JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA
The Golden Age Batman
By Aaron Severson
In the beginning, a criminal killed his parents. In the end, a criminal killed him. In between those two acts of dread finality — for forty years — he fought the forces of violence with nothing but his gloved fists and his keen brain. He's forgotten now … the very Earth that spawned him swallowed up by cosmic catastrophe and replaced by another Earth, a newer universe. But that's today. And today didn't get where it is … without yesterday.
—from Secret Origins #6, Sept. 1986 (script by Roy Thomas)
This work is a chronicle of the life and times of the original (Golden Age) Batman, who — before the Crisis on Infinite Earths brought radical changes to the DC universe in 1986 — lived on the parallel world of Earth-Two. On Earth-Two, Batman began his costumed career in 1939, married Selina Kyle (the Catwoman) in 1955, and had a daughter, Helena Wayne, who ultimately became the Huntress just before Batman's untimely death in 1979.
The chronology traces Batman's life from his origins in the hard years just before World War Two to his swashbuckling journeys through time and space in the 1950s and his final years in the 1960s and 1970s. It also deals with the life and death of his former ward and heroic daughter in the 1980s. It's a tragic story: a noble hero, conceived in death, who found a brief moment of happiness in the arms of one of his greatest foes, only to be swallowed up in the end — along with his entire family — by the same darkness in which he was born. It is the essence of the Dark Knight.
Reading the Chronology
This chronology does not list all of Batman's Golden Age adventures, which would take a document many times this size, but it lists crucial events in his life and the lives of his family, as well as various points of historical interest. All events are fully annotated and indicate the original comic book source material.
- First appearances: If a story contains a character's first appearance in print, the character's name is shown in boldface type. Note that a character's first appearance in print is not necessarily his or her first chronological appearance.
- Dates: Where a specific date could be definitely established for a particular story or event, either because the date is stated in the story or based on other evidence, that date is listed in boldface. If no precise date can be established, the events of a story are generally assumed to have taken place on or around the cover date of the comic book account or, for stories presented in other media, on or around the original release, publication, or broadcast date.
- Parentheses: If an event is described in the story as having taken place at an earlier time or an event is presented as a flashback within the story, the event is listed at the time it occurred and the issue and publication date references are shown in parentheses. For example, World's Finest Comics #53 (August-September 1953) contains a retrospective of the life of Commissioner Gordon, which includes (among other things) his birth date. This event is listed in chronological order (Jan. 5, 1900); the citation shown is "(World's Finest #53, Aug./Sept. 1953)."
- Brackets: Denotes that a cited event took place in a story originally presented in a comic book issue containing multiple Batman stories. For example, the reference Batman #74  means the events cited were shown in the third Batman story in Batman #74. During the Golden Age, Batman's individual comic book appearances were all relatively short, typically ranging from six to 15 pages; Batman appeared in one story of that length in each issue of Detective Comics and World's Finest Comics (through 1954, after which he shared the main story with Superman) and three to five stories in each issue of Batman. Continuity from story to story within the same issue was relatively uncommon, although not unheard of. Full-length (so-called "book-length" or "novel-length") stories were not seen in Batman until the early 1960s. Please note that because this chronology does not attempt to list every published Batman story, it should not be assumed that the listing for any single issue of Batman represents the whole contents of that issue. In addition, an effort has been made to separate events taking place in separate stories in the same issue.
The material in this chronology is drawn from:
- Golden Age stories (1939–1957)
- Earth-Two stories (published 1961–1986) involving the "Golden Age" Batman and his friends, colleagues, and/or enemies.
- Post-Crisis stories, where they are relevant to the above.
- Other Media. Though most events listed herein are from the comic books, there are some from other media. Because World's Finest Comics #271 (Sept. 1981) established that the first meeting of Superman and Batman in the 1945 season of the Adventures of Superman radio series was part of Earth-Two continuity, other events from the radio series are also included here (even though certain aspects of the radio continuity are at best problematic from the point of view of Earth-Two history). Similarly, because the villain of the 1943 Columbia movie serial, Dr. Daka, was later retroactively introduced to the comic books in All-Star Squadron, the events of the serials are also considered to be at least partly canonical. The 1943-1946 Batman newspaper strip is also included, although not all of its events can be considered part of the same continuity as the comic books, in part because some of the stories in the strip were clearly rewritten from previous comic book stories (often by the same writers). For example, the newspaper strip's version of Two-Face is an actor named Harvey Apollo, not former district attorney Harvey Kent, but the newspaper storyline borrows so many plot elements from Two-Face's comic book appearances that it seems unlikely that the two versions of the character could have coexisted. In such cases, the comic book version was considered to be canonical, with the comic strip version described in the notes.
