As batshit crazy as Frank Miller has grown, he’ll always get credit for writing what are commonly considered the ultimate beginning and end stories of Batman, the first of part of that equation being Batman: Year One. A touchstone series, and the basis for much of Christopher Nolans’ take on the Batman mythos, it was almost itself adapted into a hard-edged Batman reboot by none other than Darren Aronofsky.

Naturally an R-rated dark comic book film that re-characterized Bruce Wayne as a violent psychopath was a bit much for the studio, but it’s a credit to the Year One source material that it was even considered, much less developed. Now the series has been targeted by the very successful DC Universe animations team, and will be released later in the year (with a premiere at Comic Con). Today they’ve announced their cast, which includes frequent TV actor Ben McKenzie as Batman, and Bryan Cranston as Detective Gordon. The fairer side of the cast includes Eliza Dushku as Selina Kyle and Katee Sackhoff — who has appeared on BSG, 24, Robot Chicken and more — as Gordon’s love interest Sarah Essen.

Cranston is naturally the name that leaps out, as he is currently powerhousing his way around meth labs in AMC’s amazing Breaking Bad to great acclaim, but the film will also feature Moe Green himself, Alex Rocco, voicing gangster Carmine Falcone.

Bruce Timm is well regarded as the patron saint of DC animation, and he’s serving as executive producer on the project. The PG-13 animation will maintain strict fidelity to the comic, deviating little from the story and visually replicating it all throughout. It’s the treatment of the characters though, that apparently drew in a skeptical Cranston…

“I wasn’t aware of this level of storytelling in animation. I confess that freely… They didn’t give the characters the short shrift. I was stunned.”

Since 2007 DC has been releasing these animated films on home video and while the sales have declined over the years*, several of the Batman titles have been among the most successful. It’s quite likely that Year One will be among the best-selling titles since the series began, and probably the most high-profile (until they finally pull the trigger on The Dark Knight Returns).

Below you can find two exclusive shots from THR that give a hint of just how David Mazzucchelli’s art will translate to fluid animation (higher-res at source).

Source| THR (special thanks to Brian Henne for the tip)

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* Wiki:

Year Film Gross
(US sales)
(US sales)
01 !2007 Superman: Doomsday $9,441,696 682,759 [49]
02 !2008 Justice League: The New Frontier $5,230,918 300,456 [50]
03 !2008 Batman: Gotham Knight $8,057,482 394,893 [51]
04 !2009 Wonder Woman $6,880,544 438,076 [52]
05 !2009 Green Lantern: First Flight $6,044,430 373,396 [53]
06 !2009 Superman/Batman: Public Enemies $7,953,747 530,041 [54]
07 !2010 Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths $5,200,476 351,218 [55]
08 !2010 Batman: Under the Red Hood $6,621,270 490,633 [56]
09 !2010 Superman/Batman: Apocalypse $5,778,677 346,104 [57]
10 !2010 DC Showcase Original Shorts Collection $3,208,583 235,478 [58]
11 !2011 All-Star Superman $3,852,939 229,227 [59]
Totals: $67,562,910 4,328,067