JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA
The Golden Age Batman
By Aaron Severson
Reference the Creator Credit Abbreviations
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 became the costumed Huntress shortly before Batman's untimely death in 1979.
The chronology traces Batman's life and career from his origins in the hard years just before World War II 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.
What's Included (And What's Not)
This chronology is a timeline of significant events in the lives and careers of the Golden Age Batman and his family, friends, and foes as well as various points of historical interest. All events are extensively annotated and each entry cites the applicable original source material.
The fictional events listed in the chronology are drawn primarily from:
- Golden Age comic book stories featuring or guest-starring Batman and/or Robin.
- Silver Age and Bronze Age comic book stories involving (or that could reasonably be construed as involving) the "Earth-Two" or "Golden Age" Batman and his friends, colleagues, and/or enemies.
- Post-Crisis stories, where they are relevant to either of the above.
- Other Golden Age media, including the 1943–1946 syndicated daily and Sunday newspaper comic strip, the 1943 and 1949 motion picture serials, and Batman's appearances on the 1940s Adventures of Superman radio series.
The chronology does not list ALL of Batman's Golden Age adventures, which would take a document many times the size of this one, nor does it list the various reprints of the original stories. (See the Index of Golden Age Batman Reprints for the latter.)
Please note that this chronology does not discuss the modern Earth 2 of DC's current, post-Flashpoint universe. You can find out more about the New 52 Earth 2 elsewhere on Cosmic Teams.
» SEE ALSO: Batman: Earth-One or Earth-Two?
Between 1961 and 1986, most of DC's "Golden Age" characters — i.e., those originally published in the 1930s and 1940s — were said to exist on a parallel world called Earth-Two while their "modern" (Silver Age/Bronze Age) counterparts existed on Earth-One. Characters like Superman and Batman, whose adventures were continuously published throughout both periods, were said to have counterparts on both worlds.
Unlike some other Golden Age and Silver Age DC heroes, the Earth-One and Earth-Two Batmen were different versions of the same character, with the same name, the same origin, the same modus operandi, and most of the same friends and foes. The Earth-Two Batman was older and later stories established that he had married Selina Kyle in 1955, had a daughter about two years later, and eventually retired.
Because the concept of the multiple Earths and their distinct histories was a later, retroactive addition, none of those details are reflected in the earlier stories and there is no clear cut-off point where Earth-Two Batman stories leave off and Earth-One stories begin. Some adventures took place in substantially similar ways on both Earth-One and Earth-Two. Some probably occurred only on Earth-One (and thus are outside the scope of this chronology) while a few others don't easily fit the continuity of either world. (You can read a lengthier discussion of this complicated and confusing subject.)
That being said, it would be difficult to create a chronology of the Earth-Two Batman without drawing some line, however arbitrary, between Earth-One and Earth-Two stories. Therefore, this chronology makes the following general assumptions:
- Batman, Detective Comics, and World's Finest Comics: Stories originally published in Batman or Detective Comics before the end of 1957 (i.e., through Batman #112 and Detective Comics #250) or in World's Best Comics or World's Finest Comics through issue #70 (cover date May-June 1954) probably took place on Earth-Two provided that they can reasonably be reconciled with established Earth-Two continuity (although they may also have taken place on Earth-One). For example, a late-50s story that hinges on Dick Grayson being a high school student is unlikely to have taken place on Earth-Two unless it occurred significantly earlier than its original publication date; the Earth-Two Robin would have been pushing 30 by then!
- Other Golden Age DC Comics: Appearances of Batman and/or Robin in other comic books originally published before the end of 1952 (such as Robin's solo adventures in Star Spangled Comics) probably also took place on Earth-Two if the events of those stories can reasonably be reconciled with Earth-Two continuity. (A few, though probably not many, of those stories may also have taken place on Earth-One.)
- Stories with Superman: Many of the tropes of Superman stories of the 1950s are at odds with Earth-Two continuity. Some elements of later Superman lore (like the Bottle City of Kandor or Superman's career as Superboy) had no Earth-Two equivalent and some stories, like Superman's ongoing efforts to conceal his secret identity from Lois Lane, make little sense in view of the Earth-Two timeline, where Superman and Lois were married by the mid-1950s. Therefore, this chronology assumes that the team-ups between Batman and Superman in World's Finest Comics from #71 (July-Aug. 1954) on and the characters' periodic guest appearances in each other's comic books throughout the 1950s took place on Earth-One. A few of those adventures may also have taken place on Earth-Two, but only if their events can reasonably be reconciled with Earth-Two continuity.
