Steampunk Batman: The Video Game That Disappeared

A video of an abandoned Batman game has surfaced on the internet. Based on the Gotham By Gaslight graphic novel from DC Comics, this Victorian era take on the Batman was written by Bryan Augustyn and drawn by Mike Mignola; the creator of Hellboy. This sprang from a series of What If type comic books called Elseworlds.

The Elseworld tag:

“In Elseworlds, heroes are taken from their usual settings and put into strange times and places — some that have existed, and others that can’t, couldn’t or shouldn’t exist. The result is stories that make characters who are as familiar as yesterday seem as fresh as tomorrow.”

In this Elseworld comic, Gotham By Gaslight, the book begins with Wayne retelling a dream to Dr. Sigmund Freud; where Wayne watches as his parents are shot down by a bandit, then gets saved from the bandit by annoyed bats hidden in trees. Freud’s all into this because he’s got a symbolism obsession; not a far stretch for the greatest charlatan and father of modern Psychology. Wayne insists that it’s just a dream flashback, while Freud gets his oral fixation on with his cigar; sometimes a cigar really is just that.

The backdrop for this story is in Victorian-era setting, where Bruce Wayne returning to Gotham City after training all around the world. Freud even mentions that Wayne trained under a London Detective; perhaps the fictional Sherlock Holmes? That’s right. If Batman started off back then, he would have been the first Behavioral Science Unit.

Antsy to get started on being Batman in the Gotham equivalent of Victorian-era London, Bruce Wayne wastes no time establishing himself as the original darkness that flaps in the night; move aside Darkwing Duck. The primitive screw heads are no match for his fisticuffs and bat-horse-mobile. One problem, everyone thinks that Bruce Wayne is Jack the Ripper. Can Batman stop one of history’s elusive serial killers while behind bars?

A lot of people think of this version of Batman to be steam punk. The first book shows no steam punk like gadgets or cool technology. If it were to be redone today, they’d have shown Batman using a modified Nerf Maverick gun, while wearing goggles with brass gears glued to the thing. However it’s just Batman, dark brooding gentleman in a cowl. Without computer technology and a victim to leech based medicine, this dark knight is no match of another Elseworld comic called Superman: Red Son.  Comrade Batman!

Originally the game was being produced by Day 1 Studios, but was later on dropped when THQ passed on the sales pitch back in 2009 reports Siliconera. Probably a smart move as Warner Bros. Picked up DC Comics the same year. It could have turned really messy with copyright and trademark legalities.

So the speculation right now is that the video is a deliberate leak by Day 1 Studios, possibly hoping to get Warner Bros attention in the wake of Batman video game popularity. Let’s hope the attention that it does get from Warner Bros. doesn’t turn into the Eye of Sauron. I somehow picture a horde of ring wraith lawyers charging into the night.

So the video that’s surfaced is probably the prototype video for the project. Let’s take a gander at the game that could have been.

The video depicts a barrel chested Batman skipping across rooftops and the streets of old day Gotham. Like the Matrix, we see duplicates and people holding guns that make sudden jerking movements, pointing at the Batman like a counterstrike arrow bot. We also see the Batman leaps on top of buildings in a single bound. Again, this is forgivable as it’s a prototype.

What catches my eye is the cape. It ripples in the air and swings with each movement. Sometimes it just moves with a mind of it’s own. Over all, the cape looks amazing as it appears a lot of code must have been invested in it. Like a lot. Like DOA-bikini-volleyball-mammary-glands-physics lots. Was this the focus of the pitch? The cape physics are almost Spawn like.

If they wanted to give Batman an Elseworld gimmick that would have completely held the interest of comic book gamers, they should have created a whole new storyline revolving around current day Batman getting his hands on a Green Lantern’s ring of power; not the In Darkest Knight horror they spun together either.   I can almost imagine the weeks of game play I could get out of that as Batman goes mad with power.

So in the end, this video should remind the world that the steampunk genre and Victorian-era storylines are the untapped markets ready to be exploited today. The closest I’ve come to seeing a proper airship was in the 3 Musketeers movie. So chop, chop, Hollywood. Give me steam!

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