How Old is Bruce Wayne?

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A QUESTION OF AGE Part 2: Bruce Wayne

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Modern Age Bruce Wayne. According to my chronology he turns 48-years-old in February 2011 (making him 48 at the Flashpoint conclusion of the Modern Age). Does this seem too old? Too young? Maybe you’re thinking, “Bruce looks a hell of a lot younger than 48.” Well, that argument can be thrown right out the window due to a string of seemingly pedantic but important factors. Modern Age Bruce has been resurrected from the dead by metahuman power (“Super Powers” and Zero Hour), re-generated by a Lazarus Pit (Birth of the Demon), healed by the Holy Grail (The Chalice), psychically healed by metahuman power (“Knightquest”), killed and resurrected magickally (JLA: Obsidian Age), mended in an Apokoliptian healing-chamber (Superman/Batman: Torment), sent to live as a god for thousands of years on ancient Earth-1 (Trinity), nourished by the Fountain of Life at Nanda Parbat (“Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul”), enlivened by the “lazarus machine” at Vanishing Point (Return of Bruce Wayne), re-animated by Metron after dying and visiting the New God afterworld (Return of Bruce Wayne), and been in outer space for long periods of time, which has been scientifically proven to slow the aging process. Plus, have you seen what Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise look like in their fifties? The chiseled former was kicking ass for Tarantino at age 55 while the athletic latter was scaling skyscrapers as Ethan Hunt at age 48-49! Not to mention, Adam West played Batman at age 40, Robert Downey Jr played Iron Man at age 55, and Ben Affleck played Batman in his mid-forties and was slated to play him again at age 47 before plans changed. There’s even more evidence I could list, but I digress and rest my case. Bruce would likely look young, fit, and healthy well past his prime. But how did I get to 48?

First, let’s begin with DC’s version of Bruce’s life. DC tells us (in Frank Miller’s “Year One”) that Bruce becomes Batman at age 26 in Year 1. Robin comes along in Year 3 (Bruce is 29). In Batman #416, which takes place shortly before Jason Todd’s death, Nightwing says that he became Robin 6 years ago. So, when Jason dies in what must be Year 9 according to DC, Bruce is 35. After Zero Hour retcons and sliding-timescales, we get to various Greg Rucka ‘tec tales and mini-series (Death and the Maidens) where we are told Bruce’s parents died roughly 25 years ago. If Bruce’s parents died when he was 8 (as we are told in Zero Hour), that means Bruce should be 33 around the time of Death and the Maidens, Hush, and other tales of that era, which is impossible. In Paul Dini’s “House of Hush,” publishes seven years after Death and the Maidens and Hush, it is implied on multiple fronts that Bruce is around 34 to 35-years-old. So, Bruce only ages a couple years in seven years of comics? Even DC editors realized this undeniable paradox pretty quickly, which is why those “25 years ago” blanket statements were quickly ignored and/or halted in the mid to late aughts. Therefore, the next possible reference we can use (and the primary reference that DC editors used towards the end of the Modern Age) is the age of Tim Drake. According to DC, Tim Drake shows up a few months after Jason’s death (Year 10) and is age 13 when he debuts as Robin. By mid 2011, according to DC editors, he was 17. Therefore, 4 years would have passed since Year 10, making 2011 equal Year 14 with Bruce at 40 years of age. This coincides with Grant Morrison’s run in Batman RIP, where we were told that Bruce was in his thirties (and, in my opinion, going on forty). This also confirms that Batman, according to DC writers and editors, was in his 14th or 15th year of costumed adventuring by 2011. (This also reaffirms that DC ended the Modern Age with a 15 year timeline as opposed to my 23 year version.)

This is all fine and dandy, but unfortunately, in order for this DC version of events to fit correctly into any chronology we must ignore the fact (as we did regarding the life and times of Timothy Drake) that seasons change, holidays come and go, and time literally is shown passing over the years. Again, we would have to assume that from the time Tim became Robin all the way up to the 2011 Red Robin storylines, only 4 years had passed. Put another way: The Death and Return of Superman, Knightfall, Cataclysm, No Man’s Land, Bruce Wayne Murderer, Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, Countdown, Batman RIP, Final Crisis, 52, Battle for the Cowl, every single Morrison and post-Morrison JLA story, and a nearly uncountable number of other tales all take place in a mere 4 years! Again, maybe this works in the New 52 or Rebirth Era where these stories have become mere references, but in the Modern Age, I disagree.

