Alternate dimensions and split timelines are commonplace in comics, but we didn't always have a succinct name for them. When writer Brian Augustyn and artist/Hellboy creator Mike Mignola came up with Gotham By Gaslight back in 1989, the term "Elseworlds" didn't exist. It was the success of this graphic novella that inspired the creation of the label and the dozens of comics since. Much of its success can be attributed to its premise; it's brilliant in its simplicity, while also kind of sounding like an episode of The Big Bang Theory where Sheldon hotboxes the comic book store broom closet: "What if it's Batman, but like, 100 years ago?"
The murky cobblestone streets of the Victorian era fit perfectly with the Dark Knight vibe. His look didn't even need to change much, minus a few visible seams in the cloth and a steampunkian edge to his gadgets. And one of the best parts about late 19th Century Batman is that the very nature of the time period ensures a bit more mystique. Without any form of timely mass media beyond newspapers, the ignorant old-timey populace has no choice than to consider Batman a vague but threatening myth, like Spring-heeled Jack.
Though Gotham By Gaslight teases us with ye olde versions of Batman's classic rogues -- Harvey Dent and the Joker both get insubstantial cameos -- the real villain of the story is Jack the Ripper. Having already completed his murder spree in England, the Ripper got away scot-free and managed to fire up a serial killer reboot in Gotham. A manhunt ensues, and one primary suspect emerges: Bruce Wayne. *Cue dramatic organ music*.
Aided by Inspector Gordon, our hero manages to escape his holding cell. His mission is now to catch the Ripper in the act in order to clear Wayne's name. That happens pretty much instantly, because Batman in the 19th century is still Batman.
The swashbuckling action really kicks in during the last act of the book, giving us a look at how Batman might operate in a world without Batplanes, Batboats or Bat-USB drives. After spending a couple rad pages running down his foe, Batman confronts the Ripper, learns his identity and presumably saves the local haunted amusement park from being condemned. The big reveal, however, comes with the Ripper's motive.
As it turns out, it was the Ripper's unrequited love for Batman's mom that eventually drove him to uh, disembowel prostitutes with wild abandon. The sheer pettiness of the Ripper's origin story is in stark contrast to Bruce Wayne, who at least has a terrible childhood trauma to justify putting on an animal mask and beating people up at night.
Really, it seems as though the Ripper just wants to end it all, and Inspector Gordon is more than happy to indulge the request for suicide-by-cop.
The full graphic novel is definitely worth a read, and can often be found with its sequel, Master of the Future. For more 19th century fun, you could always check out Batman: Nevermore, which sees the Dark Knight team up with none other than Edgar Allan Poe. Ain't comics grand?
Batman doesn't exactly get along with the Green Lanterns. In his eyes, they've got way too much power for jerky space cops that no one asked for or even elected. It's the same way he saw Superman, until Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne became best bros. Thing is, for the most part nobody really chooses the Green Lantern ring of power -- the ring chooses them. After its host perishes, the ring is programmed to scan the area and find the person with the strongest will. And whether he likes it or not, that's usually gonna be Batman.
But not only does Batman not want that kind of unchecked power, he kind of can't handle it. When Hal Jordan let his fellow Justice Leaguer test-drive a ring, it didn't go so well.
See, even though Bruce has a strong will, it's always in contention with the seething rage he has for his enemies and the despair he has regarding his past. So while Bats got a brief taste in the standard comics continuity, an Elseworlds tale imagined what it was like if he wielded the ring full-time.
Just a few years after Gotham By Gaslight, Mike W. Barr and Jerry Bingham teamed up for Batman: In Darkest Night. The story starts during what otherwise would be the moment Bruce Wayne has his "I shall become a bat" epiphany -- but instead of a disease-ridden rodent crashing through the window, dying Green Lantern Abin Sur speaks to Wayne telepathically, calling on him to pick up the ring. And so Bruce Wayne trades in the iconic cowl and utility belt for limitless power and a dorky green leotard. Fair trade, more or less.
But whereas Batman was just a man, Green Lantern is capable of superhuman feats. Which means that Bruce's early run-in with the Red Hood Gang doesn't necessarily have to end with one of the goons falling in a vat of acid...
For those not up on Dark Knight lore, this is a pretty huge deal -- by foiling the Red Hood early on, Batman just prevented the creation of the Joker. Because Abin Sur crashed his ship in the right place and the right person inherited his ring, Gotham City will never know the scourge of one of the most diabolical supervillains of all time. This sounds like the ideal scenario, until it's not.
Granted, Batman's rogues are no match for a Lantern. Bane back on the scene? The Green Lantern could just use the ring to make a pair of magical green scissors to snip off his crucial Venom supply. Killer Croc giving you trouble? All it takes is for the Lantern to imagine a giant toilet and boom, back to the sewer with him. But that doesn't mean Bruce Wayne won't have enemies anymore -- he just traded them in for something way worse. One of Bat-Lantern's first missions is to put down Sinestro, a rogue Lantern who is abusing his station. And making enemies with Sinestro means bad news for your friends and loved ones.
Both Gordon and Alfred are straight-up murdered by Sinestro before the end of the story. That's the price Bat-Lantern has to pay for his power ring. Batman has always attracted all kinds of scum to Gotham, and now that same dangerous magnetism is happening on a cosmic scale. Despite handing out power rings to the rest of the Justice League, they don't even manage to "get" Sinestro in the end -- he's still out there, likely destined to be Bat-Lantern's archrival forever, capable of destruction and death on a much higher scale than the Joker. Even if Batman were capable of handling a ring these days, chances are he wouldn't want that burden.
Then again, maybe a Yellow Lantern ring would be more his speed.
As the Green Lanterns are driven by sheer force of will, the Yellow Lanterns are powered by the ability to instill fear in those around them. Batman is nothing if not a fear-monger. Dude's computer monitor probably has a permanent sticky note that says "strike terror into the hearts of my enemies." That's why the Yellow Ring has sought out Batman multiple times. It happens once in "regular canon," wherein he rejects the ring that finds him; more recently, Batman attempts and fails to wield the Yellow Ring to fight off an evil version of Green Lantern in the mega-event book Forever Evil.
It seems like Batman is probably better off being his regular ol' unstoppable, invincible self. Oh well.