Written by Frank Miller
Art by David Mazzuccheli
Colors by Richmond Lewis
Published by DC Comics
Only separated by two years “The Man Who Falls” and “Year One” attempt to tell the origin of Bruce Wayne becoming Batman. Frank Miller’s story is much better known than Dennis O’Neil’s one shot, but O’Neil had a much bigger impact on the tone of Batman Begins. Christopher Nolan showcases Batman’s search for his abilities rather than giving them to Bruce Wayne at the beginning of the film. Thus, Bruce’s training and its effect is of paramount importance during the film.
“The Man Who Falls” is a short story about the travels of Bruce before he became Batman. Much like in Batman Begins Bruce travels from place to place honing his skills and learning to become the Batman. He travels from university to university, from the FBI to Korea, to France and Henri Ducard and finally to a deadly mountain pass. Returning to Gotham, Bruce encounters a bat crashing through his window much the same as in “Year One.” The act of falling is evident in the title and throughout the entirety of the story. Bruce falls down a well like in Batman Begins and though his father is more compassionate in the film, the theme of getting back up can be pulled directly from O’Neil’s script. O’Neil tells us that Batman will fall “for the rest of his life…” but will get up every time he falls. “The Man Who Falls” gives Bruce this unwillingness to fail that Christian Bale performs admirably.
“Year One” is more of an origin for Batman and Jim Gordon’s partnership. We see the scene of Bruce’s parents murdered but we also see the daily lives of Gordon and Selina Kyle. Gordon learns to trust Batman and Kyle becomes a better person for it. It can be argued that “Year One” serves as the descendant to “The Man Who Falls” in that what happens after O’Neil’s story could easily be picked up by Miller’s script. Bruce is in great fighting shape, decides to become the Batman and takes on Gotham’s underworld. If Christopher Nolan decided to use “Year One” as the main influence, Batman would show up on the screen gaining intelligence on the League of Shadows (or another enemy) and willing to take them on at go. Nolan goes for the questioning and learning Batman and reverts to O’Neil’s story.
The artwork in both “The Man Who Falls” and “Year One” is extremely visually striking. David Mazzucchelli is a master with the pencil and one of the greatest comic book artists of all time. Dick Giordano draws a classic gray and blue Batman whose cowl inspires fear in all criminals of Gotham. The art in both stories is gritty and grim. The more realistic art of Gotham is directly applied to Nolan’s Gotham City. All are lucky to look upon the artwork of both creative teams.
There are scenes pulled directly from “Year One” in Batman Begins, but the central origin story still owes more to “The Man Who Falls.” Nolan wields a kinetic tour de force on the screen that revived the hopes of fans, studios and superheroes everywhere. After 2005, Batman and his fellow superheroes had Nolan to thank for the resurgence of the comic book movie. Nolan, for his part, has to thank O’Neil and Miller.