“It is April 1st and the inmates of Arkham Asylum have taken over Gotham City’s House for the Criminally Insane. They have one demand; Batman. The Dark Knight must recover pieces of the mad Amadeus Arkham’s diary while enduring a gauntlet of his most terrifying foes. A gauntlet that will claim his sanity.”

A stage adaptation of the ground breaking graphic novel “Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth” by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean. To purchase copies of the book click here.

If you’d like a more printer friendly copy feel free to email me at todd.matthy@gmail.com


Arkham Asylum:

A Play About A Serious House on Serious Earth.

Adapted by

Todd Matthy

From a Graphic Novel by

Grant Morrison

&

Dave McKean

(Arkham Asylum: A Play About A Serious House On Serious Earth is not endorsed or affiliated with DC Comics, Warner Brothers, Time Warner, DC Entertainment, Grant Morrison, or Dave McKean and is created solely as a work of homage and praise.)

Acknowledgmenta also to Neil Gaiman.

Special Thanks to Adam Bertocci.

Batman is a trademark of DC Comics Entertainment.

Lyrics to “In the Flesh?” were written by Roger Waters.

“White Rabbit” written by Jefferson Airplane.

Batman created by Bob Kane

Dramatis Personae

BATMAN-Bruce Wayne. The Dark Knight. The hero.

COMMISSIONER GORDON-By the book, no nonsense Chief of Police.

OFFICER RENEE MONTOYA-Decorated Police Officer.

THE JOKER-The Clown Prince of Crime. Ringmaster.

DR. CHARLES CAVANDISH-Asylum Administrator.

DR. RUTH ADAMS-Therapist.

TWO-FACE-Harvey Dent. Hero and Villain. The Coin Decides.

POISON IVY-Pamela Isley. Eco-Terrorist. Deadly Kiss.

CLAYFACE-Preston Payne. Shapeshifter. Touch is death.

DR. DESTINY-John Dee. Dream Manipulator.

THE MAD HATTER-Jervis Tetch. Deranged Mind Manipulator.

KILLER CROC- Waylon Jones. Reptilian Skinned Cannibal.

MAXIE ZEUS-Self proclaimed reincarnation of Zeus.

DR. AMADEUS ARKHAM-Founder of Arkham Asylum.

ELIZABETH ARKHAM-Mentally ill Mother of Amadeus.

CONSTANCE ARKHAM-Beloved Wife of Amadeus Arkham.

HARRIET ARKHAM-Beloved Daughter of Amadeus Arkham.

MARTIN “MAD DOG” HAWKINS-Serial killer.

DR. THOMAS WAYNE-Father of Bruce Wayne/Batman.

MARTHA WAYNE-Mother of Bruce Wayne/Batman.

YOUNG BRUCE WAYNE-Batman in his youth.

VAROUS ORDERLIES, POLICE OFFICIERS, and INMATES

Act One

Prologue


(The opening of PINK FLOYD’S “In the Flesh?” is playing. Enter JOKER dressed as a ringmaster. The Bat Signal shines.)

 

JOKER:

“So ya thought ya might like to go to the show.

To feel the warm thrill of confusion and space cadet glow.

Tell me is something eluding you such as is this not what you expected to see?”

Of course I’m not. You want to see him! Don’t worry he’ll be here. This is about him after all. Much like you, he fascinates me, tantalizes me. What goes on between those pointy ears? I want to know, don’t you? And we’ll find out, because as Mr. Floyd once put it,

“If I want to find out what’s behind those dark eyes

I’ll just have to claw my way through his disguise. HAHAHA!”

Lights! No flash photography! And action!

(Exit JOKER.)

Scene One


(Outside Arkham Asylum. Police lights are flashing and the Batsignal is shining. Enter COMMMISIONER GORDON, OFFICER RENEE MONTOYA, and BATMAN)

BATMAN:

Sorry I’m late Commissioner. Problems out of town. What’s up?

COMMISSIONER GORDON:

There’s been a riot at Arkham Asylum. That’s what’s up. The inmates seized control of the building early this morning. We don’t know how it happened. They’re holding the staff hostage, making all kinds of crazy demands. We’ve had to send in furniture, store dummies, food, clothing…

BATMAN:

And?

COMMISSIONER GORDON:

They say there’s one final demand, thank God. They’ve been waiting to talk to you personally.

BATMAN:

I see.

(RENEE MONTOYA brings COMMISSIONER GORDON a bag filled with a white substance.)

MONTOYA:

Commissioner, this substance was sprinkled around the house. Should I send it to the…wha?

BATMAN:

(Placing his finger in the bag and tasting the substance)

Salt.

(A cell phone rings. GORDON answers.)

GORDON:

It’s the Joker.

BATMAN:

Joker! Are you there? What do you want?

JOKER (over the phone):

Well hello big boy! How’s it hanging?

BATMAN:

Don’t waste my time, Joker. Just tell me what it is you want.

