DC’s Earth One series was originally meant to be a universe where talented creators could work in a new format of storytelling—one that wouldn’t be bound by releasing everything on a strict monthly schedule. One that could embrace longer-form storytelling rather than 18-22 page sections of a story.
But most importantly, it was made to allow writers and artists to give a chance to reinvent some of DC’s most popular and most beloved characters. In 2012, Geoff Johns released his vision for Batman via the Earth One line, giving us a different vision for the most popular superhero in the world. Though some differences are slight, others...not so much. Have a look and see which ones you think are the biggest.
10 BRUCE IS REALLY BAD AT THIS
Bruce being “bad” at being Batman isn’t exactly a new thing. When he first starts out in most origin retellings, he’s not exactly a master. He’s going out every night in a mask and all black, but no equipment, with no idea of what he wants to do. But after he puts on the cape and cowl, he generally has it covered.
In this timeline, the costume isn’t what brings it all together. We see him constantly fail—his grappling hook doesn’t work, he can’t throw his Batarangs straight, he doesn’t know how to pick locks, and he even gets snuck up on multiple times. It’s a wonder he makes it through the novel in one piece.
9 THE BAT INSPIRATION IS DIFFERENT
“Yes, Father. I shall become a bat.” It’s these words, uttered after a bat crashes through Bruce’s window and lands in his study, that leads to Bruce finally knowing what it takes to strike fear in the hearts of criminals everywhere. At least, that’s how it works in other worlds.
During Earth One, instead, Bruce gains the inspiration to wear a bat outfit after breaking into a mausoleum on his land. He’s swarmed by some bats hiding there, then finds an ancient suit of samurai armor with a bat-insignia on it. Alfred points out that criminals aren’t really a “cowardly and superstitious lot,” but Bruce recognizes the need to become a symbol to do what he does.
8 TRAINED BY ALFRED
Before this, Bruce’s training has always been incredibly thorough. In other origins, he studies under countless different martial artists to perfect his fighting ability. But here in this timeline, things are a little more “realistic.” In this universe, Alfred was never a butler but rather a war buddy of Thomas Wayne and was hired to work security after the Waynes kept getting death threats.
When Bruce’s parents died, Alfred took over as Bruce’s godparent. Realizing what a troubled child Bruce was, Alfred decided to help train Bruce, teaching him all the combat skills he knew, though he didn’t exactly support Bruce’s decision to be “Batman.”
7 MARTHA ARKHAM, NOT KANE
One of the lesser-known bits about Batman’s backstory is where his family came from. Everyone knows about Thomas Wayne, but everyone forgets that before she was Martha Wayne, she was Martha Kane. That’s where his relation to Batwoman (Kate Kane) comes from.
In the Earth One timeline, Martha is actually one of the Arkhams. It’s mentioned that Martha’s mother apparently killed her father on top of their home before jumping to her own death. In the aftermath, Martha refused to live in her own home, and it’s suggested that if Bruce ever returns to it, the madness that overtook his grandmother would come for him as well.
6 HE'S NOT A DETECTIVE
With Bruce only learning from Alfred, there’s a lot that’s naturally missing from his repertoire of available skills. He tends to solve things using brute force rather than his mind, which is something that comes into play in the second volume when he goes up against the Riddler.
Wayne doesn’t know how to handle a crime scene and isn’t remotely good at putting together clues to figure things out. At least, not at first. He asks Detective Gordon to help him learn how to be a better detective, and by the end even manages to outsmart the Riddler.
5 HE GREW UP WITH HARVEY DENT...AND HIS SISTER
Bruce growing up as friends with the man who would one day become Gotham’s District Attorney (and later the villain Two-Face) is nothing really new to Batman lore. However, what is new is Harvey Dent having a sister named Jessica. The three of them were friends as children, and Bruce even dated Jessica for a time before breaking it off with her as he went further down his journey to become Batman.
Of course, that makes it all the sadder when Harvey is killed during the second volume of the series, and Jessica begins to exhibit traits resembling her twin brother, leaning into becoming a different kind of Two-Face.
4 PENGUIN TRIED TO KILL HIS PARENTS
The operative word being “tried.” In this new world, Thomas Wayne was a young man aiming to become Mayor of Gotham, with his wife Martha serving as his campaign manager. Thomas was aiming to unseat Mayor Cobblepot and was a lock to do so from the polls only days before the election.
As a result, Penguin sent people to try and kill Thomas and Martha while they were in a theater watching a film with Bruce. This attempt on the Waynes’ lives would fail, but nonetheless, they would find themselves still killed by a mugger in an alley outside of the theater.
3 NO BAT CAVE
So Bruce barely knows how to fight, he doesn’t have the cool car (and barely knows how to drive the one he does have), and he’s missing most of his cool gadgets until the end of the second book. So, as one might guess, Bruce absolutely doesn’t have the Batcave in this, and instead has to work out of his father’s home.
Given that Bruce has no Batmobile, no former costumes to keep in cases, and no trophies from prior cases, it’s not like he needs the space. That said, after nearly getting caught thanks to the machinations of the Riddler, Bruce decides to switch operations to somewhere much safer.
2 HE WORKS WITH KILLER CROC
Every villain has a vastly different origin in this universe, and some of them aren’t even villains at all. In the second volume of Earth One, there’s a growing rumor about a monster roaming underneath the sewers of Gotham. There are reports that it eats whoever it finds underground, but eventually, Batman learns the truth.
Waylon Jones, the so-called “Killer Croc,” isn’t a killer at all. He’s just a man with a skin condition, who ran away from the circus. After Bruce shows him some kindness underground, Croc eventually helps save Bruce’s life and is brought into the fold alongside Alfred.
1 THE SCOPE OF BRUCE'S MISSION IS SMALLER
When Bruce loses his parents in most timelines, he makes a solemn vow to bring peace to the city of Gotham by wiping out all crime. It’s the kind of impossible neverending mission that only a young child would think makes any sense.
In Earth One, his mission is much more direct. He figures out that Penguin was after his parents, gets some proof that he actually tried to kill him, and simply wants to shut Penguin down before he takes the mask off. It’s only later when he learns that the person who killed his parents was a simple mugger, that Bruce widens the scope of his mission and realizes he can’t stop until Gotham is safe, permanently.