Steampunk Batman: 6 things to look for in “Gotham by Gaslight”

For everyone who’s wanted to strap goggles on to their dark knight cosplay, the time has come… Batman is going Steampunk. The newest Batman animated movie will be called “Gotham by Gaslight.” and it’s based on the groundbreaking comic of the same name. Published in 1989, Gotham by Gaslight was an alternate timeline that threw Batman back in time 100 years, to crack the case of Jack the Ripper. The series was written by Brian Augustyn, and drawn by famed artist Mike Mignola, the creator of the Hellboy universe. The dark aesthetic and storyline was masterfully executed and considered one of the most important comic events ever, which is even more impressive considering it was originally a one issue, “what if?” story.

6.) Steampunk superheroes!

Steampunk is a very unique subculture, drawing only the most discerning of nerds into their realm of geekdom. Influences of the culture can be seen throughout Gotham by gaslight. The most notable change is Batman’s appearance. The clean black cowl and cape have been reimagined as a messy, perpetually ruffling coat. His gadgets have become bulkier and more ornate, typical of the Steampunk aesthetic. The most significant change is in the eyes, which are visible beneath goggles even when Batman is in full attire. This clear nod to Steampunk also has the double effect of humanizing Bruce in a way that we rarely see. Seeing the eyes of Bruce Wayne looking out from behind the cowl is a powerful reminder that he is just a man, and that vulnerability is what draws people towards the Batman character.

5.) Jack the ripper

Gotham by Gaslight was the result of a simple idea, Batman vs. Jack the ripper. Placing real world villains against fictional heroes tends to be very successful, and Gotham by Gaslight was no exception. The concept was popular enough to warrant a sequel, “Master of the Future”, also written by Augustyn. The match works well thematically. Bruce Wayne’s particular brand of brooding fits perfectly in Victorian England, and his stories are at their best when he has an imposing genius to spar against. The story of Jack the ripper represents one of history’s most salacious unsolved mysteries, the fact that he was never caught makes him an even greater adversary for the caped crusader. The events are about as dark as it gets, a serial killer that targets prostitutes is not Saturday morning cartoon fare.

4.) Sherlock Holmes… really

Especially in the early days of Batman comics, he was known as “the world’s greatest detective”, a claim that Sherlock Holmes might like to contest. There have been several crossovers between the two universes, at one point Batman admitted that Holmes was the greatest detective of his time. Holmes has also faced off against Jack the Ripper – and there were some rumors that the two could possibly meet in the upcoming movie; since the story is set in London, Holmes’ famous stomping ground. As interesting as it would be, the two facing off against each other wouldn’t exactly be fair; Batman’s technological superiority would give him a ridiculous advantage. (Imagine a debate where only one person was allowed to use Google.) Gaslight Batman doesn’t have the same arsenal as the modern one though, and that may level the playing field out for Holmes. Unfortunately it is unlikely for the two to resume their rivalry in Gotham by Gaslight; as their interaction would distract from the main plot, which it looks like the movie is going to follow relatively closely. But savvy fans may look out for veiled references to Sherlock in the form of hidden Easter eggs, while dreaming about Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes fighting Batfleck.

3.) Visiting Elseworlds

Gotham by gaslight effectively launched the Elseworlds series. Elseworlds changed the face of comics, allowing writers to break the rules by making stories outside of the official continuity. Want to see Batman fight Dracula? Wonder what would happen if Superman’s parents came WITH him to earth, making a super powered family like some kryptonian Incredibles? Look no further than Elseworlds. The success of Gotham by gaslight proved that out of continuity storylines were an untapped market, opening up a completely new range of possibilities for fans and creators alike. Elseworlds still continues to this day, but it is no longer outside main continuity. Elseworlds is now considered part of the DC multiverse, alternate universes and timelines for fan fiction to frolic in. If Gotham by Gaslight is as successful as the print version, expect more Elseworld stories to be announced, the universe is certainly big enough.

2.) Confirmed Cameos

In trailers for the upcoming movie we also see references to other famous characters. A young knife wielding street urchin announces himself as “Jason”. Fans of the series know that this must be Jason Todd, the most violent and controversial Robin of the series. Jason’s story is one of the darkest arcs in the Batman universe, and the centerpiece for the famous “Killing Joke” and “Under the Red Hood” storylines. There was a reference to Jason in Batfleck’s batcave, which had a Robin suit spray painted with the “HAHAHA”, which is joker’s calling card. Jason looks to be much younger in Gaslight, and his inclusion might be more fan service than actual plot significance, but we will see.

1.) Selina Kyle: Suffragette

One of the most exciting surprises in Gaslight is the role of Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman. Rather than shy away from women’s issues of the day, gaslight tackles them head on. The story is set right before the suffragette movement really gets going, and it looks to paint Catwoman as one of the founders of the movement. Fighting for women’s right to vote is an excellent job for Selina. Despite her constant objectification, Catwoman has been a fan favorite of feminist readers. She is usually given more agency than most women in comics, and her role as a strong female protagonist is sorely needed in the DCU. In some storylines Selina justifies her crimes as a form of robin hooding, with her stealing artifacts from patriarchal establishments and selling them to support disenfranchised women. As exciting as Jack the Ripper vs. Batman sounds, Jack vs. Catwoman is even more interesting. Jack’s choice to only prey on women would definitely strike an emotional chord with Selina, and she is more than capable of taking on a serial killer by herself. Batman’s no kill policy is unlikely to mesh with Catwoman’s plans for Jack, which could lead to a spectacular conflict. As of this writing Gotham by Gaslight has no confirmed release date, but the world’s greatest detective would deduce this Steampunk adventure will finally emerge from the shadows in 2018.

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