What Does A Silver Age Batman Game Mean?
A couple of weeks ago pretty much every game or comic book website wrote up an article about how Rocksteady are apparently not working on a direct sequel to Arkham City but instead are working on a prequel. However the most perplexing bit of news is that the game is allegedly based on the Silver Age Batman. If you’re a comic book nerd you probably fully understand what the Silver Age is, but I’d wager there’s some of you out there who aren’t too familiar over what that actually means. The Silver Age, in comic book language, basically means about 1950-1970 when comics had a boom in popularity and new super hero characters were popping up left and right. About 75% of the really popular comic book characters were created during the Silver Age.
So is the Silver Age just a period in time? No there’s a lot more to it than that. A big factor affecting the content at the time was the Comics Code Authority. If you’ve not heard of it that’s because it’s long dead, and good riddance! The CCA was a pain in any publisher’s ass and prohibited all kinds of content which were deemed inappropriate for children. You see at the time there was a lot of scare mongering that comics were causing the youth of the day to go out and basically be a bunch of delinquent assholes. It’s the familiar story of ‘blame everything but parenting’ that we’re still sadly seeing today. Anyway, examples of the CCA’s ludicrous rules include banning such things as: kidnapping, any crime that was deemed gory or sadistic, profanity, a ‘desirable or amusing’ portrayal of divorce, seduction, corrupt law officials, ‘glamours’ criminals, werewolves and any situation where evil ultimately triumphs over good. There’s plenty more and they’re no less restrictive. At the time it meant a lot of comics had to be outright canceled or heavily modified to fit these new rules. Sorry guys, no more comics about a corrupt divorced werewolf judge.
With that in mind you can get a feel for what a Silver Age comic would look like. Arkham City is the furthest thing from the Silver Age you can get. A modern example of a Silver Age interpretation would be Batman The Brave And The Bold. So, this leads me to wondering what a Silver Age Batman game means. Straight away you can expect everything to be much more toned down. The grim and moody atmosphere of Arkham City is out the window instead there’d likely be a lot more colour. The violence would have to be toned down or at least the more grim violent scenes would be out of there. Don’t expect Victor Zsasz to show up, if he was prowling around the Silver Age half the heroes would have had a heart attack. The Joker is said to be in the game but you can expect him to be a lot less creepy in favour of playing up the fun silly nature of his character.
The quick question to come to mind with this announcement is why do this? Well the answer is, so the rumours say, because Warner Bros want the wider public to get cosy with Aquaman, Wonder Woman and the rest of the Justice League so they can lay the groundwork for bringing them to the screen. Warner Bros’ worry is that with a Justice League movie half the audience would see the trailer then lean over and ask who the hell that is talking to the fish and what’s up with the green dude. Marvel barely had the issue of recognisability when it came to the Avengers thanks to decades of cartoons, games, merchandise and of course the solo movies that led up to it. Meanwhile the Justice League have had much less of a presence and Green Lantern left everyone a bit ‘meh’ so DC have failed to create the kind of splash that Iron Man did. Therefore putting the Justice League into the most successful comic book game franchise ever made makes quite a bit of sense if you’re going for public exposure. The problem is of course introducing the Justice League into the Arkham world would be a very strange fit. Robin was matured and heavily tweaked for his appearance in Arkham City and Justice League characters like The Flash or Martian Manhunter would fit the Arkham style even less. Metropolis gets name dropped in both Arkham games so it’s not like it’d be completely out of the blue if Superman swooped down but with Arkham’s art style and tone I have a hard time imagining it (besides couldn’t Superman basically clean up Arkham Asylum in five minutes?). Using the Silver Age as a template it would be a lot easier to pull in the Justice League. Something that adds further evidence to the tonal shift is the fact that Paul Dini (scribe of both Arkham games) is confirmed to not be writing for the new game in any capacity, despite the fact he’s stated he’d like to. Dini’s Batman style is usually fairly dark even when writing for kids, as evidenced by his work DC’s animated projects over the years, so it’s likely they are indeed going for something a bit lighter.
So on the surface, taking into account everything the Silver Age means, it basically equates to a pretty tame Batman experience. Sure, there is room for a light hearted fun Batman story but do I want it to replace a potential Arkham 3? Not really. Do I think the game will be good? Actually yes. Rocksteady have proven themselves to be one hell of a developer so I’m sure they could actually pull this off in an enjoyable way. My gut reaction is I’d rather they not make this but that’s more than a little unfair considering I’ve not even seen a screenshot nevermind played the game. So although the premise makes me nervous I will wait before making judgement. The alleged release date for this new game is 2014. I’m going to make the reasonable guess that we won’t see it on the 360/PS3 and instead it’ll be a next-gen title which would put it’s official announcement probably at E3 2013 along with the probable unveiling of both the new consoles. Wether the announcement leaves us all missing the moody streets of Arkham City or clamouring for the new Justice League filled cast we’ll have to wait and see.