Tag Archives: batman

Arkham Asylum houses some of Batman’s best villains—and ideas

In Grant Morrison’s critically acclaimed Arkham Asylum: A Serious House On Serious Earth, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this month, there’s an internal monologue Bruce Wayne has with himself that encapsulates not only the character’s continual war between his dual sides, but also his relationship to Arkham Asylum, Gotham City’s notorious “home for the criminally insane.” Reflecting on why he hesitates to enter the facility, with its ornate gothic design and seemingly endless hallways, Wayne separates his feelings from those of his alter-ego, Batman, and identifies the fear at the heart of his reticence:

“Afraid? Batman’s not afraid of anything. It’s me. I’m afraid. I’m afraid that The Joker may be right about me. Sometimes… I question the rationality of my actions. And I’m afraid that when I walk through those asylum gates… when I walk into Arkham and the doors close behind me… it’ll be just like coming home.”

Arkham Asylum (or the Elizabeth Arkham Asylum For The Criminally Insane, to use its full title) first came into existence in October of 1974, nestled between the covers of Batman #258. Of course, writer Dennis O’Neil originally referred to it as Arkham Hospital (or even Arkham Sanitarium on occasion), with the name fluctuating until becoming firmly established in 1979, and being definitively set in Gotham’s remote suburbs by Len Wein in Batman #326. The place has been reconceived and reimagined numerous times over the years: It’s been blown up, relocated, closed down, demolished, reopened, and even seized Wayne Manor for its foundation for a stretch. It’s been depicted in comics, movies, TV shows, video games, collectibles, and more. Outside of the Batcave, it’s probably the most iconic location in all of Batman lore.

And there’s a good reason for that. Writers and storytellers playing with the Batman mythos keep returning to the location because it’s the most psychologically resonant place in which to set tales of the Caped Crusader. Batman has plenty of issues of his own, and being confronted with the facility that serves as a repository for many of his most memorable nemeses illuminates—as Morrison so aptly notes—the sometimes blurry line between vigilante and villain. “Who’s truly the crazy one?” could serve as the unspoken question that animates the best Batman stories. Plunging the debatably sane avatar of crimefighting into his own potential prison creates an instant frisson that manifests those internal struggles in physical form.

It wasn’t always this way. After its invention, Arkham Asylum was just another place on the Gotham map, somewhere that actually housed patients with mental illness, with no real link to Batman or colorfully costumed baddies. But a funny thing started happening throughout the ’80s: Batman’s antagonists started to be delivered to Arkham. Joker, Mr. Freeze, Killer Croc, Scarecrow, Two-Face—they all became repeat visitors, breaking out to wreak havoc on the city before eventually being captured and returned by Batman. It became a simple strategy for accessing the massive rogue’s gallery of bad guys the superhero had accrued over the years; rather than having to come up with yet another torturous method to reintroduce a villain, writers of Batman comics could simply turn to Arkham as a quick and efficient means of returning them to the streets patrolled by the Caped Crusader.

But toward the end of the decade, Arkham Asylum began to take on a deeper sense of place and purpose. A proper backstory was developed (again by Wein) in 1985, but with Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns in 1986, there was new focus on what made it more than just a holding facility for criminals. In a dystopian near-future when Batman has retired, the asylum is renamed the Arkham Home For The Emotionally Troubled, and Miller uses it to dig into the psychology of the Joker, to show how well-meaning support can end up contributing to the very criminality it’s trying to diminish. Dr. Wolper, the facility’s supercilious psychologist, believes he has a handle on his patient’s mental state, blinding himself to the Joker’s machinations and allowing the criminal to appear on a nighttime talk show, where the Clown Prince Of Crime proceeds to murder everyone in the audience, along with Wolper himself. It’s a transformation of the asylum into a site of mealy-mouthed appeasement, the opposite of its normal portrayal, which ironically served to highlight the sinister potential of the place.

It’s a potential that achieved one of its most striking—and arguably still best—representations in 1989, in Morrison’s A Serious House On Serious Earth. Called in to put down a riot unfolding inside Arkham that has left several of its staff held hostage, Batman agrees to meet with the inmates who have called for his presence, only for the Joker to give him a ticking-clock deadline to escape or die. As Batman progresses through the asylum, he confronts nemeses from the past—some radically changed—and learns the dark backstory of founder Amadeus Arkham. Filled with rich symbolism and a more abstract, ethereal tone than the gritty real-world Batman stories that had developed in part thanks to Miller’s reimagining, Morrison found a way to connect the tormented psyches of Batman villains with the hero himself, finding spiritual and psychological links that positioned Batman on a continuum of pathology alongside the criminals with whom he did battle. And the writer did so within the walls of Arkham Asylum, making the facility, with its tragic and violent past, as potent an element of Batman lore as any parents being gunned down outside a theater.

