Friday, November 29, 2013

Going Medieval

I've never been an avid reader of comic books.  That said, I am familiar with some of the more iconic superheroes such as Superman, Ironman and of course Batman.  Most of what I know about The Dark Knight though is from the cartoons and movies rather than the original graphic novels.  I like the character, but I'm not so onto the setting.  Enter a small collection of concept art entitled "Gotham 1459."  Here's what one person had to say in the comments:
I actually think having Batman being placed in a time when the concept of the knight was dying off, would work. Batman would use a sword instead of the new guns and other new weapons of war, as well as other techniques. He would hang on to the idea of honor and chivalry (an idealistic idea, even in the golden age of knighthood, but Batman, being born after the heyday of the knight would have only known the good parts) long after the rest of Europe began to depend on mercenary armies. I want to see Batman’s alter-ego and the other characters!
A literal Dark Knight
After reading this my mind was filled with ideas on how this re-imagining could make an excellent video game.  I don't think setting the game in America would work though.  Instead, I'd recommend Königsberg (now called Kaliningrad).  Back then it was a built up fortress city complete with plenty of classic Gothic architecture.  It was also a cosmopolitan city of sorts (a mixture of Jews, Pols and Lithuanians.  As the capital of the Duchy of Prussia it was also part of the vast Holy Roman Empire some of which was made up of what is now modern day Austria, Italy and Denmark along with the entire countries of Germany Switzerland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.  The city is also connected to the Baltic Sea via the Pregolya River.

The world at the time was in a state of flux with the War of the Roses in England, Ottoman encroachment into Europe, and the start of the Renaissance (typically associated with the fall of Constantinople in 1453).  The king at the time was Frederick the Third, a ruler who had a fondness for marking things with the acronym A.E.I.O.U. although the meaning and reason for this has never been firmly identified.  A riddle, perhaps?

"Bruno von Wagner"
as Germanic Batman
A lot of classic Batman villains would fit easily into this proposed spin-off; The Joker could be court jester, Catwoman a wronged gypsy, Scarecrow a vengeful serf, Poison Ivy a pagan herbalist, and Two-Face a member of a Vehmic court (an infamous form of law enforcement that was quite popular at the time).  Then, of course, we have the Bruce Wayne character.  Perhaps he is a Landgrave from a diminished noble line whose true (but long forgotten) coat of arms is a black bat on a field of grey.  Maybe he is even a former Teutonic Knight.  While his collection of gadgets might be a bit more limited because of the technology of the era, there are some advantages as well.  For one thing the absence of electricity means that nights are really dark, and law enforcement lacked the levels of organization it has today.  That's not to say Commissioner Gordon (or should I call him "Schultheiß Gorder"?) isn't a secret ally of Batman.  There was also no shortage of trouble making henchmen to be found, everything from elites such as the Landsknechte and Swiss mercenaries to petty riverboat smugglers and common thieves.

Reminds me of Kefka
 from Final Fantasy 6
Enough about setting though, lets talk about the video game itself.  Assassin's Creed might sound like the obvious parallel, but I think the Thief series might hit a bit closer to the mark in that Batman doesn't kill.  To re-enforce his non-vigilante ideology The Dark Knight could use rebated weapons along with good old fashion fisticuffs.  That last bit might sound out of place in a medieval setting, but it's not a stretch when you consider that Batman's manor (or castle?) could have a Greek treatise on pankration in its private library.  Combat could be based on recent Batman games such as Arkham Asylum, Arkham City and the newest Arkham Origins.  Instead of a Batmobile, our hero could ride a black stallion and the bat cave...well, very little in the way of change is necessary.  Plate steel armor had reached the pinnacle of design allowing from heavy customization of protection and in turn counter weaponry.  Not to mention the flamboyant styles of clothing at the time would make for some very colorful over-the-top foes for Batman to fight.  The concept of detective work didn't really exist yet, but as mentioned earlier the Renaissance had begun so ideas of logical observation and deduction existed to enough of a degree for a video game to squeeze in some non-combat segments without it seeming forced.  This would give medieval Batman some mysteries to unravel much like his successor does in the modern day.

You'd think with the popularity of Batman movies and the Game of Thrones HBO mini-series the idea I'm pitching here would have been done already.  I guess comic book conservatism has kept it form happening though.  After all superheroes are supposed to be American, not German.  I have a feeling doing a Prussian Batman would inadvertently conjure up Godwin comparisons and possibly "master race" emotional baggage left over from the events of World War 2.  It's a bummer since the time period predates Nazism or even the country of Germany by several hundred years.  Not to mention that the real Batman is a white guy which means his ancestors had to have migrated to America from somewhere in Europe.  Oh well...if some people don't like the idea that's fine, but I still say it's a better idea than Superman versus Batman.

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