- Newspaper strip: The syndicated Batman daily and Sunday newspaper strip, distributed from 1943 to 1946 by the McClure Syndicate, was written and drawn by many of the same people as the contemporary comic books and is similar to the comic books in tone and style. However, because some comic book stories were adapted (with minor but significant changes) for the comic strip, the newspaper continuity is sometimes at odds with that of the comic books. Therefore, chronology assumes that the comic strip stories took place on Earth-Two only if the events can reasonably be reconciled with both the contemporary comic books and with established Earth-Two continuity.
- Movie serials: Columbia Pictures produced two 15-chapter Batman serials, one in 1943 and the other in 1949. Certain important elements of Batman lore (such as the Batcave and the now-familiar appearance of Alfred) were apparently created for the 1943 serial and that serial's villain, Dr. Daka, later made a (chronologically earlier) appearance in All-Star Squadron. Therefore, this chronology assumes that the events of both serials took place on Earth-Two, although there are some significant discrepancies between the film and comic book continuities.
- Radio series: Between 1945 and 1948, Batman and Robin made more than a dozen appearances on the Adventures of Superman radio series, then airing five days a week on the Mutual Broadcasting System. Because World's Finest Comics #271 (Sept. 1981) established that at least some of the events of the radio series also took place on Earth-Two, those appearances are included in this chronology, although some aspects of the radio series continuity are at odds with both that of Earth-Two and that of the contemporary comic books. For more information on the radio series, see the "Superman on the Radio" section of the Earth-Two Superman profile.
Where there are contradictions or significant chronological discrepancies between a particular Golden Age story and established Earth-Two continuity, Earth-Two continuity generally receives precedence. This sometimes makes it necessary to assume that a story or event occurred significantly earlier than its original publication date. 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 already in action in 1955. Therefore, this chronology assumes that on Earth-Two, Batwoman's debut took place sometime in or before 1955.
Stories other than the ones indicated above are included in the chronology only if:
- They clearly take place on Earth-Two (e.g., the JSA stories published in All-Star Comics #58-#74 between 1976 and 1978), or
- They are specifically referenced in an Earth-Two story (e.g., the Spinner story in Batman #129 (Feb. 1960), which is mentioned in the Earth-Two story in Brave and the Bold #182), or
- Their events are indicated or implied by an Earth-Two story (e.g., the aforementioned origin of Batwoman), or
- They serve to illustrate some interesting or significant point about Batman history or continuity (e.g., the Club of Heroes, referenced in Grant Morrison's 2007–2008 "Batman: R.I.P." storyline).
Reading the Chronology
- First appearances: If a story contains a character's first appearance in print (or other applicable media), the character's name is shown in boldface. Note that a character's first published or broadcast appearance is not necessarily his or her first chronological appearance.
- Order and dates: This chronology uses the cover date of the original comic book (or, for other media, the original release, publication, or broadcast date) as a general guideline for determining when the events depicted in a particular story took place and the order in which the events in different stories occurred. (Given the sheer number of Batman's published adventures, it's reasonable to assume that some of the stories actually took place concurrently, although Golden Age comic book stories rarely made that explicit.) Where a specific date could be definitely established for a particular story or event, either because the date is actually stated in the story or based on other evidence in the text, that date is listed in boldface. Specific dates and common sense are usually given precedence over cover dates (for example, a story set at Christmastime can be presumed to take place in December even if the cover date says March-April!).
- Parentheses: If an event is described in the story as having taken place at an earlier time or is presented as a flashback within the story, the entry for that event is placed on the chronology at the time the event occurred and the issue and publication date references are shown in parentheses. For example, the Batman story in World's Finest Comics #53 (cover-dated 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: A number in brackets after a comic book title and issue number indicates that the cited event took place in a story originally published in a comic book issue containing multiple Batman stories. For example, the reference Batman #74  means the events cited were originally depicted in the third Batman story in Batman #74. (To explain, during the Golden Age, Batman's individual comic book appearances typically ranged from from six to 15 pages in length. 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 between stories within the same issue was relatively uncommon, although not unheard of. However, true full-length — so-called "book-length" or "novel-length" — stories were not seen in Batman until the early 1960s.) Again, 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 comic book represents the whole contents of that issue.
For the sake of conciseness, some of the titles of the sources referenced in this chronology have been abbreviated. These are the prominent Batman series indexed in this chronology:
|Batman||Spring 1940 to Oct. 2011|
|Detective Comics||May 1939 to Oct. 2011|
|World's Finest Comics||Summer 1941 to Jan. 1986; numbering continued from World's Best Comics #1 (Spring 1941)|
|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, 1943–1947)|
|The Further Adventures of Batman||Paperback collection of prose short stories edited by Martin H. Greenberg, first published by Bantam Books in 1989|
|Superman radio||Adventures of Superman radio serial (Mutual Broadcasting System)|
Earth-Two vs. Earth-2 vs. 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 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 (inter alia). 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 in this chronology.
