Today’s article is going to be about comic books, or – to be more precise – about a very specific imprint of comics published by DC Comics under the Elseworlds banner. In this article, we are going to talk about the Elseworlds adventures of Batman.
DC Comics, for those of you that are not familiar with the story behind the comics, is a major American comic book publisher founded back in 1934. Along with Marcel Comics, it is the most popular comic book publisher in the United States. DC Comics is a major player in the comic book business and is the “home” of many famous comic book characters such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash and many others.
Defining the Elseworlds imprint
Most comics published by DC Comics are set within the main continuity, but some of them have been and still are set in alternative realities, where the well-known characters are depicted in a completely different setting and context. These alternative realities are called Elseworlds and have been true alternative realities until the revamp that came in 2006/2007, when DC Comics redefined its Multiverse, thereby including the Elseworlds titles in a bigger universe of stories set on different (alternative) Earths.
Although the banner was created some years later, DC Comics started separating its continuity from alternative stories as early as 1942, before officially starting the Elseworlds imprint in 1989, when the comic Gotham by Gaslight came out. The first comic who has an official Elseworlds logo was Batman: Holy Terror, that came out in 1991.
Since then, DC Comics has revamped its universe and has created a Multiverse that includes the former Elseworlds stories, which are now considered to be stories from different Earths.
Now that we have explained the term and the imprint, we can give you a list of the best Elseworlds titles featuring Batman.
1. Gotham by Gaslight (1989)
Writer: Brian Augustyn
Artist: Mike Mignola
Plot: This story is set in 1889 in a Victorian-era inspired Gotham City. Bruce Wayne is once more the masked vigilante Batman and has to deal with the British serial killer, Jack the Ripper, who has arrived in Gotham City from London. As Bruce Wayne is framed and convicted of being a murderer, Batman, with the help of James Gordon, has to solve the case, clear the name of his alter ego and discover Jack the Ripper’s true identity.
Significance: Although the official banner appeared two years later, Gotham by Gaslight is the first official Elseworlds story, which is enough to prove its historical importance. But it is on all accounts a truly great story which is a must-read for all Batman fans and a great vision of Batman as a historical persona. The comic is today still very influential and it even had a lesser-known sequel, Batman: Master of the Future, that released in 1991 and was set in 1892, three years after the original story. The comic book was also adapted as an animated movie in 2018, but the movie differs a lot from the original story (it even includes elements from both books), which is why we don’t recommend it as a good reference point to understanding the story. After the revamp, this story was allocated to Earth-19.
You can check full Gotham by Gaslight comic story here
2. Batman: Holy Terror (1991)
Writer: Alan Brennert
Artist: Norm Breyfogle
Plot: The story follows Gotham-based reverend Bruce Wayne as he becomes the vigilante Batman in a futuristic United States ruled by a despotic theocracy. Batman has to find out the truth about his parents’ murder and, with the help of inquisitor James Gordon, fight against the tyrannical government that is certainly eviler than it pretends to be.
Significance: This story is the second one officially published under the Elseworlds banner and the first to have an official logo on the covers. This is a very important all-encompassing story that includes a lot of alternative versions of other DC Comics characters such as Superman, The Flash and Aquaman, despite them having only secondary roles in this comic book. Despite its importance, this comic book was never adapted (well, not yet – that is) into other media, which is a shame since it’s a really interesting piece of read and a very interesting world to observe. It is not known which Earth this story is part of, as DC Comics never specified that detail.
You can check full Batman: Holy Terror comic story here
3. Batman & Dracula (1991 – 1998)
Writer: Doug Moench
Artists: Kelley Jones and others
Plot: This comic books trilogy follows an alternative version of Batman as he becomes a vampire to stop the resurrected Count Dracula from causing havoc in Gotham City. While Vampire Batman really manages to defeat Dracula, he soon finds himself unable to control his bloodthirsty urges and becomes a monster that starts killing his foes; after killing The Joker, Batman asks Alfred and Gordon to stake him and leave him in a crypt. But when a new crime wave hits Gotham, Alfred revives Batman and he kills practically all of his foes, after which he walks into the sunlight, considering his mission to be done.
Significance: Moench’s three-part series – consisting of titles Batman & Dracula: Red Rain (1991), Batman: Bloodstorm (1994) and Batman: Crimson Mist (1998) – has become a cult series among fans and one of the most important alternative stories about the Caped Crusader. This monstrous version of Batman became both a source of fear and adoration among fans and is certainly one of the best known and most important Elseworlds stories. Due to its graphic and violent content it has never been adapted outside the comics but has been heavily referenced and analysed in other works. The story is later identified as being set on Earth-1191, which has close connections to Earth-43, but the nature of that connection still remains unclear.
You can check full Batman & Dracula comic story here
4. Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham (2001)
Writers: Mike Mignola, Richard Pace
Artist: Troy Nixey, Dennis Janke
Plot: Inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, this Elseworlds comic books depicts Batman as an adventurer similar to the protagonists of the 1920s pulp novels and stories. Batman has to fight a variety of Lovecraft-inspired monsters that are connected to his famous Rogues Gallery.
Significance: While not amongst the top Elseworlds titles focused on Batman, The Doom That Came to Gotham is an interesting take on the DC Comics lore, inspired by one of the most influential horror and pulp writers, H.P. Lovecraft. This blend is good because Lovecraft’s weird fiction and cosmic horror fit well into the dark themes and style of Batman’s regular stories, which is why we think you should give it a try. The story hasn’t been adapted as of today and it is not known on which Earth is it set.
