Obscure Comics: Batman Arkham Asylum: The Road To Arkham #1

Who Wants A Video Game Based On A Comic That Actually Plays Well?

DC Comics had a horrible record when it came to having video games based on their characters.  Until 2004, most video game players and comic book fans could agree that there hadn't been one great video game done for any character that really captured what it was like to be a superhero.  Then 2004 brought us Spider-Man 2 the Video Game, and the curse was broken, as the game got praise from video game reviewers, gamers, and comic book fans who loved playing as Spider-Man. However, it took DC another 5 years to finally get a game that could be held up as a worthwhile competitor, if not a better game than Spider-Man 2.  In 2007, Rocksteady Studios began development on Batman: Arkham Asylum. 

Batman Arkham Asylum Game Cover
Batman Arkham Asylum Game Cover

With a team of forty that grew to sixty, veteran Batman The Animated Series writer Paul Dini, incredible voice work from Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Arleen Sorken, plus a ton of material to draw from, the team created a genre-defining video game in 21 months.  Launching in 2009, Batman Arkham Asylum became a runaway hit. It launched an Arkham video game franchise spanning almost ten video games (Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, Arkham City Lockdown, Arkham Origins, Arkham Origins Blackgate, Arkham Origins Mobile, Arkham Knight, Arkham VR, and the upcoming Suicide Squad) as well as an animated Assault on Arkham movie, and many comic books based on the games. The first major release was the Arkham City prequel comic, written, like the game, by Paul Dini and drawn by Carlos D'Anda, who, as part of WildSTORM, was heavily involved in working on DC video games.  The prequel comic was very popular, leading to Batman Arkham Unhinged and many more comics.  Even a few novels were done, and toys and many statues were produced, the Arkham Asylum game was, and remains, a major franchise.  However, the Arkham City comic by Paul Dini and Carlos D'Anda was not the first Batman Arkham Asylum video game franchise comic book.

Pre-Order The Batman Arkham Asylum Collector's Edition From Amazon

The Arkham Asylum game launched with a sixty dollar regular version or a fancy "collector's edition" with many bells and whistles.  This edition came in a Batarang case, with a customized prop Batarang, an extra behind the scenes disc on the making of the game, and a 48 page Arkham Asylum journal with art by Carlos D'Anda, enclosed by a leather case.  It was a very nice package, but there were several different preorder variations on the game as is still the norm.  With Gamestop, Best Buy, Gamecrazy, Toys R Us, and Walmart all offering different incentives to preorder with them. However, Amazon offered an exclusive comic book if you preorder the game from them, in the collector's edition, done exclusively for Amazon to be included only with their collector's edition, Batman Arkham Asylum: The Road To Arkham.

Obscure Comics: Batman Arkham Asylum: The Road To Arkham #1

Written by veteran animation writer Alan Burnett (writer and producer on Batman The Animated Series, as well as the first writer to ever tell Batman's origin in any media other than comic books in the Super Friends' episode "The Fear"), this was his first-ever Batman focused comic book. On art, Burnett was joined by Carlos D'Anda, who had also done the art for the journal included with the collector's edition and would go on to work with Paul Dini on the Arkham City comic books.

An obscure video on the Making of Batman Arkham Asylum: The Road To Arkham

Starting mere moments before the game is to begin, the comic finds Batman racing a captured Joker to Arkham Asylum in the Batmobile. After silencing the Joker, Batman and Oracle confer over the radio about the three captures Batman has recently made, all from anonymous tips.

Taking down Zsasz, Scarecrow, and the Joker, all near the same time, seems too convenient to Batman, making him wonder if the same source tipped him off in the captures of all three.

Meanwhile, Arkham Asylum Warden Sharpe and Commissioner Gordon prepare to receive the Joker at Arkham Asylum. Also, "nurse" Harley Quinn prepares for the Joker to arrive too, by giving Bane an injection, just as the Batmobile arrives at the Asylum.

The comic is a direct prelude, ending literally where the game starts.  In addition, Burnett sets up Zsasz's position in the game as the first villain Batman encounters, as well as Scarecrow (the villain in Burnett's Super Friends episode "The Fear") and Joker's major roles in the game. Clues are also left for Bane's over drugged status and Harley's position as the Joker's insider already in Arkham. A nod is also made to Warden Sharpe's eventual mayor-ship in Arkham City and that Black Mask is in Bludhaven menacing Nightwing. The comic is a near-perfect prelude, hitting on many key points in the game without them seeming forced, with great characterization and focus in just 12 pages. As the first comic book entry in the Arkham Video Game Universe, it is a fantastic effort, with moody and fantastically detailed art from D'Anda that would carry over into Arkham City.

Batman Arkham City Cover
Batman Arkham City Cover

A Rare and Pricey Mini-Comic

This 12 page 4 1/2" x 5 3/4" mini-comic is not only obscure but expensive to own on the secondary market.  On eBay, the comic commands a price of at least $150, with most online comic stores wanting at least that, if not closer to $200.  Considering the narrow window that fans could obtain the comic through, only if you preordered the game through Amazon. Only if you preordered the $99 Collector's Edition, the prices aren't surprising.  It is a fantastic comic by top creators.  However, it has been reprinted once in the Batman Arkham Saga Omnibus, with a price tag of $150, though you can find it on sale for anywhere ranging from $75 to $100.  This reprint is also full size, so it is a great way to read it.  Nevertheless, this preorder only comic is pricey and obscure if you want it in hand to read.


This post is part of a multi-part series: Obscure Comics.

About Ian Melton

Japanese Teacher, Comic Book, Manga, & Anime collector, LCBS worker, father of 2, fan of far too many things for far too long...