Here’s how I see things. Let’s start with Frank Miller’s “Year One.” Bruce, age 25, arrives back in Gotham from his training and traveling abroad in January. He turns 26 in February, making him 26 when he debuts as Batman in April. Pre-original Crisis tales always put Bruce’s birthday in February, so that fits with Miller’s “Year One.” According to my chronology, 23 full “Bat Years” transpire (up to the Modern Age’s end in 2011) making Bruce 48-years-old.  (25+23=48). Seems simple, right? Of course not. Let’s start with the one solid fact we know, according to the gospel of Saint Frank: Bruce is 26 in April of his first year as Batman, having just turned 26 two months prior. According to my chronology, Bruce’s first year as Batman is 1989. During Zero Hour, which was published in 1994, we learn (canonically) that Bruce’s folks died in autumn when he was 8-years-old. If Batman’s first year is 1989 and he is 26, then that means Bruce’s folks died in 1971, which in turn means that the February eight years prior to that (the one in which Bruce was born) was in 1963. 1963 to 2011. Do the math. Bruce is 48-years-old in 2011.

This age also works when we contrast it to other characters around him, such as Dick Grayson and Tim Drake. Bruce is 26 when he starts as Batman. Six years later Dick Grayson arrives on the scene. (Dick is twelve-years-old when his folks plummet to their grisly deaths.) Bruce is 32. Four years later, Dick becomes Nightwing. Bruce is 36. Three years later, Tim becomes Robin. Bruce is 39. Nine years later (during which time we have the vast amount of stories I listed above) we reach the end of the Modern Age in 2011 and Bruce is 48. I’ve done a ton of compression to make this work, but still not nearly as much as the DC editors have with their 15-year-long timeline. And unlike DC editors, I haven’t ignored stories or the literal passage of time that is definitively shown in the comics.

But now I’m just maundering. At the conclusion of the Modern Age in 2011, DC says Tim is 17 (going on 18). I say he’s 20 (about to be 21). DC says Bruce is 40. I say he’s 48. We are both right. Isn’t that cool?[1][2][3]

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  1. [1]VALHERU: [This footnote was written a year before the New 52 reboot with no knowledge of the reboot.—CC] I think trying to place correct and definitive ages on the Modern Age DC characters is a losing battle. I’m as much a stickler for chronology as the next guy, but the problem with ages is that they’re static. In fact, age is probably the most untouchable thing in comics. As long as DC publishes Bruce Wayne, he’ll always be “in his prime.” That means that Dick Grayson’s ceiling will forever be “near-prime,” Tim Drake’s will be “sub-prime,” and so forth (Barbara Gordon might be exempt from this as long as she’s not in “fighting shape,” but even she’ll never be older that Bruce’s mid-thirties). That won’t stop writers from giving Tim Drake a birthday every few years, no matter how teenaged DC policy dictates him to be, just like Jeph Loeb kept inventing multiple Halloweens into Year 2.

    It’s really just a matter of inevitability. Batman, as a property, is 70-years-old, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t continue for 70 more. DC can do the “4-years-are-1” thing for a while, but what happens in 40 years? Suddenly everyone will look up and notice that Tim is almost 30 and Bruce is getting near retirement age. Hell, we might have four more generations of Robins by then. No editor is going to be disciplined enough to maintain every aspect of the timestream, and no writer is going to let it get in the way of their Great Batman Story.

    I’ve long thought that the best thing to do is not to slide the timeline, but rather slide the progression. If Superman and Batman are never going to age, then DC just needs to make them not age; if Dick Grayson is never going to reach his 30s, then make him age slower; Tim Drake can age a little faster, and Damian a little faster than that, but they all have ceilings. DC could do a big event crossover, have the whole universe hit by some “Age Wave,” and there’s our explanation. Why has Tim had 61 birthdays and he’s only 17-years-old? Age Wave. How can Batman have had 39 teenage Robins who are all now in their mid-20s yet he’s still under 40? Age Wave. Let it just be a fundamental force of the DCU.

