Every week CBD’s Editor in Chief Pete DeCourcy asks the question and the crew (and special guests) give their answers, we’ll be doing this for 52 weeks. Tip of the hat goes to the gang at Scans_Daily for the inspiration.
Today’s Question: If you could visit one comic book locale which one would it be and why?
Chris Owen (Professor of Comic Books History at Hamilton’s Mohawk College and host of The Comic Culture Radio Show.)
I have to say that I have often contemplated why anyone would want to live in cities like Metropolis or Gotham City, with all the super villains waging war on heroes and destruction that often occurs within. Heck even Soho has Spider-Man and his foes battling all the time. So why in the world would anyone want to live there?
Live? No thanks. Visit? Absolutely.
With that said, I would say that I would want to visit any number of places, but the one that keeps coming back to my head would be Arkham Asylum. It would give me chance to see all the craziness that Batman has to put up with on a regular basis. AND it would give me a chance to see all the ‘wonderful’ inmates that reside therein.
Shelley Smarz (Comic Book Daily’s resident Comic Book Goddess)
If I could visit any comic book locale, I’m with Chris, I’d want to visit Arkham Asylum. I’ve always been fascinated with the old (and often decaying) Victorian insane asylums. A lot of it is the architecture. The foreboding silhouette of the great house, miles of corridors, and the relics of treatments long ago abandoned.
That’s why I read histories of psychiatry and have coffee table books filled with images from abandoned asylums. I want to know the stories of the people who lived there. The people who worked there. Those who died there; whose ashes remain in crematory cans in the basement. Unclaimed. For a long time, the stories and the people they were about were forgotten because the people there were forgotten. The fear and stigma attached to mental illness remains still. And these old asylums are relics of that stigma. And the fear is housed and warehoused – much like its inmates – in the empty corridors and foreboding facades.
So, yes. I want to go to Arkham because it bleeds these stories. The building seems so steeped in history; in secrets and nightmares that they’re no longer hidden in the masonry but bleed through the walls. I want to sit and listen to these stories.
In Madness and Civilization, Michel Foucault argues that definitions of insanity depend on the society in which it exists. Rather it being a natural, unchanging phenomenon, madness is influenced by the various social, cultural, intellectual, and economic structures that determine and dictate how madness is known and experienced in society. If that’s the case, then what does it mean when the Batman Universe is littered with not just the insane, but the criminally insane? What does Arkham have to tell us about the world Batman lives in? About Batman? About our own world? What are the wider socio-psychological implications of the fact that pretty much every Batman villain is currently, or has been, an inmate at Arkham?
And, no, my aim is not to romanticize these abandoned relics of institutionalization; nor do I want to vilify them. I want to tell its stories. Don’t forget. I initially trained as a sociologist and my specialty was the medicalization of mental illness and its history. I know about the barbarous (and often unproven) treatments that attempted to make the mad sane. There were some who wanted to help; others were blinded by their own megalomaniacal impulse so that any altruistic intentions they had were quickly masked by hubris. Whether the attempt was to cure or to contain and make manageable, the mad were often butchered for their own good. (Doctors Henry Cotton and Walter Freeman, I’m looking at you).
Undercutting all of this was the frustration on the part of the medical establishment that, no matter what they did, they could never discern the mysteries of the mind – and its madness (in fact, psychiatry, for a time, became a dead-end discipline as medical science could do nothing to make the mad sane). I think back to Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on a Serious Earth, where Amadeus Arkham electrocutes Martin “Mad Dog” Hawkins – the man who raped, mutilated, and butchered his wife and daughter. Disguised as a shock therapy session gone horribly, horribly wrong. This scene was not only one of revenge; but one of frustration. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it (is that even possible?) but it always represented – for me – the helpless feeling that psychiatrists felt (and still feel to this day) when faced with their patients’ mental illnesses. (Also, not discounting the whole revenge for brutally raping and butchering his family). But think of it this way. If medicine can’t cure you (i.e., make you sane), then there was nothing else to be done except to put Mad Dog down like, well, a mad dog.
David Diep (News Editor, Part time Comic Shoppe Employee, All Time Sexual Dynamo)
I gotta agree with Chris, as cool as it would be to visit Gotham City or Metropolis or New York, your chances of seeing a superhero might be high, but the chances of you being in a hostage situation where they gotta save your ass is even higher! Show up in Gotham? Be the victim of the latest poisoning of the water supply by the Joker. Metropolis? Get killed by invading Kryptonians. New York? Galactus eats me. That being said, my fictional locale would be Oa. Think about it, almost every alien race is represented there, so instead of travelling the universe meeting up with other alien species, I can go to the one place where they all are. Plus, they gotta have some cool ass libraries to read up on stuff. Getting around might suck though since everyone probably uses their power rings for transport so they got no regular vehicles to get around. But maybe they’ll lend me a power ring, plus you can get smashed at Guy Gardener’s Warriors bar.
Anthony Falcone (Writer of Whosoever Holds This Hammer)
Jeff Smith created a fun and fascinating place in the Valley, with talking bugs, rat creatures, the folk of barrelhaven and real dragons! Even the rat creatures are fun. The valley is a beautiful place, with I’m sure even more cool little nooks and crannies we never got to see. Now, knowing how neat a place Jeff created in the Valley, I want to visit the home of the Bone cousins.
So find me a cart headed that way.
Brent Chittenden (writer of the Just A Thought Columns here at CBD, as well as a writer for Bite TV’s Blog.)
The answer to where I’d like to visit in the comic book universe was pretty easy. Themyscira. Let my friend the Flash explain it to everyone.
Need I say more? Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to hide from my girlfriend.
Well, that’s it for this week. Check Back next Wednesday for another question. Feel free to sound off on your favourite female comic character below.