JOKER:

Oh, I think you can guess. We want you in here with us in the madhouse where you belong.

BATMAN:

What if I say no?

JOKER:

Well we have so many friends here sweetheart. Say hello to Pearl.

PEARL (over the phone):

Oh buh-bat-bat ohh.

JOKER:

Such a crybaby she is. Now read your lines honey…

PEARL:

I…duh.duh…

JOKER:

I said read it!

PEARL:

In…in the years fuh…fuh…following my father’s death I think it’s tru…true to say that the house became my…my whole world.

JOKER:

Good job. Keep going.

PEARL:

Duh…during the long period of muh…mother’s illness, the house often seemed so vast so confidently real that by comparison, I felt little more than a ghu…ghost haunting its corridors. Scarcely aware that anything cuh…could exist beyond these melancholy walls. Until the night I cuh…caught a glimpse of that other world. The world on the dark side. Am…am I done?

(The sounds of a pencil scratching come over the phone.)

GORDON:

What’s that noise? Can you hear it? Scratching. What’s he doing?

JOKER:

Pearl is nineteen years old. She just started working in the kitchens here to earn some extra money. Pearl wants to be an artist, don’t you Pearl darling?

PEARL:

U-huh…ohhhh…

JOKER:

She just drew me a beautiful house. She drew it with this pencil, the one I’ve just sharpened. Open your eyes wide Pearl! Beautiful, blue…

PEARL:

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!

BATMAN:

No!

JOKER:

You have half an hour. And bring a white stick. HAHAHAHAHHAAHAHA!

GORDON:

Oh Jesus. That poor girl. Batman…I…

BATMAN:

I’m going in there. Jim, can we talk?

GORDON:

You okay? You know you don’t have to go in there. Let me organize a SWAT team or something.

BATMAN:

No, this is something I do have to do.

GORDON:

Listen, I can understand it if even you’re afraid. I mean Arkham has a reputation…

BATMAN:

Afraid? Batman’s not afraid of anything. It’s me. I’m afraid. I’m afraid that the Joker may be right about me. Sometimes I…question the rationality of my actions. And I’m afraid that when I walk through those Asylum gates…when I walk into Arkham and the doors close behind me…it’ll be just like coming home.

(Exit GORDON and MONTOYA. BATMAN opens the Asylum doors and enters. Exit BATMAN)

Scene 2


(Enter BATMAN to the interior of Arkham Asylum. The doors slam ominously from behind. Enter THE JOKER, with the hostages including PEARL.)

BATMAN:

I’m here Joker. Release the hostages.

JOKER:

You heard him folks! Hit the trail! Bye Pearl. Lets do it again sometime!

(Exit the hostages including PEARL.)

BATMAN:

What about her eyes? You said…

JOKER:

April fool!!!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Cheer up honey pie. Listen. How many brittle bone babies does it take to…

BATMAN:

Shut up!

JOKER:

Oooh! At home to Mr. Tetchy aren’t we? (Slapping BATMAN’S rear) Loosen up tight ass!

BATMAN:

Take your filthy hands off me!

JOKER:

What’s the matter? Have I touched a nerve? How is the Boy Wonder? Shaving yet?

BATMAN:

Filthy degenerate.

JOKER:

Flattery will get you nowhere. You’re in the real world now and the lunatics have taken over the Asylum. April sweet is coming in let the feast of fools begin!

(Enter, DR. CHARLES CAVENDISH, DR. RUTH ADAMS, TWO-FACE, POISON IVY, MAD HATTER, and other random inmates. TWO-FACE sits in a corner laying out a tarot card set. MAD HATTER is playing with an Alice doll. POISON IVY is plucking a flower. RUTH carries a set of Rorschach cards, and DR. CHARLES CAVENDISH wears a clown nose)

INMATE 1:

No room! No room!

POISON IVY:

He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me. He loves me not.

INMATE 2:

A boy’s best friend is his mother.

INMATE 3:

Einstein was wrong, I’m the speed of light cracking through shivery atoms and God the sky whirls and withers like a melting rainbow.

INMATE 4:

Oh, Daddy make him stop! He’s hurting me! The dogs hurting me!

INMATE 5:

Oranges?

DR. CAVENDISH:

Joker! I’ve had enough of this madness.

JOKER:

Enough madness? Enough? And how do you measure madness? Not with rods and wheels and clocks surely? You know you look so pretty when you’re mad. Kiss me Charlie! Ravish me! But no tongues y’hear? Not on our first date.

DR. CAVENDISH:

I’m warning you…

JOKER:

You’re in no position to issue warnings, Charlie. Not with YOUR guilty secret. Now sit down and stay down before I think of something funny to do with you.

BATMAN:

Who are these people, Joker? You told me you’d release all the hostages.

DR. ADAMS:

Well…we insisted on staying, Batman. I’m Ruth Adams. I’m a psychotherapist here.

JOKER:

And this is dear old Doc Cavendish, our current administrator. A man who just loves to administer current to ECT patients!