Earth-Two, Earth-2, and Earth 2
Throughout the many iterations of DC continuity, there have been several different parallel worlds called Earth-Two or Earth-2. For the purposes of this chronology, those worlds are described as follows:
- Earth-Two: The original pre-Crisis parallel Earth, home of the Justice Society of America and the All-Star Squadron, which during the Crisis on Infinite Earths was merged with four other parallel Earths to form the post-Crisis universe. This Earth-Two is the principal subject of this chronology.
- Earth-2: One of the 52 new parallel worlds created in the wake of Infinite Crisis. This "new" Earth-2 was similar to but not the same as its pre-Crisis counterpart, diverging during the Crisis itself. Because of its similarity to the original Earth-Two, what little is known of the history of this world is also discussed in the chronology.
- Earth 2: The parallel world seen in the New 52 series of the same name and the 2012 World's Finest series. While the New 52 Earth 2 has certain broad similarities to previous versions (for example, this world's Batman was married to Catwoman and had a daughter, Helena, who subsequently became the Huntress), by and large, its history is very different and thus is not included herein.
Please note that the above usage has been adopted strictly for ease of reference. In the comics themselves, "Earth-2" and "Earth-Two" were used interchangeably. Designating Earths with Arabic numerals (e.g., "Earth-2" and "Earth-3") was actually the more common stylization, probably to save lettering space.
This chronology does not describe the history of any worlds other than Earth-Two and Earth-2 in any detail. However, several other worlds are mentioned herein, mostly to contrast the history of Earth-Two with other versions of DC continuity:
- Earth-One: The original pre-Crisis parallel Earth that was the home of the Justice League of America and the Silver Age/Bronze Age versions of various DC characters like the Flash, Green Lantern, and Hawkman. During the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Earth-One was merged with Earth-Two, Earth-Four, Earth-S, and Earth-X to form the post-Crisis universe. (A new Earth One — generally stylized without the hyphen — was introduced in 2009; that world is very different from its pre-Crisis counterpart and is not treated in this chronology at all.)
- Earth-Three: A pre-Crisis parallel Earth populated by evil counterparts of Earth-One's Justice League of America who banded together as the Crime Syndicate of America. A counterpart of Lex Luthor was Earth-Three's only superhero. Earth-Three was destroyed during the Crisis, but the last survivor of that world, Lex Luthor's son Alex, was a major figure in both the Crisis and the 2006 Infinite Crisis saga. An updated version of this world appeared in somewhat different form in the graphic novel JLA: Earth 2 in 2000 and a third version was introduced in the wake of Infinite Crisis and 52.
- Earth-Prime: First seen in The Flash #179 (May 1968), this pre-Crisis parallel Earth was originally intended to represent the real world. On Earth-Prime, superheroes only existed in comic books and the world's history closely paralleled our own at least until the late 1970s; therefore, "Earth-Prime" is (at least for the purposes of this chronology) more or less synonymous with "real-world." During the Crisis, however, DC Comics Presents #87 (Nov. 1985) revealed that Earth-Prime did have its own version of Superboy. Earth-Prime was destroyed during the Crisis, leaving Superboy as the only survivor, but was recreated following Infinite Crisis.
- Post-Crisis Earth: The world created by the merging of Earths at the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths #10 (Jan. 1986), based primarily on Earth-One, but with elements of Earths -Two, -Four, -S, and -X. Several names have been proposed for this world, including New Earth and Earth-Sigma, but none has ever been used canonically. The history of the post-Crisis Earth was altered several times after the Crisis itself (changes that Infinite Crisis later attributed to the havoc wreaked upon the timestream by Alex Luthor of Earth-Three and Superboy-Prime) and further rewritten by Zero Hour in 1994.
- Earth-0: After the partial recreation of the Multiverse in the wake of Infinite Crisis, the primary reality of the DC Universe was renamed Earth-0. It was substantially similar to the post-Crisis Earth, albeit with many minor changes. The history of Earth-0 underwent a major upheaval in the wake of 2011's Flashpoint, leading to the current "New 52" universe, which is not treated in this chronology.
The question of which stories should be considered part of the "Golden Age" canon and what should be considered Silver Age remains a subject of debate. I feel that assigning a fixed cut-off point based on dates or issue numbers is arbitrary and potentially misleading. The early careers of the Earth-Two (Golden Age) and Earth-One (Silver Age/Bronze Age) Batmans were alike in many respects and a substantial number of similar or identical characters appeared on both Earth-One and Earth-Two: for example, as shown in Brave and the Bold #182, there was a Batwoman on both Earth-One and Earth-Two. By the same token, certain adventures, while certainly Golden Age stories, were almost certainly not part of Earth-Two continuity.
