The latest Yale Alumni Magazine has three short articles—the longest by book designer, author, and Batman fan Chip Kidd—about indications that Bruce Wayne went to Yale. This possibility arose as part of a Yale Law School display on superhero comics last fall.
As an Old Blue and a fan of the Batman mythos, I should be among the last to object to this presentation. But its logic is so weak as to be embarrassing. It’s one thing to claim that Batman went to your college; it’s another to make that claim badly.
One piece of “evidence”: in the Batman TV show of the 1960s, Dick Grayson’s Aunt Harriet mentions that one of Bruce Wayne’s grandfathers founded Skull & Bones, the oldest of Yale’s secret societies. But where one of Bruce Wayne’s forebears went to college proves nothing about where Bruce Wayne went to college.
The second and compelling piece of evidence is a blow-up of a detail in one panel of the 1974 Batman story “Night of the Stalker,” penciled by Sal Amendola (shown here). In the background corner of one panel is a framed “Diploma of Law,” apparently in the name of Bruce Wayne, from “Yale University at Gotham / New Haven.”
Kidd’s article doesn’t mention how the word “Gotham” appears on the diploma, thus making it unlike any other known Yale diploma. That’s left to the usually thorough researcher Fred R. Shapiro, who also gives credit to the alums who dredged up the image. Shapiro concludes:
We can only speculate that, in the Bat-universe, Yale Law School has a branch campus in Gotham City. But whatever the case, the import of the plaque is unmistakable: Batman is a Yale alumnus.Yale magazine editor Kathrin Day Lassila took the assignment of tracking down Amendola to confirm what he meant by that detail. He says about Bruce Wayne, “I thought Yale was a place someone like that would want to go. He wanted to develop himself as much as possible, physically and mentally.” Which could only mean Yale.
But I’m not convinced. There’s no mention of law school elsewhere in Wayne’s biographies, covering any and all versions of the character. Comics in the 1950s said he attended Gotham College (Batman, #96) or University (World’s Finest, #59), and later served on its board (Batman, #59). That history may or may not apply to the post-“New Look” Batman who still prevailed in 1974.
After the Crisis of 1986, Mike W. Barr’s “My Beginning…and My Probable End” in Detective, #574, shows Wayne pretending to be a lazy student deliberately coasting through an unnamed college while secretly studying the subjects he’s interested in; it’s not clear whether he graduates. The Batman Begins movie depicts Wayne dropping out of Princeton at some level to travel the world, and returning to Gotham in the role of a shallow playboy. Those Bruce Waynes wouldn’t have attended law school, particularly a high-level, visible one.
“Night of the Stalker” was published in a decade when DC Comics depicted Bruce Wayne as a respected philanthropist and social reformer; he even served as a senator for a while. A much simpler explanation for the diploma, therefore, is that it’s the symbol of an honorary degree the DCU’s Yale University gave Wayne to reflect his contributions to society, and Gotham in particular.
Finally, I was dismayed to see Kidd write: “when Robin finally came of age in the comics in the late 1960s and was allowed to go away to school, he went to Gotham University.” Dick Grayson went to Hudson University, in the small town of New Carthage, as shown in a series of stories in the 1970s; he managed to complete one or two semesters over the decade before dropping out. Dick attended and graduated with honors from Gotham State University in the DC Animated Universe established in the 1990s.