DR. CAVENDISH:

I have a duty to the state. I will not leave this asylum in the hands of…of madmen!

JOKER:

And while we’re discussing duty it looks like someone’s just done his on the floor! Oh Jesus Harvey! Is it you again? You trying to ruin my heels?

TWO-FACE:

I’m sorry…I couldn’t help it…it takes so long to decide…so many options…I’m really sorry. I think.

JOKER:

Miss! Two-Face has pissed himself again!

BATMAN:

Two-Face?

DR. ADAMS:

Excuse me, Batman, but we’d really prefer it if you call Harvey Dent by his real name.

BATMAN:

What have you done to him?

DR. ADAMS:

Done? He’s being cured. This place is a hospital, Batman, and we’re here to treat people, in case you’d forgotten. As a matter of fact, we’ve successfully tackled Harvey’s obsession with duality. I’m sure you’re familiar with his silver dollar—scarred on one side, unmarked on the other. He used to make all his decisions with it, as though it somehow represented the contradictory halves of his personality. What we did was wean him off the coin and onto a die. That gave him six decision options of the former two. He did so well with the die that we’ve been able to move him onto a pack of tarot cards. That’s seventy-eight options open to him now, Batman. Next, we plan to introduce him to the I-Ching. Soon he’ll have a completely functional judgmental facility that doesn’t rely so much on black and white absolutes.

BATMAN:

But right now he can’t even make a simple decision, like going to the bathroom, without consulting the cards? Seems to me you’ve effectively destroyed the man’s personality, Doctor.

DR. ADAMS:

Sometimes we have to pull down in order to rebuild, Batman. Psychiatry’s like that.

BATMAN:

You must admit it’s hard to imagine this place being conducive to anyone’s mental health.

DR. ADAMS:

You’re going to hit me with all the local folklore now, right? Secret passages, the ghost of mad Amadeus Arkham, the door that bleeds. Gothic crap.

BATMAN:

Well, you’re pardon me for saying so, but your techniques don’t seem to have had much effect on the Joker.

DR. ADAMS:

The Joker’s a special case as opposed to say Poison Ivy.

POISON IVY:

He loves me!

(POISON IVY leaps into BATMAN’S arms and tries to kiss him. He pushes her aside.)

POISON IVY:

He loves me not.

DR. ADAMS:

Ivy’s disorder can be traced to a lack of attention during childhood. She found solace with the plants in her garden and any male attention is interpreted as love. Most of us believe we can treat this. The Joker, we feel is beyond treatment.

BATMAN:

Beyond treatment?

DR. ADAMS:

In fact, we’re not even sure he can be properly defined as insane. His latest claim is he’s possessed by Baron Ghede, the Voodoo Loa. We’re beginning to think it may be a neurological disorder, similar to tourette’s syndrome. It’s quite possible we may actually be looking at some kind of super-sanity here. A brilliant new modification of human perception. More suited to urban life in the twenty-first century.

BATMAN:

Tell that to his victims.

DR. ADAMS:

Unlike you and I, the Joker seems to have no control over the sensory information he’s receiving from the outside world. He can only cope with that chaotic barrage of input by going with the flow. That’s why some days he’s a mischievous clown, others a psychopathic killer. He has no real personality. He creates himself each day. He sees himself as the Lord of Misrule, and the world the Theatre of the Absurd.  We…ahhh…

(THE JOKER steals DR. ADAMS’ Rorschach cards and looks at them)

JOKER:

Card games, Dr. Ruth? You know me. I just adore card games! Well. I see two angels screwing in the stratosphere. A constellation of black holes. A biological process beyond the conception of man. A Jewish ventriloquist act locked in the trunk of a red Chevrolet. What about you Batman? What do you see?

(THE JOKER shows BATMAN the Rorschach card. A spotlight image of a BAT flashes onto the stage)

BATMAN:

Nothing. I don’t see anything.

JOKER:

Not even a cute long legged boy in swimming trunks?

POISON IVY:

Stop wasting time you ugly, prancing, bastard! I want to take off his mask. See the real face behind those dark eyes.

JOKER:

Oh, don’t be so predictable for Christ sake! That is his real face. And I want to go much deeper than that. I want him to know what it’s like to have sticky fingers pick through the dirty corners of his mind. So, lets start with a word association test, shall we? Ruthie?

DR. ADAMS:

I don’t really want to do this…

BATMAN:

Go ahead, Dr. Adams. I’m not afraid. It’s just words.

JOKER:

That’s the spirit Batman! Sticks and stones. I like a man who can take the pressure.

DR. ADAMS:

Mother.

BATMAN:

Ah. Pearl.

DR. ADAMS:

Handle.

BATMAN:

Revolver.

DR. ADAMS:

Gun.

BATMAN:

Father.

DR. ADAMS:

Father?

BATMAN:

Death.

DR. RUTH:

End.

BATMAN:

Stop. Stop!

JOKER:

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! It’s getting late. Time to begin the evening’s entertainment I think. If you’re feeling up to it.

