There have been several reprints of the story: a hardcover, multiple trade paperback editions (one in standard comics paper with simpler coloring and one deluxe version with rich detailing in the colors and both colored by Richmond Lewis) and it has been included in The Complete Frank Miller Batman hardcover.
Bruce Wayne, aged 25, returns home from training abroad in martial arts, manhunting and science for nearly twelve years. In Gotham, he bides his time, waiting for the right moment to strike, all the while preparing himself. Gordon, meanwhile, has moved to Gotham from Chicago with his pregnant wife, Barbara Kean-Gordon, and pursues a career in law enforcement. His first time out patrolling reveals to him the disturbing nature of law enforcement in Gotham as a senior officer, Detective Flass, assaults an unsuspecting teenager for "staying out late". Gordon is disgusted with his partner's behavior towards all the "offenders" Jim feels that he has to straighten things out.
Bruce makes preparations - registering at a hotel to provide an alibi, giving himself a fake scar to disguise himself - before going out for his first street mission. He enters the Red Light District of Gotham. A young prostitute named Holly Robinson tries to proposition him. Her pimp, angry because he knows Bruce isn't the type to hire prostitutes, forcefully drags her away. Bruce confronts him and gets into a fight, and a few others join in. Selina Kyle, a dominatrix in the slums of Gotham, jumps from her window and fights with Bruce; he is stabbed in the thigh by Holly.
The police arrive on the scene, shoot Bruce and then throw him into the back seat of their car. On the way to the station, he manages to escape by causing the corrupt officers to wreck their squad car. After pulling the unconscious officers out of the car Bruce returns home, bleeding from his various wounds. There he sits, looking for inspiration, something he feels will strike fear into the hearts of criminals. A bat crashes into the room through a window and perches on a sculpture of his father, to which Bruce immediately responds. He has found what he is looking for, stating the words "Yes Father, I will become a bat."
Gordon tries to clean up GCPD, but on the orders of the corrupt Commissioner Gillian B. Loeb, is attacked and threatened by fellow officers. After recovering, he visits the house of one of these officers, where they have gathered to play poker. He waits for Detective Flass, who he knows is responsible for organizing the attack. Flass is the last to leave, and Gordon tails him into the woods, where he proceeds to attack the drunken officer.
Bruce goes out for the first time as Batman and stops a trio of teenagers from stealing a television. A brief struggle ensues, resulting in the Dark Knight's first victory. The legend quickly grows with Batman attacking criminals with increasing boldness, including Flass, who was present at one crime, receiving a pay off from the criminals. One night, when the corrupt city leaders and gangsters like Carmine Falcone gather for a dinner party, Commissioner Loeb explains why Batman is politically advantageous to themselves, assuming he would never bother them; meanwhile, Batman sneaks onto the grounds, puts the guards to sleep and sets up stage lights around the window that comprises one of the dining room walls. He cuts the electricity, throwing the room in darkness, blows a hole in the outside wall and then activates the lights. He gives the men and women a dire warning that he is just as determined to deliver them to justice as well, then leaves. Meanwhile, Selina Kyle is inspired to become a costumed cat burglar when she sees Batman in action and becomes Catwoman.
The police try to capture Batman numerous times, but Bruce is too elusive and alert to fall for their traps. In addition, the maverick district attorney, Harvey Dent, becomes Batman's secret ally. After a night of following useless leads, Gordon and his partner, Detective Sarah Essen, see a truck barreling down the street. They give chase and Gordon hands the wheel over to Essen as he tries to get into the vehicle. An old, homeless woman stands in the way of the truck and is about to be run over just as soon as Batman jumps in and shoves her out of the way. The bus runs into a wall and Gordon briefly blacks out, only to awake moments later and find Essen holding Batman at gunpoint. She is momentarily distracted when she turns to ask if he is all right and Batman takes advantage to disarm her and flee into an abandoned building.
