Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
Keeping Batman Original

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 12 Nov 2013 12:00
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I wouldn't say I'm a fan of Batman, I'm more of a casual user. Not much interest in the character itself or in superhero comics generally, but some aspects appeal to me. I enjoy stories that deconstruct his character a bit, or that use appropriate villains to explore and highlight the, let's face it, inherent problems with the concept of a man dressing up like a bat and beating up street-level criminals. And if the concept of Batman himself doesn't have inherent problems, then the notion that everyone takes Batman seriously certainly does.

I'd say everyone in the world has at least baseline knowledge of Batman, since he is so ubiquitous in popular culture. You'd be hard pressed to find someone in any slightly civilised nation who couldn't tell you that Batman is a dude who fights crime. Your level of Batman knowledge can then usually be measured by what Batman villains you can name. Bottom tier familiarity can name the really popular ones: Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, Riddler, Two-Face. Basically the major ones that appeared in films. Up one tier and you're on lads like Scarecrow, Mad Hatter, Bane, Poison Ivy, and so on. I don't know what the hell tier Copperhead would be on. Probably high enough to keep a lookout for radical internet feminists wanting to argue about costume design.

My point is, while I can understand the desire to keep things original with new villains for each Arkham game, there is a reason why a clutch of Batman's villains are a lot better known than others: because they're good characters that work well as a foil to the hero. Arkham Origins seems to realise that perfectly well with the 'your enemies will define you' line, and by its exploration of the Joker's origin. But then most of the game is spent handling lesser-known timewasters like Firefly or Deadshot or Black Mask, a pitiful parade of generic gimmick thugs, assassins and gang leaders who have no particular chemistry with the Dark Knight whatsoever.

Using those guys feels like trying to be different for the sake of being different, and even if you are convinced of the need for fresh faces, the whole prequel thing undermines that. We could've brought back all the really effective villains in their early days, exploring their formative years and how they became part of Batman's punch-harem. That would've been fresh enough.

The new-villains policy is one that's going to have to be dropped if the series intends to go on, because the only ones left at this point who haven't had an appearance are the total embarrassments. I'm on Wikipedia as I write this, on the 'List of Batman adversaries' page, and specifically looking over the 'Foes of lesser renown' section. It really is a sad bunch. It's like staring into a 60-year abyss of comic book writers desperately looking around their offices for gimmick inspiration. Still, I've got a few suggestions for some of these dudes I'd like to see if Warner Bros plans to churn another of these games out. They'll probably have to be grittified a bit, as seems to be usual Arkhamverse policy, so I'll make some suggestions there, too.

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