DC Elseworlds, Explained: The Batman, Joker, and More Beyond the Boundaries

More What Ifs.
Published On September 28, 2023
One of the more popular one-shots under DC’s Elseworlds banner, “Gotham by Gaslight” pits Bruce Wayne against Jack the Ripper in 19th-century Gotham City. Photo: Gotham by Gaslight via DC Comics

James Gunn and Peter Safran have a clear blueprint for DC to bring it out of its current rut — yet another universe-wide reboot that hinges on interconnectivity. And about those other DC movies under development, they move under the “Elseworlds” banner — hosting everything that doesn’t fit into DCU’s continuity.

Even months since the co-CEOs outlined their plans for the future of DC Studios, the Elseworlds banner has remained largely empty. Two currently confirmed projects under this “What If” scenario include:

  • Matt Reeves’ “The Batman: Part II”
  • Todd Phillips’ “Joker: Folie à Deux”

Gunn has emphasized that Elseworlds wants to tell one-off stories that stand a touch above.

“The bar for an Elseworlds tale is going to be higher than the bar for a movie within the DCU. Not that we’re not always going to have a high bar, but it’s got to be something really special for us to tell that story outside of our regular continuity and to spend the money to make it,” he said.

Of course, there are several comic books in contention for receiving adaptation, some of which receive animated Elseworlds tales, Gunn confirmed. The studio has also teased a Black Superman film by Ta-Nehisi Coates, unrelated to the Gunn-directed “Superman: Legacy”.

The Elseworlds imprint began appearing in DC comics in 1989 with the one-shot “Batman: Gotham by Gaslight.” It served as a counterpart to Marvel’s “What If…?” — something that has already received an animated anthology series featuring gender flips, a universal collapse, and zombies.

The streaming business has led to thriving television series and spinoffs, with multiple additions to Matt Reeves’ “The Batman” universe already being planned: including Colin Farrell’s “Penguin” spinoff and an “Arkham Asylum” series for HBO Max.

Even if these stories don’t add to the larger narrative, not having to worry about continuity can surely make it worth a viewer’s attention — especially when you don’t have to recall 15 previous appearances of a character. Sequels will largely depend on the performance of the previous outing, and the culling of projects would not be as big a deal.