This article contains spoilers for Gotham by Gaslight: The Kryptonian Age.

You know the scene. Jon and Martha Kent are making their way home when a bright light illuminates the night sky and a meteor crashes to the ground. The couple investigate the impact and find not space rock, but a young child.

Superhero fans know this moment well. It’s the turning point where infant Kal-El arrives on Earth from Krypton and begins his journey toward becoming Superman. In Gotham by Gaslight‘s telling, however, the Kents exit not a beat-up truck, but a covered wagon. And they travel not through Kansas but the Kansas Territory—under the watchful eye of Chief Black Condor, leader of the Indigenous sovereigns of the land.

For years, DC ComicsElseworlds line allowed creators to reimagine Superman and Batman in different contexts, leading to classics such as Batman and Dracula: Red Rain and Superman: Red Son. The line ended back in 2010, but DC is bringing it back by returning to the story that started it all. Written by Brian Augustyn, penciled by Mike Mignola, and inked by P. Craig Russell, 1989’s Gotham by Gaslight followed a Victorian Batman as he hunted for Jack the Ripper in 1880s Gotham.

DC has returned to this appropriately steampunked aesthetic again since then, most notably in the Augustyn-penned follow-up Batman: Master of the Future (1991). However, the interest in a 19th century DC universe has to date remained relatively limited.

“The obvious thing to do would be to expand the world of Gotham by Gaslight,” writer Andy Diggle tells us while explaining the origins of the forthcoming Kryptonian Age. “All we ever saw of it was Batman and Gotham. Where are the other heroes? Where are the other villains?” Those questions overrode Diggle’s good sense and got him to take on the project—even though, initially, he didn’t want to do it.

DC editorial approached Diggle about relaunching Elseworlds while he was working in the writer’s room of The Expanse, a technical and stressful process. Instead of agreeing right out, he simply offered one idea to editor Ben Abernathy: “You know, if I was in your position and trying to get Elseworlds up and running again, the obvious thing to do thing to do would be to expand the world of Gotham by Gaslight because that kind of like led the way to Elseworlds.”

“I just started riffing on all of the ideas you could do within that world,” he admits. “Here’s what you could do with the Flash, here’s what you could do with Wonder Woman.” Before he knew it, Diggle was inspired and had to join the project.

Selina Kyle’s Guide to Gotham by Gaslight

As a 12-issue series, Gotham by Gaslight: The Kryptonian Age gets to take its time fleshing out its world. In fact, the first issue stays on familiar ground, taking place largely in Gotham City. But it’s not Bruce Wayne who guides the reader through the story. Rather the Catwoman extraordinaire Selina Kyle is the protagonist of The Kryptonian Age #1. More specifically, Lady Selina Kyle takes the lead, as Diggle intentionally shifts her economic status.

“I like the idea of having Selina Kyle being rich this time around,” says the writer. “She’s still thoroughly disreputable, but she’s got money, so people have to kind of play along.”

To that end, Diggle gave her “a slightly more refined manner of speaking, which then contrasts very strongly with Holly, who is like very working class. I haven’t put this in the actual comic yet, but in my mind, Selina’s British, or at least half British. She comes in with that very genteel way of speaking.” That non-American approach makes for a natural part of the Gotham by Gaslight world, says Diggle. “There’s a huge wave of immigration into America in the 1800s and that’s part of the fabric of the backstory.”

The other key part of the Gotham by Gaslight world is the design 19th century Gotham and other key DC Universe locals. Mignola an Russell’s moody art made the original book a classic, and Argentine artist Leandro Fernández is a natural to carry on their work.

“I always was very influenced by Mike Mignola’s artwork,” Fernández says. “My style is based in a big use of black and white, mostly because when I started to develop my first comic books, I used to think about them printed in black and white.” So while he didn’t intentionally build off of Mignola’s work on the first Gotham by Gaslight, Fernández naturally feels like a continuation of that perspective. Instead of worrying about mimicking Mignolia, Fernández expended more energy giving Gotham a distinctive 19th century look. As demonstrated by his art on The Old Guard and American Carnage, Fernández excels at creating interesting locales from world history.

“Our goal was to try to make an exaggeration of it, of how a city like Gotham looks in that special moment in time, with the Industrial Revolution at its peak. We wanted to make it really oppressive and something really vertical and dangerous, sad and dark,” Fernández reveals, focusing on “the outskirts of the factories, the corridors, and that will be places you wouldn’t like to walk by.”

Justice by Gaslight

As its title suggests, The Kryptonian Age won’t spend all of its time with Batman, Catwoman, and the other denizens of Gotham City. Superman only gets hinted at with the Ma and Pa Kent scene that opens issue #1, but Diggle and Fernández want to prepare readers for the thematic contrasts between the two characters.

“There will be a lot of contrast in this book, because this is not only about Gotham,” teases Fernández. “It will be about the world in that moment in time. So we want to show that in the landscape.”

Adds Diggle, “We were deliberately trying to work in very stark contrasts, with that kind of darkness and verticality of Gotham, as opposed to the brightness and horizontal wide landscapes of Kansas, and so on.”

That said, both creators make clear that, despite the book’s title, they are taking their time getting to the Man of Steel.

“It’s a big story with a lot of characters,” Diggle observes. “And we agreed early on that we just didn’t want to throw everybody together into a team right there in issue one.” In fact, Fernández was speaking with us straight from his studio where he was currently taking a break from penciling Gotham By Gaslight: The Kryptonian Age #4. For the record, you can expect that same issue to feature the first appearance of Superman.

While it will be a while before we get to see the Gotham by Gaslight‘s Last Son of Krypton, Diggle and Fernández will fill out the world with other new variations on familiar faces. The first issue features not only Batman, Catwoman, and Black Condor, but also Talia al Ghul and a Green Lantern power ring. Diggle also plans to include Adam Strange and the con man/magician John Constantine.

“Constantine is my favorite character in comics,” confesses Diggle, who wrote the chain-smoking mage in a fan-favorite run of Hellblazer. “I’m going to be using Constantine in there in a similar way to how Alan Moore and Stephen Bissette used him back in his first appearances back in Swamp Thing in the ’80s. He’s the guy who brings other people together.”

According to Diggle, Constantine plays an important role in solidifying the disparate world of The Kryptonian Age. “We’ve got lots of different stories all running in parallel. It’s not immediately apparent how they’re going to tie together. And Constantine’s the guy who’s figuring out how it all joins together.”

The Wild Worlds of Elseworlds

As important as Constantine and Superman are to the story that Diggle and Fernández want to tell, it all starts with Batman. Batman lends himself to Elseworlds stories because he is, “at heart a very simple character, but a very powerful, iconic kind of character,” argues Diggle.

For Fernández, that iconic power makes Batman a great jumping off point for exploring more of a wider world. Based on the original idea by Augustyn, Mignola, and Russell, Fernández follows Batman to other places. “How would a character who’s natural context is Gotham City be if we take him somewhere else in that moment in time?” asks Fernández. “It’s not only about Gotham, it’s about the world too, and the other characters too.”

So what about Superman, whose arrival begins the first issue of the series?

“You’re going to meet Clark Kent before you meet Superman,” teases Diggle. “It’s not quite the same as the traditional comics, but that’s the whole point. You know, it’s an Elseworld.”

Gotham by Gaslight: The Kryptonian Age #1 releases on June 11, 2024.

The post The Kryptonian Age Is About to Open Gotham by Gaslight Up to the Whole DC Universe appeared first on Den of Geek.

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