Comics Ate My Brain

June 10, 2009

Kids — they’ll age you!

Filed under: batman, nightwing, robin — Tom Bondurant @ 6:06 pm
[I should really preface this post with a disclaimer: anyone looking for an extremely well-thought-out DC timeline owes Chris Miller’s site a look. The following won’t necessarily match up with Chris’s work, but that’s probably because I’m making more assumptions than he is.]

It’s been a while since I’ve tried to work out a rough Batman timeline. However, Grant Morrison says that Damian Wayne is ten years old, and that’s got me thinking. A ten-year-old Damian tends to explode the notion that DC’s current timeline is perpetually only 12-13 years old (that is, DC’s “Year One” was somewhere around 1996-97). Batman/Bruce didn’t even meet Talia until Dick was off at college — well into Dick’s Robin career, at least a year or two before he became Nightwing. Assuming that Bruce and Talia didn’t make the sign of the double-humped camel until 1987’s Son of the Demon graphic novel — which appeared a few real-time years after Dick gave up the short pants in early 1984 — that means Dick has been Nightwing for at least ten years. Accordingly, that gives Tim Drake a pretty substantial Robin career, and it probably has implications for Jason Todd’s tenure as well.

Memorable milestones make the Batman timeline is relatively easy to figure. Bruce Wayne was 25 during “Batman: Year One,” Dick Grayson became Robin somewhere in Year Three and turned 20 not long after becoming Nightwing, and Tim Drake was 13 when he became Robin. (By the way, has “Batman: Year Three” been lost in a continuity fog? For some reason I think it has, even though it pretty much sets up Tim’s origin in “A Lonely Place Of Dying.”) Furthermore, back in late 1986/early 1987, when “Year One” was originally serialized, Bat-editor Denny O’Neil theorized that the then-current Batman stories were taking place in Year Seven.

I don’t agree with Denny’s thinking there, primarily because it gives Dick Grayson too short a Robin career. If he turned 20 as Nightwing, but he spent a year in college as Robin (say, age 18), then the transition probably happened while he was 19. Even if that changeover occurred in Year Seven (and it probably didn’t), then Dick was only Robin for around four years, and was in his mid-to-late teens when he started.

Besides, Damian’s age lets us work backwards. If he’s ten now, he was conceived some eleven years ago (1998) — probably as chronicled in Son of the Demon.

(Brief digression: Batman #666 has a one-panel flashback to the night Damian was conceived, showing the original/”Year One”-style Bat-suit, as opposed to the “New Look”/yellow-oval model still in use in SotD. No doubt this gives DC some wiggle room to claim that Damian was conceived many years earlier than SotD, and thus that Talia and Bruce “knew” each other before they were properly introduced, if you know what I mean and I think you do. Well, I say phooey on that. It would mean that either Ra’s al Ghul or Talia knew pretty early on that Batman needed to join the family; and as impressive as Batman’s early career might have been, it surely wasn’t that impressive.)

Therefore, with Son of the Demon as our eleven-years-ago milepost, we can start estimating other events. Dick (age 20-21) was Nightwing, and Jason was a teenaged Robin. Dick turned 20 pretty soon after Crisis On Infinite Earths ended, so by the time of SotD he was probably around 21. Thus, Crisis took place twelve years ago. Moreover, if Dick became Nightwing at age 19, that takes us back thirteen years; with Dick’s year at Hudson University being fourteen years ago. In other words, Dick was 18 in 1995, making him 32 today.

However, there is some disagreement over Dick’s age in Year Three. Marv Wolfman, who wrote “Year Three” (and, of course, all those New Teen Titans issues; and who was writing Batman when NTT launched), stated often in dialogue that Dick had been Robin since age eight. This would give Dick a pretty substantial Robin career of at least eleven years (ages 8-19) — but how old would that make Bruce? If Dick was eight in Year Three, that would make 2009 Year Twenty-Seven, and Bruce would be 53 — which, by the way, is Dark Knight “retired for ten years” territory.

We can try to figure Dick’s age by using Tim’s; and we can figure Tim’s in relation to Jason Todd’s career. Jason was killed (in real time) in 1988, about a year after Son of the Demon was published. 13-year-old Tim met Batman and Nightwing some months after that, which probably places the event in the DC-year following SotD. It would make Tim 13 when Damian was 1.

Here, though, we run into another problem: as far as I know, DC refuses to let Tim turn 20; and it surely won’t cop to Tim being 22. This ceiling makes Tim at most 9 years older than Damian and 13 years younger than Dick. It also affects Bruce’s age, since Tim was old enough to remember the Flying Graysons’ routines on the night Dick’s parents were killed. For some reason I want to say Tim was 2 years old when this happened in Year Three. That would make Bruce 25 years older than Tim, and 44 today — which would make this Year 20.

In summary, then, Bruce is 44, Dick 32, and Tim 19. Dick’s Robin career lasted from ages 15-19, Jason Todd’s spanned (all or parts of) Years 7-14, and Tim’s is in its seventh year (his brief “retirement” notwithstanding). The lingering problem with this timeline is that it may give Jason a longer Robin career than he had in real time (around 4 years, 1984-88), so I may have to revisit my assumptions to correct that.

