Batman Villains We Want in the DCU Arkham Asylum Series

Apart from the upcoming series about Colin Farrell’s Penguin, Matt Reeves is bringing another extension of the Batman world to Max. But as James Gunn recently revealed, this new series won’t take place in the Gotham City of The Batman. It will take place in the new DCU. It will focus on the inmates of Arkham Asylum, Gotham City’s home for the criminally insane. Most notably, the Dark Knight’s very long list of rogues. Naturally, the show’s setting brings to mind one important question. Which Batman villains will we soon see roaming the halls of this Arkham Asylum series? We have some ideas on who should make the cut.

What We Know So Far About the Arkham Asylum Series

The gates of the infamous Arkham Asylum, home for the criminally insane, as seen in DC Comics.
DC Comics

In an interview, Reeves had the following to say to Games Radar about the upcoming Arkham series. Note: Reeves said this when the Arkham show was still a spinoff of The Batman, although we feel much still applies.

We’ve actually now [moved] more into the realm of exactly what would happen in the world of Arkham as it relates coming off of our movie and some of the characters and their origins…almost leaning into the idea of, it’s like a horror movie or a haunted house that is Arkham. Again the way that Gotham is a character in the movie, I really want Arkham to exist as a character. You go into this environment and encounter these characters in a way that feels really fresh.

Batman villains Mad Hatter, Poison Ivy, and Professor Pyg.
DC Comics

While this is a very early description of the show, we have some ideas on how we think it should play out. An Arkham Asylum series would be perfect as an anthology, with each episode dedicated to a different villain. The episodes would reveal how the villains came to be and how they wound up in Arkham. This idea perfectly sets up the Bat-villains for the DCU’s eventual Batman-centric The Brave and the Bold movie. In a haunted house, there are many rooms to visit. And one by one, you meet new scares along the way.

In this imagining, the new DCU Batman would play a small part in the show, as it would be from the villain’s perspective. You wouldn’t necessarily even need that same actor under the mask as on the big screen. This could work similarly to how Pedro Pascal appears on The Mandalorian. You could get name actors for each Arkham Asylum villain, and then later use the spinoff characters in The Brave and the Bold. Let the series do the heavy lifting for the villain intros.

Use Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on a Serious Earth as Inspiration

Cover art from Dave McKean for Grant Morrison's 1989 graphic novel, Batman: Arkham Asylum.
DC Comics

As for which Batman villains we think will appear in the Arkham spinoff? Well, we’re going to explain why we didn’t choose some big ones. Harvey Dent/Two-Face as a person is too intimately tied to Bruce Wayne, so DC should reserve his story for a movie. Established and overused villains in live-action like the Joker should act as more peripheral characters. Ra’s al Ghul and Bane are international terrorists and not Arkham material. But so many other classic bad guys are all long overdue for a live-action appearance. We feel a little inspiration from Grant Morrison’s graphic novel Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on a Serious Earth is in order. That darker, psychological take on Arkham influenced all its portrayals going forward. With that in mind, here’s who we think should get the spotlight in a future Arkham Asylum series.

Which Batman Villains Will Appear in the Arkham Series?

Here are the villains we most hope to see in this new DCU series.

Scarecrow (Jonathan Crane)

Batman confronts the Scarecrow, master of fear, in the pages of DC Comics.
DC Comics

Professor Jonathan Crane, who first appeared in 1941, is one of the many Batman villains who holds up a twisted mirror to the Dark Knight. Like Batman, he has an obsession with fear. But he uses fear as a weapon of control over the weak, not to scare the wicked, as Batman does. Despite his status as a college professor, one fired for his unethical experiments, the Scarecrow lost his grasp on reality. Mainly because of exposure to his own fear toxin. A whole episode based on his origins, and how Batman locked him up at Arkham, seems like an easy decision to us.

Man-Bat (Kirk Langstrom)

Kirk Langstrom, the were-creature called the Man-Bat, Batman tragic adversary from DC Comics.
DC Comics

The Man-Bat is far more than just Batman’s name in reverse. First appearing in Detective Comics’ 400th issue, along with Ra’s al Ghul, he ushered in a new age of Batman villains for the Bronze Age of comics. Although, he was more of a tragic figure than a straight-up villain. Kirk Langstrom was a scientist who tried to give humanity the sonar sense of bats. But his experiments on himself led him to become a hybrid human/bat creature. He acts as a combination of Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde with a dash of werewolf. He’s not technically insane, but the experiments on his body have left him with no control of his mental faculties, leading him to be locked away in Arkham. Far too sci-fi for the Matt Reeves The Batman universe, Man-Bat is a perfect fit for the DCU.