Please note that the above usage has been adopted strictly for uniformity of reference. In the comics themselves, "Earth-2" and "Earth-Two" were used interchangeably. Arabic numerals (e.g., "Earth-2" and "Earth-3") were actually the more common stylization, presumably to save lettering space.
This chronology does not describe the history of any worlds other than Earth-Two and Earth-2 in any detail, but does mention several other parallel Earths:
- 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 styled 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, 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 Luthor — 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. (There is yet another iteration in the current "New 52" universe.)
- Earth-Prime: First depicted 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). The post-Crisis Earth was based primarily on Earth-One, but incorporated 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 and discrepancies. 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 at all.
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 artists and assistants, working (not always directly) for companies that rarely printed creator credits and whose record-keeping was often fragmentary, haphazard, or nonexistent. Because 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 when it comes to writers. While pencillers and inkers can 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.
Figuring out how to properly attribute uncredited comic book stories and artwork is a task that confounds scholars and historians far more knowledgeable than I. For uncredited stories that have been reprinted by DC Comics since the mid-1970s, the credits here are generally the ones used by DC. Other credits are from the Grand Comics Database™ (which is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license) or from Bob Hughes's excellent Who's Whose in the DC Universe website. I don't doubt that there remain some errors or omissions, either of my making or in the references I have consulted. Such errors are unintentional; if you have corrections or updated information, let me know by contacting the administrator of Cosmic Teams.
The chronologies here use the following abbreviations to cite the stories' creators:
|Mike W. Barr||MWB||Neal Adams||NA||Bob Layton||BL|
|Cary Bates||CB||Alfredo Alcala||AA||Mike Machlan||MM|
|Alan Brennert||AB||Jim Aparo||JA||Rafael Kayanan||RK|
|E. Nelson Bridwell||ENB||Terry Austin||TA||Larry Mahlstedt||LM|
|Don Cameron||DC||Mark Beachum||MB||Pablo Marcos||PM|
|Joey Cavalier||JC||John Beatty||JBe||Gary Martin||GM|
|Gerry Conway||GC||Rich Buckler||RiB||Todd McFarlane||TM|
|Arnold Drake||AD||Tim Burgard||TB||Frank McLaughlin||FM|
|Bill Finger||BF||Jack Burnley||JB||Sheldon Moldoff||SM|
|Gardner Fox||GF||Ray Burnley||RaB||Jim Mooney||JM|
|Mike Friedrich||MF||Frank Chiaramonte||FC||Win Mortimer||WM|
|Joe Greene||JG||Mike Clark||MC||Jerry Ordway||JO|
|Edmond Hamilton||EH||Gene Colan||GC||Charles Paris||CP|
|Bob Haney||BH||Vince Colletta||VC||Bruce Patterson||BP|
|France E. Herron||FH||Mike DeCarlo||MDC||Chuck Patton||CPt|
|Paul Kupperberg||PK||Tony DeZuniga||TDZ||George Pérez||GP|
|Paul Levitz||PL||Dick Dillin||DD||Fred Ray||FR|
|Elliot S. Maggin||ESM||Ric Estrada||RE||Rodin Rodriguez||RR|
|Denny O'Neil||DON||George Freeman||GF||Marshall Rogers||MR|
|Marty Pasko||MPa||Walter Gibson
|Bob Rozakis||BR||Joe Giella||JGi||George Roussos||GR|
|Joe Samachson||JSa||Keith Giffen||KG||Bernard Sachs||BSa|
|Jack Schiff||JSch||Mike Gustovich||MGu||Alex Saviuk||AS|
|Alvin Schwartz||ASch||Don Heck||DH||Kurt Schaffenberger||KS|
|Jerry Siegel||JSi||Mike Hernandez||MH||Lew Sayre Schwartz||LS|
|Roy Thomas||RT||Richard Howell||RHow||Mike Sekowsky||MS|
|David Vern||DV||Rick Hoberg||RHob||Dick Sprang||DS|
|Marv Wolfman||MW||Carmine Infantino||CI||Joe Staton||JSt|
|Dave Wood||DW||Arvell Jones||AJ||Romeo Tanghal||RoT|
|Bill Woolfolk||BW||Dan Jurgens||DJ||Stan Woch||SW|
|Bob Kane||BK||Wally Wood||WW|
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 his importance in comprehending the 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!" 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 some effort 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 1940s 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 L. Fleisher, a fine comic book writer and the author of the extraordinary, 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).
— Aaron Severson
Begin reading the Batman Chronology
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