BATMAN:

Up to what?

JOKER:

A nice little game of hide and seek. You have one hour sweetheart and there’s no way out of the building. One hour before all your friends come looking for you. There’s Mr. Clayface and the strange Dr. Destiny of course. He seems so frail in that wheelchair but all he has to do is look at you and you stop being real. He does so want to look at you darling. Oh, and don’t forget Croc. He came out of that damp, dark cellar this morning, dragging his chains behind them. They all want to see you. So why don’t you just run along now.

BATMAN:

I don’t take orders from you.

(THE JOKER pulls a gun from his coat.)

JOKER:

Well…this guy goes into the hospital, okay?…his wife’s just had a baby and he can’t wait to see them both.. So, he meets the doctor and he says, “Oh, Doc, I’ve been so worried. How are they?” And the doctor smiles and says, “They’re fine. Just fine. Your wife’s delivered a healthy baby boy and they’re in tip-top form. You’re one lucky guy.” So the guy rushes into the maternity ward with his flowers. But it’s empty. His wife’s bed is empty. “Doc?” he says and turns around and the Doctor and all the nurses wave their arms and scream in his face, “April Fool! Your wife’s dead and the baby’s a spastic!!!!!” Get it?  (He shoots at the audience) Oh, what a senseless waste of human life! (He puts the gun to DR. ADAMS’ temple) Now Batman. Run. The game ends at midnight! Run! Run!

(Exit BATMAN. TW0-FACE crosses to DR. RUTH pulling her away from THE JOKER)

TWO-FACE:

Doctor, have you ever looked at the moon?

DR. RUTH:

Yes, Harvey. Many times.

TWO-FACE:

Do you know what it reminds me of? A silver dollar. A big silver dollar flipped by God. And it landed scarred side up, see?

POISON IVY:

Oh, to be back at Berkeley right now. I’m going to the arboretum. At least there I can get a decent conversation.

(Exit POISON IVY)

MAD HATTER:

Jo-ker. I’m bored.

JOKER:

Oh. Let’s just pretend it’s been an hour.

(Exit THE JOKER AND THE OTHERS)

Scene Three


(Enter BATMAN On the floor is a pile of papers scattered from a diary. The room is decorated with store dummies dressed in lingerie, wedding veils, and baby bonnets. This is CLAYFACE’S cell.)

BATMAN (picking up and reading the papers):

I return to the family home on a cool spring morning in 1920, shortly after Mother’s funeral.

(Enter AMADEUS ARKHAM, sitting at his desk and writing in his journal.)

ARKHAM (writing in a journal):

She opened her own throat with a pearl-handled razor. In the end perhaps it was for the best. I have to believe that. As the only child I am to inherit the house and the acre of land upon which it stands. Alone in a gloom that smells of dust and childhood, I dedicate myself to the prevention of such suffering as my poor mother knew. And I begin to make my plans. For the first time in twelve years I spend the night in my old room. I do not sleep well…

BATMAN (reading):

My dreams are haunted by beating wings.

(Exit ARKHAM. Enter CLAYFACE)

CLAYFACE:

Sick. Sick. Sick. My skin is sick, Batman. It’s rotten and seeping. Only you can help me. (He reaches for BATMAN) Bat. Man.

BATMAN:

Don’t touch me.

CLAYFACE:

I just want to share my disease.

(BATMAN fends off CLAYFACE whose trying to bite him)

BATMAN:

Don’t.

CLAYFACE:

Ohhh.

BATMAN:

Don’t touch me!

CLAYFACE:

No…wait! (BATMAN kicks CLAYFACE’S KNEE CAP) Ahh…oh Jesus Christ my leg! Oh my.

(Enter DR. DESTINY in a wheelchair. DESTINY wheels himself in as BATMAN hides in the shadows.)

DR. DESTINY:

Clayface? Clayface, where are you? Don’t answer me then you dirty rotting bastard I don’t need you!  I can easily find someone else to push me. No! No!

(BATMAN pushes DR. DESTINY out of his wheelchair. Exit BATMAN)

SCENE FOUR

(Enter DR. ARKHAM in the foreground. Enter BATMAN in the background still reading excerpts from the journal. The stage is decorated like a little girls room only it’s bloody and destroyed. A dollhouse is in the corner and what looks like a woman’s body is slumped over on the bed. These are the dead bodies of DR. ARKHAM’S wife CONSTANCE and daughter HARRIET. DR. ARKHAM is disgusted by the grisly sight.)

BATMAN (reading):

Spring is a deceitful season and April 1st 1921 is cold. Mercilessly cold. A patient of mine, a serial killer, recently escaped from Metropolis. I can only wonder where he went.

DR. ARKHAM:

Connie? Are you here? The front door was wide…oh my God!

BATMAN (reading):

I see my wife first, my dear Constance. Her body is in pieces. Harriet lies nearby, indescribably violated. Almost idly I wonder where her head is. And the dolls house looks. At. Me!

