Jake’s Take Celebrates Batman 80: The 1986 to 1999 Comics

‘Jake’s Take’s’ Batman’s 80th anniversary celebration continues! (Logo property of DC Comics)

By: Jacob Elyachar, jakes-take.com

The following article is a part of Jake’s Take’s coverage of Batman’s 80th Anniversary Celebration.  This CliffsNotes-like essay focuses on Batman’s publication history from 1986 to 1999.

Crisis on Infinite Earths Fallout

Two years before I was born, Batman entered the darkest era of his publication history.  DC  Comics’ massive companywide crossover, Crisis on Infinite Earths, concluded and many changes followed. Before the crossover, there were multiple versions of Batman, Robin (Dick Grayson), the Joker, Catwoman, and other characters running around the DCU.  Thanks to Crisis on Infinite Earths, there was only one version of each character.

Batman The Dark Knight Returns DC Comics


(Photo property of DC Comics)

Frank Miller’s ‘Dark Knight’ World

Through 1986’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and 1987’s “Batman: Year One,” comics icon Frank Miller defined both the Caped Crusader’s ending and beginning. Miller teamed up with inker Klaus Janson, letterer John Costanza, and colorist Lynn Varley to present the 1986 four-part mini-series. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns saw the Dark Knight come out of retirement to bring peace to Gotham City after the Mutant Leader and his gang harass the city.  While he successfully defeats the Mutant Leader, old adversaries, Two-Face and the Joker, also reemerge and causing further chaos. Sadly, both the Gotham City Police Department [GCPD] (under Commissioner Ellen Yindel)  and a fictional version then-President Ronald Reagan oppose the Dark Knight’s methods and the latter sends Superman to deal with his longtime ally.

One year later, Miller collaborated artist David Mazzucchelli, letter Todd Klein, and colorist Richmond Davis to reexamine Batman’s origin story. “Batman: Year One” showcased Batman’s first adventure. As the Caped Crusader faced Carmine Falcone and the Gotham City Mob, GCPD newcomers James Gordon and Sarah Essen and the mysterious Catwoman entered his world.

Death of Jason Todd Batman 75
(Artwork property of DC Comics)

Joker’s Deadly Victories

Under the creative teams of Alan Moore and Brian Bolland along with Jim Starlin, Jim Aparo, Mike DeCarlo, and Adrienne Roy, the Clown Prince of Crime finally scored two significant and deadly victories against his longtime adversary. First, 1988’s Batman: The Killing Joke showcased the Joker’s origin story, while documenting the villain shooting Barbara Gordon and driving her father insane.  Secondly, the four-part “Batman: A Death in the Family” showcased Joker murdering Jason Todd, the controversial second Robin.  While Jim Starin wrote the story arc, it was fans who sent Jason to his tragic fate as DC Comics gave them the opportunity to kill the character through a phone vote.

Tim Drake’s Rising

As the 1980s ended, Batman spiraled out of control. Hoping to restore order was a new character named Tim Drake. Readers were introduced to him in “Batman: Year Three.” What made Tim so special was that he deducted that Batman (Bruce Wayne) and the original Robin/Nightwing (Dick Grayson) were the same people. Marv Wolfman and George Perez brought him back in the “A Lonely Place of Dying” storyline. When Batman and Nightwing were at Two-Face’s mercy, Tim donned a Robin costume and saved the duo from Two-Face. It took time for Batman to accept Tim as a sidekick. However, Tim officially became the third Robin in Batman; Vol. 1 issue 457, where he successfully saved Batman and Vicki Vale from Scarecrow.

(Artwork property of DC Comics)

From Knightfall to KnightsEnd

Batman’s world was in upheaval from April 1993 to August 1994. “Batman: Knightfall” saw Bane and his cronies broke every Batman villain out of Arkham Asylum.  Tirelessly, the Dark Knight fought lesser villains such as the Mad Hatter and the Ventriloquist to his major foes including Poison Ivy, Firefly, and the deadly duo of Joker and Scarecrow. After facing off against Bird, Trogg, and Zombie, Batman faced off against Bane, who broke into Wayne Manor and the brute broke Batman’s back.  At the end of “Knightfall,” Bruce Wayne charged new protégé Jean-Paul Valley to take up the Batman mantle.  The new Batman easily defeated Bane and his thugs and created a high-tech version of the Batman suit.

