I love alternate universe comics. Just oh, so much. DC's Elseworlds lineup was incredible to behold, and it’s sorely missed. I've written about it again and again, but for now, here's a loadout of some badass Elseworlds books to read as soon as you have some time on your hands. If your favorite isn't on here, it was probably on a previous list. I've done a lot of these; give me some credit, God. So even though it's Marvel's gimmick, let's take some time and ask what if"¦
10. Superman: Kal
"¦Superman existed during the Middle Ages?
Here's one that I wish were better. In the story, Kal-El crashes to earth in medieval times (the era, not the restaurant, sadly). and is raised by poor serf farmers. He’s raised by serf farmers, and becomes a skilled blacksmith. When he falls for noble Lady Loisse, he runs afoul of the evil and dictatorial Baron Luthor. Luthor discovers Kal's rocket, and hires Kal to fashion a suit of armor from it.
Kal complies, but Luthor takes an interest in Loisse. When Kal proposes, Luthor snatches her away, with the intention of sleeping with her. Kal is unable to fight back because of Luthor's talisman, a green rock that fell from the sky the night Kal's rocket crashed. Luthor attempts to rape Loisse and murders her. Luthor and Kal then murder each other, and Kal's sword (also made from the rocket) is the only thing to survive.
The sword would later transform into Excalibur, which is fantastic, and the only real good thing about this story. The rest is kinda needlessly murder-rapey-dark. But it's got some super pretty Dave Gibbons art.
9. JLA: Another Nail
"¦Superman existed, but only after there was a long period of time without a Superman?
I talked about JLA: The Nail in a previous edition, but for those who've forgotten, here's a refresher: While out driving one day, Jonathan and Martha Kent run over a nail in the road and get a flat tire. As a result, they’re too late to find Kal-El's rocket, and Superman never comes to be. The Justice League still forms, but without a Superman to guide them, they falter and give in to some darker impulses. As someone is capturing or disposing of metahumans, all seems lost. Until Superman, raised in solitude by an Amish family, finally makes his presence known.
In the sequel, Another Nail, Superman learns to be a hero and to interact with the outside world. In the other main plotline, Batman deals with the tragedies that befell him in The Nail. He’s also hiding his struggle with the deaths of Robin and Batgirl, as well as with murdering The Joker. The overall book is good, and it feels like a logical continuation of the first installment.
Plus, Alan Davis’ art is friggin' beautiful.
8. L.E.G.I.O.N. 007
"¦Lobo were James Bond and other stories?
In 1994, DC Comics decided to devote all of its annuals for the month to Elseworlds stories. So every single comic published at that time got an Elseworlds. Robin became a ninja, Flash a filmmaker, most of the Green Lanterns were Nazis…Everything got turned topsy turvy, and it was awesome. And every time I pull one of those annuals out of a quarter box, it's a happy day for me.
But of course, if everyone were in on the same thing, it had to be someone's job to take the piss out of it. For DC One Million, it was Hitman; for DC's Elseworlds event, it was L.E.G.I.O.N. L.E.G.I.O.N. was a Legion of Superheroes spinoff that I know little about. I know Brainiac 2 was in it. And Lobo. Typically, Lobo being in a thing would make me not like it, but this thing I did like. Because it's just a huge parody of the event.
It gave us a James Bond parody, but also L.E.G.I.O.N. By Gaslight and L.E.G.I.O.N. 90210, so it gets a spot on the list.
7. Robin 3000
"¦Robin existed in the future?
Future stuff! Future stuff is always super fun, and even more so when it involves Batman. Seriously, if Batman: Year 100 were an Elseworlds, it would be smack-dab at the top of this list. That book is so friggin' good, it causes me pain. But we aren't talking about that, because we’re talking about Robin 3000.
Robin 3000 opens with the Batman and Robin of the year 3000. And then Batman dies. So the newly isolated Robin must fight off an alien invasion by the Skulp. The fight lasts for two prestige format issues, and really doesn't appear again, aside from one issue of Superman/ Batman. But Thomas Wayne lives on as leader of the rebellion against the Skulp. Sometimes alongside the year 3000 versions of Superman, Batman, and Superwoman.
A solid two-issue miniseries and a good Elseworlds that you should check out if you're looking for sci-fi that also has Robin in it.
6. JLA: Act of God
"¦all of the super heroes lost their powers?
This one has a good central idea, but blows it by making the entire story about how super cool Batman is and how lame all of the other DC Heroes are. In the story, a big crazy cosmic storm hits Earth on May 23, 2000, with disastrous effects. The event, called the Black Light, robs all of Earth's superheroes of their powers.
This leaves tech-based heroes with a unique advantage, and most supervillains are still able to do their jobs. So now the heroes are vastly outnumbered. Which is bad.
