leave 'til its done) and Blackest Night/Blackest Night: Batman (which I'll also leave until the monthlies have caught up with it).

I think that's it for today then. And that the new chronology looks like this...

  • DCU #0
  • Detective Comics #846-50 ('Heart of Hush')
  • Batman #676-8 ('RIP' parts 1-3)
  • Robin #175-6
  • Batman #679-681 ('RIP' parts 4-6)
  • Batman and the Outsiders #11-14
  • Nightwing #147-151 ('The Great Leap') - concurrent with early chapters of 'Search for a Hero'
  • Robin #177-82 ('Search for a Hero')
  • Dectective #851, Batman #684 ('The Last Days of Gotham') - concurrent with later chapters of 'Search for a Hero'
  • That flashback sequence from #683
  • Final Crisis #1-3
  • Superman Beyond #1-2
  • Final Crisis #4
  • Batman #682-3
  • Final Crisis #5-7
  • Batman #686
  • Detective Comics #853
  • Nightwing #152-3
  • Batman #687 (the 'FOUR WEEKS AGO' sequence)
  • Detective #852, Batman #685 ('Reconstruction/Catspaw')
  • Batman and the Outsiders Special #1
  • The Outsiders #15-20 ('The Deep') - provisional placement.
  • Robin #183
  • Oracle: The Cure #1-3
  • Secret Six #9
  • Gotham Gazette: Batman Dead?
  • Battle for the Cowl #1
  • Man-Bat #1, Commissioner Gordon #1 and Azrael: Death's Dark Knight #1-3 (all concurrent with the above)
  • Battle for the Cowl #2
  • The Underground #1/The Network #1
  • Battle for the Cowl #3
  • Arkham Asylum #1
  • Gotham Gazette: Batman Alive!
  • Batman #687 - The 'TODAY' sequences
  • Red Robin #1-4 - The 'BEFORE' sequences
  • Batman & Robin #1-3 ('Batman Reborn')
  • Batman #681 and 676's 'SIX MONTHS LATER' sequences - concurrent with the conclusion of the above.
  • Red Robin #1-4 - The 'NOW' sequences - concurrent with much that follows.
  • Batman #687 - The 'TWO WEEKS LATER' sequences.
  • Batman #688 - The 'NOW' sequence.
  • Batman #689-90
  • Batman #688 - The 'THREE WEEKS FROM NOW' sequence.
  • Streets of Gotham #1-3
  • Gotham City Sirens #1-4
  • Streets of Gotham #4


  1. You see, you really shouldn't do this. It's just not healthy.

    Mind you, I suppose it'll be useful if I ever want to point any idiots in the direction of an unassailable argument as to why continuity really is a very woolly fiction.

    Also: stop reading Judd Winick comics!

  2. I can't argue with any of that.

    Though I reckon if I keep it clear, to myself and to any innocent bystanders, that this sort of thing is the *opposite* of actual reading, then it's not doing any real harm.

  3. I think it's a very interesting contrast in styles that the Bat-Books are so continuitally confusing compared to the Super-books, which are so linear that it is beneath you to even think about doing a post like this for them. As I described to a friend a week or so ago, it's almost like the Superman writers and editors are this close-knit community...but the Batman writers are little separate encampments, with only one runner between them couriering the comics the other writers are writing. Continuity is almost reactive for the Bat-books, rather than an actual cohesive, you know...TIME thing.

  4. I wouldn't say the Bat-books are continually confusing - if you just want to read the things then you can intuit your way round them right now with no trouble (though I'll admit that that wasn't the case back circa RIP/FC). As we stand then it's only confusing for anyone wanting to play puzzle games like this.

    The Superman writers are in a very different situation though, since they're all working to a MASTERPLAN. Telling bits of one Johnsitorial-driven epic. Something I'd probably be sniffy about if I wasn't enjoying that one big story.

    To be honest though, I think the linearity of the Super-books is a bit illusory. The triangle numbering provides you with a nice reading order, but a reading order and a chronology aren't the same thing, and if anyone ever did attempt this project's Super-equivalent then they'd quickly spot plenty of occasions on which events within the books aren't actually happening in that order.

    (if I'm feeling mega-keen when we get to 'World's Finest' I might end up looking at how the Superman and Batman books of this period line-up, as Harper and Black Lightning migrating between the two lines gives us quite a specific picture)

  5. I must be going mad, I thought I'd already written and posted the following...

    On a totally unrelated tip, we're (probably) planning on putting together a Mindless Ones e-zine and I was wondering in you would like to contribute. Let me know via the email address on our website