I had this dream Saturday night/Sunday morning and it took me a day to process it and remember enough bits and pieces to post it.
Anyway, I am pretty sure that even with all the many many variants of Batman stories, this has never actually been one, which is kind of weird, because it seems like a pretty obvious alternate universe. If anyone knows of one that is like this, let me know.
So, um, the dream was technically about a comic book, and I can still see the cover. It was mostly white, with a picture of the main characters, a young woman with a dyed red bob, in silhouette, and the name of the comic, which I think you can guess from the title was Batman: Year 86.
The comic took place in 2025, exactly 86 years after Batman was introduced in comics. Anyway, in this story, Gotham City was totally the proverbial 'shining city upon the hill' They had the lowest crime rate in the world, the highest literacy rate, and so on and so on. The story went that sometime in the 1940s crime had reached such an all-time high that the entire city had come together and built the greatest police force in the world. This was all done under the command of Jim Gordon, who is now revered as a sort of folk hero (who else) who, before the advent of walkie-talkies for police, stuck upon the idea of using massive floodlights to call cops' attention to crimes in progress.
This young woman, named Diana, whose name I'm sure was a sort of nod-nod-wink-wink thing, but who didn't look like Wonder Woman at all-- she was a fairly androgynous redhead-- was working on her thesis for her degree in criminal justice when she came across a series of files on The Wayne Legislation, which were the first laws passed in the early 1940s that helped create the Gotham City of her time. A family of three had been gunned down in an alleyway. It later turned out that the family were prominent philanthropists-- the Waynes-- and gave everything they had, in the absence of their young son, who was killed along with them-- to the city. Their money, plus the outrage at this mugging/murder in a populous, well-trafficked part of town, helped push through the legislation needed to reverse Gotham's descent into poverty and crime.
Basically, the premise was that if Bruce had died and there had never been a Batman, the city would have had to save itself, and would have done so, but because of Batman's presence in Gotham, the city continued to be a hotbed for crime and violence because ordinary citizens didn't feel as if they needed to act-- there was always Batman to do that for them.
The story basically then followed Diana, Citizen Kane-like, as she interviewed people around the city-- including people like Barbara Gordon, who was a successful Congresswoman and later became head of the Library of Congress, Dick Grayson (who is the last remaining member of the Flying Graysons, none of whom ever died because the city intervened and arrested several Mob bosses for extortionism), and so on, and is mostly told through flashbacks from people who remember the city in the 1940s and how it became a metropolitan idyll.