Still, the point remains that Damian’s age necessarily extends everyone else’s timeline, and I hope DC acknowledges that.



  1. Two thoughts:1. If I remember correctly, Denny O'Neal's first Ra's story showed Ra's calling Bruce out as his heir and Talia's love. Of course, Bruce had the oval then, too.2. Does Bruce have to be physically 44 when he eventually returns, or will be be physically younger, a la Hal Jordan?Good stuff!

    Comment by David H — June 10, 2009 @ 8:12 pm

  2. Thanks, David!1. Talia first appeared in Detective #411 (cover-dated May 1971), a month before her dad showed up in Batman #232 (June 1971). In that first story, Talia was alone with an unconscious Batman (and unmasked him to boot), so I suppose she could have collected some genetic material from him then (… eww). This would make Bruce and Dick four years younger, and leave us in Year 16.However, I prefer to use Son of the Demon because it shows Bruce and Talia finally going all the way, releasing all that unresolved sexual tension which had been building over the years. It gives Bruce and Damian an emotional connection they wouldn't have had if Damian were just a test-tube heir. I figure Bruce would have done the math and realized that he was an active participant in Damian's conception.(Crikey, I feel like a dirty old man talking about this…. :-))2. I suppose that's up to Grant Morrison, but I don't see anything which would de-age Bruce. He's just lost in the past, not "preserved" like Hal was.

    Comment by Tom Bondurant — June 10, 2009 @ 9:27 pm

  3. Is it possible that Damian's test tube development was sped up to have him be "physically" 10 years old? Thus skipping time as an infant, toddler, etc.? Especially with the replacement of organs and such?

    Comment by JBS — June 12, 2009 @ 2:42 pm

  4. I think the Wolfman position that Grayson was Robin since age 8 probably doesn't fly in the mainline continuity anymore. The idea of a very young child being drafted into dangerous vigilantism is a lot less acceptable to modern readers than it would have been even back in the 80s, so I can't imagine that Dick's age at the start hasn't been internally retconned to at least 13 or 14 now. A Robin career of 4 to 7 years seems more than reasonable to me.If you need an in-story excuse for the change, there's only been about a dozen timeline-altering mega-crossovers between when Wolfman was writing Titans and now to justify it.Completely divorced from in-story timelines, I've always perceived Bruce as about 42, Dick 27 and Tim around 15. Never really gave Jason much thought, but he'd probably be about 23 using the same rough approximations.

    Comment by Anonymous — June 12, 2009 @ 7:05 pm

  5. That said, I should note that my figuring of Tim's age was based on when I was reading books with him regularly (pre-Identity Crisis). With everything that's happened to him, being 17 or 18 is more likely now.

    Comment by Anonymous — June 12, 2009 @ 7:09 pm

  6. Yeah, in the current timeline I don't think Dick was an 8-year-old Robin either. Chris says he was 12 at the beginning, and I figured he was around 14.

    Comment by Tom Bondurant — June 12, 2009 @ 7:16 pm

  7. ok first there is no way that Dick had 8 when he became robineven in miller´s all-star b&r he is 12 and miller admit to have used a younger agedick became robin at 14 at the leasti think i heard somewhere that Jason died during Year Tenmaking dick 21(if using 14yo) and Bruce 35acouple of months later Tim Drake become robin at age 13including months of the trainingshortly after the start of the new robin career Knight Fall beginsso this place us in between year 10-11during year 11 we have knight quest, knight end and then zero hournow zero hour is placed 4 years before the first crisisa year after zero hour is judgment day and judgment day is placed during the middle of no man land storyso we can say that we are still on year 11 then there was contagion and cataclysm, after shockno man land last exactly 1 year starts on december of year 11ends on december year 12so at the begin of year 14 we get officer down, bruce wayne murderer and bruce wayne fugitive, BW takes 9 months on clearing his nameduring it says that it was like 25 years since the dead of his fathersso we are on year 12-13 during BW:murderer after that we get hush, war games, war crimes and then the return of redhood and then he second crisisno order in time so we can only guessbut there is a trickafter no man land luthor became president and start the BW: murderer storyso he become pres on year 12-13and he was pres for 3 years Infinite crisis starts a couple of months after his disappearanceso after OYL we are on year 16a year after OYL the final crisis hitsso its currently year 17-18Tim was 5yo during year 3 so that makes Tim 19-20Dick is 32-33Bruce is 43-44which means that Damien was born during year 7 or 6 (but he seems older)anyways the easier way to know the Exact year is that James Gordon Jr appears and say ¨hi today is my 18 birthday¨

    Comment by Ravager — June 13, 2009 @ 2:26 am

  8. sorry a typozero hour takes 4 years after the first crisis not beforeand is year 12-13 during officer down

    Comment by Ravager — June 13, 2009 @ 2:34 am

  9. The time-line was reset again in Infinite Crisis, just a few years ago. Everything takes place on New Earth now.

    Comment by William — June 13, 2009 @ 9:17 am

  10. This is some good comic thinking, unfortunately it will fall prey to the same kind of $$-driven hijinks that ruin any attempts by fans to make sense of DC (and Marvel) continuity:The final authorities at the respective companies don't care how old the characters are. They care how much money they will/can make.If that means character x is age y in story z, then age q in story m – so be it.