Arkham grew in stature in the wake of Morrison’s graphic novel, often featured in stories that highlighted its uncanny and oppressive atmosphere, using it as contrapuntal iconography to the supposed heroism of Batman. Batman: The Animated Series delivered one of the more entertaining psychological explorations of this contrast in the 1994 episode “Trial,” in which Batman is captured to be put on “trial” at Arkham, his antagonists the jury. Lawyer Janet Van Dorn is tasked with defending him against the charge that he, in essence, “created” each of the villains he brought to justice. While she’s ultimately successful in arguing that the inverse is actually more true—that these killers and psychopaths created Batman, not the other way around—the story allows for Arkham to serve as a warped funhouse mirror of justice, where even maniacal criminals give a fair shot to their captor, as long as he’s within Arkham’s walls.

There are many more. Dan Slott’s Arkham Asylum: Living Hell (2014) turned the institution into the literal embodiment of its title, dispensing with Batman to examine the perspectives of those who live and work at Arkham. The 2009 game Batman: Arkham Asylum delivered another spin on the journey-to-the-heart-of-darkness narrative, turning a struggle against the Joker’s efforts to create an army of super-powered henchmen into a hallucinatory exploration of Bruce Wayne’s traumatic past and Batman’s strangely affective bonds with the very people he’s tasked with capturing. Much of the power of these stories lies in the concrete materiality of Arkham itself, which enriches each character through not only the atmosphere of menace and dread, but also the way it brings out the emotional extremes of those inside it.

Arkham Asylum isn’t just a physical location; it’s the strongest symbol of the psychological maelstrom in which the Batman mythos churns, in which criminal and vigilante are mere flip sides of the same coin, the latter only spared the same institutionalized fate as the former through the luck of the narratives built around him. Perhaps that’s why stories challenging the standard hero arc of Batman via Arkham Asylum remain so potent. Real life has long ago abandoned the conceit that there’s such a thing as a perfectly sane mind, wholly untroubled by psychic pain or illness, so stories that highlight the universal experience of psychological turbulence—and the potential for it to get out of control—hit close to home. There but for the grace of god go we. And Batman.

Source: Kotaku.com

Fortnite’s Batman Event Turns Tilted Town Into Gotham City

Image: Epic Games

Today is “Batman Day,” which explains why banks are closed and your town is hosting its annual Batman Day Parade. Fortnite has gotten in on this most solemn of occasions by adding new Batman-themed items and turning part of its map into Gotham City.

A livestream announcing the Fortnite/Batman crossover took place on YouTube at 8am ET this morning. The brief clip showed new Batman in-game items, such as a Batman-themed grapple gun and homing explosive Batarang, as well as new cosmetics in the shop. Fans in chat were disappointed in the reveal, but they got what they were after: from now until October 6, Tilted Town is stylized like Gotham City, with landmarks like the Gotham City Police Department HQ, Wayne Industries tower, and the Monarch Theatre. Players in the area sport Batman cowls that give them unlimited glider redeploy. Completing Batman-themed challenges will earn you rewards like sprays and a glider. These challenges include using the new items, using in-game Bat Signals, and defusing Joker-themed gas canisters.

Watch the disappointing reveal for yourself here

The Batman crossover has been steadily leaking over the week, so none of this is a surprise to many players. Still, it’s nice it’s finally here, even if I got up early—on the day that isn’t even Batman Day—to basically watch a commercial.

Source: Kotaku.com

I Wish I Could Wear This Wee Arkham Asylum Batman Cowl

When I heard that DC Collectibles was making a replica of the distinctive cowl the Dark Knight wore during Rocksteady’s Arkham Asylum video game, I imagined skulking about my house as a masked vigilante, striking fear into children and cats alike. The final product is lovely, but not the wearable cowl I’d imagined.

The Batman: Arkham Asylum replica cowl, which goes on sale this month for $90 with a limited run of 5,000 pieces, is the latest in a series that also includes the bulky batmask of The Dark Knight Returns, the metal Knightfall cowl with the red eyes, the short-horned blue number Bruce Wayne wore in DC Comics’ 2016 Rebirth reboot, and the creepy Batman Who Laughs mask from Dark Nights: Metal.

The Arkham version is distinctive for its beaklike nose and long, pointed horns. Sculpted by Dave Cortes and Amos Hemsley, it captures the video game costume’s look perfectly.

Yes, I said “sculpted.” Far from the wearable mask I first imagined, this piece is a sculpted bust, of sorts. Busts normally capture the entire likeness of a character. This one leaves a hole where Bruce’s human face would be.

Standing 11.29 inches high from base to pointed ears, the Arkham Asylum cowl is not large enough to fit on my face. It would be perfect for my cat, but it is a resin sculpture that’s only partially hollow.

Mind the cat, she’s naturally blurry.

It does look very nice on my desk, and the ears are rigid enough to be used as a self-defense weapon in case of home invasion. Batman would approve.

Source: Kotaku.com

Mattel’s Comic-Con Batman Exclusives Include Some Very Colorful Action Figures

Lookin’ fab, Bruce
Image: Mattel
Toys and CollectiblesAction figures, statues, exclusives, and other merchandise. Beware: if you look here, you’re probably going to spend some money afterwards.  