For the purposes of this chronology, it was generally assumed that stories in Batman and Detective Comics published before the end of 1957 took place on Earth-Two (although they may also have taken place on Earth-One) if their events could reasonably be reconciled with the timeline established for the Golden Age Batman's career. Batman's appearances after about 1957 become increasingly troublesome from the standpoint of Earth-Two continuity: by 1958, both Batman and Superman were married, Robin was an adult, and Bruce Wayne had a small child! For that reason, stories from 1958 were assumed to have taken place solely on Earth-One except as otherwise noted. Where contradictions arose, Earth-Two stories were given precedence over Golden Age stories. For example, Batwoman did not make her comic book debut until the July 1956 issue of Detective Comics, but a key Earth-Two story (Brave and the Bold #197) shows her in action in 1955. Therefore, the chronology assumes that Batwoman's debut on Earth-Two took place sometime prior to 1955.
An especially problematic area is the Batman/Superman team-ups in World's Finest Comics, beginning with issue #71 (July/Aug. 1954). Many of these stories involve elements of Silver Age Superman continuity that had no direct equivalents on Earth-Two, such as the Bottle City of Kandor or Superman's career as Superboy, or revolve around attempts to hide Superman's secret identity from Lois Lane — to whom the Earth-Two Superman was already married by this time! Furthermore, many of the events of these team-ups are specifically referenced in later Silver Age and Bronze Age stories clearly set on Earth-One. Therefore, it is likely that, as written, all or almost all of the World's Finest stories took place on Earth-One, although comparable events may also have taken place on Earth-Two.
In general, Batman stories published after 1957 and Superman/Batman team-ups from 1954 on are included only if:
- They are explicitly described as taking place on Earth-Two (e.g., the JSA stories in All-Star Comics #58-#74);
- They are specifically referenced in an Earth-Two story (e.g., the Spinner story in Batman #129);
- They are implied by an Earth-Two story (e.g., the origin of Batwoman);
- They suggest some interesting point about DC history or continuity (e.g., the Club of Heroes, referenced in Grant Morrison's 2007-08 "Batman: R.I.P." storyline).
One of the most unfortunate aspects of Golden Age comics is that their creators often remain sadly and undeservedly anonymous. Many early comic books were produced in assembly-line fashion by studios of assistants, for companies that rarely printed creator credits (so as to avoid ownership disputes and payment of royalties), with recordkeeping that was frequently poor or nonexistent. Batman stories published before the mid-1960s did not list any names except that of Bob Kane, Batman's co-creator. The question of who worked on a given story is often a matter of confusion and controversy, especially regarding writers: while pencillers and inkers can often be identified by a careful attention to stylistic details, uncredited scripts often remain a mystery. Nevertheless, I feel that an effort should be made to at least try to credit the people who created the stories and characters.
The credits listed here for pre-1965 stories represent the best information that I have been able to gather. The question of proper credit is one that confounds comic book scholars far more knowledgeable than I, and I don't doubt that there are a fair number of errors, owing both to incorrect data and simple mistakes and omissions on my part. If you have corrections to any of the credit information herein, please let me know and I will add it to future updates of this chronology. Special thanks is due to Bob Hughes, who maintains the excellent Who's Whose in the DC Universe web site, and the historians of the Grand Comics Database, from which some of the credit data was obtained (and used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license). Some general reference facts came from Wikipedia® and Rovi's AllMovie Guide.