When cops arrive on the scene, the commissioner is quick to call in the trigger-happy Branden and his squad to drop a bomb on the building, which the Commissioner claims has already been scheduled for demolition. While dodging the fire from the explosion, Batman's belt (which contained explosives) catches fire, and he is forced to discard it. After suffering two dizzying gun wounds, Batman escapes into the secure basement and survives the blast. A crowd gathers outside the building. Stuck with only a blow gun and 3 darts, Batman uses a small device in his boot to summon thousands of bats from his cave to the building. A battle occurs as the police storm into the building and hunt him down. He incapacitates some and even saves a cat, jumping out of the building (after throwing a police officer forcefully through a wall) and takes advantage of the chaos that occurs when the bat colony arrives to speed away on a police motorcycle and escape.
Gordon has a brief affair with Essen. During the affair, he is confronted by the Commissioner, who threatens to inform his wife of the affair if he doesn't comply. Gordon, after bringing his wife to an interview with Bruce Wayne, whom he and others suspect of being Batman, stops the car in the driveway on the way back and tells her about his affair. Essen later leaves for New York.
Months pass and Batman overhears the local mafia boss, Carmine Falcone, planning revenge against Gordon. Selina Kyle, frustrated because she feels her petty crimes aren't enough, interferes and attacks the group. Batman does not appear, but helps Selina from the shadows, throwing small bat-shaped blades laced with tranquilizers at some of the men. Bruce, while working out, figures out the plan based on the part of the conversation he was able to record.
Gordon is called away by the police to investigate a robbery. On his way out, a mysterious motorist entering his garage raises Gordon's suspicions, as Gordon has never seen the motorist. He returns to the garage only to find his wife and baby being pulled into a car. He shoots and kills the men trying to take his wife, who survives; however, one assailant is unharmed. The car leaves with Gordon's baby in it, and Gordon shoots the motorist, takes his motorcycle and follows. The motorist, Bruce, is unharmed thanks to a bullet-proof vest. He attempts to leave, but not before Barbara threatens to shoot him. She lets him go when he promises to save her baby, takes a bicycle from a passing stranger, and pursues Gordon and the car.
Gordon shoots out a wheel on the car and it crashes into the side of a bridge. The don's hired knife, his nephew, exits the car, baby in hand. A struggle ensues and the baby is thrown off the bridge, followed by Gordon. However, Bruce had already arrived and dived after the baby before Gordon even falls over the rail. Gordon, having lost his glasses in the struggle with the hitman, thanks Bruce (whom he claims to not recognize due to his aforementioned missing glasses) and makes it clear that he won't turn him in.
Dent and Batman's efforts bear fruit with Flass, who is persuaded to turn damaging states evidence against his superiors, including a disgraced Commissioner Loeb, who is forced to resign. Although his immediate replacement, Grogan, is apparently worse, Gordon is content for the moment with receiving a job promotion and family counseling with his wife. The story ends with the new Captain Gordon waiting on the rooftop of the GCPD headquarters for Batman, to discuss somebody called The Joker and his scheme to poison the reservoir.
The story also includes the first appearance of Mafia don Carmine Falcone.
Following Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC rebooted many of its titles. Year One was followed by Batman: Year Two, but the 1994 Zero Hour crossover erased it from continuity. In another continuity re-arrangement, Catwoman: Year One (Catwoman Annual #2, 1998) posited that Selina Kyle had not actually been a prostitute, but, rather, a thief posing as one in order to commit crimes.
The story was continued in the 2005 graphic novel Batman: The Man Who Laughs, following up on Gordon informing Batman about the Joker, and thus recounting their first official encounter.
In 1998 Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale created Batman: The Long Halloween and Batman: Dark Victory, two 13 issue limited series that recounted Batman's first, second, and third years as a crime-fighter, also re-telling of the origins of Two-Face and Dick Grayson. Two other stories, Batman and the Monster Men and Batman and the Mad Monk tie into the same time period of Batman's career.
Launched in 1989 following the success of the film Batman, the title Legends of the Dark Knight examines crime-fighting exploits from the first three to four years of Batman's career. This title rotated in creative teams and time placement, but several stories directly relate to the events of Year One, especially the first arc "Batman: Shaman". Following the title's 2007 cancellation, Batman Confidential began publication, depicting Batman sometime between Year One and The Long Halloween.
It is unknown if Batman: Year One exists in the same continuity as the other storylines in his "Dark Knight Universe", consisting of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, its sequel Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Spawn/Batman and All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder.
