I was looking at the June 2010 solicits for DC Comics yesterday and saw that a follow-up to the late-2008 mini-event “The Joker’s Asylum” is in the works. The first ‘Asylum’ series featured five one-shots each with a story about a different Batman villain and each by a different creative team. I know I read the one about the Scarecrow but I really don’t remember anything about it, so it’s fair to say it didn’t make much of an impression on me. I remember a little bit more about the Poison Ivy one but I didn’t enjoy that one at all. The Joker and Two-Face issues were both pretty decent but the real stand-out of the bunch was the issue about The Penguin. I’m no even that much of a Penguin fan but this issue was a great read and genuinely shocking and emotional. Every time I’ve thought about the Penguin since I’ve remembered that issue and just writing about it makes me want to dig it out over the weekend and read it again.
But what I really want to talk about is the new set. I can’t say I recognise any names of the writers and artists attached to this new series but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it could lead to a new talent getting a bit of a following if they do good work. But this second series of one-shots features five different Batman villains and some excite me more than others. I’m pleased to see we will be getting a Mad Hatter issue and a Riddler issue seems so obvious that it should have been included in the first series. As for Harley Quinn, I like the character a little bit, but I’m never too keen to read a story with her as the lead. But I can see why she was one of the chosen five, she has a sizable fan-following after all. The other two characters featured will be Killer Croc and Clayface, not characters I care much about and not ones that are terribly popular either, so a strange choice perhaps.
But what of the other characters DC editorial could have chosen instead of Clayface and K-Croc, or could possibly use for a future instalments? Well here’s a few that spring to mind…
Perhaps the most obvious omission is Mr. Freeze, possibly the most iconic villain not mentioned above. The one obvious benefit to not including him is that if ‘Asylum’ somehow gets a third quintet of one-shots next year they have at least one A-list character yet to play with, which, come to think of it, may be the reason the Riddler was never used instead of, say, the Scarecrow in the first series. Would a Freeze story with little or no Batman be a good read? Maybe. The Joker story worked because that guy doesn’t need to be around Batman to show up some place and cause a lot of trouble. And the Penguin story had a number of strong elements working for it, including his current lifestyle and bits of his backstory (and Penguin’s backstory hasn’t been explored quite as extensively as some other Bat-villains) as well as some truly chilling moments where we get to see just how vicious Oswald Cobblepot can be. Mr. Freeze does have an emotional angle to play with, but it’s one that is used in most stories about the character, so a writer would really have to be at the top of his game to bring us something new and interesting for a Fries one-shot. Would have still been better than reading about Killer Croc though.
The Cavalier is a great, if underused Bat-villain. He likes expensive things, eventually resorts to crime for money so he dresses up like a Musketeer and goes on a crime spree. How could that NOT be more entertaining than Killer Croc?
I remember before his debut in last year’s ‘Batman and Robin’ #4 that Grant Morrison was talking a lot about how much he enjoyed coming up with this particular villain and that he hoped that he might become a fan-favourite. And by #6 he was (seemingly) dead. But that is what would make him a great choice for ‘Asylum’, as all of these stories have included very little interaction with Batman and other heroes, so a gifted writer could give a Flamingo story set before his (apparent) death and show us just how sick and twisted this guy is, and maybe even how he got that way. Mind you, any fans that don’t like Morrison’s Batman work (and there are a few) wouldn’t want to buy/read a story about him, and those fans who love Morrison might not want to read a Flamingo story that was scripted by someone else, and Morrison already has three Bat-titles released in June. He’s not a big name villain like Joker or the Riddler, but still more enjoyable than reading about Killer Croc.
Who wouldn’t want to read a comic where Batman takes on Frank Miller, as written by Frank Miller. Frank has spent a good chunk of his career writing and drawing ultra-masculine types and his work on Batman has made the character super-manly and super-violent. But I don’t believe for a second that Frank could stand to make himself the second manliest character in a comic, so I would fully expect this issue to end with Miller killing Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson and taking on the Batmantle for himself. And then hunting and killing Killer Croc.
So that’s how I would fix this event. And if you’re reading DC, don’t let the fact I ended on a joke entry take away from the true message of this post, that message being that every last person who buys your comics wants to see more of Mortimer ‘Cavalier’ Drake in every comic you publish.
Writing about the Riddler makes me want to talk more about how he should be portrayed if he was to appear in the eventual, inevitable follow-up to The Dark Knight. More than a few people have speculated that Johnny Depp could take on the role. I would be happy if that does end up being the case, but my number one choice for the role would be Will Arnett. I wouldn’t expect that Christopher Nolan (assuming he wants to direct the next Batman film) would someone hamming it up as the Riddler, but I believe that Arnett has the capacity to rein in the theatrics just enough to make the character just as chilling as a Nolan-directed-Riddler should be. Join the Facebook group to show your support if you too want to see Arnett in the role.