The Mad Hatter (Jervis Techt)

The Alice in Wonderland-based Batman villain the Mad Hatter, as seen in the pages of DC Comics.
DC Comics

Since his original appearance in 1948’s Batman #49, Jervis Tetch has been a classic villain who disguises himself in the garb of innocent childhood iconography. He’s a genius scientific inventor who develops mind control tech that’s extremely advanced. Alas, he does not wish to use his genius for good. His obsession with all things Alice in Wonderland and his true belief that he’s the Mad Hatter from Lewis Carroll’s story make him one of Batman’s most unhinged foes—and most dangerous.

Poison Ivy (Pamela Isley)

Pamela Isley, the eco-terrorist and Batman villain called Poison Ivy, as she appears in modern DC Comics.
DC Comics

Pamela Isley has been a legendary Batman villain, ever since 1967. Some perceive her as an antihero, because her targets are anyone who contributes to deforestation and climate change. Having said that, Ivy murders anyone who gets in her way. So, good cause or not, she’s not really a hero. If this were set in The Batman world, Matt Reeves would likely go in a grounded direction for her. But in the DCU, she could absolutely be someone who controls giant Venus flytraps and such. A whole episode focusing on Ivy’s rise and fall, and eventual Arkham lock-up, would be perfect for this series. Not to mention, we could see her meet a certain psychiatrist named Harleen Quinzell. Those two have quite the history all their own.

Professor Hugo Strange

The mad Professor Hugo Strange, both a doctor and an inmate in DC Comics' Arkham Asylum.
DC Comics

This is another must-have Batman villain if you’re doing a show based on Arkham Asylum. Because as a psychiatrist, Professor Hugo Strange was actually on staff at Arkham for years. Before being committed to being a patient there, that is. It probably had something to do with his penchant for making “monster men” out of corpses. An action like that will result in the label “criminally insane.” He is one of only a handful of villains to have deduced Batman’s secret identity as Bruce Wayne. Because of this, and the fact that Strange once treated the other Arkham inmates as his own patients, it makes him an ideal candidate for any Arkham Asylum series.

Mr. Freeze (Victor Fries)

Victor Fries, a,k.a. Mister Freeze, the Batman's ice powered villain, as seen in the pages of DC Comics.
DC Comics

As Matt Reeves has indicated in recent interviews, there is probably a good way to tell the story of Victor Fries in a more compelling way in live-action. The tale of a scientist who loses all emotion except rage when he loses his wife Nora in a terrible accident. He’s one of the great tragic villains in Batman history, and an entire episode from his point of view would be incredible. In fact, we’d root for Paul Dini, father of the modern version of Freeze in Batman: The Animated Series, to write the episode. No one understands Victor better than he does. Just please, skip any ice-related puns.

Professor Pyg (Lazlo Valentin)

Professor Pyg, a recent addition to Batman's Rogues' Gallery, as seen in DC Comics.
DC Comics

Here’s a villain that is a somewhat recent creation. Lazlo Valentin is as dark as Bat villains get. Wearing a creepy pig mask straight out of a horror movie, he has a criminal fixation with the myth of Pygmalion—especially its twisted ideas about physical perfection. His obsession leads him to kidnap people and perform surgery on them, transforming them into living drones. It’s really twisted stuff, but perfect for the “haunted house” vibes of an Arkham Asylum series. Professor Pyg appeared in live-action before, butwe think this is the chance to do Pyg right and not pull any punches.

Clayface (Matt Hagen)

Clayface, Batman's shapeshifting villain of many faces, as he appears in DC Comics.
DC Comics

Many Batman villains have been named Clayface, going back to the 1940s. But for an Arkham Asylum series, we think we’d go with the most popular version of the character, Matt Hagen. His popularity is a result of his longevity in the role of Clayface, but also the fact that he was the version introduced in Batman: The Animated Series. In animation, he was an actor disfigured in an accident, who uses an experimental drug to make his appearance look normal, but also to shapeshift into looking like anyone. But the side effects of the drug turn him into a creature of literal sentient mud, raging against the world. Hagen winds up in Arkham, although others use his name while incarcerated. Too sci-fi for The Batman world, he’s perfect for a DCU that has metahumans in it.

Together, these Batman villains could work perfectly for the anthology characters for this Arkham Asylum series. Once fully introduced, we could see them meld into the world of James Gunn’s new DCU, perhaps led by Joker and Riddler. It sounds like an exciting journey and potentially chilling journey to us.

Originally published on March 11, 2022.

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