SDCC 09: A Peek Inside Batman: ARKHAM ASYLUM

The Joker IS Playable in Arkham Asylum

Before the screening of the Director’s Cut of Watchmen with Director Zach Snyder, Warner Bros. brought-out some big fan favorites to talk about the upcoming Batman: Arkham Asylum game Saturday Night at Comic-Con International: San Diego.

Moderator Ricardo Torres from Gamespy first ran a Silent Hill-esque teaser trailer for the game, composed of a series of macabre pans across the night-shrouded grounds of Arkham Asylum while a scratchy voice recording of the Asylum’s founder lamented his fate and chosen calling, finally questioning his own sanity and the seemingly intrinsic madness that embodied Gotham.

After the applause died down, he called the panel out, first Rocksteady games producer Sefton Hill, the voice of Batman Kevin Conroy, whose ovation could only have been topped by the next man: Joker’s voice and sci-fi legend Mark Hamill who brought the crowd in the large panel room to their feet.  Finally writer Paul Dini (Batman: Streets of Gotham, Gotham City Sirens) joined the group on stage.

Hill announced that he was happy to be in San Diego and to have so much of Batman’s history to build of off to make this game.  He praised the game’s depth of characterization for Batman, with its focus on not only his fighting skills but his predator skills, his use of psychology and his relationship with the Joker.

Torres then asked Paul Dini about his involvement, and he realized that when he first flew to London to see the game in progress he was blown away at how much development studio Rocksteady “got” Batman.

Torres asked Hill how they chose the subject of the game.  Hill replied that they took the general Batman license and went though the 70 years of his history and were immediately attached to the idea of Arkham.  They thought "wouldn’t it be cool if Batman was trapped there with all his enemies, along with innocents he had to rescue," and that it would even be a good idea for a movie.

Torress asked about tweaks to characters, and Hill answered that Killer Croc, for example, in development he mutated away form just a big guy with a skin condition, and now he’s Godzilla in pants, lurking in Arkham’s sewer, eating the unwary.  Harley Quinn is the Joker’s inside woman at the Asylum, so her outfit is a nurse’s that she’s messed up in her special way, and her mask is just dirt from around the grounds.

On the topic of how they decided on the voices, Hill said to the crowds delight that there wasn’t even a choice; it was Conroy and Hamill or nothing.  Hamill then welcomed the crowd in the Joker’s voice and how he’s is glad that the Joker can really cut loose now that he’s out from under the standards and practices rules of TV animation.  He also said his son can’t wait to play as the Joker on the PS3 version (a feature exclusive to that system).  Dini added that it could be the first step to a mayhem filled Joker game.  Hamill then remarked that this might be his last shot at the Joker after 17 years, and Conroy praised him for his consistency with the character.  Dini added that they couldn’t get enough Joker in the game and mentioned an in-game collectable: a series of audio tapes of Joker’s psychoanalysis sessions where he and Quinn discuss his relationship with Batman that players are really going to want to find.

Hamill, who at that point had taken charge of the festivities, after noting how easy it was for he and Conroy to slip back into their rhythm for the recording session, changed the subject briefly and mentioned that he’d finished recoding an episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold with some classic Batman talent: Adam West and Julie Newmar as Thomas and Martha Wayne, Conroy as the Phantom Stranger and himself as the Specter.  He then, to applause, praised almost all other performances of the Joker by name with special attention to Heath Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight.  He then speculated about doing a book on tape of The Killing Joke, describing that as a dark take on the Joker like the new game.

There wasn’t time for questions, but after Hamill called out to all the Harley cosplayers in the audience, he and Dini told the story of her origins in the animated series, how the character grew organically and how proud he was that she made the leap to the comics.

The panel ended with a Joker laugh and a warning form Conroy that: “I am terror, I am the night, I am Batman!”

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