Warning: The following article contains spoilers for Superman: Year One #3 by Frank Miller, John Romita Jr. and Alex Sinclair, on sale now.
For the past 30 years, comics legend Frank Miller enjoyed a special privilege afforded to few creators: His very own version of the DC Universe. While comic book timelines in DC and Marvel both get extremely contradictory and confusing as hundreds of creators tell their own stories across several decades, Miller had the opportunity to tell his own version of the DC mythos and to keep the mythology neat and tidy in his own little part of the DC Multiverse.
While pretty much everything he's worked on at DC since 1986's The Dark Knight Returns has been part of an Miller's world, Superman: Year One creates some major continuity headaches with its timeline.
The "Millerverse," or Earth-32 first started with 1986's revolutionary Dark Knight Returns, which followed a darker, older Batman in a dystpoian future Gotham City. While Miller's followup venture with David Mazzucchelli, Batman: Year One that was similarly revolutionary, it focused on Batman's past and was ostensibly treated as part of mainstream DC continuity. However, Miller clarified that both stories dealt with the exact same Batman as DKR. Thus, the shared Millerverse was born and all sequels to both projects further expanded its edges.
It's easy to see where the inconsistencies would crop up just given the relative position of both the original stories. While The Dark Knight Returns was supposedly set in the future, its distinctly 1986 approach to the future has dated it considerably, especially when it comes to technology.
In the future Batman of DKR is somehow surprised that sidekick Carrie Kelly is computer savvy, despite texting and e-mails being an everyday part of life in All-Star Batman and Robin, The Boy Wonder and Superman: Year One featuring modern technology like tablets.
The lack of computers or really any technological advancements from the past 30 years in the Millerverse's future could raise an eyebrow, but perhaps the explanation would lie in that world's post-apocalyptic trappings. The technology that defines modern life could have fallen by the wayside in Gotham's dystopian future, and the news anchors and talking heads Miller uses abundantly in DKR could have effectively replaced the Internet.
Technology aside, perhaps the strangest bit of continuity from the Millerverse is the succession of U.S. presidents. DKR sees Reagan serving his fourth term as president. As real-time progresses, this somehow means that Reagan comes back after his death to become president for two more terms. Superman: Year One, which seems to go for a modern-day aesthetic, even makes reference to Donald Trump, with a frames headline at the Daily Planet newspaper office reading "Man Bites Dog, MSM Blames Trump."
Why that story is headline-worthy (let alone frame-worthy) likely ties in to Miller's need to infuse his stories with current political commentary. However, that commentary doesn't always fit the overall timeline. There were already Trump references in Dark Knight III: The Master Race, where he declared that he would make the Kryptonians pay to rebuild Gotham City after destroying it. As a sequel to the already future-placed DKR, this somehow means that Trump also came back to become president for a second term somewhere in the future. And somewhere in there, Lex Luthor was president through a computer-generated proxy between Reagan and Trump.
To lay this out for those who want to keep score: In the Millerverse, the U.S. president goes from Donald Trump in the modern day, to a revived Ronald Reagan that serves for two terms, to Lex Luthor, and back to Donald Trump again.
Beyond that, there are even small details that don't quite seem to add up. Superman: Year One #3 goes out of its way to demonstrate twice that on top of his other numerous powers, Miller's Superman also apparently is empowered by electricity rather than hurt by it. In the first scene, U.S. soldiers strike him with tasers and he says they only make him stronger, and later in the same issue Batman tries the same tactic with the same result.
However, this doesn't quite add up with the Superman of DKR. There, Superman is not only hurt by a lightning bolt shortly after surviving a nuclear explosion, but Batman's legendary showdown with Superman in that book sees Batman attacking the Man of Steel with a jolt of electricity from the city's power grid. Far from enhancing him, the attack briefly stuns Superman. Why would electricity suddenly start working on Superman after all these years, and why would Batman try the same attack that failed miserably decades prior?
While all of these details are fairly inconsequential and hardly perceptible on their own, they make it hard to get a handle on the full scope of the Millerverse as a whole. While every work of fiction is informed by the era that produced it, Miller's works are especially tied to the eras of their creation thanks to his timely commentary. Even if the events of his stories don't make sense on a chronological scale, that still acts as a kind of thematic cohesion that binds them together.