DC Database

This article is about the comic book. If you are looking for the animated movie, see Batman: Gotham by Gaslight (Movie)

""Gotham by Gaslight"": In the 19th century, Bruce Wayne recalls the murder of his parents by a highwayman and remembers the bats which swarmed over the murderer.

Quote1.png I fooled all London. And I could fool them anywhere, even in Gotham City, if that's where I chose to appear. Quote2.png
Jack the Ripper

Batman: Gotham by Gaslight is a one-shot with a cover date of January, 1990.

Synopsis for "Gotham by Gaslight"

In the 19th century, Bruce Wayne recalls the murder of his parents by a highwayman and remembers the bats which swarmed over the murderer.

In Vienna, Bruce Wayne is a student consulting with his teacher Dr. Sigmund Freud about the dreams he has had about the deaths of his parents and, significantly, bats. Freud questions Bruce about his dreams with bats as he believes it could hold the key to important aspects of his state of mind; however, Bruce dismisses this theory as he believe his dream is not "some symbol-laden puzzle" but rather a "prosaic replaying of an actual event." Bruce then thanks Freud for assisting his study of human psychology and announces his intention to return to Gotham City.

A week later, Bruce departs from London on a passenger ship and unexpectedly meets his old family friend, Jacob Packer, a personal friend of Thomas Wayne. While Bruce knows Jacob as amusing and kind-hearted, he also notes Jacob is remarkably crude, especially around women. After arriving in Gotham City's harbor, Jacob parts ways with Bruce, and Bruce is then reunited with Alfred Pennyworth. Bruce and Alfred arrive at Wayne Manor, and Bruce asks Alfred if "it" is here. Alfred confirmed "it" is "waiting" for him, as Bruce sees his Batsuit. Bruce then goes to Gotham Police Headquarters and greets Inspector James Gordon, another old friend. Gordon sarcastically asks Bruce if he could serve the police, but Bruce kindly declines the offer as too much "actual labor". Gordon then briefs Bruce on how Gotham has become an even larger city within a decade and notes the "criminal element" have grown stronger and all but impossible for the city's police to handle. During the night, Bruce Wayne began his crusade against crime; a group of thieves try to blow open a safe at a railroad company only to be stopped by the Batman.

The Gotham press begins to circulate news of the "Bat-Man", and soon links his appearance to a series of women found murdered throughout the city. One evening, at a party at Leland Manor hosted by the Duke of Clarence, Bruce Wayne talks with James Gordon, who is disgruntled over the fact that he is only present at the party to placate the upper class and influential residents over the series of murders and the "Bat-Man" as ordered by the boastful Commissioner Tolliver. Tolliver is steadfast in his belief that Batman is the killer and swears he will capture him. Bruce and Gordon remain unconvinced.

Eventually the identity of the murderer is announced by Tolliver to be Jack the Ripper. While patrolling the city as Batman, Bruce ponders whether his mission of crime-fighting was necessary from the start as the public judge him more of a monster than a hero. Batman then suddenly hears a woman cry but arrives too late to rescue her as she becomes one of the Ripper's victims. At police headquarters Gordon laments the lack of evidence and leads in finding the Ripper until he is suddenly briefed by Commissioner Tolliver that he has deduced the killer's identity: Bruce Wayne.

At Wayne Manor, the police, led by Tolliver, conduct a search throughout the manor for any evidence implicating Bruce in the murders. Bruce scoffs at Tolliver's allegations while ensuring Alfred that the Batsuit and his equipment are safely hidden. However, the police discover a pair of bloody gloves and a knife. Bruce is later brought to trial on October 9th, with Jacob Packer acting as his counsel. During the trial, Tolliver points out that Bruce was present in London during the time of the Ripper murders, the times that Bruce was absent late at night, and his medical training. Ultimately Bruce is found guilty by the jury and is sentenced to be hanged.