Needless to say, of these only Year One is considered to be part of mainstream DC continuity. However Earth-31, one of the alternate earths revealed in 52, is essentially the Frank Miller Dark Knight Universe.
Darren Aronofsky was going to direct a film adaptation written by himself and Frank Miller. The project never received the greenlight by Warner Brothers because they found it to be too violent and with many differences with the comic. Ultimately the project resulted into Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins. The first draft of the script has been leaked online, though only written by Miller.
The film was one of many projects developed at the studio over the years on trying to get a fifth Batman installment. Others listed included Batman Unchained, Batman: DarKnight, Boaz Yakin's Batman Beyond, and Wolfgang Peterson's Batman vs Superman.
After the critical and financial failure of Batman & Robin, director Joel Schumacher felt he owed "the hardcore Batman fans the Batman movie they would love me to give them." It was in the summer of 1998, whereas Schumacher claimed he had pitched to Warner Brothers a film adaptation of Frank Miller's acclaimed graphic novel Batman: Year One. Despite his interest, the studio decided to go to renowned independent filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, after they were impressed with his work on π. When asked how he might approach the Batman film series Aronofsky originally wanted to do an adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns, another one of Miller's acclaimed works. He expressed interest in casting Clint Eastwood as the aging Batman and filming it in Tokyo, doubling for Gotham City. The studio was interested in the idea, though Aronofsky later changed his mind for an adaptation of Year One.
Aronofsky would later go to work on Requiem for a Dream, while Warner Brothers was still hesitant for a film adaptation of Year One. This included the Batman Beyond and Batman: DarKnight projects that eventually fell apart. After completing Requiem for a Dream, Aronofsky came back to the studio for the adaptation, and officially signing on in September 2000. He brought Frank Miller with him to write the script, whom the two previously collaborated on for an adaptation of Ronin. Year One was to be inspired by 1970s crime dramas such as Taxi Driver, The French Connection, Serpico, and Death Wish. Aronofsky also wanted to bring "an independent guerrilla flavor to it."
Over the course on the project, Aronofsky claims that the film wasn't greenlighted because Warner Brothers found it to be too violent, citing that an R-rated Batman film wouldn't appeal to children. As such the director came up with an idea that they could make two separate films. One was to be Aronofsky/Miller's Year One that wouldn't require a massive budget, and the second to be one that could garner to a family friendly audience. The studio ultimately turned down the concept.
Warner Brothers then enlisted the aid of the Wachowski brothers, who went as far as writing a brief proposal. They couldn't work any longer due to their commitment on The Matrix sequels and Warner Brothers asked Aronofsky if he would be willing to write/direct the film based on their proposal. He turned down the offer and the studio then enlisted more pitches.
In December 2002, Joss Whedon pitched an origin story that he liked very much, but claims that Warner Brothers execs were "staring at him as if he were in a fishbowl." Ultimately in January 2003, Christopher Nolan was hired to take over and the result was Batman Begins.
Frank Miller wrote a draft, which is to this day, the only one leaked online. The story went as:
After the death of his parents young Bruce Wayne remains lost on the street and is eventually taken in by Big Al, owner of an auto repair shop with his son Little Al. Driven by a desire for vengeance towards a manifest destiny of which his is only dimly aware, young Bruce toils day and night in the shop, watching the comings and goings of hookers, pimps, and corrupt police officers across the street to a cat house. We are then introduced to detective James Gordon as he struggles with the corruption he finds endemic among Gotham City police officers of all ranks.
Bruce's first act as a vigilante is to confront a dirty cop named Campbell as he accosts "mistress Selina" in the cathouse, but Campbell ends up dead and Bruce narrowly escapes being blamed. Realizing that he needs to operate with more methodology, he initially dons a cape and hockey mask. However, Bruce soon evolves a more stylized "costume" with both form and function, acquires a variety of makeshift gadgets and weapons, and re-configures a black Lincoln Continental into a makeshift "bat-mobile." In his new disguise as "The Bat-Man," Bruce Wayne wages war on criminals from street level to the highest echelons, working his way up to Police Commissioner Loeb and Mayor Noone, even as the executors of the Wayne estate search for their missing heir. In the end, Bruce accepts his dual destiny as heir to the Wayne fortune and the city's savior, and Gordon comes to accept that, while he may not agree with "the Bat-Man"'s methods, he can't argue with the results.
