When DC Comics rebooted much of its continuity in 1986, it became a priority to re-establish the origins and early days of several characters. Various story arcs and miniseries came out these revised, older takes on character histories, making them fresh for a new audience and surprising for older fans. The most successful of these revised origins was a story called “Batman: Year One” by "Sin City" creator Frank Miller.
Since then, the term “Year One” has been used for many other DC characters and the phrase is now synonymous with the term “secret origin.” With Jack Black and Michael Cera having their own "Year One" adventure in theaters this weekend, here’s a list of several “year one”-type comic book stories that we recommend for your reading pleasure.
"JLA: YEAR ONE" (DC): For years, DC fans had known how the original Justice League of America had first met and decided to band together. But in this story written by Mark Waid and illustrated by Barry Kitson, readers finally got to see how much the team awkwardly learned how to work together and what early menaces they faced that made them DC’s premiere superhero team.
Filled with drama and comedy and with several guest-stars (including Batman and Superman), “JLA: Year One” is a character piece that winds up becoming an epic tale about the power of people working together despite differences in order to achieve a greater good.
"NIGHTWING: YEAR ONE" (DC): Written by Scott Beaty and Chuck Dixon and illustrated by Scott McDaniel, this story went back to the time when Dick Grayson decided he would no longer be Batman’s partner, Robin. The story explored Dick’s introspective search for his place in the world now that he was entering adulthood, a search that had him seeking advice from Superman and chatting with the ghost of a long-dead acrobat. See how Dick reacted to the news that there was now a new Robin in Gotham and just how he finally assumed the guise of a Kryptonian mythical hero called “Nightwing.”
Since Dick has recently become the new Batman following the disappearance of Bruce Wayne, this story should be of special interest to many fans out there.
"X-MEN: CHILDREN OF THE ATOM" (Marvel): When the X-Men debuted in 1963, the very first issue opened up with the team having already formed weeks before. This story, written by Joe Casey and illustrated by Steve Rude, gave us a revised origin story on the teens who would become the original X-Men and what forces brought them together under the guidance of Charles Xavier. A great tale that is less about superheroes than it is about racism and a teenager’s need for identity and purpose.
"GREEN LANTERN: SECRET ORIGIN" (DC): Written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Ivan Reis, this was the story of how test pilot Hal Jordan became the Green Lantern of Earth. Along with being a modernized version of the well-known origin, this story revealed previously unknown connections between characters, delved into the heart and mind of the hero in a new way, and foreshadowed stories from later years in Hal’s career (including the upcoming “Blackest Night” crossover). A great read whether you’re a super-hero buff or just a guy who likes sci-fi adventure stories.
"BATMAN: YEAR ONE" (DC): The first story to be called “Year One” is still the staple that others are measured against. Written by Frank Miller and illustrated by David Mazuchelli, the story begins when Bruce finally returns to Gotham City after years of training, coincidentally arriving on the same day that Lt. Jim Gordon is transferred to the GCPD from Chicago. We then follow Gordon’s life as an honest cop in a corrupt city while Bruce starts life as a vigilante, adopting the famous costume after a bat crashes through his window.
Focusing on mobsters and corrupt city officials rather than super-villains, this story is a character-driven piece showing how these two crime-fighters adjust to the strange battlefield of Gotham City and how they eventually join forces to defeat the Mafia’s influence.
That wraps it up for us, folks. Honorable mentions go to “Green Arrow: Year One” and “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.”
Have any other favorite "Year One" stories? Share them in the comment section!