All Batman fans are familiar with Arkham Asylum, the infamous home for the mentally ill that houses the Caped Crusader’s greatest foes such as the Joker. However, what many Dark Knight devotees don’t realize is that we are going to be getting an Arkham series streaming on Max that is completely separate from James Gunn’s upcoming DCU. Some might think of this show as DC once again throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks, but trust us: Arkham has the potential to be DC’s greatest television series.
More Than Where the Bad Guys Go
One of the reasons we are hyped to see this upcoming show is that Arkham Asylum has plenty of storytelling potential that is typically squandered by writers. In most stories, the asylum is nothing more than a place for Batman to drop his villains. The fact that most of the villains are certifiably crazy also provides a convenient reason for why Gotham City doesn’t simply give its worst criminals the death penalty.
The Arkham series has the potential to deliver dramatic storylines showcasing what happens to honest asylum staff when they are constantly exposed to the madness of Batman’s foes. Remember, the backstory of fan-favorite character Harley Quinn is that she was a member of the staff who ended up falling in love with the Joker, and we’d love to see more stories featuring the corruption of noble Arkham staff. Conversely, we’d love more stories featuring corrupt officials such as Quincy Sharp, the corrupted man turned killer who is a minor antagonist in the Arkham Asylum and Arkham City games.
A Great Batman Story (With or Without Batman)
We don’t yet know much about the upcoming Arkham series except for the fact that it was originally going to focus more on the beleaguered Gotham City Police Department. That immediately brings to mind the campy but captivating Gotham series that focused on the early careers of James Gordon and Harvey Bullock. Arguably, that show’s biggest weakness is that it could never escape the shadow of Batman: we had to endure one boring season after another featuring young Bruce Wayne, culminating in a final season that focused way too much on the tortured protagonist’s transformation into Batman.
The Best Of Gotham
With an Arkham series, we can get all the benefits of the Gotham show with none of the drawbacks: it can feature everyday men and women simply trying to survive in a world of supervillains, and the show has no real need to include Batman himself. In fact, the biggest draw of this series is that we can see what happens after the Dark Knight drops these villains off and drives away. Considering that’s where most Batman stories end, this show has the potential to enrich our understanding of this character’s world and all of its colorful characters.
Taking Inspiration From One of the Greatest Batman Stories
While there are plenty of great comics that an Arkham series could take inspiration from, we sincerely hope it draws heavily from Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum: A Serious House On Serious Earth. That story provides plenty of amazing lore for the asylum, including the fact that it was named after Elizabeth Arkham, mother of asylum founder Amadeus Arkham. The origin is sad: not only does Amadeus euthanize his mother when she gets severely ill, but his wife and daughter get murdered by one of his former patients whom he later electroshocks to death.
In Morrison’s seminal comic, the plot involves Batman trying to survive a night in Arkham Asylum after it gets taken over by the Joker and other villains. Rather than giving us the usual tale of frenzied fisticuffs, Morrison penned a psychological horror story that broached crunchy questions about everything from the true nature of Joker’s insanity to whether Batman is actually feeding a supernaturally evil asylum rather than rehabilitating the mentally ill. Along the way, we also get character development for villains like Two-Face who are often (ironically enough, in his case) treated as one-note criminals.
Long story not very short, Grant Morrison singlehandedly gave Arkham Asylum its deepest lore while adding complexity and pathos to Batman’s entire rogue’s gallery. An Arkham show has the potential to do the same thing, and if it adopts Morrison’s psychological horror focus, we could get the rare DC show that is both spooky and thought-provoking. Somewhat selfishly, we think fans deserve a great series (or maybe just their own turn in the asylum) after enduring all that awful CGI in Supergirl.