|Mike W. Barr – MWB
Cary Bates – CB
Alan Brennert – AB
E. Nelson Bridwell – ENB
Don Cameron – DC
Joey Cavalier – JC
Gerry Conway – GC
Arnold Drake – AD
Bill Finger – BF
Gardner Fox – GF
Mike Friedrich – MF
Joe Greene – JG
Edmond Hamilton – EH
Bob Haney – BH
France E. Herron – FH
Paul Kupperberg – Put
Paul Levitz – PL
Elliot S. Maggin – ESM
Denny O'Neil – DON
Marty Pasko – MPa
Bob Rozakis – BR
Joe Samachson – JSa
Jack Schiff – JSch
Alvin Schwartz – ASch
Jerry Siegel – JSi
Roy Thomas – RT
David Vern – DV
Marv Wolfman – MW
Dave Wood – DW
Bill Woolfolk – BW
|Neal Adams – NA
Alfredo Alcala – AA
Jim Aparo – JA
Terry Austin – TA
Mark Beachum – MB
John Beatty – JBe
Rich Buckler – RiB
Tim Burgard – TB
Jack Burnley – JB
Ray Burnley – RaB
Frank Chiaramonte – FC
Mike Clark – MC
Gene Colan – GC
Vince Colletta – VC
Mike DeCarlo – MDC
Tony DeZuniga – TDZ
Dick Dillin – DD
Ric Estrada – RE
George Freeman – GF
Walter Gibson - WG
Joe Giella – JGi
Keith Giffen – KG
Mike Gustovich – MGu
Don Heck – DH
Mike Hernandez – MH
Richard Howell – RHow
Rick Hoberg – RHob
Carmine Infantino – CI
Arvell Jones – AJ
Dan Jurgens – DJ
Bob Kane – BK
|Rafael Kayanan – RK
Stan Kaye – SK
Bob Layton – BL
Mike Machlan – MM
Larry Mahlstedt – LM
Pablo Marcos – PM
Gary Martin – GM
Todd McFarlane – TM
Frank McLaughlin – FM
Sheldon Moldoff – SM
Jim Mooney – JM
Win Mortimer – WM
Jerry Ordway – JO
Charles Paris – CP
Bruce Patterson – BP
Chuck Patton – CPt
George Pérez – GP
Fred Ray – FR
Rodin Rodriguez – RR
Marshall Rogers – MR
David Ross – DR
George Roussos – GR
Bernard Sachs – BSa
Alex Saviuk – AS
Kurt Schaffenberger – KS
Lew Sayre Schwartz – LS
Mike Sekowsky – MS
Dick Sprang – DS
Joe Staton – JSt
Romeo Tanghal – RoT
Stan Woch – SW
Wally Wood – WW
For the sake of conciseness, some of the non-comic sources referenced in this chronology have been abbreviated. These are the prominent Batman series indexed in this Chronology:
|Batman||Spring 1940 to Oct. 2011. Golden Age issues: #1–129 (Feb. 1960, roughly, see Methodology) above.|
|Detective Comics||May 1939 to Oct. 2011. Golden Age issues: #27–265 (March 1959, roughly, see Methodology).|
|World's Finest Comics||Summer 1941–Jan. 1986. 323 Issues. Continued from World's Best Comics #1. Golden Age issues: #1–107 (Feb. 1960, roughly, see Methodology).|
|Batman film serial||1943 and 1949 Batman film serials (Columbia Pictures)|
|Batman Daily||Batman daily newspaper strip (McClure Syndicate, 1943-1946)|
|Batman Sunday||Batman Sunday newspaper strip (McClure Syndicate, 1943-1946)|
|The Further Adventures of Batman||Paperback collection of prose short stories edited by Martin H. Greenberg, published in 1989|
|Superman radio||Adventures of Superman radio serial (Mutual Broadcast Network)|
This chronology began as an exercise in trivia, exploring an obscure corner of DC comics continuity. It was not just obscure, it was also obsolete. Not only had the "Golden Age" Batman long since been shuffled off to an alternate world called “Earth-Two” (and killed off in 1979), he was declared retroactively null and void back in 1986. So, his relevance to the current lexicon of DC comics and importance in comprehending the involved, labyrinthine saga of the pre-New 52 Batman is basically nil.
What, then, was the interest? I’ve long had a peculiar fascination with the Earth-Two Batman, beginning back in 1984, when I saw a retailer poster for a mini-series called America versus the Justice Society. That poster was a reproduction of Jerry Ordway’s cover for issue #1, showing a spectral Batman looking accusingly at members of the Justice Society of America (with whom I was not yet familiar) and a caption proclaiming, "Batman speaks from beyond the grave … to accuse the JSA of TREASON!" Now that certainly caught my attention — I’d always been a Batman fan, dating back to my earliest coherent childhood memories. The discovery that there had been an "old" Batman who had married, had a child, and later died was both intriguing and creepy. The notion that my previously ageless childhood hero was dead created an odd and vaguely unsettling sense of mortality, which perhaps was why it stuck in my head.
When I first started the chronology, it was intended mainly to save me time by cataloging what I knew about this character. As it developed, it also provided an opportunity to delve into the roots and history of the Batman character. As a result, there’s information here on Batman’s 1940s movie serials, the appearances of Batman and Robin on the radio, their short-lived newspaper strip, the origins of familiar aspects of the mythos like the Batarang and Batmobile, and the various things that influenced and inspired Batman’s creators.
I think the results are interesting, surprising, and often enlightening. I hope you enjoy it.
Special thanks is also due to Mike Kooiman, whose chronology format I adapted for this project (and who agreed to host it), and to Michael Fleisher, author of the encyclopedic 1976 reference book The Encyclopedia of Comic book Heroes Vol. 1: Batman that helped to inspire this chronology (and without whose research much of this work would have been impossible).
Batman, Catwoman, the Huntress, the Justice Society of America, Robin, Superman and all related characters and/or indicia are ™ and © DC Comics, Inc. This web site, its operators, and its contents are not authorized by DC Comics.