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Gotham by Gaslight Batman

DC Multiverse
by yo go re

So, what, this is a Batman who, instead of actually fighting crime, just tries to convince you he has fought crime?

The Dark Knight follows the crime trail to Jack the Ripper in the gritty Victorian Era.

DC's Gotham by Gaslight (or "Gotham City Gaslight," as the packaging here says, because Mattel never met an idea they couldn't do wrong) is often considered the first Elseworlds story, telling a tale that never would have worked in the main comic - imagine the nerd rage if some random issue of Batman had dropped the regular story to spend two months imagining all the characters a century in the past. Yet Gotham by Gaslight has been turned into one of DC's animated movies (with, admittedly, a completely different plot), while a storyline that came out at the same time, "Year Three," has never even been collected in its own tpb. Seems a good idea is more important than strict continuity.

Gotham by Gaslight was drawn by Mike Mignola, but his art in the '80s was still in the process of evolving into the style we know today. So while this figure does take its design cues from the book, don't expect Batman to look like Hellboy; in fact, this sculpt is at least as true to Mignola's (late-80s) art as Harley Quinn was to Amanda Conner's.

Batman is beefy, and the wrinkles on his costume make it look like leather or thick, padded cloth with buckles on the ribs to keep it closed. The limbs are perhaps a little too "spandexy," but that's easy enough to ignore with the leather gloves and knee-high boots. The symbol on his chest is a raised part of the sculpt, with distinct stitching, and he wears a thick workman's belt with various pouches on it.

Even the cape fits the Victorian style. Other than the sharply scalloped lower edge, it could easily pass for either an ulster or inverness coat, with the folded collar, the short (PVC) cape around the shoulders, and the longer piece trailing behind. Rather than being plastic, it's softgoods - a textured faux-leather that absolutely suits the figure.

The articulation is better on this Batman than nearly any other Mattel has ever made. For one thing, the head can actually look up and down, which is something that's escaped them forever. He's also got hinges in his wrists, in addition to the usual swivels, so those are better, too. The hips are balljointed, the knees are double-hinged, and the ankles are emphatically swivel/hinges, not the "maybe they are, maybe they're not" ones that Mattel has been making for years. Add to that the usual joints - shoulders, biceps, elbows, chest, waist, and thighs - and you've got a Batman who's ready for action! Shame they weren't doing this years ago.

In the comic, Batman didn't use batarangs - he wasn't there yet. Rather, he just stuck with some small knives he could throw. He stowed them in sheaths on the left side of his belt, and this toy does the same. They're just sculpted, of course... or so you may suspect from looking at them. But in truth, all four of them are removable accessories! Way to go, Mattel! This is much more than we ever expect from you. The toy has one hand shaped to hold the small knives, one for larger accessories, and two that are more open.

He also includes two pieces of this series' Lex Luthor BAF: the head and cape.

Gotham by Gaslight is a much more interesting premise than it is an actual story, whether you're talking about the comic or the cartoon - there's a reason that when DC was publishing a series that pitted various Elseworlds incarnations of characters against each other, Gaslight Batman was one of the ones chosen (along with The Liberty File Batman and Red Rain Batman), and that reason had more to do with the art than the words. But that means it also makes perfectly fine material for an action figure, because the costume design really sells the premise: Victorian Era Batman. The DC Direct figure from a decade-plus ago may have a slightly better sculpt, but this is still the better toy overall.

-- 05/15/19

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