    There’s a secondary benefit of an Age Wave as well: Combined with the principle of Hypertime, it would allow modern eras to operate on their own chronological progressions without forcing the rest of the timeline. For instance, we could say that everything up to NO MAN’S LAND is Years 1-9, and it operates on the Year Timescale, but the current era from Rucka to Morrison is allowed to progress however it wants through its own timescale; however, once the current era ends, it passes into the jurisdiction of the Year Timescale, where it becomes Year 10 regardless of its original chronology. The Bat-universe already operates this way, it’s just not intentional—Miller’s artificial “Gangster Era” is Year 1, the Kane/Finger era is Year 2, LONG HALLOWEEN and/or DARK VICTORY constitutes Year 3, the post-Robin Golden Age is Year 4, the Silver Age is Years 5-6, and so on, with the 2 most recent Years being roughly the O’Neil-edited era. It’s basically a retcon system, but unlike CRISIS (which I really think shouldn’t apply to Batman, since it barely touched him anyway), it retcons Year-to-Year, not Crisis-to-Crisis.

    Finding Bruce’s true age requires both No-Prize fanwanking and detailed systematizing of in-story evidence. A reader must develop recognition by signing an invisible contract, similar to the understanding in a mystery novel that the writer won’t play fast and loose with the facts. Readers will accept the accordion timeline if they know that’s how it works, just as they accept the idea that Joker will always get the insanity plea. But that also means DC has to establish the rules and abide by them. If Year 1 is an era of pre-costumed mob villainy, then no Monster Men or Dirigibles of Doom until after the Joker debuts, no funky chronologies that have seventy-two things happening on November 16th, and no six-month gaps where Batman is hooked on drugs. If DC can’t say with the same certainty that Batman had a Batmobile by Date X that they can say a Wonder Woman with green hair is from Earth-193, then a chronology simply cannot be had. But if they CAN, then certain doors will open up: While the tone for Year 1 can be gritty and realistic, scaffolded by appropriately grounded storytelling, this doesn’t mean the tone for Years 2 and 3 need be the same, so long as the expectation for wildness and nonsensicality is properly established beforehand. There can be 26 Halloweens in Year 2 or 3 provided it has been made clear that Years 2 and 3 are wild and nonsensical years. But then when Year 9 comes along and it’s supposed to be one exact No Man’s Land-ish calendar year, then a year with no aberration is what we should have. The problem, of course, is that DC has never officially categorized Batman’s Years (not really), so it’s left to people like you and Chris Miller to do the work for them, even as they continue to ignore it all. The Clayfaces, historically marked with chronologically ascending Roman numerals attached to their names, don’t even debut in order anymore; we can’t expect that ages make any more sense than that.

    COLLIN COLSHER: Ain’t it the truth, Val. I should have opened the “Modern Ages” section of the website with a disclaimer re-iterating basically everything you’ve summed up in your footnote here.  As I’ve said in the beginning of the project, this chronology (and Chris Miller’s) is and forever will be a losing battle. “There is no right answer. There can never be a right answer.” I just quoted myself! Anyway, I like your DC-version of the timeline (Miller’s Year 1, followed by the Kane/Finger era is Year 2, LONG HALLOWEEN / DARK VICTORY Year 3, the post-Robin Golden Age is Year 4, the Silver Age is Years 5-6, Year 10 is NML and so on and so forth…) and this version (as in the one that synchs up with DC’s quasi-official history) can be found HERE.  The “Age Wave” could definitely work and is an interesting and novel idea. And as far as fighting a losing battle, this is a battle that I quite enjoy losing. I can’t speak for Chris Miller, but the idea of giving these characters specific ages is damn near impossible. Hell, it is impossible. But I’m trying to get as close to something realistic as I can. The fact that I can even conjure up a feasible timeline with specific character ages is a true testament to how great the editors and writers over at DC really are. If it seems like I complain about them a lot, it’s only because I’m trying to pull a camel through the eye of a needle and they aren’t helping me do it!

