I’ve a fascination with two things that seem to be intrinsically connected: horror films and Batman’s rogues gallery. There are a lot of really horrible horror flicks made every year, and some villains seem to be bad just for the sake of being bad. Either due to laziness or simple lack of time to properly nurture an idea…...both can be pure shlock. The key to quality antagonists and horror films, I think, is relatability. Nearly every villain in Batman has some mental issue or backstory that not only makes them completely horrifying, but also finds the reader somehow...in the back of their minds…..almost rooting for them. It’s the same with a great horror film. We like our villains to be interesting, scary, and….at the end of the day…..someone we can see a part of ourselves in. That’s what makes them so terrifying. We feel like there is some small dark corner in the back of our minds that, if ever let loose, if ever tapped into, we could very well become that monster no one wants to become. If you stare too deeply into the abyss…...something stares back at you.
I used to joke with people about what fun it would be to have a short film made wherein Rorschach, Heath Ledger’s Joker, Jigsaw and Hannibal Lecter are all locked in a room for an hour and have to have a conversation with each other. If one of them kills any of the others, they are all gassed and die. After they talk, they are allowed to leave, left to do what they will to each other. Wouldn’t you want to be a fly on the wall for that conversation? Would they find common ground on anything? What would they even talk about? It’s an idea I love to play with, and one that got me thinking……
What cinematic characters are worthy of staying in Arkham Asylum? Who would fit into the madness that is Batman’s long list of crazies he has to deal with on a nightly basis? After some thought and consideration, I came up with a list. My criteria was as follows.
1. They have to have an interesting and somehow relatable backstory.
2. They have to pose some sort of threat to the people of Gotham, if not Batman himself.
3. Something about them has to make them stand out in a very particular, somewhat outlandish way.
4. They can’t be evil for evil’s sake.
For the purposes of this post, I will also attempt to fit each character into the Batman mythos in a way that might show how well they would work with that comic book universe. I will also be attaching the trailer for each movie the mentioned character comes from so readers can see the movie for themselves. Have no doubt, I love these movies. If I can spread the word about any of them, I would be only too happy.
With all that in mind…..here we go….
May had an awkward childhood, to say the least. Born with a Lazy eye, and an overbearing mother that convinced young May that no one would ever like her due to this one, fairly insignificant flaw, she spent most of her formative years in the house. She was picked on fairly often at school, and her only friend was a doll which was kept in a glass case, seen but never touched. It wasn’t until much later that she managed to receive contact lenses that corrected her lazy eye, and with those lenses came a new-found confidence. Finally, May thought to herself, I can make real friends! Ignoring the doll she’s spent so much time with, she set out to make connections with flesh-and-blood, honest-to goodness people. She went on dates. She formed crushes. She discovered she was somewhat bisexual. Indeed, she learned a lot about herself. But mostly she learned heartache. No one understood her, and everyone she’d met seemed to have some sort of issue or agenda. So many ugly people, she thought, but with so many beautiful parts. Thinking back to her doll, she decided to make a friend. A lover. A companion. She thought on her skills as a veterinarian and formed a plan. She began to go back out, seeking those she attempted to form relationships with, and removed what she thought was most beautiful about them. Hands from a man. Legs from a woman. The arms of a punk rocker. She continued until she had a complete set of parts, and for whatever reason, be it magic or sheer will, the monstrosity came to life.
Meanwhile, news spread around gotham that a series of bizarre murders are taking place, and Batman has set his sights on finding out who is responsible. Aside from missing body parts, there is nothing the victims have in common. Men and women from various backgrounds are being targeted, and there is no common thread….until he realizes the link between all of them is a single veterinarian. May Dove Canady. Just as he begins his hunt for Canady, police reports of a panic at a small french diner explodes through the speakers of the Batmobile. Deciding to put the case on hold for now, he go to investigate. When batman arrives at the diner, he discovers people running from the scene, and inside….is May Canady and her creation, pleasantly sharing dinner, and harming no one. She merely wanted to enjoy a date with her friend the way normal people do. The people ran in horror not because of the threat she caused, but by the sheer disturbing nature of her patchwork companion. Batman confronts her, and the monster attacks him, leading to a fairly intense, but altogether short brawl, ending with batman tearing the creature’s limbs apart from the torso. May screams in heartfelt anguish as she sees her only friend ripped asunder by this man in a mask, and is then hauled off to Arkham. She sits in her cell, lonely, angry, wanting revenge, and planning how best to make another friend while her doll sits and watches from the corner of her padded cell.
