4

When I see comic book questions, or questions on characters from comic books, they're invariably qualified with a "this canon" or a "that canon" only notice, which given certain characters is a fairly reasonable thing to do. And of all the characters that exist, Batman by far seems to have the greatest number of intertwining canons.

Just how many different canons are there for Batman? And to be clear, I'm counting all comic book canons, running and cancelled (but not 'planned but never released' canons), different movie canons, and TV canons. I know there's at least two separate TV canons for Justice League and B:TAS (though not if those two are one in the same, or directly tied together with Batman Beyond). And I know there's at least 3 different Batman Movie Canons (I think?) but I'm at a total loss on comic book canon.

  • 3
    That's interesting. I asked something related and I was told that B:TAS, Justice League, JL Unlimited and Batman Beyond where all within the same universe-canon. – Kreann Sep 30 '14 at 13:42
  • 1
    @Deion Everything produced by Paul Dini is considered in the same universe. – Jack B Nimble Sep 30 '14 at 13:55
  • 3
    The Batcycle in the Christopher Nolan movies incorporated several cannons. *BAT-DRUM STING* – Paul D. Waite Sep 30 '14 at 14:32
  • 4
    Correction: it's spelled Bat-canon. – user1027 Oct 21 '14 at 23:57
  • I was just about to ask this after some confusion over my question here. I'm glad I thought to search for it first :) – Shokhet Feb 6 '15 at 19:46
17

Way, way, waayyy too many.

Starting with the easy ones:

Television/Film

  • Nolanverse movies, which also includes at least one video game tie-in
  • Batman: Gotham Knight, an anime-style animated film set in the Nolanverse, but not canon within it. My best classification would be that it's a parallel universe to the Nolanverse
  • Burtonverse movies, otherwise known as everything from Tim Burton's Batman through Batman&Robin (My apologies for reminding everyone that Batman&Robin existed)1
  • The DC Animated Universe (DCAU): Batman: TAS, The New Batman Adventures, Batman Beyond, the Justice League shows, Superman, all the spin-off movies, and more.
  • The 1960's show and its movie
  • All the other Batman shows exist in separate continuities: The Batman, Beware the Batman, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Gotham, etc.

Video Games

  • The Arkhamverse (Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, etc.), which also include the animated film Assault on Arkham
  • Except for tie-in games, the other games all exist in their own continuities

Comics
I'm not touching this one; there are about a hundred of them in total. The main ones are the DCnU (The universe of the New52 reboot) and Earth-1 (The old comic continuity). There's a full(?) list here; essentially every time a writer had a cool idea, DC spawned another universe and another continuity. Additionally, every couple of decades DC would take a blowtorch to the tangled mess of continuity snarls and start over; you often hear about the Golden Age and Silver Age comics being separate continuities for this reason.

Such are the oddities when dealing with a 70-year-old franchise.

EDIT: As a final note, it's important to recognize that all of these continuities are interrelated. Obviously non-comic adaptations borrow heavily from the comics, but occasionally the comics borrow from the movies and TV shows as well. There are a few questions on this site about that phenomena (This one about Bane and this one about The Dark Knight spring to mind), and TVTropes has a whole subfolder devoted to Batman on their Canon Immigrant trope page, but some of the more well-known ones include:

  • The characters of Harley Quinn and Renee Montoya were both created for Batman: TAS, but they ascended to comics continuity. Montoya has had a few major subplots over the years, including a weird thing with Two-Face, and now she's seems to be turning into a major supporting character in the Gotham TV show. Harley was an immediate fan favourite, was introduced to the comics in the "No-Man's Land" event, and now has her own title comic in the New52 (One of precious few female self-titles, alongside such veterans as Catwoman and Batgirl)
  • Mr. Freeze's iconic, tragic backstory was also ascended from TAS. He was originally a pretty generically evil villain (See his portrayal in the 60's Batman show for an example), but the TAS writers turned him into an more complicated and sympathetic character

Similar to the above, many of the voice actors from TAS became so iconic in their roles that they can almost be considered ascended actors. Kevin Conroy, who has practically made a career out of voicing Batman, is the most obvious example, but Mark Hamill (Joker), Arlene Sorkin (Harley), and Tara Strong (Barbara Gordon/Batgirl) have also had long associations with the franchise.


1 As you can see from the discussion in comments, you can make a strong case that Batman and Batman Returns exist in a different universe from Batman Forever and Batman&Robin. The radical shift in tone and imagery (Particularly the style of Gotham: compare the bleak, gothic architecture of Batman to the neon funhouse style of Batman Forever) present a strong case for the two-universe theory, but there are a handful of backreferences to the earlier movies that are hard to reconcile. Your mileage may vary2.

2 An (obviously) unconfirmed fan theory I particularly like (Proposed here) is that they're in the same universe, but Batman Forever and Batman&Robin are in-universe Batman movies. There are admittedly flaws with this theory, but it's overall pretty convincing

  • 6
    +1 for apologising for reminding us that Batman & Robin ever existed. – Daft Sep 30 '14 at 15:14
  • 3
    Also, I didn't know the TAS guys were behind Harley Quinn, Montoya and Freeze's backstory. That's pretty incredible! The show itself is fantastic by itself but It's cool to see it had such an effect on the DC universe. – Daft Sep 30 '14 at 15:20
  • 1
    IIRC the 4 Burtonverse films at least all shared the same Alfred and Commissioner Gordon - Michael Gough and Pat Hingle. – NikolaiDante Sep 30 '14 at 16:09
  • 1
    @JasonBaker I seem to remember there being a throwaway line in Batman Forever about either Catwoman (something about needing to be wearing black leather and carrying a whip to get Batman's attention) or Vicky Vale (although that could have been from Batman Returns which is definitley in the same continuity as the '89 Batman) – Monty129 Sep 30 '14 at 17:03
  • 2
    @Omegacron It's a bit ambiguous. On one hand, there ARE pretty dramatic changes (Harvey Dent magically transforming from Lando Calrissian to Agent K springs to mind, to say nothing of the radical tonal shift of the films), but on the other hand there are direct references to events from the earlier films (Dr. Meridian's reference to Catwoman, which Monty129 reminded me of). You could make a compelling argument either way – Jason Baker Oct 1 '14 at 20:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.