Opinion// Batman vs Spider-Man: Comics, Continuity & Games

Posted 13 Jul 2012 12:44 by
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Batman: Arkham Asylum
It might be forgiveable, if there wasn't such a clear example of how you can create a story that 'matters' on the other side of the street.

When Batman: Arkham Asylum was announced, it was a little odd to look at as a comics fan. The fact that you could see his pupils might seem like a minor touch, but for anyone regularly reading Batman comics that's a visual cue which very strongly suggests the films. But he wasn't wearing the film costume, and a massive chunk of his rogues gallery that hadn't even been hinted at in Batman Begins was present and accounted for ? including a couple of super-ish characters such as Killer Croc and Poison Ivy.

Tonally, it felt like the comics, although visually things like the costume (again) didn't quite match. And then there was voice talent from the Animated Series.

The Dark Knight Rises
The Dark Knight Rises
All of the above was slightly baffling to anyone looking to pigeon-hole the game, but had the wonderful effect ? explicit or not ? of freeing the game from the confines of the film or comics continuity and the status of second class tie-in. It didn't line up with any of Batman's previous incarnations ? not through carelessness but by design.

By the next game, Arkham City, you could really get invested in what was happening when Bruce got chucked into the Arkham gulag. Because this was a different Batman, who you'd started to give a toss about in the first game and who could actually go through a significant character arc in this one. Rocksteady had created its very own continuity, which has now spawned its very own spin-offs in the form of comics series.

I'm not going to claim that it was great storytelling that single-handedly made the Arkham games superb. But, for the most part, people come to these games because of stories they've enjoyed in other mediums ? story has an important part to play in licensed games. And a thoughtful story with genuine progression and genuine scope for character development provided so much depth in the Arkham games when compared to the pale reflection of a movie that was The Amazing Spider-Man.

Batman, by Jim Lee
Batman, by Jim Lee
It's also worth noting that the other serious contender for 'Best Superhero Property of this Console Generation' is inFamous, which started its life with no continuity baggage whatsoever.

So, please, any developers reading this and working on tie-in games ? stop worrying about other people's continuity and start building your own. Don't give us a movie's or comic's or TV show's version of the characters you're using ? give us your own. Maybe then we can give a shit.

The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and does not reflect those of SPOnG.com except when it does.

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DoctorDee 13 Jul 2012 14:46
This I all, I think "nerdy pedantry". The reason being that all of these media (or mediums if you prefer) reinvent, re-start, reboot and remix themselves with careless abandon.

The Spider-man films to which you are referring completely and totally ignore the fact that JUST FIVE YEARS AGO Tobey Maguire was poncing about in the Red and Blue spandex.

Before The Dark Knight movie pissed on the memory of Val Kilmer pissing on the memory of Michael Keaton pissing on the memory of Adam West pissing on the memory of Lewis Wilson, the comic of the same name pissed on the memory of Seventies Batman comics pissing on the memory of Silver Age Batman comics pissing on the memory of Golden Age Batman comics.

You are talking about media that are by their own choice ephemeral. Media the multifarious and multitudinous creators of which, in their shortage of ideas and their excess of ideas, rehash and ignore preceding ones in their enthusiasm to promulgate new ones. Media which licence, re-licence, syndicate, and replicate their IP wherever they can. Your citing of Whedon is telling, because he is one of the few auteurs in the industry who has the creative chops and the commercial power to care about his characters and to exercise that care. Most of the rest is aspirational hired hands churning out sausage meat for the Disney or Warner Brothers machines, and when they are told to change the flavour - they do it. Because they have to.

The idea that there is canon is actually balls.
Spinface 17 Jul 2012 09:27
@DoctorDee My point being that it's precisely when things like games stop trying to pander to an established continuity that they work the best. Films are good at this because Hollywood is confident (or arrogant) enough to reinvent/re-interpret properties that were birthed in other mediums. Games, books and comics are much more likely to try to play in the established sandbox, and as a result end up feeling very peripheral with very disposable stories.
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