(Exit DR. ARKHAM running away and vomiting. BATMAN comes to the foreground, putting down the pages and remembering the night of his parent’s murder, he kneels and holds his head in agony at the memory)

THOMAS WAYNE (off stage):

Bruce. Bruce, come back here.

YOUNG BRUCE WAYNE (off stage):

Fear not my dear, Zorro is here! Swoosh, zip!

MARTHA WAYNE (off stage):

Oh Thomas. He’s just excited. Weren’t you ever excited by a movie?

THOMAS WAYNE:

I was more excited by my books, dear.

JOE CHILL (off stage):

I’ll take those pearls, lady.

THOMAS WAYNE :

Leave her alone you.

(Shots are heard.)

BATMAN:

Father!

MARTHA WAYNE:

AHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

BATMAN:

Mother! No!!!!!!!!!

(BATMAN sobs in agony, then gets up, and staggers off stage. Exit BATMAN.)

SCENE FIVE


(The MAD HATTER’S lair, filled with mirrors. JEFFERSON AIR PLANE’S “WHITE RABBIT” is playing in the background. Enter BATMAN holding a section of Arkham’s diary. BATMAN is drawn toward a mirror. Enter MAD HATTER, playing and combing the hair of an Alice doll. There is a segment of ARKHAM’S diary in his hat.)

MAD HATTER:

Twinkle, twinkle, little bat! How I wonder what you’re at! I’m so glad you could make it. I have so many things to tell you. You must be feeling quite fragile by now, I expect. This house, it…does things to the mind. Now where was I? Where am I? Where will I be? Ah yes. The apparent disorder of the universe is simply a higher order, an implicate order beyond our comprehension. That’s why children…interest me. They’re all mad, you see. But in each of them is an implicate adult. Order out of chaos. Or is it the other way around? To know them is to know myself. Little girls, especially. Little blonde girls. Little shameless bitches! Oh God. God help us all! Sometimes…Sometimes I think the Asylum is a head. We’re inside a huge head that dreams us all into being. Perhaps it’s your head, Batman. Arkham is a looking glass and we are you!

(BATMAN strangles MAD HATTER forcing him to drop the Alice doll.)

BATMAN:

I’m nothing like you!

MAD HATTER:

Mad as a hatter? “You must be. Or you wouldn’t have come here.”

BATMAN:

I don’t prey on children. I defend them. I defend them from people like you.

(BATMAN takes the pieces of ARKHAM’S journal from MAD HATTER’S HAT. Exit MAD HATTER. Exit BATMAN. “WHITE RABBIT” ends)

SCENE SIX

(Enter AMADEUS ARKHAM. Who sits at his desk at the corner of the stage and writes in his journal.)

ARKHAM:

In November 1921, my family’s murderer, Martin “Mad Dog” Hawkins is apprehended and the Elizabeth Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane opens.

(Enter a couple of ORDERLIES who wheel in MARTIN ‘MAD DOG’ HAWKINS and strap him into the ECT machine. ARKHAM crosses to MAD DOG. Exit ORDERLIES.)

ARKHAM:

Despite others warnings I take him in. He calls my daughter a whore and delights in recounting the atrocities he inflicted upon Constance. I strap him into the Electroshock Couch and I burn the filthy bastard. It is treated as an accident.

(Enter ORDERLIES. Exit ORDERLIES wheeling MAD DOG. ARKHAM goes back to writing in his journal. Enter BATMAN reading the rest of the passages from the journal with ARKHAM.)

ARKHAM:

I take to patrolling the corridors between the hours of three and four in the morning. I visit the secret room often in that I might keep this journal up to date. Routine is important, I think. A good routine diverts the mind from morbid imaginings. Sometimes I am sure I hear hysterical laughter from a cell I know to be empty. I tape over the mirror in my study. The laughter ceases…

BATMAN:

And I return to my ritual perambulations. My movements through the house have become as formalized as ballet and I feel that I have become an essential part of some incomprehensible biological process. The house is an organism, hungry for madness. It is the maze that dreams and I am lost.

(BATMAN notices a blue light on the other side of the stage and walks toward it. Exit BATMAN)

SCENE SEVEN


(The ECT room. MAXIE ZEUS is plugged into the ECT machine, emitting an eerie, electric blue glow, and operating the ECT’s control panel. By his side is a bucket filled with feces.)

ZEUS:

Ah. A pilgrim. Come into my presence pilgrim. Gaze upon the Lord thy God.

(Enter BATMAN)

ZEUS:

Zeus Arrhenothelus. Part man, part woman. Electricity enflames my brain. Voltage. Current. The fire of Heaven. Look here. I’ve saved it all. There’s power in it, you see. Electricity. Ahh. Gift of my body. Divine. Fertile. (He picks up the bucket) It shall transform the dry lands of Africa into the perfumed orchards of paradise and men will worship me anew. (He puts down the bucket and stands) For I am Zeus. Lord of ECT. God of Electric Retribution. I give, so thou shouldst give. Here my gift to you. Do you want power? I can give you power. Eat. Drink. This is my body. This is my blood. The AC/DC altar awaits, Let me know you in the form of a shower of sparks!