    At Comic Con International 2010 a young man asked Grant Morrison how old characters like Bruce Wayne and the various Robins were supposed to be. “It doesn’t matter. You must understand these people aren’t real,” Morrison said to laughter. “Batman is a mythical figure. I’m being funny, but I’m not being funny. They don’t live in the real world. It’s like this theory I’ve been developing – you know what they always say about kids? That kids can’t distinguish between fantasy and reality. And that’s actually bullshit. When a kid’s watching ‘The Little Mermaid,’ the kids knows that those crabs that are singing and talking aren’t really like the crabs on the beach that don’t talk. A kid really knows the difference.  Then you’ve got an adult, and adults cannot tell the difference between fantasy and reality. You bring them fantasy, and the first thing they say is ‘How did he get that way? Why does he dress like that? How did that happen?’ It’s not real. And beyond that, when you’re dealing with characters, they exist on paper. They’re real in that context. I always say they’re much more real than we are because they have much longer lives and more people know about them. But we get people reading superhero comics and going, ‘How does that power work? And why does Scott Summers shoot those beams? And what’s the size of that?’ It’s not real! There is no science. The science is the science of ‘Anything can happen in fiction and paper’ and we can do anything.  We’ve already got the real world. Why would you want fiction to be like the real world? Fiction can do anything, so why do people always want to say, ‘Let’s ground this’ or ‘Let’s make this realistic.’ You can’t make it realistic because it’s not. So basically Batman is 75-years-old, and Robin is 74-years-old. They don’t grow old because they’re different from us. They’re paper people.”

    VALHERU: “They’re paper people.” LOL. That explains 80 percent of what Morrison has ever written.  I get his concept, but it does highlight my main problem with Grant’s work on Batman (and to a certain extent, on X-Men): he stretches suspension of disbelief into a belief of disbelief. It works on Doom Patrol and The Invisibles and JLA—even Batman in JLA—but not Batman in Gotham. What makes Batman unique is his reality—sure, maybe there were eras where he got wacky and met talking gorillas, but we’ve had at least 25 years of proof-positive popular consensus that expects Batman (though not necessarily his villains) to be grounded in an approximated realism that makes even James Bond look ridiculous. Even if it isn’t real, it must look real. Batman may have been around for 75 years, but he’s not 75-years-old, not even as a paper-person; such an idea doesn’t look even remotely realistic.

    I think of the billion-plus dollars Chris Nolan has raked in, not simply by doing Batman movies but PLAUSIBLE Batman movies, and then wonder why DC decided to opt out of their own zeitgeist by letting Grant Morrison go noir-weird.

    COLLIN COLSHER: Grant Morrison’s comment was a quick dodge of the question (albeit quite a wordy Morrisonian one). Of course no DC writer will ever give a definitive answer regarding character age. “Paper people”, “Robin is 74″… I found it to be quite funny actually! And whether or not you like the “belief of disbelief” style that Morrison has applied to Batman (and many find his Batman to be completely inaccessible), you can’t deny that his books sell pretty damn well. Personally, (and I might be in the minority on this one) I find the Nolan films to be very poorly written and at times impinged by the restraints of the realism/plausibility in which they are supposed to exist. Though, I can definitely understand where you are coming from Val (and there are definitely a lot of people out there that agree with you), but it seems that the reasons you take issue with Morrison’s work are the very reasons I enjoy it so much! But as always, I love the scholarly aperçu you always bring to the table and the insight demonstrated with your every comment.

  2. [2]AIDAN K: Here’s yet another viable alternative to Bruce’s age. Looking at a couple of lines in Morrison’s “RIP,” I came up with Bruce around age 44 at the time of the reboot. Funny that we get a another answer. Here’s my reasoning: First, we have from the Black Casebooks (in Batman #678) that “5 years into the mission” is still the Silver Age, though it appears to be the tail end. Add eleven years for Damian’s age, a year for his gestation/time for Bruce and Talia to fall in love in a whirlwind 3 months, and a buffer year between the Silver Age and Saga of the Demon (where Dick leaves, etc.) and we get Bruce at roughly age 43 during “RIP” and age 44 at the time of Flashpoint. No idea how old this makes Alfred. (Perhaps the whole “Outsider” affair rejuvenated him a bit.)

    COLLIN COLSHER: This is definitely a possibility. However, the “five years into the mission” line from Batman #678 actually tells us that much of the GOLDEN AGE stuff—NOT Silver Age—occurs in the first five years of Batman’s career. Nor does it definitively mean that the Golden Age stuff immediately ends after five years. Thus, my reasoning for adding a four or five extra years is to accommodate the vast number of stories being squeezed into continuity, which includes the Silver Age tales. And furthermore, it is the reason for my labeling Bruce as a 48-year-old instead of a 44-year-old by the time of the reboot.

