Instead of another D23 article, here we will take you to a land far away from D23. Not just a land, a whole world. A Marvel Studios, Disney+, D23, Sony Spider-Man, etc palette cleansing world. It’s so far in fact that it carries its own category of “Elseworlds.”
These are comic book stories that don’t necessarily fit the main DC continuity. They were initially published under the “Imaginary Stories” label; but soon grew into the Prestige Format label of “Elseworlds.” Here we will highlight a few interesting Elseworlds titles that would help a collector jumpstart a collection.
Lanterns and genies! In this Elseworlds book inspired by the Middle Eastern collection of tales known as One Thousand and One Nights (aka Arabian Nights), a Green Lantern named Scheherazade journeys to Isafakhar to investigate the sultan. Interestingly, Scheherazade is based on the narrator of the One Thousand and One Nights, who told stories to avoid a perilous end to her life. Back to the comic book, Scheherazade discovers that the sultan’s being used as a puppet. She uses her own storytelling abilities, like her namesake, to inspire the sultan.
One of the first things that stands out from this book is that it uses a very striking style that is similar to early 1920s silent horror films during the German Expressionist era. Surprise history lesson! Moving on to the story in the comic book… When a mysterious resident of the Arkham Asylum known as the “Laughing Man” commits a series of murders around Metropolis, a curious Bruss Wayneson is compelled to investigate.
Unfortunately, Bruce Wayneson is stopped by some of the asylum’s patients and thrown into a dark pit. In a twist, at the bottom of this pit is all-powerful computers that turn Bruss Wayneson into the vampiric Nosferatu. Ultimately, Nosferatu saves the day, but not before being confronted by the Super-Man.
Set in the Victorian era, this story ironically begins with the surprise twist of the murder of Queen Victoria and the rest of the royal family. An estranged family member from America named Jack Planter (based on Jack the Ripper) lays claim to the throne. Without the societal impact that Queen Victoria’s reign would have brought, the British Empire devolves to a patriarchy subject to the whims of King Jack.
In this world, Steven Trevor is introduced as a villainous character who kidnaps Diana away from Themyscira. Under the oppressive patriarchy of King Jack, Diana lives as an actress in the theater and is married against her will to Steve. Eventually, she escapes and takes on the identity of Wonder Woman to fight back.
Speaking of Jack the Ripper, a key Elseworlds comic is Gotham by Gaslight in which Batman investigates the murders of Jack the Ripper, who is terrorizing the city of Gotham. For an Elseworlds collection, this book is a key due to it being the first Elseworlds title; granted, this honor is retroactive due to the first book to have the actual Elseworlds logo being Batman: Holy Terror (1991).
In this story, intending to investigate the Jack the Ripper murders, Bruce himself is framed for the crimes. He is subsequently tried and convicted. Unwilling to let things play out this way, Bruce escapes and continue his hunt for Jack the Ripper. As Batman, he finally confronts Jack the Ripper, and discovers him to be Jack Packer, who was a friend of Thomas Wayne and spurned lover of Martha Wayne. As Jack the Ripper, he was killing women who torturously reminded him of Martha.
Of the books mentioned here, Gotham by Gaslight is the only one to have attained sufficient prices and amount of sales for notice. Although volume is very low, sales prices for graded books are relatively higher; in July 2019, a CGC 9.8 of this book sold for #325.
“I paid Houdini $300 for that trick.” – note from Batman as he escapes from Jack the Ripper