The DC Animated Universe truly began with the success of Batman The Animated Series. The award winning show gave us a first look at a superhero with a mature tone and grittier theme. Incredible character development and brilliant story arcs were rife in the show. As a result, it became an absolute cult classic. Batman The Animated Series is heralded as a legend amongst superhero fiction. It’s final episode aired on the 15th of September, 1995. Ever wondered what happened after that? What happened to Batman and the rest of the Bat Family when the show ended with “The Lion And The Unicorn”?
This obscure DC Comic Book issue published in 1997 gives us that answer. If you are a Batman The Animated Series uber-fanatic, you might want to read this.
The Batman Adventures: The Lost Years was a comic book published by DC Comics back in 1997. It was supposed to reveal events that transpired between Batman The Animated Series, and its sequel show, The New Batman Adventures. The artwork from Bo Hampton and Terry Beatty resonates well with the animation style of Batman The Animated Series. This is a comic book every DC fan should be aware of.
Fans tend to overlook such comic books because of its limited appeal. Back in 1997 nobody cared much about Batman The Animated Series. That is a show that aged like fine wine. It was only later we realized what a gem of a show BTAS was. The miniseries arc features many moments taken directly from episodes like Old Wounds and Sins Of The Father. But most important of all, it pays homage to the scenes that never made it to the small screens. An earlier draft of Old Wounds, an episode that aired only way later in October 1998, way after BTAS ended, served as the foundation for The Batman Adventures: The Lost Years.
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As a fan, if you are curious to know why Dick Grayson left the Robin mantle, how Batman chose another Robin for the role, and how Batgirl officially joined the Bat Family, The Lost Years is essential reading material for you. Old Wounds had already established the fact that the relationship between Robin and Batman was not on good terms anymore. Batgirl obviously had an indirect role to play. With the weird Batgirl-Batman romance now an official part of the DCAU, the context set up for Lost years is rather interesting.
Batman Never Figured Out Batgirl’s Identity
The fact that the world’s greatest detective could not deduce the identity of one of his closest allies was played as a running gag throughout the series. The Lost Years establishes that Batman at least had started suspecting a few candidates who could be behind that mask. During fighting, Batgirl left her right side inevitably open. Batgirl always tended to lean to the left in battle. Bruce Wayne knew only a few people that fit her size description and had the tendency to favor their left.
During a tennis match, Bruce saw Barbara Gordon favoring her left side in a friendly match between the two. He grows suspicious but never fully thinks it through. Not until Batgirl unintentionally spills the beans.
Batgirl forgot she was talking to Bruce Wayne. Bruce had earlier told her to stop favoring her left all the time during the aforementioned tennis match.
The Real Reason Dick Grayson Left The Robin Mantle
The Old Wounds flashback sets up the second issue perfectly. Dick Grayson is not happy with Batman. The Caped Crusader had kept Barbara Gordon’s secret from him. This did not sit well with Dick. He punched Batman and decided to leave the Bat Family, aiming to make a name for himself. Robin is seen saying his goodbye to the Bat Costume, leaving behind an adventurous past as a sidekick to the Batman of Gotham City.
The Origin Of Nightwing
Dick Grayson leaves Wayne Manor and travels the entire world. Learning new skills and martial arts techniques, Dick searches for the secret to invisibility. He adopts the name “John Smith” just like Bruce Wayne did when he traveled the world before joining the League of Assassins. Dick Grayson encounters Two-Face in South America. It is there that we get to know how he stumbled onto his famous Nightwing symbol.
Enter Tim Drake
It is not long before the fourth issue of Lost Years introduces us to Tim Drake. The issue takes leaves from Sins Of The Father as well as Old Wounds. The epic battle in Old Wounds was being closely watched by a young Tim Drake from the corner. He even got his hands on a battered Batarang. Tim Drake’s father, Steven Drake, and Time Drake’s complicated father-son relationship is also given some footage.
Dick Grayson Returns Home (But What Else Did He Do Before That)
The final issue gives us a few key plot bridges that answers some critical Batman the Animated series plot hole questions. Dick is coming close to the final day of his self imposed exile. He marks the day as “Day 850” in his journal. That lines up the exile as more than 2 years. After busting a drug ring run by Two-Face in South America, Dick journeys to find a group of Tibetan Monks renowned to have mastered ‘flight’. He encounters Ra’s Al Ghul there. In exchange for helping retrieve the monks’ artefact, the locals promise they will teach him the power of flight.
The artefact turns out to be shaped like a bird, looking eerily similar to the shape a specific South American Tribe used to wear. He encountered that tribe during his adventures there. The power of flight turned out to be a flying gimmick. It was derived from a winged costume the locals used to wear. This eventually became the basis of Nightwing’s famous flight technique. Dick Grayson, now armed with new techniques and a fresh new costume inspired by his adventures in exile, came back to Gotham City.
The final few moments in the comic book issue’s scene fits perfectly with that of Nightwing’s reunion with Batman in Sins Of The Father. And thus, the comic books helped fill up a massive plot hole for Batman The Animated Series by tying the comic books to the show.
The Lost Years comic book issues have been somewhat ‘lost’ to time. But its continuity improvements over the larger Batman The Animated Series universe are perfectly obvious. Do give it a read if you are a DCAU fan. It is worth it.