  3. [3]COLLIN COLSHER: Here’s a bit of fun before we say goodbye. Let’s play a game and pretend the New 52 reboot didn’t happen, but all of the stories written for the New 52 still occurred, only altered to continue and jibe with the Modern Age. Flashpoint occurs in-story in August of 2011 (and was also published around that time as well). Rebirth takes place in-story beginning in Spring of 2016, but the New 52/DC You stuff ends in-story in early 2016. So, that means almost FOUR-AND-A-HALF full years’ worth of narrative occur during the New 52 (and the Real Batman Chronology reflects this). By my calculations, if Modern Age Bruce is 48 when Flashpoint happens (and this is definitely true), then adding in all New 52 stories to his canon would put him at age 52, just about to turn 53 in February 2016.

    Age 52! Fitting don’t you think!? :-)

4 Responses to How Old is Bruce Wayne?

  1. PurpleGlovez says:

    Awhile ago I stumbled across something interesting: a definitive answer to DC’s version of Bruce’s age at the end of the pre-Flashpoint timeline. In Paul Dini’s House of Hush, a man named Judson Pierce is released from Blackgate. It’s stated that he served a 37-year sentence. It’s also stated repeatedly that Bruce WAS NOT BORN at the start of this sentence. Hush even says this too, and he would know. One crook speculates that Bruce Wayne is 34-35.

    Now, in Year One AND Zero Year, DC tells us Bruce was 25 when he became Batman. It’s interesting because they seem to have a policy that Bruce cannot be a “young adult” (18-24) Batman; they want him to be a fully-fledged “man” when he dons the cowl. Bruce’s post-Crisis birthday is never stated, although we’ve come close. Journey Into Knight has his birthday on the same day his parents die (questionable). On a snowy scene sometime late in Year 1 or early in Year 2, Bruce has a birthday and receives his inheritance and is implied to be 18-20 years old (he was “almost ten” when his parents died over ten years ago). Obviously this conflicts wildly with his supposed 25-year age.

    So with his birthday being from late December to February, let’s speculate Bruce was 25 for the *majority* of Year One (despite possibly being 24 on the January 4 opening scene). House of Hush ends around New Year’s, and if Bruce was not alive when Pierce’s prison sentence started, he would have to be 36 for the majority of the year it takes place and possibly just about to turn 37. This would place the Return of Bruce Wayne in Year TWELVE… which is way more compressed than even the most ridiculous versions of DC timelines.

    So, we either have to make Bruce younger when he starts out, compress the timeline to absurdity, or get creative. Remember that Blackgate had mass breakouts when the Cataclysm struck and formed a landbridge to the mainland; also the breakouts in Chuck Dixon’s Batman: Blackgate one-shot and Battle for the Cowl. It’s also possible Pierce was paroled briefly before being sent back. It’s possible he was at large at some point and these periods of time were not counted as part of his sentence; thus, he could’ve started a 37-year sentence that Bruce was not alive for, but Bruce could be older than 37 when it ends.

    In Scott Snyder’s Endgame Bruce is 32. And there’s another interesting clue to Bruce’s age in the Batman Who Laughs series. An “older” version of Bruce Wayne is said to be 42 years old. Thus, DC officially considers Bruce to be younger than 42, at any rate. And in Len Wein’s DCU Legacies, a girl born on the day Wonder Woman debuts graduates high school when Superman dies… which is more decompressed than any timeline I’ve ever seen. DC simultaneously tries to sell us a super short and super long timeline.

    However I recently did a very interesting experiment… I tried to make a timeline honoring everyone’s ages and references to passages of time in certain books and things actually synced into place *really* well despite having to compress tons of stories to oblivion. I will share soon.

    • Nice work, as always. I do agree that your fanwank is necessary in regard to the Judson Pierce Blackgate scenario. In regard to Journey into Knight, the solicitor merely guesses, while thinking back, that Bruce might’ve been “nearing ten” way back when. I’ve always taken this with a grain of salt. After all, as you even mention, the same series makes the ludicrous claim that Bruce’s parents die sometime near Bruce’s birthday, which just isn’t true. Quick question: I don’t recall Journey into Knight ever mentioning that it occurs “ten years after” the Wayne deaths, does it?

      Lots of food for thought here. Looking at your “experiment” in your latest comment now! Amazing!

      • PurpleGlovez says:

        According to my notes, issue #10 refers to the murders as “ten years, six months, twelve days ago”. And yeah, I posted mine in the “DC’s version” page comments.

        • Oof, yeah, that’s a really bad continuity error. Having his parents deaths less than a decade before he becomes Batman makes little to no sense, even on most alternate versions of Batman’s timeline.

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