BATMAN:

No Maxie. You are a man.

(BATMAN crosses to MAXIE and seizes the ECT controls.)

ZEUS:

Wait!

(BATMAN turns off the ECT. The stage goes black. Exit BATMAN.)

SCENE EIGHT

(AMADEUS ARKHAM returns to his desk cutting up an Amantia mushroom. In the background is a statue of St. Michael spearing the Dragon.)

ARKHAM:

Shocked by my ill health some friends take me to the opera—Wagner’s Parsifal. Don’t they understand? Can’t they see I’m breaking in a thousand places? Time. Time becomes strange.

(He eats the mushroom. Enter BATMAN.)

ARKHAM (cont.):

I have ingested three portions of the Amanita mushroom. So far, no effect. Abruptly I become convinced that the house is alive and trying to communicate with me. A pressure at the back of my head makes me turn. I have been shown the path. I must follow where it leads. Like Parsifal. I must confront the unreason that threatens me. I must go into the dark tower without a backward glance and face the dragon within.

(Enter KILLER CROC. CROC attacks BATMAN immediately. The two fight while ARKHAM continues his narration.)

ARKHAM (cont.):

I have only one fear. What if I am not strong enough to defeat it? What then? The drug takes hold. I feel small and afraid. Perhaps I’ve done the wrong thing. Somewhere, not far away, the dragon hauls its terrible weight through the corridors of the asylum. I am borne up on a wave of perfect terror and the world explodes. There is nothing to hold onto. No anchor. Panic-stricken I flee. I run blindly through the madhouse and I cannot even pray for I have no God.

(BATMAN grabs Michael’s spear and stabs CROC.)

ARKHAM (cont.):

Doors open and close, applauding my flight. Keyholes bleed. A choir of sexually maimed children sings my name over and over again. Arkham. Arkham. Arkham. I’m falling. Oh mother, what tree is this? What wounds are these? I am Attis on the pine. Christ on the cedar. Odin on the world-ash. “Hung on the windy tree for nine whole nights wounded with the spear.

(CROC pushes BATMAN into the wall and impales him with the blunt end of the spear. The two push and pull under the spear snaps hurtling CROC out a nearby window. BATMAN falls to his knees, opens the first aid kit in his utility belt, and tends his wound.)

ARKHAM (cont.):

Dedicated to Odin, myself to myself.” I must see my reflection to prove I still exist. Outside I hear the dragon coming closer, closer. Desperately, I peel the tape from the mirror, breaking my fingernails, strip by strip. Until I stand revealed in the glass and I stare into old familiar eyes, Mother!  I must have fainted then, for it is morning when next I open my eyes. No longer able to tell where the dragon ended and I begin. Yet am I not the hero, the man of destiny? Have I not confronted the great dragon? Where is my grail? My treasure horde? My final reward?

(Exit DR. ARKHAM. DR. ADAMS screams from offstage. Exit BATMAN.)

SCENE NINE

(DR. ARKHAM’S SECRET ROOM. DR. CAVENDISH, wearing DR. ARKHAM’S MOTHER’S WEDDING DRESS, is holding a pearl handled razor to DR. ADAM’S throat. Beside him is a table with Amadeus Arkham’s journal while behind them, pined to a board. are the architectural plans for Arkham Asylum. Enter BATMAN, smashing through a fake wall.)

DR. CAVENDISH:

Good evening Batman.

BATMAN:

Dr. Cavendish.

DR. ADAMS:

Don’t come near him Batman. He…cut me…just keep back.

BATMAN:

You freed the inmates. You allowed this to happen. Why Cavendish?

DR. CAVENDISH:

I only did what had to be done. You read the book on the table beside you and you’ll see.

(BATMAN crosses to the table.)

DR. CAVENDISH (cont.):

Go on. It’s Amadeus Arkham’s journal. You’ve been reading excerpts I’ve left for you all night. Go on read the final chapter and you’ll see.

(BATMAN reads. Enter AMADEUS ARKHAM, with a pearl handled razor, and his mother, ELIZABETH ARKHAM, lying in bed, wedding dress on a chair beside her.)

ARKHAM:

And suddenly the longed for revelation comes, in the form of a memory my mind had suppressed. It is 1920. Trees thrash in the dark under a restless sky. Rain rattles the windows. Why? Why have I come here? And why am I so afraid?

ELIZABETH:

It’s here! It’s here!

ARKHAM:

Mother, please. There’s nothing.

ELIZABETH:

Every night! Every night! See? There? It’s come for me! Don’t let it take me!

