Earth-37, the alternate earth that serves as the setting for Batman: Thrillkiller, was one of my favorite worlds in the DC Universe despite the fact that the actual story and art are… problems.
Back when I first read the miniseries, I think it hooked me with narration boxes that see our masked heroes juxtaposed against the transitional period that this Elseworlds tale exists in:
We tend to define our lives by the decades – the gay nineties, the roaring twenties, the depression thirties. The calendar reads 1961 – but it’s a time of transition. It’s not the fifties anymore – the decade of Ike, of McCarthyism, of Jack Kerouac – and it’s certainly not the nineteen sixties of the sexual revolution, of the war in Vietnam, of turning on, tuning in, and dropping out. Like the rest of the USA, Gotham was jumping with a giddy optimism – no one could guess at the dark days that lay ahead.
This first set of narration boxes is set against a backdrop of Gotham City, Batgirl and Robin at the top in shadow and the city they’re attempting to protect at the bottom. There’s something about watching comics try to establish a sense of realism and historical context in their works that just… entertains me. The next few pages establish the historical context of this Elseworlds — JFK is president, Elvis was discharged from the army, and the Beatles weren’t yet a thing. It’s a set of pages that immediately and successfully establish realism and a connection to the time period and it works.
Thrillkiller is a genre mishmash with elements of noir fiction, your sort of typical superhero story, and some air of the 1950s morality movie in the style of Reefer Madness. Which could be awesome except…