this may be something i completely ditch very soon, but, looking at my longboxes of comics yet to be sold [and, now, with less of an avenue open to sell them], I’m going to at least do something I couldn’t before I sold them. I’m going to seriously approach the idea of gathering every Batman comic in his lifetime and combining them together in one story.

See, every since Denny O’Neil started writing the series, he introduced some new characters, most notably Ra’s Al Ghul, and more than that, he reintroduced some old characters, redefining them for a new generation. Two-Face become much more arbitrary and absurd, Catwoman clinged closer as a seductive villainess, and Joker became murderous and terrifying, not to mention many more changes that this man gave to Batman.

He went on to edit the books, a position he held on an off until the mid-2000s, and personally oversaw and provided stories for plenty of scripters in the business. He is very much the shadow behind the Batman. Bob Kane may have credited the name and the idea behind its later visual influence, and Neal Adams may have the manly chest and the sleek swoop of a cape, but Denny has the very world in which Batman lives as his lasting influence, to this day.

Here’s how he looks these days:

Developing Bruce Wayne as a character, introducing and sophisticating Arkham Asylum, and, more importantly than that, making the supernatural and super-powers of Bat-men books forbidden [as the letter-column editor Doug Moench reveals when responding to a reader in Batman #521], he has many underlying rules of a Batman story that writers were forced to follow for decades.

My favorite quote from Denny O’Neil is his classic guidance for writers unsure of what style of language to use for omniscient captions.

“Headlines, but written by poets.”

I’m sure he then ran off to make sure a struggling writer was going to script a story worthy of the Batman name. It’s a quote Grant Morrison recounts in Supergods.

Anyways, from the comforting shadow of Denny O’Neil emerges a sustained narrative recounting Batman/Bruce Wayne’s life. Starting with his gangster-only comics, Ra’s Al Ghul emerges as a figure from his martial arts curriculum. More absurd villains follow to test Bruce, like Joker, Two-Face, and Scarecrow, and in the process, he gains a partner in Robin.

Marv Wolfman then had the stupendous idea to have Dick Grayson quit being Robin. The leader of a team of super-heroes, and a very developed young boy by this time, Batman must seriously contemplate how to have another partner.

Training another young boy down on his luck and with nothing to lose and everything to gain, he trains another kid, only to have the Joker viciously murder him.

The pattern repeats when the Joker viciously rapes and cripples Batgirl or Barbara Gordon in Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke.

After Barbara decides to maintain a digital identity as Oracle, Batman also finds Tim Drake and Lonnie Machin, as well as makes love to Ra’s Al Ghul’s daughter, Talia, all of whom at one point vie for the mantle of Robin. Lonnie Machin becomes Anarky, a vigilante wishing to eliminate the presence of strong government in total, and Tim Drake becomes Batman’s new ward, despite Alan Grant’s wishes.

Bruce Wayne then encounters measures that show he must not only take stock of his family, but his city. Bane [or Deacon Blackfire, if you’re familiar withBatman: The Cult, of which Dark Knight Rises is a bad adaptation] cause a prison break, making Batman vulnerable to his stable of foes thrown at him at once, and he is broken. When away, he realizes how little attention Bruce Wayne’s identity has ever developed, and Dick Grayson takes over as Batman.

His city also suffers an earthquake, the “cataclysm” as well as the bid of no confidence from the government that resulted in them labeling Gotham a foreign sovereign nation during “No Man’s Land”.

Rebuilding his city also gained him a new family, with Cassandra Cain becoming the new Batgirl, as well as Tim Drake getting a girlfriend in the Spoiler. Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon more or less decide to go steady, and Batman learns of his own son, Damian Wayne. Before this, though, Batman must defeat a psychotic clone of Jason Todd, the Robin who tragically died, of course.

Through the stewardship of Damian Wayne, Tim Drake decides that he doesn’t really need the Robin identity, but he still kind of has attachment to the idea, so he rebels much more innocuously by becoming Red Robin. Damian thus has the title, when Bruce is once again cast from the earth, this time by the ruler of an alien planet, Darkseid.

Damian and Dick share the Batman identity, as do many other people. Bruce returns, and decides that he is not the most necessary part of Batman’s identity. Many people can become him, so he starts up Batman, Inc.

And that’s about where the narrative leaves us at today. How is Batman, Inc. going to fare?

Cheers to the longest sustained character narrative this comic historian can think of! Especially if you count Batman: Year One and The Long Halloween/Dark Victory as summations of the start of his career [because the introduction of Robin happens decades of publication years before the narrative of Batman’s life and legacy really begins in earnest].