In Elseworlds, heroes are taken from their usual settings and put into strange times and places – some that have existed, or might have existed, and others that can’t, couldn’t or shouldn’t exist. The result: stories that make characters who are as familiar as yesterday seem as fresh as tomorrow.
DC’s official description for their Elseworlds imprint.
What if Batman lived in the Victorian age? What if baby Kal-El’s rocket landed in the U.S.S.R.? What if Scheherazade (you know, the author of the 1001 Nights) was secretly a Green Lantern? These were some of the many stories published under DC’s Elseworlds banner.
What is “Elseworlds” you ask? It was a 1989-2003 imprint published by DC Comics that took their licensed characters and put them in stories that took place outside their canonical timeline. An alternate history for superheroes you might say. Oftentimes they were published as mini-series, one shots and annuals and they were published with a logo that looked like this so as not to confuse readers. Other comic companies like Marvel and Dynamite also got in on the act. The story possibilities were endless. I own a few titles: Superman: Red Son, Green Lantern: 1001 Emerald Nights and Superman: War of the Worlds. But there are other titles that I was coveting but couldn’t find any copies because most of them are out of print. Sure, I could buy some titles but they aren’t always cheap and some are incomplete – meaning you can only find issue #1 of JLA: Shogun of Steel and that’s about it.
From the kindness of their hearts, DC is reprinting these long lost stories as trade paperback anthologies. Elseworlds: Batman Vol. 1 was released in April of 2016. Batman Vol. 2 was released in October of 2016 and Elseworlds: Justice League Vol. 1 saw the light of day on July 19, 2016 (Elseworlds: Batman Vol. 3, Justice League Vol. 2 and Superman Vol. 1 & 2 will be released this year).
It was on one rainy day, I was perusing through my second favorite comic book shop that I happened upon a copy of Elseworlds: Justice League Vol. 1. It had the stories I had been dying to read for years and then some. I will recommend four stories from this anthology along with their authors and main artist.
Elseworld’s Finest Parts 1 & 2 (John Francis Moore & Kieron Dwyer)
1928 versions of Clark Kent, Jimmy Olsen, Bruce Wayne, Lana Lang, Ra’s al Ghul and Lex Luthor in a story that pays homage to pulp adventure stories, Jules Verne, archaeology and hidden cities. Oh yeah, and Jimmy reads Captain Marvel.
Justice Riders (Chuck Dixon & J.H. Williams III)
It’s 1873 and US Marshal Diana Prince is horrified to discover that Paradise, the town she has sworn to protect, has been blown to smithereens (literally) while she was away. She enlists the help of Kid Flash, a quick draw gunslinger and Katar Johnson, a Cheyenne warrior who flies with help of artificial hawk wings. As they are attacked by Maxwell Lord’s mechanical henchmen, they’re saved by Booster Gold and inventor Ted “Beetle” Kord. It turns out that Maxwell Lord and Felix Faust were behind the annihilation of Paradise all along and together, with the extra help of Pinkerton agent Guy Gardner and man hunter John Jones, the Justice Riders (a name coined by Kord) take down the robber baron and the sorcerer.
Wonder Woman: Amazonia (William Messner-Loebs & Phil Winslade)
Originally published in an oversized 8″ by 11″ format to show off the “engraved” (and occasional art nouveau) artwork.
Queen Victoria is dead! Long live King Jack Planters! Yep, the Victorian era has given way to the Plantagenet era and the misogyny and the imperialism of the era is taken up to 11 thanks to the toxic masculinity King Jack preaches. But in these dark times, one amazing woman stands out: Diana Trevor, the Wonder Woman, who by day performs feats of strength for audiences and by night, protects the lives of threatened women. It’s her courage and kindness that eventually brings down Jack’s cruel regime. This story is a must-read for all fans of steampunk and the Amazon princess.
Elseworld’s Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl (Barbara Kesel & Matt Haley)
Bruce Wayne isn’t Batman. Bruce Wayne mentors Barbara Gordon. Barbara Gordon is Batgirl. Batgirl rules Gotham City with an iron fist. Batgirl mistrusts metahumans. Lex Luthor shows up in Gotham with Supergirl. Supergirl loves Lex. Lex gets abducted by the Joker, who loves Batgirl. Supergirl wants to rescue Lex. Batgirl won’t let her. The two team up reluctantly. They discover Lex and the Joker are working together and Lex has been hiding a very dark secret…
Well that’s it. Agree? Disagree? Have you read Elseworlds: Justice League Vol. 1? What were your favorite stories? Have you read any other Elseworld titles/anthologies? Let me know in the comments. I can’t wait for vol. 2!