Fans of DC Comics will know that the Multiverse is a massive, multifaceted place. Followers of The Flash on The CW have also been learning this over the last couple of years. However, those who get their DC content exclusively from the cinema have yet to find out about the wonders of parallel dimensions.
It’s about time this changed. Thankfully enough, it sounds like Warner Bros is looking into it. The story broke recently, with Mark Millar claiming that Warners have been pitching Red Son – a "what if?" comic, which moves Clark Kent’s childhood to Russia – to directors, as a potential big screen project.
This could be a huge turning point for DC movies. They’ve had standalone franchises like The Dark Knight trilogy, and they’ve got into the "cinematic universe" game in recent years, with the likes of Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice. They’ve yet to explore an all-out Multiverse, however, teaming with alternate realities and altered versions of iconic heroes.
There’s been a long history of this in the comics, with the "Elseworlds" imprint being established to house far-out stories that aren’t connected to the main DC continuity. If this idea can be sold to mainstream moviegoers, it could be a huge money-spinner.
With that in mind, here are 15 ‘Elseworlds’ Movies That NEED To Happen...
15 Superman: Red Son
As the inspiration for this article, Mark Millar’s Red Son series first hit shop shelves in 2003, under the "Elseworlds" banner. Millar’s jumping off point for the series was a simple question: what if Superman had been raised in the Soviet Union?
It’s not that difficult to imagine. After all, landing in Smallville was the ultimate stroke of luck for Kal-El – and the USA. He easily could’ve ended up in a different country, which could’ve had drastic consequences for his adult life.
Instead of fighting for "truth, justice, and the American way," here Superman is the "champion of the common worker, who fights a never-ending battle for Stalin, socialism, and the international expansion of the Warsaw Pact."
Lex Luthor eventually creates a monstrous American clone of Supes, and the two Men Of Steel fight it out. Batman also ends up at loggerheads with Kal-El. It’s an imaginative alternative to main DC timeline, and a nice simple way to introduce the quirkiness of "Elseworlds" to the ticket-buying public.
14 Batman: Nine Lives
Nine Lives takes the Batman mythos and plonks it – very successfully – into a 1940s film noir inspired setting. It’s a pulpy reimagining of Gotham City, where Batman lurks in the shadows, and Dick Grayson – a private eye and ex-cop, nicknamed Boy Wonder – fights for justice on his own.
The graphic novel, penned by Dean Motter and drawn by Michael Lark, does a fine job of reimagining Batman’s rogues’ gallery as ordinary civilians gone bad, rather than as supernatural or technological terrors. The Joker is reimagined as an underground gambler, Mister Freeze is a sociopathic gunman, Clayface is a disfigured mobster, and so forth.
The story revolves around the murder of Selina Kyle, and the investigation that follows. As a film, it could be a low budget alternative to the Batman bombast of recent years, and a cool calling card for "Elseworlds" at the movies.
13 Justice Riders
Logan proved that film fans are open to the idea of superhero westerns, and DC has a perfect story waiting in the wings to fit to this new niche. Justice Riders, written by Chuck Dixon with illustrations by J.H. Williams III, was a one-shot comic released in 1997, and yes, it’s a DC/western hybrid.
The story imagines a Wild West world inhabited by the iconic DC super team, the Justice League Of America. Diana Prince – better known to fans as Wonder Woman – sees her hometown of Paradise destroyed by Professor Felix Faust.
She teams up with fast-drawing gunslinger Wally West, an Indian warrior nicknamed Hawkman, and a well-armed mercenary called Booster Gold to bring down the evil professor.
It’s a world (mostly) without superpowers, which feels very refreshing. As does the low-key level of the stakes: small towns are being wiped out to make way for a railroad. This could make for a great movie – a true alternative to the traditional DC cinematic shtick.
12 The Golden Age / The Liberty File / Age Of Wonder / The New Frontier
Legends Of Tomorrow teased DC fans last season, with the inclusion of The Justice Society Of America, an old timey superhero team that predates the Justice League. However, the show stopped short of giving fans an all-out exploration of this idea. Perhaps an "Elseworlds" film could offer this instead.
There are plenty of options to choose from, if Warner Bros and DC do want to press ahead with a period-set team-up movie. James Robinson and Paul Smith’s 1993 mini series The Golden Age shows classic heroes adapting to life after World War II, and it’s a really fun read. (Matthew Vaughn has already been linked to a film adaptation.)
There’s also The Liberty Files, which saw the Justice Society Of America conducting covert government missions during World War II. Or The New Frontier, which had Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter living in the 1950s.
Any of these stories could make for interesting films – or you could even mesh them together, picking and choosing the best bits from each. Either way, the idea of heroes coming to grips with war and its fallout is ripe with cinematic potential.
11 Green Lantern: Ring Of Evil
Speaking of World War II what ifs, here’s a scary one: what if the Nazis got their hands on some Yellow Power Rings? With that kind of fear-harnessing weaponry, they would’ve been nigh on impossible to stop. This is the concept at the heart of DC's Ring Of Evil, which imagines a world where the Nazis won the Second World War.
