Welcome to the four hundred and ninety-fifth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous four hundred and ninety-four. This week, was Robin nearly in Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth? Did Peanuts coin the term “security blanket?” And was Mockingbird nearly black?
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COMIC LEGEND: Robin was originally going to be in the classic (and very dark) Batman graphic novel, Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth
Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, the legendary Batman graphic novel by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean that made them both stars in the comic book world, is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this month.
The series was marked by its dark subject matter, as Batman is forced to go into Arkham Asylum after the inmates take control of the facility. Morrison and McKean examine the pyschology of the various inmates.
However, while it WAS dark material for them at the time, there’s an interesting aspect of DC’s darker Batman work from the late 1980s, the ones set in “current” continuity still included Robin in them!
Here’s Jason Todd in Batman: The Cult, by Jim Starlin and Berni Wrightson…
So oddly enough for such a dark work, Robin originally was going to be in Arkham Aslyum!
He would be stationed at GCPD headquarters researching the history of Arkham Asylum and that would be how Morrison would work in the exposition about the history of Arkham.
The issue is that when Morrison first wrote the script for Arkham Asylum, it was intended to just be a 48-page special. Then it became a 64-page special when Dave McKean came aboard but McKean needed so much more that it became a 120-page graphic novel.
McKean, for his part, was not particularly interested in drawing superheroes in general (he made an exception here because it was such a high profile comic and he felt that he could possibly do something new with the character), so he DEFINITELY did not want to draw Robin. Morrison tried to compromise by having Robin covered up by a trenchcoat so that McKean would not have to draw the bright Robin costume but McKean wouldn’t budge so Morrison cut Robin from the book and used other means to explore the history of Arkham Asylum and the Arkham family.
Can you even imagine the finished Arkham Asylum with Robin in it? Yikes!
McKean discussed the problem back in 1990 with Comics Career magazine:
It was kind of a breaking point in as much as at the beginning of it I thought if could push it as far as I could in the direction that I wanted to go – this sort of very abstracted work and dense atmosphere. I tried not to accept any of the ground rules at face value.
When Grant first came up with the story he didn’t know who was going to be drawing it, so it was a very traditional Batman story. But, it had Robin in it, and I didn’t like that at all. At one point he was Bruce Wayne, and I didn’t want that either because I don’t believe in the character as a human being. I like the idea of him being sort of a cross between man and an animal, and I think as a mythic story that’s kind of interesting.
We chopped it and changed it around. It became sort of a symbolic play. We piled all this stuff on top of it, and dressed it up in its best clothes, and sent it out. Then I sat down afterwards and realized, “Why? Why bother? It’s such an absurd thing to do.” It’s like suddenly realizing the fact that you’re desperately trying to work around the subject matter – trying to make the book despite the subject, rather than because of it. At the end of the day, if you really love to do Batman comics, then that’s probably the best thing to do. Not liking them, and then trying to make something out of them is just a waste of time.
Thanks to Grant Morrison for the information from his notes for the 15th Anniversary of Arkham Asylum edition. Thanks to GrayDog for the link to the Comics Career article.
Check out my latest Movie Legends Revealed at Spinoff Online: Was the “evil” owner in the film Major League secretly the hero of the film?
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