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Comic Book / Gotham by Gaslight

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Gotham by Gaslight is an Elseworlds story written by Bryan Augustyn and penciled by Mike Mignola, and the first Alternative Continuity Graphic Novel in being officially considered one. Taking place in 1889 in a Victorian-esque Gotham City, it follows the story of how Bruce Wayne became Batman in an age without modern technology, learning from Dr. Sigmund Freud and training under Sherlock Holmes. During this time, he investigates the brutal murders of one Jack the Ripper.

Despite not being sold often, the series has had a good standing amongst fans and creators, even gaining a sequel entitled Master of the Future. The costume has appeared in several games as a popular alternate costume for Batman and even had its own senario in the Infinite Crisis video game. It was ranked #13 on IGN's Greatest Batman Stories.


It also has an Animated Adaptation called Batman: Gotham by Gaslight as part of the DC Universe Animated Original Movies line.

This mini-series contains examples of:

  • 10-Minute Retirement: Bruce hangs up the cowl after Jack the Ripper is caught, as catching his parents murderer was the reason he created Batman in the first place. He comes out of it to deal with Alexandre, and sticks to it full-time as a result.
  • Adaptational Job Change: Jim Gordon, before becoming Commissioner, is an inspector instead of Lieutenant or Captain.
  • Ax-Crazy: As one would expect, Jack's a complete and utter psychopath.
  • Bat Scare: Young Bruce survived his parents' murders because the culprit's shots startled a flock of bats into flight, distracting and confusing the attacker.
  • Big Bad: In Gotham by Gaslight it's Jack the Ripper, whose grisly killing spree is what starts the plot. In Master of the Future, Alexandre LeRoi threatens to destroy the Gotham World Fair.
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  • The Bluebeard: The Joker is mentioned as a con artist who married rich old ladies and then poisoned them. He tried to take poison himself after being caught, but it only paralyzed his face into the distinctive Slasher Smile as shown on his mugshot.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Played With. Batman will bleed, sweat, and be visibly shaken. He's human and not afraid to show it.
  • The Commissioner Gordon: James Gordon himself, naturally, helps Batman during the investigation. Interestingly, he's drawn to resemble Theodore Roosevelt who was Police Commissioner of New York City a few years later.
  • Death by Adaptation: Unlike the real life Jack the Ripper (as we know anyway), Jack is killed when Inspector Gordon shoots him during the killer's final attempt to kill Batman.
  • Death Ray: LeRoi has a nefarious device attached to his zeppelin that can focus the rays of the sun.
  • Enter Stage Window: After his Big Entrance and ultimatum, LeRoi jumps out of a nine-story building, to everyone's confusion. Later we see he grabbed hold of a rope ladder hanging from his zeppelin.
  • Fanservice: Bruce has a Shirtless Scene in Master of the Future.
  • Flashback: Wouldn't be Batman without it.
    • At the start, Bruce Wayne is relating his recurring dream (of witnessing the murder of his parents by a highwayman) to Sigmund Freud, whom he's been studying under. Freud offers to treat Bruce as a patient instead of a student, but he rejects his help and returns to Gotham.
    • After his identity is revealed, the Ripper flashes back, as part of his Motive Rant, to when he was spurned by Martha Wayne, which drove him to murder.
  • Frame-Up: The Ripper plants his bloody knife in the Wayne mansion, then tips off the police.
  • Freudian Excuse: Or so Jack the Ripper claims. He made an advance to Martha Wayne and she just laughed at him, driving him to kill other women whom he feels are doing the same. However it's obvious that Jacob always had a screw loose; that's he's simply a charming sociopath who murdered the Waynes out of envy over their genuine success.
  • From Bad to Worse: Yeah, Batman can't catch Jack the Ripper, but at least he's able to watch over the city he loves. Oh, he's in jail after being framed for Jack's crimes and the killings have stopped. Well, at least the defense is strong... but it turns out that he's been sentenced to death.
  • Gilligan Cut: Bruce insists he will be found innocent of murder. The next panel is the newspaper headline declaring Bruce guilty.