Bruce is imprisoned at Arkham Asylum to await his execution. Inspector Gordon comes to visit Bruce and secretly passes on the police's findings related to the Ripper case at Bruce's request in order to clear his name by finding the actual murderer. Gordon express his disbelief that Bruce is the killer, and is reassured by Bruce and told to watch over the city. In the following days Bruce tries to solve the case but becomes exasperated until he notices a photograph showing Thomas Wayne and his colleagues as field surgeons during the American Civil War with a regimental flag bearing a symbol similar to the one on the murderer's weapon. He notes that only one man is known to be alive from Thomas' regiment. Bruce then contacts Alfred to help him escape by switching places. Bruce dons the Batsuit and stops the Ripper, who has been patiently delaying his murder spree, from murdering a woman. Batman gives chase and stops the Ripper at Gotham's cemetery. The Ripper is then revealed to be Jacob Packer.

Batman demands to know why Jacob committed the murders to which Jacob answers that it's all because of Martha Wayne. Jacob explains that during the Civil War he assisted as a field surgeon with Thomas Wayne. After the war, Thomas tried various ways to give Jacob an entry into upper class society, such as helping him through law school, pushing him into business, and even making Jacob the family solicitor. However, despite the generosity shown by Wayne, all Jacob wanted was the love of Martha Wayne. When Jacob confessed his affection to Martha, she "laughed" at the idea and rejected him. Her rejection forever "humiliated" and emotionally scarred Jacob. This emotional trauma caused Jacob to see every woman as a "whore" like Martha, laughing at him and subsequently driving him to murder them. He also revealed that he caused the deaths of Thomas and Martha by hiring a gunman to kill them, but was angered by the fact that Bruce survived. Jacob later decided to complete his revenge on the Wayne family by framing Bruce for the murders.

After revealing this, Bruce unmasks his identity to Jacob and punches him upon his parents' grave. Acknowledging Jacob's crimes, Batman expresses his desire to kill him before being stopped by Inspector Gordon and several arriving police officers. Batman (after concealing his face) then informs Gordon that Jacob is the Ripper. Jacob admits his guilt to everyone present including the murders in London and even in Paris, France, and for framing Bruce Wayne. As Gordon is planning to arrest both Jacob and Batman, Jacob quickly slashes Batman with a concealed knife but is immediately gunned down by Gordon. Being less severely wounded, Batman then thanks Gordon and reminds him to release Bruce Wayne. Gordon then asks why Jacob was committing the murders in which Batman only replies "who truly understands a madman?" After Batman disappears into the night, Gordon decides not to arrest the vigilante and believes that the police and Gotham need him as their "guardian angel."

Appearing in "Gotham by Gaslight"

Featured Characters:

Supporting Characters:


Other Characters:

  • Prince Albert Victor (Cameo)
  • Sigmund Freud
  • Harvey Dent (First appearance) (Cameo)
  • Joker (First appearance) (Cameo)
  • Joe Chill (Flashback only)
  • Martha Wayne (First appearance) (Dies in flashback)
  • Thomas Wayne (First appearance) (Dies in flashback)
  • Bats
  • Commissioner Tolliver (First appearance)
  • Bonnie (Single appearance)
  • Briscoe (Single appearance)
  • Jenk (Single appearance)
  • Kelsey (Single appearance)





  • This issue includes an introduction by famed horror novelist Robert Bloch entitled "From Hell". This introduction is written from the perspective of Jack the Ripper and is crafted in the style of the famous From Hell letter. From Hell is also the name of a graphic novel by Alan Moore, which likewise offered a unique interpretation of the Jack the Ripper murders. Bloch was approached to write the introduction for this book as he had also published his own take on the "Jack the Ripper" legacy on many occasions throughout his career. Bloch was contacted by his old business partner, Julius Schwartz, who got him in touch with DC Comics.[1]
  • One of the buildings found in Gotham City boasts a sign "Sickert and Co." Walter Sickert was an English painter and one of many Ripper suspects.
  • Prince Albert Victor makes a cameo appearance in this issue. Prince Albert was also (though not seriously) suspected of being the Ripper.
  • The universal setting for Gotham by Gaslight was designated as canon as Earth-1889 in Absolute Crisis on Infinite Earths. Post-52, it served as the basis for Earth-19.

See Also

Links and References

  1. "Man of Two Worlds" - Schwartz Autobiography
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