Oh sure, there are other parts of Mattel’s Dark Knight-themed exclusives for San Diego Comic-Con. But do you really need convincing beyond the return of the Technicolor dreamboat that is Rainbow Batman?

io9 can exclusively reveal two of Mattel’s exclusive bits of DC merchandise for the rapidly incoming San Diego Comic-Con, which will be tempting our wallets with all kinds of shiny new goodies in just over a month’s time. As 2019 is also the year of two special anniversaries for Batman, the two DC offerings this year are naturally all about Gotham’s favorite crime-fighting son.

First up is Hot Wheels’ diecast car of the Armored Batmobile from the Tim Burton Batman movie, which turns 30 this year. As well as a fully detailed replica of the ‘89 Batmobile itself, the special set also comes with a small diecast figure of Michael Keaton’s Batman, but also a special protective shell replicating the film’s armored upgrade for the vehicle. Simply pop it over the Batmobile and your Hot Wheels car is protected from the deadliest threats a small toy car could ever face! So like, falling off a shelf, probably, if you take it out of the fancy Batman ‘89-themed packaging. If you’re at the con, this set will cost you $25.

If you’re a fan of Mattel’s DC action figures, though, the other offering might be more tempting. A celebration of Batman’s Silver Age roots in the comics, the four-figure set gives you four remarkably silly renditions of Bruce Wayne’s early comic book adventures. Clad in a special, old-school comic art themed box—80-page Giant Batman is a great little throwback joke!—the four figures feature 23 points of articulation, and each one is clad in a colour scheme representing a specific story from the Silver Age of Comics.

The first is a classic Batman representing the Dark Knight’s iconic blue and grey costume for many of his Silver Age adventures, while the other three are more one-off specifics. There’s Negative Suit Batman from Detective Comics #284, in which a blast from an experimental ray rendered Batman averse to light itself. There’s Zebra Batman from Detective Comics #275, in which an encounter with magnet-powered supervillain Zebra-Man left Batman’s suit scrambled into Zebra-esque crazy black-and-white waves.

Those are both pretty colorless schemes, so the set gets a blast of candy-coated crayon in the form of the iconic Rainbow Batman, from Detective Comics #241, which included a storyline where Bruce attempted to protect and injured Dick Grayson from harm by wearing a series of garishly colored Batman outfits while they were out on patrol, distracting thieves away from the Boy Wonder’s compromised state. It’s ridiculous, and I love it, and I will purchase any and all versions of this suit wherever possible. Like right here, where the pricey set will set you back $80.

There’s good news if you’re going to San Diego next month—starting June 17, Mattel will put up a limited collection of both of these exclusives online for prepurchase at its Mattel Store, so fans can get their sets guaranteed to claim at Comic-Con itself from July 17. Pre-purchased sets will begin shipping after the convention comes to a close.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated pre-orders for both of these items would be available for fans not attending San Diego Comic-Con. Pre-orders are actually only SDCC attendees to pre-claim their sets, and not available for those not attending. It has been updated to reflect that, and io9 regrets the error. 

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Source: Kotaku.com

Video Game Cameras Are Complicated And Easy To Screw Up

The latest Game Maker’s Toolkit video is all about video game cameras and how developers can use them to help make gameplay more challenging, to scare the player or to better serve a story. It also is a great reminder of how much work and thought goes into something that, if done right, most players won’t even notice.

Basically, cameras in games can serve two purposes: Gameplay or aesthetics. So a camera can focus on the action, like in a fighting game. Or you can have cameras that pull out to provide sweeping vistas like seen in Uncharted 3. The key for developers is knowing when to use a certain camera because it is very easy to make a game feel bad because the camera isn’t right for that moment.

Screenshot: Game Maker’s ToolKit (YouTube)

Batman: Arkham Asylum does a wonderful job of having a dynamic camera which pulls up close to Batman during story moments, but also flies away from him during action moments. The camera will also tilt when he is poisoned, to represent Batman being sick and feeling loopy.

The whole video is worth watching and goes into depth about all the little details that go into different camera angles and how they work to scare players, make them feel powerful or help them connect to the character.

It is interesting to think about how a good camera in a game is often ignored by most players. I know I don’t think about how great a camera is while playing a game. But if that in-game camera starts to break or not feel good, then I notice it and start to complain. It’s like good music in a movie. You don’t notice it until it’s gone or replaced with something terrible.

What is the worst camera you can remember from a video game?

Source: Kotaku.com

Catwoman Will Be Played By a Different Actress in the Gotham Season Finale

Camren Bicondova as Catwoman.
Image: Fox

For the past five bonkers seasons, Camren Bicondova and her incredible hair have played Selina Kyle on Gotham. But for the last episode, airing next week, she’s being replaced.

The decision, apparently, was made by Bicondova herself, as she explained on social media in a letter meant both as an announcement and a farewell to fans of the Batman-adjacent series.

Apparently, the episode features a ten-year time skip, and Bicondova didn’t feel it was appropriate for her to play a decade-older version of the iconic cat burglar. Thus, the decision was made to recast Catwoman as Lili Simmons (Westworld, The Purge).

Bicondova emphasizes in the letter that this was her decision, and that she’s very excited to see Simmons take up the reins of an older Kyle.

The final episode of Gotham airs this Thursday, April 25th, on Fox.

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Source: Kotaku.com