27
Jun
11

ALIENS IN ARKHAM ASYLUM

The following was given the green light from then-editor Denny O’Neil. The idea? What if the Arkham Asylum lunatics from Batman had to fight the Aliens? Awesome, yes? But I needed help to pitch. At that time, some years back now, writing up treatments was NOT my strength (As the man once said, “I’m much better now.”). I asked a veteran writer w/whom I had become friendly — David Michelinie (the guy who created Venom and gave Tony Stark a drinking problem). Lucky us, DC was owed 1 Dark Horse/DC team-up.

David thought it was a great idea, save for one problem: Dark Horse has a rule: All Aliens stories must take place in outer space. So I wrote back: “Easy fix. An unreliable narrator. Maybe it DID take place in space.” And we were off!

From there we wrote up a list of NEW Arkham characters — fodder for the Aliens to kill and maim. I think we cut their names from the final (below), but some included Doc Feces & Don Wand.

Ahem. Sooo, with you caught up and everything in place….

This project was green-lighted in 2001 by (retiring ed.) Denny O’Neil;
sadly the editor who followed wasn’t interested in publishing it. Le Sigh…

But here’s the story proposal in full.

ALIENS IN ARKHAM ASYLUM 

Arkham Asylum is in chaos. In pre-dawn darkness, the hulking gothic monstrosity is alive with scurrying police and emergency personnel, lit by the flashing blues and reds of ambulances and squad cars. Heavily armed riot cops keep watch as uniformed E.M.T. workers carry stretcher after stretcher from a gaping hole in the front wall. Something is obviously very wrong. Which makes the words of an unnamed narrator seem all the more odd: “It was a day like any other at Arkham Asylum. A little quieter, perhaps, than most.” As we move in closer on the frantic activity, the narrator continues: “Oh, don’t rush me! You want to hear my tale from the beginning, don’t you? Yes, that would be the reasonable thing…” Narration then leads us into a FLASHBACK which continues until the end of this story.

We see Arkham in the afternoon, and move through its halls and rooms, introducing characters and situations. All the major players are here—Joker, Two-Face, Penguin, Riddler, Poison Ivy—-as well as several new characters added for plot development and cannon fodder. As in all prisons, gossip is a favorite activity, and we soon learn that the current buzz concerns a new inmate: Victor Ian Hapsgoode, a.k.a. Victorian. A third generation maniac, Victor considers himself a redeemer. He’s determined to see that his fellow humans get to heaven, even if it kills them—which it usually does. His latest blood trail had led authorities to his lair, where he had been trying to perfect a machine originated in the 1800s by his grandfather. This bizarre device, which would look at home in a Jules Verne novel, is called The Ascension Engine, and is said to transport sinners directly to heaven, to be forgiven and accepted by The Lord. Problem is, the device has never actually worked.

As an attempt at therapy, the Engine had been moved to Arkham, where Victorian is allowed to tinker with it. Theory is that once Vic realizes that the machine doesn’t lift people to heaven, his demented soul will be able to accept reality. As a precaution, the machine is housed in a room without electrical connections, so that even if completed it couldn’t be activated without a power source.

But a coterie of inmates has decided to change all that. They don’t know about heaven, but they’re already living in hell and figure any change of scene would be an improvement. Thus they’ve devised a way to get power to the machine, and that evening they put their plan in motion. The Ascension Engine hums and chugs—and Arkham Asylum disappears!

But instead of heaven, the building reappears on another planet, amidst the ruins of what was once a highly advanced civilization. Cut off from electricity, the Asylum goes dark, and before emergency generators kick in, waiting inmates break free and overpower guards and staff, locking them in a basement. But when they look out of the Asylum, the inmates find that the shadowy area around them is cluttered with organic, podlike growths (Alien eggs). Even more disturbing is the upper half of a grotesque monster (an Alien queen) sticking out from under the Asylum, its lower half crushed; apparently the building had “landed” in the middle of an Alien nesting site, though the inmates don’t as yet realize this! Tweedledum and Tweedledee are sent out, none too happily, to explore, while the rest remain in the relative security of Arkham.

Inmates disperse to scrounge resources and ascertain if the structure is sound. Characters and suspense both build during this sequence. Two-Face examines tapes from security cameras, pouring over the sequence that was recorded when the Asylum had arrived, looking for some clue as to their whereabouts, cringing at an inhuman shriek he hears on the soundtrack.

