What Deathstroke and the Silver Age could mean for Batman: Arkham Origins
by Steve Watts, shacknews.com, Apr 9, 2013 11:30AM PDT
Warner Bros officially announced Batman: Arkam Origins today. The earliest rumors claimed this would be a prequel set in the Silver Age, detailing Batman's first encounters with his rogue's gallery, particularly the Joker. With today's announcement, that seems half-true.
The game is a prequel to the Arkham games, and does feature a younger Batman meeting villains for the first time. This affords WB Montreal the ability to reintroduce several characters that we've only heard about the origins of through recordings while exploring the Arkham grounds. A constant theme in Batman comics is how tied his origins are to those of his rogue's gallery. A random act of violence created him, but over and over we see how his efforts to stop street crime created a dangerous new kind of supervillainy.
The official description claims that this is a younger and "unrefined" Batman facing a defining moment in his career as a crime-fighter. That harkens back to Batman: Year One, a 1987 series that covered Bruce Wayne's journey into becoming Batman. It's a less experienced version of the character, learning to rely on fear. This could mean a less refined fighting style and fewer gadgets to tinker with. The description also notes he will "forge key relationships," and following the Year One formula that would include James Gordon before he ever had the title of Commissioner.
Earlier iterations of villains would almost certainly include the Joker, whose origin story is tied to Batman's in some continuities. The most often cited origin for Joker, as depicted in The Killing Joke, shows the Clown Prince of Crime as a down-on-his-luck chemical engineer who tries his hand at stand-up comedy and fails miserably. Desperate for money, he then takes a job with some criminals that goes wrong, ultimately being dumped into a vat of acid when the scheme is interrupted by the Bat.
The story uses it to reflect on the central theme of the novel, that any man is "one bad day" from turning evil. In the context of an Arkham prequel, such a story could also be used to illustrate Batman's inexperience in his early years, and to tie thematically to Joker's fate at the end of Arkham City. It's worth noting, though, that this is only one of Joker's many origin stories that may be outright fabrications, and the character has said he prefers his background to be "multiple choice."
Rumors circulating around the Silver Age influence are more complex. The Silver Age of comics lasted through the late 50s and 60s, and was heavily influenced by the Comics Code Authority. Citing concerns of adult content in books that were primarily read by children, publishers voluntarily restricted their content to kid-friendly stories with strict limits on depictions of violence, drugs, and sex.
If a character named "Deathstroke" seems incongruous with that, you're not wrong. The character was introduced in 1980, a decade after the Silver Age had ended. At this point comics were more splashy and on the verge of becoming so hyper-violent that it was satirized in 1987's Watchmen. By putting Deathstroke front-and-center on the Game Informer cover story, WB is clearly indicating it will steer clear of the more bubblegum, silly stories of the Silver Age and continue Arkham's gritty take on Gotham. Deathstroke had a brief cameo in the iOS game Arkham City Lockdown, so presumably this would be a continuation of that.
Silver Age comics were also notable for team-ups, though, which is much more likely for this game. Following the success of The Avengers, Warner Bros has an interest in a Justice League movie. One report from Variety claimed that this was part of a larger effort to team up characters in all different kinds of media, as it prepares audiences for the film.