For the last ten years, Warner Brothers have been adapting some of the very best graphic novels and comic runs into animated features which could teach Marvel a thing or two about story-telling. Issued under the label DC Animated Universe, there have so-far been 27 features taking in iconic storylines such as the death of Superman, Batman: Year One, and Batman: Killing Joke.
While they’re obviously done on a budget, what sets these features apart from the usual superhero fare are their adult – and occasionally daring – themes. You won’t find major character dying in the MCU. And, while Marvel are currently embracing the idea of R-rated films, DC Animations have always come with a PH-13 or above certificate, allowing for grittier dialogue and action. All of which is entirely fitting when you consider that many of the comics being adopted are over 30-years-old.
Batman: Gotham By Gaslight is based on the one-shot ‘Elsewhere’ comic written by Brian Augustyn with art by a pre-Hellboy Mike Mignola. Elsewhere comics take DC heroes out of their usual setting a place them in alternate timelines or realities. In this case, the Elsewhere is Victorian New York, with Batman facing-off against the ultimate villain – Jack the Ripper. As you would expect the result is, at times, unsettling, though never gratuitous.
While it’s true that period misogyny hangs heavily over the production, a kick-ass whip-wielding Selina Kyle more than redresses the balance. The art is beautifully steampunk. And there’s enough of Batman the Detective here to satisfy most bat-fans. It’s a minor niggle that the story bears little resemblance to the source material, but Batman: Gotham By Gaslight is never-the-less a class production and a worthy addition to any DC collection.