Lois Lane leaves Clark Kent because"¦uh"¦um"¦I don't know, because this story is badly written. Anyway, he then forms a relationship with Wonder Woman. You know, when they did that in Kingdom Come, it made sense because the story showed how the two slowly grew to the point where they could logically have feelings for each other. This one just makes it happen all of a sudden. In the end, several heroes learn how to be Batman because Batman is sooo cool, and they name themselves the Phoenix Group. End of story.
5. Supergirl: Wings
"¦Supergirl were an angel?
So for a time in the late ’80s and early ’90s, there was a brand new Supergirl with a confusing-ass origin. She was a shapeshifting artificial life form named Matrix from an alternate universe, and she came to the DC Universe and took on the identity of Supergirl. In this Elseworlds, Supergirl is an angel, and she wants to help a human named Linda Danvers. Linda continuously resists Matrix's desire to help, which drives her nuts.
She is spurred on by Zauriel, who is trying to get her to keep going, and The Spectre, who wants her to give up for good. Matrix manages to protect Linda when the Spectre tries to pull his whole "unholy vengeance machine" thing.
We also get cameos from angelic versions of Aquaman, Superman, and the Phantom Stranger. Eventually, Matrix and Linda fuse into one being, an angelic version of Supergirl.
4. Batgirl & Robin: Thrillkiller
"¦Robin and Batgirl fought crime in the ’60s?
It's a Batman comic that ain't about Batman! How do ya like them apples? No, in this one, Bruce Wayne is but a beat cop on the streets of ’60s Gotham. And since he isn't going to fight crime, and there is crime to be fought, Batgirl and Robin have to take up the cause!
Howard Chaykin and Dan Brereton produce a fantastic must-read of a comic book that is well worth the price, if you can track it down. It also has a sequel, but I'll leave that for another day and another list.
I just admire the decision to do a Batgirl and Robin team book in which Batman isn't really a factor. Also, the Joker is a lady named Blanca Steeplechase, and that's just sooooo good. That's such a villain name, I'm scared to say it out loud, for fear I accidentally conjure her to life and start a series of events that ends in somebody trying to capture a number of puppies greater than one hundred.
3. Batman: Citizen Wayne
"¦Batman were an angry avenger in the ’30s?
Heh, I get it. Like Citizen Kane. But Batman comics have actually produced TWO Elseworlds stories titled Citizen Wayne. I’ve already talked about one, so here's the other’s time to shine. In this story, we arrive after the death of 1930s millionaire Bruce Wayne. We’re treated to a recap of his life and his relationship to the mysterious Batman, a murderous vigilante striking out at Gotham.
Although, as we find out toward the story's end (HUGE SPOILERS: I'm literally going to give away the only reason to read this, so maybe exercise some caution before reading ahead…No, seriously, just click on the next entry…Okay, here goes…), Bruce Wayne ISN'T the Batman. It's actually acid-scarred DA Harvey Dent, driven mad after his injury. Bruce eventually has to take up his own identity to stop his insane friend from his murderous spree.
And he does. But they both die. Aw, darn. Also, Rosebud.
"¦The Flash saved JFK?
NO, THE OTHER FLASHPOINT.
Not the mediocre DC event that kicked off the New 52, but the Elseworlds that predates that by around 11 years. In this universe, set in the ’50s and ’60s, The Flash is the first and only super hero until he’s paralyzed saving US President John F. Kennedy. Although he uses his mind to help innovate the world, he’s unable to run.
But when Immortality, Inc. founder Vandal Savage starts to make plans for evil deeds, Flash has to try and save the world again. More fun cameos in this one, including astronauts James Jesse and Wally West. It’s fun, short, and interestingly thought out. So, what I’m saying is, it’s better than the second Flashpoint in every single way.
1. Justice Riders
…the Justice League were cowboys?
This book is perfection. It's rad as hell, and easily the best thing on this list. The premise? It's a Magnificent Seven-style western about the Justice League. In 1873, Professor Felix Faust and Maxwell Lord are tearing a path of destruction through the old west, and US Marshall Diana Prince is gonna stop it.
She enlists the help of outlaw gunfighter Wally West, the Kid Flash; Native American warrior Katar Johnson, the Hawkman; and swindler/mad scientist duo Michael Carter and Ted Kord. The team, along with the mysterious John Jones and vicious Pinkerton Guy Gardner, set off to save the west from Faust and Lord's machinations.
The book is quite short, but still manages to cram an impressive amount of story and character into its few pages. Seriously, none of it feels rushed or overburdened. It's really skillful and good. And it's the only book on this list I would unequivocally recommend. To anyone. And everyone. I'm just upset we never got a sequel.
And there's ten more alternate reality stories from DC's Elseworlds line!!! There's still plenty more left for me to get to, so you'll definitely see another one of these things before too long!