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What You Didn't Know About The Arkham Family In The Batman

Contains spoilers for "The Batman."

Matt Reeves' "The Batman" introduces a brand new version of the Caped Crusader to audiences, fleshing out Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) in ways fans haven't seen in live-action before. First, the film forgoes the typical origin story of that fateful night when Thomas and Martha Wayne entered Crime Alley. Instead, it opts to drop on Batman in the second year of his war on crime in Gotham. It's a clever way of giving audiences a young, fresh-faced take on the character without retreading too much familiar ground. It seems this narrative decision is working with audiences and critics alike because "The Batman" has earned itself a healthy rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

"The Batman" story also introduces a vicious new version of the Riddler (Paul Dano), who is much more of a homegrown terrorist than Jim Carrey's mischievous trickster in "Batman Forever." This time around, the villain's motivation centers around exposing and punishing the corrupt members of Gotham's political and legislative infrastructure, starting with Mayor Don Mitchell, Jr. (Rupert Penry-Jones). Riddler murders Mitchell in the film's opening, and it's this brutal act that kicks off a sadistic killing spree that threatens to unleash utter chaos on Gotham. With every kill, the Riddler ropes Batman deeper into a game of cat-and-mouse that gets way more personal than Bruce Wayne could have imagined.

The Riddler puts the Wayne family in his crosshairs because he believes Thomas and Martha Wayne had as much responsibility for Gotham's downfall as Mayor Mitchell, the mobster Carmine Falcone (John Turturro), and other high-profile Gotham figures with shady backgrounds. The masked killer goes deep into the truth about the Waynes in a tell-all video, revealing many dark secrets about Bruce's parents — including their connection to the Arkham family.

The Waynes and the Arkhams are inextricably linked

So, how are the Waynes tied to the Arkhams? In "The Batman," we learn Thomas Wayne married Martha Arkham. Yes, that's right, Martha is part of the Arkham family. (This revelation means Bruce is part of the Arkham family tree, too.) It's a surprise for fans, to be sure. Previous live-action "Batman" movies have never looked at the history of the Waynes (including those who married into the family) in great detail. There's the throwaway line in Christopher Nolan's trilogy about one of Bruce Wayne's ancestors building an underground railroad to help slaves escape, which helps explain the existence of the caves underneath Wayne Manor. But, aside from that, we don't know much about the Wayne family tree. Until now.

In "The Batman," the Dark Knight's investigation leads him to the abandoned orphanage that was originally supported by The Wayne Foundation before the untimely deaths of Thomas and Martha. He's led to the run-down location after it is mentioned in a shocking video released by the Riddler that shines a light on the Waynes in great detail. The villain explains that Martha was born into the Arkham family. In her youth, Martha dealt with mental illness and, per Riddler, had several stays in the Arkham Asylum to treat it. 

The Riddler's video on the Waynes also reveals that Edward Elliot, a journalist employed by Sal Maroni, found out about Martha's past and threatened to expose the news to derail Thomas' mayoral campaign. Bruce's father leans on Carmine Falcone (John Turturro) for support, asking the gangster to intimidate the journalist so the story can stay under wraps. This is why Riddler targets the Wayne legacy — it looks like Thomas had Elliot killed.

Why are the Arkhams so important?

Anyone even remotely familiar with the Batman mythos will probably recognize the name "Arkham" thanks to the notoriety of Arkham Asylum. Typically, it's Arkham Asylum where the Caped Crusader sends his opponents after beating them black and blue in the streets (although it's clearly not effective, considering how many times said opponents manage to escape). Tying Batman directly to Arkham through his mother's bloodline is an interesting way of making this new universe feel interconnected, rather than playing with random chess pieces. 

There's also some extensive history to the asylum in the comics. The location was first introduced in 1974's "Batman" #258 and was known as the Elizabeth Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane. Grant Morrison's "Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth" establishes that the iconic location was originally founded by Amadeus Arkham in the early 1900s after his mother died by suicide. He transformed the family home into an institution before his wife and daughter were killed by his first patient, Martin Hawkins. This eventually drove Amadeus mad, and he was locked up in his own asylum (via The Hollywood Reporter).

But when it comes to Bruce's mother, her maiden name is Martha Kane in the comics. It wasn't until Geoff Johns' "Batman: Earth One" (via Fandom) that DC introduced her Arkham heritage. She also suffers from mental illness in the 2012 series, and there's also the idea that Arkham Manor is cursed, supposedly dooming any future generation to eventual mental illness.

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