Been many years now since that weird Arkham / Gotham merger occurred, and to celebrate it (and the elegant absurdity of it), here is the Dark Knight’s investigator card for Arkham Horror – next game, trust me, I’m using it!
Arkham is now a district of Gotham City, nothing more. They kept the Asylum, sure, but not the Miskatonic River nor the University, nor the Witch House and other cool eerie spots. HPL’s Arkham is just plain gone, and it makes me very sad.
It’s like saying that the Dragon Isle of Melniboné and the Isle of Númenor are one and the same – or that Camelot is in Lankhmar – but wait till it is Public Domain, though! Why do you think there are so many versions of the same stories in Greek mythology or Arthurian mythos? It’s because writers constantly rip off previous writers. Vergil cannot leave Homer alone, so he tells a different story of the same damn Achilles. Malory cannot leave Chrétien de Troyes alone, so he spins a different tale of the same damn Lancelot... Five hundred years from now, our own pop culture will also be a huge mess, perhaps even bigger: Hastur the Unspeakable will be the Joker’s BFF, and together they’ll plot the destruction of the Klingon High Jedi Council of Minas Tirith...
Who invented Gotham City anyway? Is it Bill Finger? Is it Herron & Kirby? We know that Lovecraft created Arkham in 1920. Gotham City is first mentioned in a 1940 issue of Batman. So, is Arkham older than Gotham, then? But wait, Washington Irving made use of the name “Gotham” back in 1807, didn’t he? Borrowed from someone who borrowed it from someone else who borrowed it from... where?
Both names are Public Domain – because both Irving and Lovecraft died such a long time ago. If I decide to write a Cthulhu novella set in Arkham, with “Gotham City” being the name of the outskirts of Arkham, north of the Miskatonic, nobody in the world could say anything, right? The name Gotham doesn’t belong to DC Comics.
Today’s TV could be called the Public Domain Media. Elementary, Sherlock, Grimm, Dracula, Once Upon A Time... Who’s falling into Public Domain next? Orwell? You can bet there are three TV shows already in the works, then... Big Brother is watching you, Public Domain, and he wants to make money without paying any money.
I refuse to do any research about Disney. What I’ve heard is that they now own every Marvel superhero, just like they own everything Star Wars. Is that so, or just a truckload of crap? I don’t really give a rat’s ass. So, hypothetically, Disney owns all of Marvel’s characters, but not Marvel Studios proper? And Marvel Studios now produce Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. which is set in the same “Marvel Universe”, but you never actually see the Hulk, Iron Man, or Thor – although they are mentioned from time to time... Eighty-seven lawyers brokered this lucrative deal? It’s almost creepy. Armies of suits square off against each other in order to get their filthy hands on our geek dollars.
Someone else told me that Spider-Man still belongs to Marvel – as long as they keep releasing new material every two years or so; if they stop the flow of new Spidey material, Spidey then becomes Disney’s property. Is that yet another truckload of bullshit? I don’t know, and I honestly don’t care researching any of that. It’s too depressing. Even a half-minute Google search is too big a waste of my time when it comes to Disney. Consider this my #DisneySide.
My nephew is six years old and now totally loves Star Wars. Six, that’s how old I was in ’77. Accordingly, the little guy was amazed when he saw that I knew these characters inside and out. And of course he wanted to show me his toys... This is when I realized how Star Wars nowadays is not exactly – not at all – the thing I used to know and love. There are Jedi Angry Birds and Sith Little Pigs and Star Wars Angry Birds video games, and Star Wars Lego webisodes and video games, and it’s impossible to keep track of everything in there. Luke Skywalker in on Naboo. Jar Jar goes to Tatooine. Han Solo meets Boss Nass. Darth Maul builds the Death Star. It’s an incredible, intractable, invincible mess.
Disney / Hasbro / Lego / Rovio / Retoy: an orgy of cash, that’s what it is.
But I did something fantastic, something I’m very proud of: I never said anything in front of my nephew. Let him have his Star Wars trip, right here in 2014, just like I had mine in ’79. Why should I even bother, since there’s absolutely nothing I can do about any of this... Angry Bird General Grievous now helps Lego Lando Calrissian in his fierce battle against some cheese-like substance...
Why do we write? What’s the goal of it? To create interesting characters, right? But if you create an interesting enough character, it turns to crap for sure – sooner or later. So what’s the answer? What should we do? Never get attached to any character, ever? Not the ones you create, nor those created by others.
For example, right now, I’m getting attached to Reese and Finch and Shaw, and I shouldn’t, because they’re bound to be turned into crap. It’s not a question of if, it’s just a question of when. It can take some time indeed. With the Star Wars characters, it took more than 20 years. For Mulder and Scully, it didn’t happen yet – but it will, mark my words. Disney or some other shit factory will acquire the rights to The X-Files, and that will be it. Goodbye. Sayonara. Ciao.
I call this phenomenon “the great wood chipper”. We throw everything we have in it, every piece of our culture. Scott Fitzgerald, Victor Hugo, Alan Moore, Tolkien, Conan Doyle... We even throw our previous crap in that crap-maker to make it crappier still – Carrie, Total Recall, Robocop...
Making money is the only virtue in our society; Hollywood and Disney succeed thoroughly. Sometimes, someone tries to grab the bonus audience of an adjacent fanbase, like DC did when they included Arkham and its infamous Asylum: they try to lure in the Lovecraft fans.
Or am I insane?