Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola’s Gotham by Gaslight, a steampunk story that brings Jack the Ripper to Gotham, is iconic for kicking off the Elseworlds stories in DC. Mignola’s distinctive style (pre-Hellboy) and Augustyn’s sharp writing made the graphic novel a classic, and now it’s been turned into DC’s 31st animated movie.
Executive producer Bruce Timm (Batman: The Killing Joke), director/producer Sam Liu (Teen Titans: The Judas Contract), and screenwriter Jim Krieg (Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox) presented a panel at New York Comic Con on Friday, moderated by DC publicist Gary Miereanu, giving fans a first look at the movie and some behind the scenes insight into the production.
In a Gotham version of Whitechapel, the film tries to capture Mignola’s art style while still staying with the DC animation house style. Using Mignola’s dark color palette was very important, and capturing it correctly was very challenging for the overseas animation team. The smog of Victorian London was also a major visual influence, using the claustrophobia of the low sky and narrow alleys to add to the tone.
The first clip showed a trio of street urchins, who identify themselves as Dick, Tim, and Jason, being sent to pickpocket an older couple by an intimidating street tough. They are freed by Batman, whose eyes are visible in his steampunk-style cowl, which Timm said was directly taken from Mignola’s design. He also noted that usually there is a distinct separation between Batman and Bruce Wayne, but in this world, partly because his eyes are visible, there’s more of a cross between the two. They also mentioned that while the original graphic novel didn’t have many Batman characters in it, they took the chance to include more here.
Seeing Batman’s eyes is not only a more intimate view of him, but it ties into the more emotional story that Gotham by Gaslight is telling, commented Krieg. He’s more of an old-school romantic hero, fitting the setting. Bruce Greenwood plays Batman, and Timm said that he really leaned into the more emotional performance that this script called for.
The second clip showed Selina Kyle armed with her whip taking on Jack in a slaughterhouse. Timm said that Alan Burnett, a retired member of the DC animation team said he always wanted to set a scene in a slaughterhouse and that this time period lent itself perfectly to finally honor his wish. Jennifer Carpenter plays Selina Kyle, and her character is inspired by Irene Adler and is an equal to Bruce like Irene is to Sherlock Holmes.
The final clip showed Batman and Jack fighting on top of a dirigible, the ultimate steampunk element. Since this is a unique time period, Liu noted that the animators couldn’t reuse anything from previous DC films. He expected the crew to be intimidated by the amount of work this created, but it turns out that many of them are huge fans of Penny Dreadful, also set in the Victorian era, so they were excited to do research and find accurate costumes and references.
Gotham by Gaslight will be available for purchase and download in Spring of 2018.