Batman: Arkham City - The Stories Behind the Costumes and Characters
The release of Batman: Arkham City promises to be a drawing together of disparate aspects of the Batman mythos only seen before in the pages of the Superman and Batman title when DC’s reigning duo have fallen prey to the antics of our favourite imp, the unpronounceable Mr Mxyzptlk.
Each potential skin for the main player character available represents a pivotal era of the Caped Crusader’s history that has brought us to the cuddly, borderline paranoid schizophrenic, control freak Batman that we know and love today.
Denny O’Neil and Neal Adam’s Batman
This is the Batman of history that many of us will recall, with the iconic yellow surround of the Bat icon. Debuting in Detective Comics in 1970, this marked a new direction for the Dark Knight, moving away from the cheesier elements that had snuck into the comics from the atrocious TV show.
This was seen as a return to Batman’s roots as Bob Kane originally envisioned him. Many of the antagonists we see in Arkham City were already established by this time, but one of the most pivotal creations was Talia al Ghul, mother to the current Robin and child of Bruce Wayne, Damian.
Talia al Ghul
Talia is the perfect poster-girl for divided loyalties. Torn between her love for Batman and her loyalty to her father, she has both acted to save the world and been a founder member of the modern incarnation of the Secret Society Of Super-Villains, (who fortunately shortened their name to just the Secret Society).
The romance, like all of Batman’s relationships, kept turning up as Talia reappeared almost every year until her place in the legend was secured by the 1987 graphic novel Son Of The Demon, where Damian was conceived.
Talia is ruthless, lethal and yet operates on her own discordant sense of honour.
Another villain from this era rumoured to appear in the game is Maxie Zeus. Rather than just your common-all-garden psychopath, Maxie suffers from the greatest delusion of grandeur, believing himself to be the King of the Greek Gods himself. He met his match when drawn into the designs of the true Olympians, but remains to be one of the most entertaining villains.
Batman The Animated Series
When the Paul Dini Batman series was first released, it was a revolution, and a breath of fresh air to Saturday morning televisions everywhere. This was the home of Harley Quinn, one of the few DC characters to successfully make the jump from the TV screen to the page, unlike say, Black Vulcan. Remember him?
Passionately in love with the Joker, Harley had been developed over the last few years beyond her two dimensional personality in the pages of Countdown, and more recently the Gotham City Sirens.
Harley promised to be the redemption of another star of Arkham City, the deadly seductress known as Poison Ivy.
Ivy began life as a botanist, but over the years has become more and more attuned to the whims of the plant kingdom, becoming half-plant herself. Her motives vary from simple criminality in the early years to a more developed sense of eco-terrorism. First appearing in 1966, she was modelled after the famous Betty Page.
Now there’s a thought. Batman versus Betty Page. Calling Adam West, report Stage Door One!
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Of course, the Dark Knight Returns Batman would not be so easily swayed by a pretty face. In fact, he would not be swayed by pretty much anything.
The Dark Knight Returns has to be one of the most influential pieces of the ‘Dark’n’Gritty’ era, setting the tone for comics for years to come.
Frank Miller’s work in 1986 may well have had many less than quality repercussions throughout the industry, but no one can deny that this is a brilliant and defining Batman epic, creating the dark and driven version of the Batman we have seen in the last decade.
Allegedly, Batman is to be a little less ‘damaged’ in the DCnU, but Frank Miller’s legacy will never be eroded.
Another legacy of The Animated Series, is the futuristic Batman Beyond. Another anachronism just like the Dark Knight Returns, the future from which the successor of the Bat-legacy, Terry McGuiness, hails from is a little less dystopian.
One would think that the futuristic nature of BB would alienate true Bat-fans, but the character has remained for over a decade, and recently returned to print. We can only hope his inclusion indicates his return to the small screen as well.
Returning to the thought of colourful villains, the introduction of Deadshot to the game makes me want to rename the entire production Deadshot: Arkham City (guest-starring Batman)!
Originally appearing back in 1958, Deadshot has become an ever more important force in the DC Universe, once he was recruited into John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad. This lead him to star in two of his own mini-series where we saw the ultimate gun-for-hire struggle with the more personal aspects of his life, such as the one thing he cared about, his young daughter.
Sacrificing his relationship with her for the sake of her happiness, Floyd Lawton continued to be a mover and shaker, becoming a regular member of the recent Secret Six. Yet the government, in the form of Amanda Waller, continue to keep their talons in him, and frequently it is unclear whether he is a good guy or a bad guy.
Another character older than he first appears, the Calendar Man is obsessed with dates and cycles. In fact his obsession seems to have replaced any form of fashion sense, as one can see from the illustration.
Yet with petty and unambitious crimes, he is known as a loser, and only attracts losers to him. It is ironic then that he was chosen prior to the Crisis On Infinite Earths to be an instrument of what was the most powerful entity in the DCU, the Monitor, to test the Batman.
His moment of glory that explored his truly murderous nature was the mini-series Batman: The Long Halloween. Here we saw his true depravity, yet since then he has retreated to the sidelines, never warranting more than a few panels exposure.
A costume like that, there’s little wonder.
This is only scratching the surface of the world of the Batman. Arkham City promises to contain many more unannounced villains, opening up a whole new world. In these days of revamp and reboot, it is good to see that the old stories are not being forgotten.