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‘Batman Begins’: Is his past really such a mystery?

The Calendar article “Rescuing Batman” [by James Greenberg, May 8] claims that “how Batman became Batman had never been chronicled on film or in the comics” before the upcoming “Batman Begins” movie was shot and that director Christopher Nolan “saw that as a gap in film history that he could fill.” This was not the first time that similar statements have been made to media outlets by people involved with the new movie.

Holy Totally Bogus Assertion!

I don’t claim to be a fanatical expert on the Dark Knight. Although I have read plenty of Batman-related books during my four decades as a comics geek, there are hundreds (possibly thousands) of his yarns I’ve missed. For all I know, dozens of “lost years” stories may have appeared over the course of Batman’s 66 years in print.

But one noteworthy example is enough to make the point that Bruce Wayne’s pre-Batman history is not a complete mystery.

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A three-issue story line called “Blind Justice” appeared in issues 598-600 of Detective Comics. They were published in 1989, a year whose special Bat-significance will be explained shortly.

In “Blind Justice,” Bruce Wayne is framed as a traitor. Government agents who have looked deep into his background tell him, “We’re going to need a convincing explanation of what you were doing all those years you spent overseas.” Those years before he returned to Gotham City and became Batman, that is.

We learn that Wayne was training with a martial-arts master named Chu Chin Li for part of that time. Wayne glibly explains this by saying, “You know how it is. College kids, eastern mysticism ... people go through silly phases.” The pre-Batman Wayne then traveled to Korea, Thailand and the Philippines before training with a Yakuza named Tsunetomo, according to the story line.

Later, he trained in Paris and elsewhere for six weeks as an apprentice detective to an Interpol-associated troubleshooter named Henri Ducard.

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Ducard refers at one point to Wayne’s “ten years of dedication and training.” We also learn from a different character that Wayne “wanted to be a cop at one point. He majored in criminology.” All before donning the cape and cowl.

Batman publisher DC Comics is a sister company of Warner Bros., the studio behind all of the Batman movies. So whenever Nolan or anyone else associated with “Batman Begins” claims that the film will chronicle a time period no other writer has touched, quite a few folks under the Time Warner umbrella must know better.

What makes the claim even stranger is this: The writer of the comics mentioned above is Sam Hamm, the co-screenwriter of Tim Burton’s 1989 “Batman” movie, where he also got a “story by” credit. In addition, Hamm got a co-story credit on Burton’s “Batman Returns” sequel.

How can the “Batman Begins” creators be so blind to all of this Bat-back story? Have they been living in a cave?

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James Dawson wrote the novel “Wasted Talents” (Xlibris Corp., 2000). He lives in Woodland Hills.

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