The alternate realities of DC’s Elseworlds have helped flesh out the DC multiverse by introducing worlds where the familiar heroes of the DC Universe banded together across unique settings and time periods. While the presence of a masked vigilante named Batman seems to be a constant throughout the multiverse, the location and time of his birth mean the hero gets involved in other major conflicts — including some very important real-world conflicts.
Now, we’re taking a closer look at what happened when Batman donned his cape and cowl during real historical conflicts in alternate realities.
In the world introduced by Mike W. Barr and José García-López in Batman: Reign of Terror, Bruce Wayne was born to a wealthy family in France in the 18th century. After spending time fighting in the War of the First Coalition during the French Revolution, Bruce returned disillusioned with his country. While his father’s Committee of Public Safety leads very public executions for certain members of the aristocracy, Bruce’s wife Janifer St. Cyr ‘s parents are put on the chopping block. Bruce attempts to sway the Committee to save them but is shouted down by figures like Herve Deinte.
Desperate, Bruce takes up the mantle of Batman to rescue them. Using a mix of his skills and rudimentary gadgets, Batman is able to whisk the St. Cyr’s away to safety in England. Batman continues this work, saving numerous lives during the Reign of Terror while maintaining the visage of a pompous fop — much to the disgust of his wife and family. However, his sister Rochelle discovers the truth about him though, just before Dente lays a trap that results in his capture. Bruce’s father condemns his entire family to be executed for Bruce’s actions, but Rochelle evades capture and Alfred helps turn her into the Robin of this reality.
Rochelle is able to help her brother avoid his execution and spirits him after Dente, who has taken their mother and Janifer captive. The pair confront Dente and the villain dies while dueling with Bruce. But Bruce’s father manages to capture Rochelle and hold her at gunpoint in their blimp. However, he unknowingly fires his gun, which sets off a chain reaction that sends the group over the side and causes the demise of Bruce’s father. The story ends with Bruce, Rochelle, their mother, Alfred, and Janifer heading to England as Janifer revealing that she’s pregnant.
In Batman: Dark Allegiances by Howard Chaykin, Bruce Wayne was the son of two doctors from Gotham during the 1920s. While running a clinic, they saved the life of an anarchist and caught the attention of the brutal Red Squad, which led to their deaths. Orphaned, Bruce worked hard to eventually became one of the most successful men in Gotham. Along the way, he developed a secret identity as the Batman, fighting crime and stopping the white-supremacist White Legion from targeting minorities across the city. Bruce ends up attracting the attention of an actress named Kitty Grimalkin, and reluctantly starts working with animation mogul Mr. Biggsley — the Walt Disney-esque Penguin of this world — and Senator Pewtie — a stroke victim who serves as the Two-Face of this world — on an amusement park in Gotham.
Miggsley and Pewtie are secretly both members of the White Legion and are under the assumption that there’s an entire Batman League that bedevils them. Working with their Joker-esque associate Reverend Jones, they make plans to bring down the Batman, even at the cost of many of the White Legion’s forces. Batman soon finds himself confronting the police, breaking up an attempt by officers to attack and arrest a group of strikers. Batman is also forced to contend with a mysterious cat-themed thief, who he discovers to be Kitty. She explains to Bruce that she’s being blackmailed to steal incriminating information.
Batman eventually finds out that the White Legion intends to work directly with the Nazis, which even leads Bruce to briefly meet Adolf Hitler when he comes to visit America. Batman and Catwoman discover their plan to assassinate FDR and Hitler to create a power vacuum that Pewtie can use to gain power. Reverend Jones disguises himself as Batman to frame the hero for the murders. Jones gets himself killed in their battle, and Pewtie is revealed as the mastermind, which Hitler to shoot him in the head. By 1940, World War II has still started, and FDR — impressed by their previous work — decides to recruit Batman, Catwoman and Alfred for special operations for the US military.
Batman: The Blue, The Gray, and the Bat by Elliot S. Maggin, Alan Weiss and José García-López introduced a world where Batman became a hero during the American Civil War. Discovering a massive deposit of gold and silver in the Nevada Territory, President Abraham Lincoln is visited by Batman — who is really Union Army Lieutenant-Colonel Bruce Wayne — and gives him the mission of procuring precious metals for the United States from the Nevada Territory. Bruce is assigned an assistant, Alfred Pennyworth, and told of multiple allies he’ll meet in the territory.
Upon arriving in Nevada, Bruce ends up working with Agent H — the real-world Old West folk hero Wild Bill Hickok — and his associate Agent R, a young Native American man named Red-Bird. Batman quickly proves himself by riding into battle and fighting off an entire group of Confederates who are attempting to rob a stagecoach. But Bruce’s attempts to rally a new platoon of soldiers just causes chaos in the town. Instead, Wild Bill introduces him to a band of freed slaves known as the Dark Knights who will fight beside him.
While Batman quickly makes a name for himself fighting Confederate criminals, Bruce and Bill both find themselves drawn to the local young woman, Peggy Barensaver. With all his allies, Batman is able to beat back the Confederate offensive, and Agent R even realizes that a Confederate leader, Bloody Bob Armstrong, was responsible for the death of his family and murders him in revenge. After the battle is over, Batman and Agent-R discover that Peggy is actually a part of a conspiracy to steal the precious metals and take them to Mexico. Batman catches up with them and, just as the heroes are about to be overwhelmed, a platoon from the Union Army arrives to save the day, which leads to the arrest of Peggy and her compatriots.
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Across the DC Multiverse, Batman put on Batman's costume for the first time in some of history's most important real-world events.