In an age of mystery and superstition, how would the people of Gotham react to a weird creature of the night, a bat-garbed vigilante feared by the guilty and the innocent alike? The very first Elseworlds tale re-imagines the Dark Knight detective in Victorian times and pits him against the infamous murderer Jack the Ripper.
Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, originally published in 1989, is considered to be DC Comics' first Elseworlds story. "In ELSEWORLDS, heroes are taken from their usual settings and put into strange times and places--some that have existed, and others that can't, couldn't or shouldn't exist." - DC editorial copy. See more »
Big Bill Dust:
You're the galumph who's been making a nuisance of yourself all over Gotham, ain't ya? Well, now you're in Big Bill Dust's territory, interfering with my amiable Cock Robins. You're bad for business. Bad all 'round. Too bad for you.
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Batman: Gotham by Gaslight: It is Victorian times and Gotham is looking a little Londonish. There is a killer afoot named Jack the Ripper stalking the streets. Also stalking the night is a masked vigilante known only as The Bat. Can Commissioner Gordon solve the cases with the help of his prosecutor Harvey Dent and Dent's millionaire childhood chum Bruce Wayne?
The Good: The greatest thing about Gotham by Gaslight is what it doesn't do. There are no Tesla or Lovecraft cameos. Nobody invents an airplane powered by a diamond. It is a realistic (relatively) style environment with people that act like people actually did back then (Guy in Bat costume excepted).
Gotham by Gaslight also finds proper roles for Batman's Rogue gallery and his allies. Commissioner Gordon, Alfred the Butler, and Harvey Dent keep their old roles. While other's get to put on a new hat. Hugo Strange is a progressive doctor running a psychiatric hospital and Poison Ivy is a vaudeville stripper. The movie has Batman in the role of Sherlock Holmes with focus on detective work rather than Bat punching. Selina Kyle (Catwoman) takes the role similar to Sherlock's love interest Irene Adler and three Robins (Dick, Jason, and Tim) take a role similar to the Baker Street Irregulars. It is a lot of fun seeing well-known characters in their new roles. The movie handles this quite well.
The Bad: Why is this an "R" rated film? There are some adult themes but neither Poison Ivy nor Selina Kyle shows any nudity despite some obvious story beats where it would have been expected. The violence is muted and the camera turns away from anything possible offensive. I have to think this us more of a marketing ploy (An Adult Batman Cartoon) rather than a reflection of the material. If you are going for an "R" rating and your story is about a serial killer that murders prostitutes it is not as if there is no material to work with.
In Conclusion: A Sherlock Holmes mystery with a Batman dressing. It is a good mystery that will keep one guessing. Characters are well written and voiced with Selina Kyle and Harvey Dent being standouts. Overplayed Victorian elements (see above) and overplayed Batman elements (Joker) are nowhere to be found. A good family film despite the "R" rating and an excellent treat for fans of the bat.
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