The storyline’s next chapter, “Batman: Knightsquest,” saw Jean Paul Valley slowly driven to madness. He isolates himself and locks out several key characters such as Robin and Harold from the Batcave. Longtime allies and foes such as James Gordon, Joker, and Catwoman immediately notice new Batman’s brute tactics. Meanwhile, after traveling the world with Alfred, Bruce decides to return to Gotham. “Batman: KnightsEnd” concludes this storyline as Tim informs him about Jean-Paul’s misdeeds.  With the help of Lady Shiva, Bruce returns to top form and teams up with Nightwing, Robin, and Catwoman to put an end of Jean-Paul’s reign of terror.

The ‘Prodigal’ Son

At the end of 1994, Bruce gives the mantle to Dick Grayson as he continues to rebuild himself. In ‘Prodigal,’ Dick partners with Robin to protect Gotham. The duo restores Gordon’s faith in the duo and they are tasked to track down the remaining escaped Arkham inmates. While the duo is successful in recapturing Killer Croc, the Ventriloquist, and Ratcatcher, it is Two-Face that ultimately tests Dick Grayson’s Batman.   Eventually, Two-Face is defeated and Bruce reclaims the cowl in the “Troika” storyline.

Contagion, Legacy, & Cataclysm

In two years, three different catastrophes destroyed Gotham City. “Contagion” showcases what happens when the Clench, a deadly Ebola Gulf-A virus, is unleashed onto Gotham. The Bat Family is pushed to their limits when Robin becomes infected with the virus, and they are forced to collaborate with Poison Ivy to create a cure to the plague.  In  “Legacy,” the Bat-family travel to the Middle East to learn the plague’s origin. Unfortunately, they also learn that Bane has joined forces with Ra’s Al Ghul, one of the Dark Knight’s deadliest adversaries. Ra’s planned to release a pure version of the Clench upon the world.  While they were able to stop Ra’s and Bane, the Batman Family could not prevent the tragedy that destroyed Gotham.  In 1998’s “Cataclysm,” a 7.6 earthquake hits Gotham, and its numerous aftershocks cause the Bat Family to work overtime to save the city from further destruction.  The events lead to Bruce Wayne to visit Washington, D.C. in hopes of getting federal assistance from the United States Government. 

Batman No Man's Land
“No Man’s Land” showcased Gotham’s destruction and rebirth. (Artwork property of DC Comics)

No Man’s Land

In 1999, the U.S. Government decided to abandon Gotham City. Throughout 80 monthly issues, four specials, and one graphic novel, Batman: No Man’s Land showcases the Dark Knight’s greatest challenge yet. His relationships with Gordon and Huntress are briefly shattered as several prominent villains such as Bane, Clayface, Penguin, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, and Two-Face try to control the city. No Man’s Land also introduced fan favorites Harley Quinn and Batgirl (Cassandra Cain) into the mix.  Near the end of the year-long story arc, the U.S. Government reversed its decision and brings aid to Gotham City. However, both Lex Luthor and the Joker made respective last minute power grabs that nearly threaten the city’s rebuilding process. Thankfully, the Bat Family are successful but at a great cost.  Joker murdered Gordon’s second wife, Sarah Essen Gordon, in cold blood after she dies defending dozens of kidnapped newborns.

What are your thoughts on these stories?

For more information about Batman and his anniversary celebration, visit DC Comics’ website.

Trackbacks

  1. […] history from post-Crisis on Infinite Earths to now.  In case you missed it, part one covered 1986 to 1999, while part two covered the 2000s to Flashpoint. […]

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Copyright 2019 Jacob Elyachar