ARKHAM:

I see it. I see the thing that has haunted and tormented my poor mother these long years. I see it and it is a bat. A bat! Oh my poor mother. (He pulls the Pearl Handled Razor) It won’t take you, I promise. I love you. (He murders his mother) I understand now what my memory tried to keep from me. Madness is born in the blood. It is my birthright, my inheritance, my destiny. (He puts on the wedding dress) I shall contain the presences that roam these rooms and narrow stairways. I shall surround them with bars and walls and electrified fences and pray they never break free. I am the dragon’s bride, the son of the widow. Leather wings enfold me.

(Exit ARKHAM)

DR. CAVENDISH:

You see now? You understand?  You who’ve kept this place supplied with poor mad souls for years. You who’ve fed this hungry house, do you see? You are the bat!

BATMAN:

No. I…I’m just a man.

DR. CAVENDISH:

I’m not fooled by that cheap disguise, I know what you are. Arkham tried to kill his stockbroker in 1929. That’s what they finally locked him away for, did you know that? It didn’t stop him. He’d read the “Golden Bough,” he’d studied shamanistic practices, and he knew that only ritual, only magic, could contain the bat. So do you know what he did? He scratched a binding spell into the floor of his cell. He used his fingernails. Can you imagine that? His fingernails. But it still wasn’t enough! Two years ago, I found this hidden room. Read the journal then, too. I just couldn’t stop thinking about what Arkham had said and I realized it was my destiny to finish what he started. I set a trap for the bat, you see. I surrounded the asylum with a circle of salt so it couldn’t escape again. And now…well…

DR. ADAMS:

Doctor Cavendish! Charles!

DR. CAVENDISH (tossing aside DR. ADAMS):

Shut up you ignorant cow!

BATMAN:

Cavendish, you’re sick. You need help.

DR. CAVENDISH:

I’m sick? Have you looked in a mirror lately? Have you?

BATMAN:

Cavendish! No!

DR. CAVANDISH:

Mommy’s boy! Mommy’s boy!

(DR. CAVENDISH lunges toward BATMAN, wildly swinging the razor. BATMAN knocks the razor away but winds up in caught in the grip of the mad CAVENDISH. DR. ADAMS picks up the razor and cuts CAVANDISH’S throat.)

DR. ADAMS:

No! Oh God. Oh my God. I didn’t mean to…I really didn’t…

BATMAN:

He got what he deserved. Come on. (Together they cross the stage) I take it this passage is the way out?

DR. ADAMS:

Yes…yes, it must be…I think it’s this way.

BATMAN:

I know. Do you still have Two-Face’s coin?

DR. ADAMS:

Yes…I…oh Christ I just killed someone.

BATMAN:

Just give me the coin.

DR. ADAMS:

You’re going back in aren’t you? You’re going to undo all my work. (Handing over the coin) What are you?

BATMAN:

Stronger than them. Stronger than this place. I have to show them.

DR. ADAMS:

That’s insane.

BATMAN:

Exactly. Arkham was right; sometimes it’s only madness that makes us what we are or destiny perhaps.

(He turns around to go back in. Exit DR. ADAMS. Exit BATMAN on the opposite side.)

SCENE TEN


(JOKER, holding a straight jacket, and TWO-FACE are waiting in the main hall. Enter, a terror stricken POISON IVY.)

POISON IVY:

(Hiding behind TWO-FACE)

The bat! It’s the bat! The bats destroying everything! You should never have allowed him in here, Joker! He’s too dangerous!

JOKER:

That’s right! Blame me! Go on!

(Enter BATMAN.)

BATMAN:

You’re free. You’re all free.

JOKER:

Oh, we know that already. But what about you? Have you come to claim your kingly robes? (Holding up the straight jacket) Or do you just want us to put you out of your misery, like the poor sick creature you are?

BATMAN:

(Slapping aside the straight jacket and handing the coin to TWO-FACE)

Why don’t we let Two-Face decide what to do with me?

TWO-FACE:

Me? No. I can’t…really…I…

JOKER:

Harvey? Brilliant!

TWO-FACE:

If the unmarked face, heads, comes up he goes free, if it’s the scarred face, tails, he dies here. Okay? (He flips the coin then glances at it) He goes free.

(Exit BATMAN. Enter COMMISSIONER GORDON and RENEE MONTOYA.)

JOKER:

Parting is such sweet sorrow, dearest. Still you can’t say we didn’t show you a good time. Enjoy yourself out there in the asylum. Just don’t forget—if it ever gets too tough there’s always a place for you here. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

(GORDON puts the JOKER in cuffs. MONTOYA puts IVY in cuffs. Exit JOKER. Exit POISON IVY. Exit GORDON and MONTOYA. TWO FACE crosses to the center of the stage and shows the audience the coin, the scarred side landed face up.)

TWO-FACE:

Huh. Tails.

(Exit TWO-FACE)

 

THE END.

Comments
  1. [...] Star Superman, We3, and Arkham Asylum: A Strange House on Strange Earth. (Which I adapted into a play. Yes, shameless plug) While others like The Invisibles, The Filth, and Final Crisis have been [...]