No one would have been envious of Willard Stiles’ life. He lived in a rat infested, fairly run down home. He worked to take care of his verbally abusive mother who had managed, over the years, to give him an inferiority complex. His boss made a habit out of emasculating Willard on a daily basis. He had no friends, as he was convinced he couldn’t make any. His one light in his dreary life was a co-worker by the name of Cathryn, whom he is secretly in love with. She was nice to him, and it got him through most days. But no matter how great she made him feel, for even the briefest moment, he had to return to the personal hell that was his home life. Upon the wishes of his antagonistic mother, Willard tries to eradicate the vermin problem in his home, but upon doing so, he realizes he has a strange connection with them. Instead of killing the rats, he befriends them. He trains them. He discovers that he can control them with greater and greater ease. Upon discovery of what Willard has been up to, Willard’s mother falls down the stairs, in shock, and dies. Now, with his mother no longer holding him back, and with financial and personal issues mounting, he decides to take control of his destiny. These rats and I can do almost anything, he thinks. And so he set out on plans for revenge and profit.
He starts small, of course. Terrorizing neighbors. Getting back at his boss via uber-rat related murder. In doing so however, he terrifies his one real friend, Cathryn, who is now actively trying to avoid him. Now, without a moral compass, he begins to go a bit mad. Using his rats, he stages ambitious thefts and robberies to cover housing payments and extravagant gifts to try and win over his one-time friend and love interest. With him often nowhere near the scene of the crime, the culprit of Willard’s several crimes isn’t obvious. Of course, Batman takes notice. Fingering Willard as the main suspect isn’t difficult for him. He merely waited for the police reports to be broadcasted, went to the scene of the crime, and followed the rats back to their source. Upon seeing Batman, Willard gives himself up with relative ease, and is put in the Batmobile for transport to the authorities. It’s here where Batman realizes he has underestimated Willard. During the drive, Willard’s rats have been inside the Batmobile, tearing and chewing away at the vehicle’s essential electrical components, causing the vehicle to wreck, nearly killing the both of them.
Batman, shaken and surprised, knocks Willard out and takes him to Arkham. He later reveals to Alfred how shocked he is at how such a simple case, such a simple man, could have nearly killed him. Alfred responds by saying that one should never doubt the resolve of a desperate and industrious man. After all…..bats could be considered, by some, to be merely rats with wings. Batman ponders this as Willard sits in his cell, making new furry friends, confident he’ll be out again, very soon indeed.
Mary is a woman of ambition and conviction. She decided long ago to pursue a medical career, much to the delight of her family, but the city life and tuition make it incredibly hard to make ends meet. There are nights where she worries that, despite being as promising a student as she is, she might not be able to afford her degree. In a momentary act of desperation, she goes to a strip club to audition for a job. Within mere minutes of her audition, however, she backs out, feeling she is above this. Just she concludes her final f-yous and begins walking away, a few figures appear from a basement, covered in blood. They know she is a med student, and ask her if she wants to make $5,000, no questions asked. She finds out that the club is owned by the mob. They have been torturing an informant downstairs, and they need her to keep him alive. She does so, badly in need of the money, and then goes home and has a cold shower…..in shock at what she just seen and been a part of.
It doesn’t take long before people involved in the club hear about Mary. Strippers and people of alternative lifestyles begin showing up at her doorstep, asking for her help with extreme surgeries and body modification. She becomes friends with the outcasts of the city, and makes some really great money doing so. It’s her newfound wealth that draws the attention of her college professors. Assuming she made the money from prostitution, they invite her to a party. Her professor drugs and rapes her. The next day, groggy and understandably angry, she goes back to the mob and asks them if they want to make $5,000….no questions asked. The mob kidnaps the professor and brings him to a warehouse where Mary confronts him. She tells him that, due to recent events, she no longer wants to be a med student. Instead, she has discovered a whole new career path, but she has so much to learn…..about art and the limits of the human body. She informs him that he is going to help her. His body becomes the test subject for every form of extreme surgery and body modification she needs to become accustomed to.
After much success and experimentation, she opens her own studio, and becomes a bizarre, very specialized enforcer for the mob. Mangled, but still alive criminals and the like begin appearing all over Gotham. Batman, once again, becomes aware of the situation. While hunting Mary down to her place of business, he finds her and an assassin making an attempt on her life, both nearly dead and bleeding on the floor. He saves the both of them, but only just barely. Mary wakes in a cell in Arkham…...oddly enough, only one cell over from the Joker.
“Aren’t you a med student? Word travels fast around here. HAHAHA. I could have used your help not all that long ago. “ The Joker says to her.
“Speak to me again, and I will remove your face from your skull, you sick bastard...” Mary replies, arms crossed as she leans against her cell.
“Ah. HAHA. OH dearest. I’ve been there, I’ve done that.” Joker retorts, goading her. “ You can do remarkable things with a staple gun and some wire! MEH heh HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”
Don’t I know it, Mary thinks to herself as she slumps onto the floor, wondering how she even got to this point.
So there it is. I should say that this list was originally going to be a lot longer, but once I started writing this article, I realized how much space this was actually going to take. ( I am not writing a book here, after all ) So what do you think? Do you have your own ideas on what cinematic characters should be in Arkham? Would you like to see more of this sort of thing ( I can assure you, this was going to go on for a while ) If so, consider this part one of a series of these sort of articles. If not, this has been fun, and thank you for reading....but either way......BATMAN.