So this week’s primary post talked about how mental illness is presented in horror fiction and how Batman comics in particular have handled it. In the article I said that using mental illness to create horror and suspense was a trope of the horror genre. I still believe that’s true, but I wanted to add a little bit to that statement.
Just because a story utilizes a genre trope doesn’t mean it is a bad story or that it was badly written.
On the contrary, most tropes only become tropes because they began as very effective storytelling tools.
With that in mind, I am going to strongly recommend Batman Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean. It’s a phenomenal and evocative story that touches on some very primal and some very cerebral fears.
The story that Morrison and McKean tell is unlike a true Batman story in almost every way. By Morrison’s own admission we know that the story is meant to be a dream sequence taken out of Bruce Wayne’s nightmares.
We witness very little of the Batman we know and love in this story. Instead, we a see fear-plagued pawn in the Asylum’s game. Morrison and McKean manage to present a Batman who is both ineffectual and strikingly cruel – both self-doubting and self-righteous.
I don’t want to spoil any more of the comic than I already have, but it is full of symbolism: religious, literary, historical, and psychological. All of it provokes strong reactions (at least from me). In the midst of McKean’s striking surrealist art style, and Morrison’s disturbed writing, a chilling psychological thrill emerges, and it’s well worth the read.
Finally, I want to note that this comic is definitely not for everyone. It’s a psychological horror story in a super-hero’s cape. It contains suicide, self-mutilation, implied sexual assault, and is sometimes graphic in its depiction of violence.
If you’re a horror fan and you’ve always found yourself wondering what would cause Gotham’s Dark Knight to wake in a cold sweat, then Arkham Asylum should sail to the top of your must-read list.
- Asylum and Cage (prometheanplayground.wordpress.com)