  • Historical Domain Character: Jack the Ripper. And Bruce learns early psychology under Sigmund Freud.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: During his Sword Fight with Batman, LeRoi breaks his robot pilot Antonio (which he blames Batman for) and smashes a gaslamp. He dies when his zeppelin proceeds to crash into the ocean while bursting into flame.
  • Honorary Uncle: The irreverent "Uncle Jake" Packer took this role for Bruce Wayne.
  • Knife Nut: Jack the Ripper, to no one's great surprise, commits his murders with a knife. The specific type of knife he uses ultimately gives him away, as it belonged to the Civil War medical detachment where Jacob Packer was a doctor's assistant to Thomas Wayne.
  • Lighter and Softer: While the original Gotham By Gaslight was a dark story (its mood heightened by the atmospheric art of Mike Mignola), Master of the Future was more of an adventure yarn In the Style of... Jules Verne.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Batman is at least 7' in this story. He towers over everyone and can still move like a ninja.
  • Made of Iron: Batman gets beaned in the head with a board and slashed in the chest, but isn't deterred in the slightest.
  • Not Helping Your Case: After the Ripper plants the murder weapon in the Wayne mansion, Bruce is arrested by Tolliver who's eager to close the case. Bruce can't reveal what he's really been doing at night, as the public see little difference between the Ripper and the Bat-Man at this stage. It doesn't help that he was in London at the time of the Ripper murders (and Bruce kicks himself for not investigating them at the time). Even the fact that his father was a doctor is used to handwave the medical skill of the killer. A witness is called to say she saw Bruce at the scene of the murders; even though she's an obvious lush, Bruce is effectively Convicted by Public Opinion.
  • Public Domain Character: Sherlock Holmes is referenced by Freud (though not by name) as Bruce's previous teacher.
  • The Resenter: Thomas Wayne helped Jacob Packer through law and medical school, even getting him work when he flunked out. Instead of being grateful for his benefactor, he resents Thomas' success and when Martha rejects his advances he hires a hitman to have them both killed. Even then Jacob always feels that women are mocking and rejecting him just like Martha did, so he murders women to cope with his madness.
  • Rescue Romance: The woman Bruce Wayne is courting becomes quite enamored of the Bat-Man after he rescues her from a mugging. After he saves her life a second time in the daylight, she gets a close enough look to realise they're the same person, and encourages him to continue acting as Gotham's savior.
  • Shout-Out: Freud and Holmes know each other well.
  • Thrown from the Zeppelin: A literal version with Mayor Tolliver, who is kidnapped from his home by LeRoi and given an aerial view of him turning his heat ray on the Gotham World Fair. LeRoi then pushes him out the door and he crashes into the midst of his fellow politicians who are demanding to know why the Mayor hasn't turned up to deal with the crisis.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • Figuring that Bruce Wayne will have been hung by the time the body has been found, Jack the Ripper decides to kill one last victim before fleeing Gotham. Guess who turns up for a Big Damn Heroes...
    • As his World Fair opens, Mayor Tolliver is telling his valet that nothing can go wrong on such a beautiful day when LeRoi does a Super Window Jump into his midst.
  • Tranquil Fury: Despite his calm demeanor, Batman is clearly angry when he meets Jack.
  • Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny: Batman, the world's greatest detective, vs Jack the Ripper, history's most infamous uncaught Serial Killer.
  • Underestimating Badassery:
    • Jack the Ripper has no idea that Bruce Wayne and the Bat-Man are the same person; he's framing Bruce purely out of spite towards the Wayne family. When the Bat-Man does a Dramatic Unmask, he's genuinely shocked.
    • LeRoi doesn't think much of the Bat-Man when they finally clash, and ends up paying the price with his defeat. He ignores Bruce's warning that his zeppelin is on the verge of blowing up and thinks the Bat-Man is just fleeing out of cowardice.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Alexandre LeRoi seeks to prevent the pollution-choked future he foresees, though he privately admits he enjoys dishing out death and destruction so it's likely this is just an excuse. Even Cobblepot who's secretly backing LeRoi for the sake of his slum clearance project is revealed to be running an Insurance Fraud scam, though he's shocked by the scale of death involved.