    Comment by onefinemess — June 13, 2009 @ 9:23 pm

  11. Hi, Tom!First of all, thanks for the free plug for my site. Hope you like the latest update (bringing things up past BFTC).You take a very methodical approach here, but (as you anticipated) I do have to quibble with a couple of your assumptions. First of all: Grant may say in an interview that Damian's ten, but all that's appeared on the page is Bruce's remark that Damian was almost as old (when they met) as Bruce had been when his parents were shot. We know (from Miller's Y1) that Bruce was eight then, so Damian must've been likewise, and thus no more than nine now. Second, no matter what DC "refuses" to put on the record, there's just no way Tim's still a teenager. (If we were really to accept that he's permanently under 20, then that would limit all DCU events since his debut to no more than a six-year span ad infinitum, which makes attempts at logical deduction like this pointless — as OneFineMess argues.)So: that said, I currently put the Crisis (and Dick's change to Nightwing and 20th birthday) 11 years ago, SOTB ten years ago, and Damian's birth nine years ago. (I agree with you that SOTB had to be the conception. Notwithstanding hypothetical earlier opportunities, it was the only story that had not only Bruce/Talia sex but an actual pregnancy in the plot, including her lying about a miscarriage. Using any other starting point would be absurd.)As for Dick's debut age, yeah, Wolfman said eight, but it never really fit. Most recently, we saw Dick starting middle school in Robin:Y1, so that makes him 12 then (which still appears to be Bruce's Y3). Thus, he was 11 when his parents were killed the year before — and I likewise agree that Tim must've been at least two when he witnessed that, so he's no more than 9 years younger than Dick.This all fits with Dick being Bruce's partner for six years, then leaving at 18, and spending some time in college then a year-plus with the Titans before becoming Nightwing.In this framework Jason spent less than two years as Robin, say ages 12-13.And as you noted, Bruce was 25 at the start of Y1. Put it all together, and (to sum up what my site lays out in much greater detail), the Crisis was in Year 11, and we're currently late in Year 22. Bruce is 47, Dick is 31, Jason is 23, Tim is 22, and Damian is 9.Yeah, 47 is getting up there, but remember (even before the Omega Sanction), Bruce has been Magically Restored at least three times: once by a Lazarus Pit, once by Shondra Kinsolving, and once (most recently) by the Fountain of Life in Nanda Parbat.(Ravager offers some interesting reasoning as well, BTW, but has no sources for his assumptions about how long certain events took or what years they happened in, so IMHO he comes in a couple of years off.)

    Comment by Chris M. — July 9, 2009 @ 6:35 am

  12. Thanks for the insights, Chris! I did get the news about the update and look forward to checking it out.And not to throw cold water on your calculations, but Dick reminded Damian that the latter was just ten years old in last week's B&R #2. Maybe he's on the high side of nine, and Dick was rounding up…? 🙂

    Comment by Tom Bondurant — July 10, 2009 @ 1:41 am

  13. P.S. Good points about Bruce's rejuvenations.

    Comment by Tom Bondurant — July 10, 2009 @ 1:46 am

  14. Dang. I haven't read B&R #2 yet. Guess I'll have to take account of that…

    Comment by Chris M. — July 10, 2009 @ 5:31 am

  15. Just curious though… what do you think of Dick Grayson as Batman?I'm really liking how both Batman & B&R are being written, I'm also enjoying Red Robin (does making Tim Red Robin mean that they'll finally let him become 20 years old?).By this rationale, do different books operate on different timelines? I mean, how does The Flash fit into all of this? How old is Wally. And I may have missed it but I don't believe I've seen a full explanation of Bart's return. Was the Bart that was killed from a different Earth, or was he the same Bart, but they were able to bring him back from the future BEFORE his death (and wouldn't that create a paradox of some sort?)… Oh and with Barry back… his and Wally's costumes are too similar… any plans to change Wally's costume– I'd love to see him adopt the Walter West/Dark Flash costume or some variation thereof just to better separate Wally from Barry. I ask these questions because of Dick's ties to the New Teen Titans/New Titans/Titans. I also found that Dick's departure from The Titans as Nightwing mirrored his departure from the New Teen Titans as Robin back in issue #39.Oh and is it just me, or does Tim as Red Robin more closely resemble Bruce as Batman than Dick Grayson's Batman? I like the darker, more brooding Tim. Given all he's been through it fits his character.

    Comment by Perplexio — July 10, 2009 @ 2:23 pm

  16. I see the DCU as a fictional setting where all the "contemporary" characters experience the passage of time at the same pace. IMHO that's intrinsic to a shared universe. Not all the writers necessarily agree, or even care, though.As for Bart, BTW, his return happened in Legion of Three Worlds.

    Comment by Chris M. — July 11, 2009 @ 4:53 am

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