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Martha Arkham: Comic History & Arkham Asylum Connection Explained

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While The Batman is not an origin story for the Dark Knight, he does learn some new revelations about his family's legacy, including the history of his mother, Martha Arkham. While Arkham is not Martha Wayne's original maiden name in the primary DC Comics continuity (it's Kane), it is a surname used in a particular comic arc featuring a version of Batman that's very similar to the one played by Robert Pattinson. While Matt Reeves' vision for The Batman and this new take on Gotham City didn't come from any one comics source, Martha Arkham is very clearly inspired by the one seen in the comics (and may help set up future stories in The Batman series' future).

As discovered and exposed by the Riddler (Paul Dano), the Wayne family legacy is far darker and more complex in The Batman than Bruce Wayne ever knew. Not only was the nature of his parents' murders part of a bigger conspiracy, the legacy they sought to leave behind to make a difference was corrupted by the city's criminal element following their deaths. However, the domino effect began when a journalist decided to dig into the hidden past of Martha Arkham while her husband Thomas Wayne was running for mayor, a history that was largely inspired by the Batman: Earth One comic series from writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank.

While The Batman certainly puts its own spin on Bruce Wayne and his family history, his mother's troubled past is a clear reference to Batman: Earth One, featuring a version of Gotham just like The Batman's where the Waynes and Arkhams are the city's most powerful families. Not only is Bruce Wayne the last of both bloodlines following his parents' deaths, but he may try to restore his family's legacy and honor his mother by building a major Gotham location in future films.

In Batman: Earth One, Thomas Wayne was running for mayor while his wife Martha ran his campaign. While a victory was in sight, both Waynes were murdered by a mugger during an outing with their son Bruce. However, the rest of the series would continue to reveal more of Martha's history as an Arkham, a new change to the Wayne Family history due to the series taking place in an alternate timeline. According to Batman: Earth One, the Waynes paid for Gotham and the Arkhams built it, making them the two most powerful and influential founding families in Gotham. However, the Arkhams became a very troubled family following their construction of Gotham, and it was widely believed that the whole family's bloodline was infected with insanity. Bruce recalled his mother telling Bruce to never go into the abandoned Arkham Manor (the house where she grew up) due to the dark past she experienced within its walls.

Case in point, it was revealed that Martha's mother killed her father before committing suicide. This traumatic experience led to Martha being in and out of mental hospitals during her life. The same holds true for the version of Martha seen in The Batman, despite her history of mental illness not being publically known which the journalist was threatening to expose (which The Batman's Riddler actually did years later).

The core difference between the main DC continuity and Batman: Earth One was the desire from Johns to recreate the origins of Batman from scratch, creating a modernized reimagining of Bruce Wayne's journey to become the Batman. The inexperience and unrefined methodology of this version of Batman are not unlike Robert Pattinson's version in The Batman, and it's not hard to see the similarities between the two. Additionally, Johns likely changed Martha's surname from Kane to Arkham for Earth One as he saw a new opportunity to make Batman's family legacy even more complex and intriguing. For example, Earth One implies in its third volume that Bruce Wayne's decision to become Batman may be an extension of the Arkham family curse, something Bruce has to reconcile as the last of the Waynes and Arkhams. It should also be noted that Bruce losing his own parents created a new commonality between him and his mother, which was a new and interesting dynamic considering most comics see Batman striving to be more like his father.

Keeping in mind that Batman: Earth One ended with Bruce Wayne building Arkham Asylum himself to honor his mother and help those similarly in need, one has to wonder if The Batman will follow suit with Robert Pattinson's Bruce Wayne. Currently, there is no Arkham Asylum in Matt Reeves' version of Gotham. Once the Riddler was captured in the film's final act he was taken to Arkham State Hospital (which is where he also interacted with the Joker). As a result, it would certainly be interesting if Bruce Wayne decided to build Arkham Asylum in honor of Martha in this new version of Gotham. Thomas tried to keep Martha's history of mental illness hidden out of love and a desire to protect her. However, this led to the circumstances that resulted in their eventual murders. Perhaps Bruce will create Arkham Asylum as a means to embrace the truth. It would also serve as a response to mayoral candidate Bella Reál's comments earlier in The Batman when she claimed Bruce hadn't done anything to help the city.

While Arkham Asylum certainly has its dark history in the primary DC Comics continuity, Earth One's version looked way better and far more hopeful, serving as an institution that could actually help and rehabilitate those who are sick. While it's anyone's guess if The Batman will get its own version of Arkham and which version it might emulate, the history of Bruce Wayne's mother as an Arkham creates the perfect opportunity for Bruce himself to build the iconic Gotham location whether its in sequels or spin-offs of The Batman.

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