When Did 'Mark of Zorro' Become Part of Batman's Origin?

In "When We First Met", we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic lore, like the first time someone said, "Avengers Assemble!" or the first appearance of Batman's giant penny or the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth or the first time Spider-Man's face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter. Stuff like that.

Reader Chad wrote in to ask, "I'm curious when it was first established that the Bruce Wayne and family leaving when they were gunned down in Crime Alley was a Zorro movie.

I think that early on it was supposed to be the silent 1920 Mark of Zorro with Douglas Fairbanks, but wouldn't that have put it's first appearance in the 50s as to keep Batman at his usual vague 30s age? Hasn't it changed over the years, moving from different versions of the movie with the passage of time and different creators?"

Great question, Chad!

Okay, let's go to Batman #1 for Batman's first origin from Bill Finger and Bob Kane (I like Batman #1 better than the original origin in Detective Comics #33 because they change the first panel so that it is not a teaser for the main story from Detective Comics #33. It always kind of weirds me out that Batman's first origin has a big panel for an unrelated story at the start of the page)...

As you can see, they were silent on the movie that they were watching.

Interestingly, when we next saw Batman's origin revisited in the classic Batman #47 (by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Charles Paris - one of the, if not THE, last Batman stories that Bob Kane ever drew on his own. He would contribute Batman and Robin drawings to the stories for a little while before officially bowing out entirely) the story now doesn't mention a movie at all...

When we celebrated the 35th anniversary of Batman in the classic "There Is No Hope in Crime Alley" from Detective Comics #457 (by Denny O'Neil and Dick Giordano, the story that both established "Crime Alley" as part of Batman's origin and the introduction of Dr. Leslie Thompkins), the movie is mentioned but not specificed...

Len Wein kept the movie in The Untold Legend of Batman #1 (by Wein, John Byrne and Jim Aparo)...

A year later, Alan Brennert and Dick Giordano's classic "To Kill a Legend" in Detective Comics #500 were the first creators to actually try to pin down WHAT movie it was, as we learn that Marlon Brando was in the film...

I'd like to believe that they were watching Last Tango in Paris, because that'd just be hilarious. More likely, though, it was 1954's On the Waterfront, as that would work if Batman was supposed to be 35-ish in 1981 and it was obviously a film that involved a lot of moralizing about the nature of bravery and justice. And, of course, it's a super famous movie, so there's that. But whatever, the main thing is that it was some movie with Marlon Brando in it. With a sliding time scale, it could be The Island of Dr. Moreau!

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