The good news is that on Monday, ArkhamCity.co.uk got the scoop on five different skins that players will be able to equip while playing the upcoming Batman: Arkham City, and by all accounts they’re all friggin’ terrific. The bad news is that Warner Bros. still haven’t announced plans for a worldwide release of all the skins, meaning that for now players will be left with having to preorder the game from all over the world to be able to use all of them.
Now, we’re just going to go ahead and assume that WB has the foresight to realize that people all across the planet love the Batman and will figure it out in due time. With that said, that’s an awesome variety of different Batmen! It’s all very exciting for hardcore fans of the Caped Crusader, but casual fans may be left wondering what all of the fuss is about.
Well, glad you asked. What follows is a brief summary of the backstory behind each of the alternate costumes.
No matter what your level of Batman expertise, there’s a good chance that you at least have a passing knowledge of the super-campy TV series that starred Adam West in the 1960s. You know the one: Batman and Robin in goofy spandex, West’s dry delivery, wacky Batgadets, and visual sound effects galore. While it was fun, it grew tiresome quickly.
So what the 1970s costume represents is a return to form after two decades of camp and declining comic sales, with DC Comics bringing Batman back to what made him great in the first place — gritty detective stories. Part of the change included a costume that looked like something that a proper avenger of the night would wear, rather than a set of pajamas that could double as an crappy Halloween costume. Finally, this also saw the introduction of what would become a widely used logo that would be seen across several incarnations of the Bat, including two Tim Burton films.
The Dark Knight Returns
While the 1970s were a great time for Batman comics, sales continued to decline into the 1980s. That is, until Frank Miller came along and delivered what many consider to be the finest Batman story ever told.
If you’re wondering why Bats is looking a little bloated, that’s because in The Dark Knight Returns Bruce Wayne is 55-years-old. Well past his physical prime, he makes a return to crime-fighting after ten years in retirement, distraught by the increase in violent crime in his absence. You see Batman struggle with his own mortality in a world in which his fellow heroes are cast into retirement, either of old age or anti-vigilante attitudes. It is the exact opposite of what Batman was just twenty years prior — dark, vengeful, and fucking frightening if you’re on the wrong side of the law.
If you have even a passing interest in Batman or badassery in general, do read it.
Batman: The Animated Series
Before Christopher Nolan started making Batman movies, this was the high watermark for seeing the Caped Crusader in motion. It differentiated itself from the other Saturday morning cartoons that it was running alongside by being much more mature and story-driven than what kids were used to seeing, all wrapped up in a magnificent art deco style.
The best part of the show is that it was where the major contributors to Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City first collaborated. Paul Dini was a writer for the show and penned both games, as well as the prequel Arkham City comic series. He also created Harley Quinn for the show, who became so popular that she became a regular character in Batman lore. The brilliant Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, who respectively voice Batman and Joker, also worked on the show. In fact, the only change in Arkham City is the voice of Quinn, who went from The Animated Series’ and Arkham Asylum’s Arleen Sorkin to Tara Strong.
Basically, Rocksteady’s games come full circle with much of the great talent that made TAS special, and there’s something wonderfully meta about reprising Kevin Conroy’s role from almost 20 years ago with this skin.
Above: Image from ~Gaff1229 of deviantART
When Batman Beyond was shown to people a few years after TAS ended its glorious run, fans were skeptical. At first glance, it seemed to betray what DC had built over the previous decades. When it was all said and done, it was an Emmy-winning show that was more than worthy of the Batman moniker.
Set in 2039, Bruce Wayne (once again voiced by Conroy) is no longer capable of fighting due to his old age, and a 16-year-old named Terry McGinnis stumbles upon Wayne Manor after a fight against the Jokerz street gang. While there, Terry finds the entrance of the Batcave, and Bruce angrily kicks him off the premises. When Terry gets home, he finds his father murdered, and he goes back to take the Batsuit and exact his revenge. Bruce reluctantly agrees, and eventually offers him the chance to assume the role of Batman.
The funny thing about this costume is that you’ll be playing a teenage Batman, which is something that has never happened before or since Beyond. History!
Batman: Earth One
Finally, we arrive at the final costume. I left this one for last for a couple of reasons: First, I did this list chronologically, from first introduced to last. Second, this one costume is so recent that … well, Batman: Earth One isn’t out yet.
So far, all that’s known about the upcoming Earth One series is that it will be an origin story retold in a more modern setting, and that it’s expected to release sometime in 2011. That’s right — you’ll most likely have to chance to play as Earth One Batman before you get to read him. That’s kinda nuts, right?