Elseworlds Coming To The DCU?

DCU head James Gunn has confirmed Elseworlds projects are in active development.

By Nathan Kamal | Published

dcu elseworlds

The new DC Universe is definitely going to include Elseworlds, DC Comics’ concept for exploring stories of alternate realities and twists on established characters. DC Studios co-CEO James Gunn replied to a fan on Twitter (as he is wont to do) who had asked if the mysterious new ten-year plan for the DCU might involve Elseworlds, basically saying it was already in development. While Gunn is remarkably candid and engaged with fans (and some angrier pop culture aficionados) on social media, he can also be a bit vague with his answers, so it is refreshing to hear him straight out say that DCU Elseworlds are happening. 

In essence, Elseworlds is the concept that DC Comics creators have used for years to tell stories that stand outside of the established continuity of the time. It was first introduced in 1989 with the one-shot Gotham by Gaslight by writer Brian Augustyn and Hellboy artist Mike Mignola, which reimagined Bruce Wayne as a Victorian-age vigilante fighting Jack the Ripper. Although it was not initially labeled as an Elseworlds story, it was retroactively deemed to be the first story under the imprint.

dcu elseworlds
Gotham by Gaslight

As one might expect from the notoriously complicated and constantly changing needs of comic book continuity, Elseworlds has been used in various different ways. At times, it was simply a prestige imprint for DC,  a method of introducing a multiverse concept (referred to as Hypertime), and a crossover event name for the CW’s Arrowverse. Ultimately, it is pretty much a good way to find out what happens if Superman is raised in Soviet Russia or if Bruce Wayne became the Green Lantern instead of Hal Jordan. 

In many ways, it is unsurprising that the DCU would look into introducing Elseworlds to its new slate of developing projects, considering its primary competitor, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, already has its parallel concept up and running. Marvel’s What If…? was established over a decade before Elseworlds was trademarked, telling similar, out-of-continuity stories, and has run issues as recently as this year.

More importantly for the DCU and Elseworlds, Disney+ launched its animated What If…? in 2021 with a nine-episode first season. A second season is expected early in 2023, with a third already in production and a Marvel Zombies spinoff in development. Basically, as with many things, the MCU currently is a bit ahead of the curve, and its looks as though James Gunn is looking to get the DCU in gear with some Elseworlds.

Since the announcement that James Gunn and Peter Safran were taking over stewardship of the DCU, there have been a lot of unexpected changes, to say the least. It seems that Margot Robbie is the only established DCU actor safe in their role (or maybe not, depending on how you read Tweets), Dwayne Johnson and Henry Cavill are both out of the inner circle, and maybe Jason Momoa is making the leap from Aquaman to Lobo. But at least now we have one more piece of information, the DCU is getting some Elseworlds.