Established in 1989 as an imprint of DC Comics, these books allowed creators to imagine a world outside of the ongoing continuity and archetypical backstory that fans already knew. This led to some of the most outrageously imaginative and often iconic stories that the company has ever released. Opening up the idea of an Elseworlds movie universe gives Warner Bros a huge advantage. It allows them to escape the restrictions of an MCU style shared universe and produce multiple separate movies at any one time, with almost three decades of wildly eclectic comics to take inspiration from. With the greater DCEU continuity now called into question, we thought it was time to put together a list of some of the best that DC’s imaginative imprint has to offer for your reading pleasure.
What if Batman was a vampire? Haven’t we all asked ourselves this pressing question at least once in our lives? Well, luckily in 1991 Kelley Jones and Doug Moench answered our prayers with this trinity of miniseries that leaned into Batman’s gothic roots and took his bat connection to a whole other level. A sprawling horror epic that throws Batman into the greatest moral struggle of his now immortal life, this is a cult classic Bat-book.
Easily the most iconic and beloved of the Elseworlds books, Mark Millar and Dave Johnson imagined a world where Supes crash landed in a Ukrainian collective farm rather than with the Kents in Kansas. Though we’re probably a long way from seeing communist Superman brought to the screen, this book does introduce some incredibly fun paradoxes and plot points that would be a great addition to any Elseworlds DC movie.
Gotham by Gaslight
A likely contender for (at least visual) inspiration in Matt Reeves’ The Batman, this is one of the few Big Two comics drawn by Hellboy auteur, Mike Mignola. That’s right, before raising hell with his iconic creator-owned comic, he drew this gorgeous Gothic vision of Gotham in the Victorian era. Here we find Bruce battling Jack the Ripper himself, struggling to prove his own innocence in the face of a spate of serial killings.
Castle of the Bat
In a world where the DCEU is making a Flashpoint movie, introducing the potential for Thomas Wayne’s Batman, this ’94 oddity now seems a little more likely to make it to the screen. In this Frankenstein-inspired tale by Bo Hampton and Jack C. Harris, a desolate and disturbed Bruce brings his father back from the dead, inadvertently creating the terrifying Bat-Man.
Batman: I, Joker
A dystopian future where a once revered hero has become a fascistic figure head? No, we’re not talking about Batman’s wild dream from Batman v Superman but rather this ’98 cyberpunk tale. In a world where “The Bruce” rules all and makes people fight to the death to take his place, we join an descendant of the Joker as he leads a rebel group of Batmen to take down the cult of The Bruce.
Superman: Secret Identity
This masterclass in meta storytelling introduces us to Clark Kent, a boy named after the fictional hero Superman. Our protagonist soon finds out that he has the powers of his namesake in this Stuart Immonen and Kurt Busiek book. It’s a perfect wish fulfillment fantasy that would make a gorgeous kids movie if DC/WB ever decide to stray from the grim and gritty light and go down that route.
Alex Ross’ iconic painted interiors make this book a fan favorite. It tells the story of a Watchmen-esque world where traditional superheroes battle with new radical vigilantes, some of whom are the children of the legacy heroes themselves. The gritty, emotionally resonant style would fit in with DC/WB’s aesthetic and would be a solid bit of fan service if they ever decide to adapt this contemporary classic, which even inspired the name of Jay-Z’s comeback album.
Which Elseworlds book would you love to see adapted? Which one of our picks can you not wait to read? Fly into the comments and let us know!
Images: DC Comics