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Batman: Gotham By Gaslight

by Robert Greenberger

In the mid1980s, Mike Mignola was just developing a name for himself as an artist, having done jobs for DC Comics and marvel Comics. His quirky, atmospheric style certainly implied he wasn’t a terrific fit for superheroes, but when the best story came along, he was perfect. For example, check out his Superman #18 (collected in Superman: The Greatest  stories ever Told). Instead, editors and writers were always searching for interesting projects for Mike’s unique, developing style. There was Paul Kupperberg’s Phantom stranger small and then came a new thought.

Editor Brian Augustyn had been noodling around with some interesting thoughts about Batman set in an earlier era. It certainly wasn’t an original thought as bill Finger and numerous others sent Bruce Wayne back in time over the last few decades. but what set this apart was setting the entire tale in the late 1800s. Editor, and close pal, mark Waid, loved Augustyn’s idea and championed it up the food chain until the book was approved. Mignola was brought on as the optimal artist and Gotham by Gaslight was born.

Bruce Wayne is tortured by nightmares from seeing his parents’ grisly deaths and he travels to Europe and consults with Sigmund Freud on the problem. Back in Gotham, Inspector Gordon mentions a murder that used some sort of poison that killed the victim and left the murderous husband, who tried to commit suicide and failed, with a permanent grin. Wayne was prompted to become the Batman to stop such evil, just when Jack the Ripper concerned Gotham and began his spree. Batman though was suspected of the crimes and the chase was on.

At the time, it was just one in a series of Batman one-shots being readied because interest in the forthcoming Tim Burton film created a need for material. Therefore, none of us in the offices suspected this would become the design template for the Elseworlds imprint or be a harbinger of the steampunk movement, which has only recently moved into the mainstream. Back then, we just thought it was cool.

Take a terrific idea, firmly plot and write the hell out of it, add in outstanding art and a trendy package and you create a bit of a sensation. Augustyn, Mignola, and inker P. Craig Russell exceeded the expectations tenfold and the cry was for more. As others rushed in with various stories, which a decade or two earlier would have been branded “Imaginary Stories”, the Elseworlds umbrella was created and Augustyn was asked for a sequel.

Brian moved the notion forward and crafted Master of the Future but Mignola demurred in returning to the drawing table. Instead, Eduardo Barreto was tapped for the longer sequel which pitted Batman against “air pirate” Alexandre LeRoi, who wanted to destroy Gotham’s turn-of-the-century celebrations. This was first released in 1991, when the Elseworlds line was a fixture in the publishing schedule.

During the 1990s, Augustyn was asked for a third installment, which he now saw as a trilogy and thought of a tale involving the construction of Gotham’s subway system and native American burial grounds, but it was sadly never written. Instead, we next saw this Batman on Earth-19 in the post unlimited crisis reality of 52 parallel universes.

Augustyn’s original tale has remained beloved with IGN Comics ranking it #13 on a list of the 25 greatest Batman graphic novels. through the years these two stories have delighted in a life as a joint collection and now DC is issuing a new edition of Batman: Gotham by Gaslight for fans to delight in or discover for the first time. Batman. Jack the Ripper. Dirigibles. What much more could you ask for?


Batman: Gotham By Gaslight (New Edition)

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