Once again, the Dark Knight descends upon Marooner’s Rock, for it is Batman Month! And today, we’re going to look at the five best Batmen from the Elseworlds multiverse. To make the list, these all have to be versions of Bruce Wayne, and be different in some major way, be it setting, abilities, or whatnot. And here… we… go…
Let’s start with #5!!!
5. Speeding Bullets
Yes, this is also technically a Superman story, but let me explain. In this universe, the rocket carrying the last Son of Krypton doesn’t crash in Kansas, but on the property of the Waynes. Thomas and Martha Wayne, having no child here, adopt the baby as their own, and now Bruce Wayne is also Kal-El. When the Waynes are murdered, the shock causes Bruce’s powers to kick in, and he accidentally incinerating their killer immediately after their deaths. Traumatized by this, Bruce becomes a recluse for years, and only remembers his powers after burglars invade Wayne Manor and threaten Alfred. Now aware of his potential, Bruce becomes Batman, but one with all the power of Superman but none of the training or discipline of the Dark Knight. Bruce buys the Gotham Globe newspaper and staffs it with Perry White and Lois Lane (both driven out of Metropolis by an unchecked Lex Luthor). When Lex reveals himself to be the Joker, Bruce must figure out who he truly is as a hero. A fun idea to make a story, and a good case for why Batman having no super powers is a good thing.
In this story, Captain Leatherwing of the pirate ship the Flying Fox is a privateer, a pirate in service to a country (in this case, England) who hides his identity to protect his family name, and hopes to collect enough gold in service against foreign country ships and pirates to buy back his family’s land that was lost after their murder. A master swordsman and strategist who prefers to spill as little blood as possible, he’s aided by his first mate Alfredo, and joined by Robin Redblade, an urchin stowaway who helps him during a mutiny. They end up battling the psychotic pirate known as the Laughing Man, and woo Capitana Felina of the Cat’s Paw. A great swashbuckling hero, Leatherwing is what I imagine Bruce’s dream of himself would be like.
3. Green Lantern Bruce Wayne from In Darkest Knight
So, the million dollar question people often ask is why the Green Lantern ring didn’t choose Bruce Wayne, given how strong his willpower is. In this story, we see what happens if such a thing were to happen. In the classic Year One storyline, an injured Bruce Wayne after a failed first attempt at vigilantism sees a bat, inspiring his identity of Batman. Here, before the bat can crash through the window, the power ring of Abin Sur, Green Lantern of our sector, crashes through, healing Bruce’s injuries and taking him to the nearby dying Lantern. Given the power of the Green Lantern, Bruce narrowly focuses his use of it on Gotham, even preventing the Red Hood from becoming the Joker. When the Guardians of the Universe drag him away, he ends up bringing down the evil Lantern Sinestro, then returns to Gotham. Sinestro, obsessed with Bruce, heads to Earth and absorbs the mind of Joe Chill, the man who shot the Waynes, becoming insane and this story’s version of the Joker. Bruce, whose use of his power has proven brutal and dark, not only faces this threat, but a new group of Earth Lanterns chosen by the Guardians (Superman, Wonder Woman and Flash). Seeing how his narrow focus has caused such harm, Bruce leaves Earth to explore his sector, leaving Earth in the hands of his fellow Lanterns. Again, a really interesting concept (seeing Batman make anything with his mind is awesome), and another example of why Batman is fine the way he is without power. If there’s a flaw, it’s shoehorning Sinestro in as the Joker.
2. Vampire Batman
If there’s an Elseworlds version of Batman you’ve probably heard of, it’s this one. In this epic three-book-long storyline, set in a world much like the normal universe, Batman finds himself confronted by Dracula. Against such a threat, even the Dark Knight finds himself overwhelmed. In the end, Bruce allows a vampire woman (part of an order that drinks a serum to avoid killing humans, at war with Dracula and his vampires) to turn him into a vampire. In the end of the first book, Wayne Manor is destroyed, Bruce Wayne declared dead, Dracula finally killed, and Batman now an undead hero. But the pressures of bloodlust push our hero harder, and eventually he does fall to them. By the third book, Batman is a monstrous creatures, both villain and hero with everyone from his allies and enemies after him, and I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s the kind of tragedy that suits a story like this.
1. Gotham by Gaslight Batman
The first real Elseworlds story, of course this version of Batman would be number one. Transplanting Batman and his cast of supporting characters to the of the 19th century, this version of Batman made his debut in a graphic novel where Bruce returns just as the murders of Jack the Ripper stop. Becoming a steampunk version of Batman, our hero starts solving crimes in Gotham like always. But when the Ripper murders start up in his hometown, Bruce Wayne (having been in Europe training during the original murders) is accused of being the killer. So Batman must face the Ripper in a showdown for the ages. This version of Batman is so popular that he keeps appearing in various forms. His costume was used in an episode of Batman: the Brave and the Bold, and as DLC in Arkham Origins, and now this story is being adapted into an animated film. More than any version of Batman from Elseworlds, this version is the one most often seen at conventions, and that’s why he tops the list.
Speaking of animated films, join us next time as we look at the best Batman animated films of all time.