This alternate history, brought to life by writer David DeVries and artist Dean Zachary, posits that iconic Green Lanterns Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner would end up teaming with the Nazis, while Oliver Queen – better known as the Green Arrow – would lead a ground level resistance movement.
The comic was fairly short, but there’s lots of potential there, with Oliver as a sort of Robin Hood figure, and the Green Lanterns as spreaders of fear and terror.
The normal Green Arrow and Green Lantern stories would need to be established in a proper DC Extended Universe movie first, though, or this might not make much sense to the casual viewers.
10 Kingdom Come
Kingdom Come is one of the greatest "Elseworlds" stories. It imagines a future where traditional heroes have become out of touch, and irresponsible vigilantes have risen up as an alternative.
Mark Waid and Alex Ross’ comic is only four issues long, but it achieves so much in this limited page count. The story kicks off with Superman and the Justice League giving up on heroism, as the public embraces the bloody, brutal justice of a newcomer called Magog, who kills villains without a second thought.
Ten years later, things go very bad. Magog’s methods are sloppy, resulting in the American Midwest being irradiated after a battle goes wrong, and millions die. Superman returns, wanting to end this new age of heroism. Batman warns him that strategy is key; correcting course can’t be achieved with a big superhero battle.
Superman starts locking unsafe Metahumans up, and Batman brings a team called the Outsiders together. Tempers flare and fights occur. Meanwhile, Lex Luthor unites his own team and enacts an evil plan.
Truly, this has the scope and the ideas to be a classic comic book movie -- perhaps even DC’s answer to Captain America: Civil War.
9 9 . Wonder Woman: Amazonia
Written by William Messner-Loebs and illustrated by Phil Winslade, Wonder Woman: Amazonia is a brilliant one-shot with a steampunk twist. The story follows Wonder Woman between 1888 and 1928, in a strange alternate history where Jack The Ripper, inexplicably, becomes the king of England. He rules the British Empire militaristically, and suspends women’s rights.
Paradise Island is attacked by Royal Marines, and Diana is forced to marry a villainous Steve Trevor. She ends up acting on a London stage, before running away, adopting her heroic persona, and leading a resistance against King Jack.
This is a very fun spin on the Wonder Woman story, and it could make for a thoroughly entertaining movie. However, given that film fans have only just learned to love the original version of Diana Prince, it’ll probably be a while before she gets an "Elseworlds" film. It’s okay to dream, though.
8 Batman Beyond
Another thing that Logan proved is that audiences are game to see older versions of their superhero icons – heroes whose best days are behind them-- who’re just trying to get by day to day-- can be very engaging. If DC wanted to head down that lucrative route, there are a few ways they could go about it.
Although it isn’t technically an "Elseworlds" title, Batman Beyond is a perfect example of how to age up the Dark Knight’s gothic mythos. This story – which began life as an animated TV show, before branching out into comics, games, and feature length animation – sees Bruce Wayne on his last legs. He’s greying, weakened, and reclusive.
Gotham City has gotten worse, with gangs like the Jokerz helping to turn it into a cyberpunk dystopia. To keep the Bat-mantle alive, Bruce trains up Terry McGinnis – a youngster who’s had a few run-ins with the law – as his replacement.
The Blade Runner-esque visuals, the future setting, and the new man in the Bat-suit, could make Batman Beyond a thrillingly unique movie, if DC has the guts to take a trip to the future like Fox did with Logan.
7 Green Lantern: Evil’s Might
Again, DC needs to make Green Lantern a beloved character for film fans before branching out into parallel universe "Elseworlds" versions. However, once that groundwork has been done, Evil’s Might is another prime example of an alternate iteration of this mythos that works really well.
Howard Chaykin and David Tischman wrote the three-issue series, which was released in 2002, and was illustrated by Marshall Rogers. The story takes place in 1888, and tells the origin tale of the Kyle Rayner version of Green Lantern. He’s a political cartoonist, who uses his Power Ring to help immigrants in New York.
The scaled-back scope of this one works very nicely, as Rayner uses the ring to battle the real-life political baddie Boss Tweed. The corruption in Tammany Hall provides an engaging backdrop, and Rayner’s low-level period piece heroics could make this feel completely different to any other Green Lantern films.
6 Batman & Dracula / Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham
In the comics, superheroes have long been allowed to mingle with horror icons. In the films, though, these worlds have been kept separate. However, if DC and Warners can sell the idea of "Elseworlds" movies, they could have their cake and eat it too – allowing heroes to crossover with horror characters without overloading the weirdness in the mainline DCEU continuity.
Batman, naturally, blends best with the dark and gothic forces of evil. Doug Moench and Kelley Jones’ Batman & Dracula trilogy is a work of beauty, absolutely prime for the big screen treatment. It started with Red Rain in 1991, which saw Batman becoming a vampire and facing off with Dracula. There’s surely movie potential in this.