  2. [...] can check it out here. It’s a fascinating idea. Comments [...]

  3. xstryker says:

    F*** yeah! This is my fave graphic novel ever. So many amazing lines… Sad though not to hear it end with “who cares for you? You’re nothing but a pack of cards!” or the post-script lines like “In dreams I walk with you” or “The father, the son, and the wholly gross”

    Time… Time becomes strange… Yeah seriously I would pay good money to see this.

  4. oneoflokis says:

    Um – why do the Joker – and Ivy – have to be taken off in handcuffs – SEEING AS THEY ARE ALL STILL IN THE ASYLUM?! (Why can’t Dr Adams just send them to their rooms – like the naughty children they are? :) )

    Why do Gordon and Montoya have to do the cuffing – instead of some nameless minions or a SWAT team? Is it just to give them something to do at the end of the play? (I can’t remember how it’s done in the original.)

    & why is Harvey left out of the cuffing ceremony? I *do* remember he does that bit with the coin at the end..

    Why is Ivy getting the blame for anything here anyway? & why did Morrison not think to put Viktor Fries in?!?

    Those are the sort of questions a Lokean would tend to ask.. :)

    It’d make a short one-acter I suppose. But nobody GOES anywhere or DOES anything very interesting. That being the trouble with Grant Morrison’s original! :(

  5. oneoflokis says:

    In fact I think that episode of The Animated Series, where they make Batman come to the asylum, stage a kangaroo court trial of him with the Joker as the judge.. that’s a lot funner! It couldn’t have been at all based on AASH though cos it’s totally different! :)

  6. oneoflokis says:

    I don’t want to be totally negative.. I was intrigued enough by the idea to click through on the link from that other site.. The things which struck me in the first couple of minutes’ reading were: a) The opening was pretty effective (again – was it much like that in the original? Can’t remember. Tip: If the Joker’s gonna have a ringmaster’s costume, make stage directions say it’s a makeshift one: he’s not gonna get a proper one together in the time, hostagetakers’ demands notwithstanding!)

    Um – but this isn’t exactly “The Wall” or one of those movies about Attica is it – and that’s where *GM* disappoints me: because it’s as if he can’t think of ANY further reasons for intelligent albeit troubled people to stage a revolt in the middle of a grotty institution – other than the old – or rather RELATIVELY RECENT standbys in US comics/pop culture of: “they’re EVIL” and “one day they just felt like it.” Or mayb Satan made them do it.. Xtian fundamentalism’s decades-long impact on a once-secular culture, ya think?!

  7. oneoflokis says:

    I do. (And if Grant Morrison were a proper pagan, which he’s not, he’d refrain from writing such morally one-sided dualism.)

    But I’ll try not to fill up your blog with my dislike for him and his pretentiousness. (He’s far from alone, in modern comics!) But he could have said that the inmates just don’t like the asylum’s conditions. And that the authorities over there aren’t as “fair-minded” as they like to paint! &that the rot doesn’t stop at crazy Dr Cavendish! (A 1970s comic would’ve scored better in this regard.) The final destination of all this superstition was arrived at in Arkham Asylum: Living Hell where they put it all down to demons living in the walls – or sump’n. Yawn.

    Anyway – must mosey on to the other fellow’s blog! But: in summary: a striking opening, which *would* probably grab an audience, if you could find the right actor for Joker! :D He’s always a crowd-pleaser. Though he glosses over it, M’s not wrong about the archetype: &the whole world likes to look at the Trickster! :)

  8. oneoflokis says:

    But for a proper portrayal of the Trickster, you need something with a bit more nuance than GM – or his modern comics cohorts – are prepared to provide! Whoever the Joker fancied being that day, Baron Guede of the voodoo pantheon – they have that complexity, as do all the gods! (If you’re wondering why I care, take a look at my handle and guess!)

    You can’t just base a Trickster’s character portrayal, dialogue, or actions on the notion of little but sadism. There’s more to the archetype than that.. (Which GM should’ve made clear.. and I wonder if he and his cohorts really think that Kane & Finger intended Batman comics to be like that – the “modern” way.. and if they care!)

    But like I said: enticing opening! &the way you write the dialogue, though most of it seems to be Morrison’s.. it somehow is easier on the inner ear and flows better, than when it was in that grating GN. &I must say your choice of music seems pretty neat.. though I can only hear a fraction of it in my head!

  9. oneoflokis says:

    Anyway: looks like you can write! (Unlike most of contemporary DC’s clowns.) I’d keep that beginning – and maybe the end – and change everything inbetween so as to write a really good Batman script! :)

    One where the characters aren’t so cliched as in what passes for most of today’s imagination.

    (Oh: and GM really made the Joker much too sexually camp in that – and not in a way that did anything for gay people, either! Tricksters generally are bisexual – but not like that! &when does Joker get a shrink who he *does* get on with?! And does the Batman have to be a homophobe? For 1989 or whenever this graphic novel was written – not exactly ground-breaking, in any essential ways!)

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