You can check full Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham comic story here
5. Batman: Two Faces (1998)
Writers: Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning
Artists: Anthony Williams, Tom Palmer
Plot: Another story inspired by literature – this time Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Two Faces is a Victorian tale about Batman devising a potion that could save Two-Face, but ultimately becoming a victim of his own concoction as he develops an evil side to his persona – The Joker – the Mr. Hyde to Bruce Wayne’s Dr. Jekyll. Batman has to fight both Two-Face and The Joker to prove himself the hero he truly is.
Significance: This is also one of the more interesting Elseworlds stories and a truly good and touching adaptation of Stevenson’s book. Batman has proven himself as a good Victorian character before, so the setting is no surprise, as the authors chose a well-known ambient for their story. This books also inspired a sequel, The Superman Monster, a retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with the cast of Superman comics; the story from the sequel is actually mentioned in Two Faces, although it is set several years before. Two Faces hasn’t been adapted into other media and it is not known on which Earth it is set.
You can check full Batman: Two Faces comic story here
6. Batman: In Darkest Knight (1994)
Writers: Mike W. Barr
Artist: Jerry Bingham
Plot: Set some time after Batman: Year One (although not in the same narrative continuity), the story follows Bruce Wayne on the path of becoming the Earth’s Green Lantern instead of Hal Jordan; this little change causes a domino effect of changes in the DC Universe. While protecting Gotham City and Earth, Bruce Wayne also has to fight the power-hungry Sinestro, who is abusing his Green Lantern powers. In the end, Bruce Wayne ultimately leaves Earth, leaving it to three new Green Lanterns, while he pursues Sinestro in space.
Significance: This is a very important story that has a lot of implicit connections to other materials. First of all, this storyline changes the structure of the world of DC Comics that is part of Earth-32, which had the same beginning as Prime-Earth, but a completely different future. Also, this story can be – idea-wise at least – connected to two famous canon events – Blackest Night (2010) and Brightest Day (2011) – both of which featured a heavy influence of Green Lantern on Batman’s world. So far, it has not been adapted in other media and the non-conclusive ending opens up space for a never written sequel.
You can check full Batman: In Darkest Knight comic story here
7. Batman: Gotham Noir (2001)
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artists: Sean Phillips
Plot: Inspired by the film noir genre, Gotham Noir is set in 1949 and follows former-cop-turned-private-eye James Gordon as he tries to clear his name when charged with the murder of Selina Kyle’s friend Rachel. Batman appears in this comic book, but infrequently, along some other characters; the focus of the story is on James Gordon and his path to clearing his name.
Significance: Brubaker’s and Phillips’ comic book has been praised for adapting Batman to the film noir ambient. The story has been repeatedly praised for its characters, setting and using noir elements, although the comic book never became that influential within the frame of other Elseworlds titles. It has not been adapted into other media and DC Comics never confirmed on which Earth it was set in.
You can check full Batman: Gotham Noir comic story here
8. Batman: Thrillkiller (1997 – 1998)
Writer: Howard Chaykin
Artist: Dan Brereton
Plot: The story follows Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) and Dick Grayson (Robin) as they protect Gotham City at the start of the 1960s, a period bursting with optimism. What they do not know is that Gotham City is about to face a new and dangerous threat that is going to change their lives. The second part of the story follows Bruce Wayne becoming the vigilante Batman.
Significance: This is a socially very important comic book as it depicts the Batman mythos in very important period in America’s history. And while readers from the rest of the world might not profit from that history lesson, the story is gripping enough to keep you interested and the take on the characters is also quite amusing and intriguing. It was later revealed to be part of Earth-37, but it hasn’t been adapted in other media.
You can check full Batman: Thrillkiller comic story here
9. Batman: Nine Lives (2002)
Writer: Dean Motter
Artist: Michael Lark
Plot: Another film noir-inspired story, Nine Lives follows a masked vigilante named Batman investigating the death of Selina Kyle. Her bodyguard, private eye Richard Grayson, is accused of having something to do with the murder by James Gordon, so the story develops into a noir crime thriller with a lot of Batman characters making appearance in different roles.
Significance: Although never adapted into other media and set on an unknown Earth within the Multiverse, Nine Lives is considered to be one of the best and most influential graphic novels in the Elseworlds line and one of the best Batman graphic novels. Due to its realistic portrayal of the Batman mythos, it has been repeatedly compared to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy in terms of realism and interpretation.
You can check full Batman: Nine Lives comic story here
10. Batman: Year 100 (2006)
Writer: Paul Pope
Artist: Paul Pope
Plot: It is the year 2039. Gotham City has become almost a police state and the situation is horrible. Both the GCPD, now lead by Gordon’s grandson, and the FBI are in pursuit of the legendary vigilante called Batman, whose legacy still lingers over the chaotic city.
Significance: Despite its dark setting and subject, Batman: Year 100 is without a doubt one of the best and most influential Elseworlds stories in general, not just when Batman is concerned. The comic book has received two Eisner Awards and has been constantly praised as a modern masterpiece. Since its publication, it has received a large following and a cult status within the Batman mythos.
You can check full Batman: Year 100 comic story here
And that’s it for today. We hope you had fun reading this and that we helped solve this dilemma for you. See you next time and don’t forget to follow us!