My best friend and I used to laugh at various comic nerds who grumbled over violations of canon, or if a story was imaginary or not. It was fish in a barrel, sadly, because most could not understand until thoroughly frustrated, that all stories told in comics are imaginary, except for those that biographical or factual history. And even they require imagination to tell. All publishers telling imaginary stories? Does that mean nothing matters? Or as one of the comic nerds would say, you can't have a black Spider-man and a white Luke Cage. Well the one you could, and the other would just be stupid... still, it is still all imaginary.
WONDER WOMAN: AMAZONIA "A 19th century Wonder Woman in corset, fights Jack the Ripper, while talking like Eliza Doolittle."
The reason a publisher like DC or Marvel has an agreed upon canon and continuity, is so that the reader can be certain that what they are reading fits into the intricate story that is those publishing house's universes. So, if Flash breaks his leg, in Flash #694 he won't be seen running with both legs in the same month or shortly thereafter. Marvel Comics had a solid single world universe, where everyone lived and acted in the same universe. This later changed in the late 1990s when Marvel was nearly unable to remain in print, so turned to opening up its characters, and canon to multiverse existences, and cross universe worlds. DC on the other hand had a multiverse that had been slimmed down to a single universe. How both use their past and present isn't about a great reward or artistic integrity, those might happen but, the real reason for multiple versions of one character or just one, or many realities or just one, is that the publishers try to keep their stories new and interesting. Money being made or not is the engine of change or conservative views on evolution.
KINGDOM COME: "A dark alternate future
of the DC Superhero Universe. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and
almost every other character from DC Comics must choose sides in what
could be the final battle of them all."
But, for a while, when DC had both a single world, with the characters it has, who are far more iconic than nuanced and flawed, tales could be told that showed how a different take on the character could be interesting, and show us how powerful the iconic character's mojo was. You have a legend, then you introduce it to a different setting, or the same setting with a different version of the character. The intention is, not to create new continuity, but to create stories without the encumbrance of having to worry if it could fit into the world as the publisher's canon would accept.
The DC Elseworlds broke the door open, and showed the world that these single stories or single series could enhance our appreciate of the main character, but showing a stripped down, or bulked up version of it. We could see why Bruce Wayne was who he was if he lived in the 1800s with his parents still dying, or how Gotham would still need a hero, even under a religious theocracy.
BATMAN: MANBAT "When animal rights
activist Marilyn Munro stumbles upon a lair of bizarre, bat-like
creatures, she finds herself in a world of madness. And that world is
about to receive another visitor: Batman."
So, here I present, 11 great Elseworld stories, that you can search for, or ignore. What the hell do I care what you do with it.
BATMAN: HOLY TERROR
Batman is a member of the clergy but sees troubling issues happening in the theocratic leadership's government.
SUPERMAN WAR OF THE WORLDS
Superman lands upon an earth that is beset by the Martians from HG Wells' novel, War of the Worlds.
GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT
Jack the Ripper visits Gotham in 1880s, but there is a Bat who protects the city.
Steampunk western featuring "Cowboy and Indian" templates of the Justice League.
Superman is the great son of the city of Metropolis, only this Metropolis is from the movie by Fritz Lang.
Batman is a character of a surreal nightmare, ala the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
WONDER WOMAN: THE BLUE AMAZON
Wonder Woman is a reimagined heroine in a world gone mad, chasing the infamous Dr. Marbuse, of German cinema.
BATMAN: THE DOOM THAT CAME TO GOTHAM
Batman lives in the 1920s, fighting the beasts of the Cthulhu realms.
SUPERMAN: RED SON
In Ukraine a rocket landed, a boy was found with super powers, and he fights for the workers, and the Soviet state. He is the Red Son, Superman.
DETECTIVE COMICS ANNUAL 7 BATMAN: LEATHERWING
Batman is a pirate/swashbuckler known as Leatherwing, and he is in command of a ship.
BATMAN: MASTER OF THE FUTURE
Batman from Gotham by Gaslight is still active, and he is forced to hunt down a scoundrel, who is determined to destroy then rebuild Gotham in his own image.