Meanwhile, Clayface comes across an open delivery door. As he goes to close it, an Alien face-hugger drops onto his head. Soon after, he joins the others, saying that this world isn’t dead after all, that he was attacked by some sort of spider-thing–which he’d ripped off of his face and squashed like any other bug. He gripes as he puts a hand to his chest, saying that the encounter seems to have given him heartburn. Well, we know what that is leading to!…

Things happen fast and furious after that: Alien warriors seem to be making their way in everywhere, and running battles between them and the inmates begin, with the Arkham inhabitants reacting consistently with their established characters—some fight savagely, some run, some laugh, some play cards.

Clayface is hiding with some fellow inmates when he says he doesn’t feel so good—and an Alien chest-burster suddenly rips from his torso, having been implanted by the face-hugger! Clayface plucks it from his body, flowing his substance to fill the hole, and tears it in two. This unnerving development leads one of the inmates to suggest that it might be wise to consult the hospital staff. They go to the basement—only to find the place filled with eggs, the guards and doctors cocooned on walls, incubating Alien embryos! The consensus then becomes, “Let’s get the hell out of here!” But as inmates bolt for the front entrance, Tweedledum and Tweedledee rush back inside, activating steel security shutters over all doors and windows and smashing the controls to keep the shutters from being reopened by accident. Out of breath, they stammer, “Y-You wouldn’t believe what’s out there!” But then they see Aliens chasing their fellow inmates into the foyer and realize they’ve just trapped everyone inside with the very things they were trying to escape! Oops.

Between further fights and character bits, someone goes to Victorian and tells him to reverse the Ascension Engine to get them back to Earth. Vic replies calmly that some of the circuits burnt out in the initial activation—he’s working on repairing them.

Finally, amidst desperate speculation on how to survive, observations are drawn into a startling conclusion. The inmates have been running around blaming each other, talking to plants, cracking jokes, effectively nurturing chaos. While the Aliens have been attacking in waves, herding their victims, acting together—the picture of order. While the inmates evidence madness, the Aliens’ behavior has been completely…sane!  The Arkhamites are devastated: how can they possibly fight fire with fire, sanity with sanity—they’ve had so little experience! But during this argument we’ve seen a coin being flipped. As it lands, Two-Face looks up and says, “Okay, Harvey, you win. It’s your game…for now.” Thus Two-Face allows his sane Harvey Dent side to temporarily take over, and Harvey has a plan to save the day: He realizes that the shriek on the security tape is the sound of the Queen Alien screaming as Arkham Asylum crushed her, so he copies that onto a cassette and puts it in a boom box from the Asylum rec room. He then has Clayface and Killer Croc combine strength to smash a hole in a front wall, after which he instructs the puzzled duo to rip the dead Queen’s head from her body.

Tension mounts as Aliens begin to break into the room where the inmates have barricaded themselves. Harvey talks to Victorian on a walkie-talkie: “Is it ready?” In the machine room, as Aliens begin to break through the door, Victorian replies, “Patience is a virtue.” Finally, with no time left, Harvey presses a button on a remote control. The Aliens halt in their tracks as a horrid wail fills the air. Outside, we see the Queen’s head propped on some rubble far from the Asylum; hidden behind it, the boom box blares the Queen’s shriek of agony. As one, the Aliens turn and rush out, converging on the severed head. The plan almost works. But unforeseen complications send the enraged monsters swarming back toward Arkham. Desperate last-ditch measures barely fend off the attackers, but those few seconds are just enough for the Ascension Engine to be activated, and Arkham Asylum is drawn back to Earth.

And we return to the PRESENT to find Batman and Commissioner Gordon talking to Dr. Destiny, whom we learn has been our narrator. As a character whose obsession is the world of dreams, Destiny’s testimony is automatically suspect. Batman rages: “But the guards, the doctors! That basement room is nothing but ash—!” Destiny: “I’m afraid that was Harley’s little whim. We put all of the monsters’ bodies in with those pod-things, figuring that would provide proof that none of us were to blame for this unpleasantness. But when we returned, we found the room in flames, and Ms. Quinn standing nearby flicking a Bic. I believe her exact words were, ‘I hate bugs!’” Gordon holds the seething Batman back as Destiny is taken away: “I don’t know what the lab boys will be able to learn. Whatever burned was hotter than magnesium. What do you think went on here?” Batman: “Either Dr. Destiny’s madness dreamed up that story…or it really happened.” As Batman walks away, Gordon sputters, “Arkham Asylum, teleported to an alien world? And brought back in a matter of hours?! But that…th-that’s just…” He turns to look at the towering, silent bulk of Arkham: “…crazy!”

Project Proposal
D a v i d M i c h e l i n i e  &  K e i t h P l a n i t
Aliens are © 20th Century Fox, All other characters © and TM DC Comics; all new characters and concepts © by the authors listed above.
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