No casting ever took place, though Val Kilmer, Ben Affleck, Keanu Reeves and Christian Bale all expressed interest for the role of Batman. Kilmer would only do it "if it were to be more humorous," while Bale cited the role as "a dream come true." His agent then told MovieHole.net that Bale had been approached for a number of Batman projects, including Year One. He stated that Bale preferred the Year One version because the script was more "unique." Bale would of course end up being cast for the lead role in Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins.
References to other media
When Bruce is heading for the Red Light District, he makes references to the "Finger Memorial", "Sprang Mission" and "Robinson Park", all of which are named after Golden Age Batman writer Bill Finger, artist Dick Sprang, and artist Jerry Robinson.
The nocturnal scene depicting Gordon and Essen in a bar called "Hopper's" is a graphic allusion to Edward Hopper's painting Nighthawks.
The moment when Bruce decides which method he will use to fight crime is widely regarded as a reference to Edgar Allan Poe's poem The Raven, by the kind of chamber he is in and the bust over which the bat lands.
References in other works
The comic got an animated film adaptation in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies lineup.
Joel Schumacher's 1995 film Batman Forever, although set during another timespan, adopted some elements directly from the graphic novel. Schumacher claims he originally had in mind an adaptation of Frank Miller's Batman: Year One. The studio rejected the idea as they wanted a sequel, not a prequel, though Schumacher was able to include very brief events in Batman's past. Some of the more direct interpretations include:
- The scene with Bruce Wayne reaches Wayne Manor barely alive and sits before his father’s bust, requesting guidance in his war on crime. A bat crashes through a window and settles on the bust, giving him the inspiration to become a bat. This scene was used in a deleted footage involved further backstory to the film. It involved Bruce waking up after being shot in the head by Two-Face, temporarily wiping a part of his memory; he has forgotten his origin and life as the Dark Knight. Alfred takes him to the Batcave, which has been destroyed by the The Riddler. They stand on the platform where the Batmobile was, then rotates downward to another level where the sonar-modification equipment is kept, from the special Batsuit to the hi-tech weaponry. Bruce then discovers the cavern where he first saw the image that inspired him to become Batman – a giant bat. Inside he finds his father's Red Diary. It reminds him of the injustices committed against his family, and of how, in his small way, he felt responsible and helpless. The giant bat then appears and Bruce raises his arms and the shot shows that they are one. Bruce now remembers who he is and goes with Alfred to solve the riddles left throughout the film.
- The scene where Bruce being a child falls into the cave and sees a bat as his inspiration and his fear (also used in Batman Begins), something not mentioned in the prequels of Tim Burton.
The events of Batman Begins also featured some elements of Year One, including the character of Arnold Flass (although modified to more closely resemble Harvey Bullock).
Elements of this story were also included in Batman: Arkham Origins, including the Gotham City Police Department being notoriously corrupt under the control of Commissioner Gillian B. Loeb, James Gordon's initial antagonism of Batman for the latter's vigilante methods, and an event in the extortion tapes where Loeb and Black Mask alluded to a failed attempt to have Arnold Flass "beat some sense" into Gordon. In addition, another extortion tape, also with Loeb, featured Loeb telling Harvey Bullock to keep tabs on Gordon as well as possibly arrange a honeypot trap on him, indirectly referring to Gordon's affair with Sarah Essen.
The image of Bruce sitting and bleeding while waiting for inspiration is reused in the Elseworlds tale Batman: In Darkest Knight, though instead of a bat flying through the window, a dying Green Lantern summons him and bestows him with the ring.
The fact that Miller based Bruce on a young Gregory Peck is coincidental to a much-discussed hoax. In 2004, Mark Millar wrote about a failed attempt by Orson Welles to adapt a feature film of Batman in 1946. Although this has since been proven fictional, it is true that Welles attempted to star as The Shadow in a film adaptation, which never got off the ground.