It’s also worth mentioning The Doom That Came To Gotham, a 1920s-set run by Mike Mignola, Richard Pace, Troy Nizey, and Dennis Janke. Therein, the Caped Crusader is surrounded by HP Lovecraft-inspired friends and foes. Plentiful fans would like to see this story on screen, as well.
5 Elseworld’s Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl
Another great story, here. Elseworld’s Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl – by Tom Simmons, Matt Haley and Barbara Kesel – imagines a world where Bruce Wayne never became Batman and Kal-El died as an infant. In their stead, Kara Zor-El and Barbara Gordon rose up to be the heroes that Metropolis and Gotham deserve.
It’s a wonderful what if, which unravels what might’ve become of the DC universe without its two most famous heroes. Gordon – motivated by her father’s death – rules Gotham, and refuses to let Metahumans enter the city. She clashes with Supergirl at first, but eventually – thanks to a shared vendetta against Lex Luthor – they form an alliance.
Now that DC knows female heroes can make bank, thanks to Wonder Woman, it would be cool to see some women-fronted team-ups like this, whether under the "Elseworlds" brand or not. If Superman can die in the main continuity, and heroes can battle each other, surely anything is possible.
Like the aforementioned Batman Beyond, this isn’t technically an "Elseworlds" comic. However, the Injustice video games and their tie-in comics do focus on a parallel universe, separate to the main DC continuity, so it seems fair game to include the series in a list like this.
If you’re unfamiliar, here's the basic set up: the Joker tricks Superman into killing Lois Lane and destroying Metropolis with a nuke, and Superman responds by becoming a tyrant. He kills the Joker and establishes a new world order, ruling the Earth with an iron fist, while Batman leads the resistance, of course.
Arguably, the DCEU has the potential to go this dark, and to play out an Injustice-style dystopia in the main series of DC movies. However, if Warners are wary of making the main big screen Superman an outright villain, they could shuffle the idea into a scary "Elseworlds"-style flick instead. If they’re willing to do Red Son, this doesn’t feel like too much of a stretch.
Again, this isn't technically an "Elseworlds" story, but the Flashpoint universe is so bizarre that it might as well be. It definitely qualifies for inclusion on a list about alt-reality DC comics that deserve the movie treatment.
In the comics, it all started when Barry Allen (aka the Flash) went back in time to stop his arch-nemesis (the Reverse-Flash) from killing his mother. This was a key point in Barry’s origin story, and altering it sent huge ramifications across the universe.
Barry no longer had powers. Bruce Wayne died instead of his parents, resulting in Thomas Wayne becoming Batman and Martha Wayne the Joker. Superman is nowhere to be seen. Wonder Woman’s Amazonians have conquered Britain, and Aquaman’s Atlanteans have sunk much of Europe. Essentially, everything has gone to hell and it’s all Barry’s fault.
This story was adapted – albeit on a smaller scale – in season 3 of The Flash. However, it would be incredibly cool if the DC movies could tackle it properly some day, either as a DCEU crossover movie or a separate entity under the "Elseworlds" umbrella.
2 Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow?
Before DC came up with the brand name "Elseworlds," they used to call their what if stories "Imaginary Tales." One such arc was a conclusion to the Superman narrative, entitled Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow?
Alan Moore wrote this one, with help from Julius Schwartz, intending it as a frame story that could be read as a definitive ending for Superman. It’s set ten years after Superman was last seen, with Lois recounting the final sighting of the Man Of Steel.
A flashback story that ensues from there, in which Supes’ rogues’ gallery learn his secret identity and enact a final, brutal assault on him. It's often cited as one of the best Supes stories.
If DC ever wants to end Henry Cavill’s Kal-El arc – like Fox did with Hugh Jackman's Wolverine in Logan - they could take a lot of inspiration from these comics. Or, they could just make it as an "Elseworlds" movie for the fun of it.
1 Gotham By Gaslight
The news broke recently that DC is working on a Gotham By Gaslight animated movie. However, to be honest, this incredible story – the first to bear the "Elseworlds" brand – deserves more than this. If Warners manage to get their Red Son film made, selling movie fans on the idea of alternate versions of DC heroes, Gotham By Gaslight would be the best story to tackle next.
This one-shot comic repositioned Bruce Wayne in 1889. He visits Dr Freud in Vienna and talks about the death of his parents, before returning to Gotham. There, Alfred fills him in on the criminal gangs currently causing mayhem in the city. There’s also a mention of the Joker. Bruce begins fighting crime as Batman, in a fresh steampunk-y way.
However, then a new horror comes to town: Jack The Ripper, who begins murdering women in Gotham. A twisty narrative spins out from there, and at one point Bruce is the prime suspect. Rather than spoil it all, let's just say this book is a great read, and is well worth checking out.
Undoubtedly, the idea of a period piece Batman film, where The World’s Greatest Detective faces off against history’s most famous serial killer, would capture the imaginations of moviegoers around the globe. Please make it so, DC.
Can you think of any other "Elseworld" stories that you'd love to see come to life on the big screen? Let us hear about it in the comments!