Stormcaller Kickstarter

stormcaller Clare Thompson

It’s been a while since i’ve pushed a Kickstarter i’m really interested in on my blog, but i’ve been waiting for this particular project for almost a year. I’ve watching the creator, Clare Thompson work on each watercolour image with painstaking detail on her Instagram and just HAVE  to see the printed result.

Stormcaller Clare Thompson

The Passing of the Storm

Stormcaller Clare thompson

The Scream

The book will be called Stormcaller, a 96 page graphic novel about a well to do town visited by a series of increasingly terrifying disasters and how they ultimately react to the happenings.

I’m sure anyone looking at the artwork from the project can see why i’m so excited for it to be funded! Go checkout her campaign here!


Adventures in the 18th Century-Flintlock 1+2 

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything on here, partially because I’ve been finishing my own comic ‘The Trade’ and partially because I haven’t had as much time to read comics for a little while but as of late I’ve managed to squeeze a few more in. 

Today I’m going to talk about the series ‘Flintlock’ by Steve Tanner from Time bomb comics.

First of all I’d like to point out that very rarely do I buy action comics, partially because I love horror and fantasy work and partially because sometimes it can be really uncomfortable reading for a woman, I’d also like to make the point that I’m quite often weary of female characters written by men for similar reasons of uncomfortableness. Quite often I speak to comic writers who write female characters to appeal to the ever growing crowd of young women attending conventions and flooding comic book shops, usually as a cynical cash in rather than a nuanced representation of women and fairly often as a way of sneaking some pin up work  onto the cover to keep their male audience happy.

 I’m fairly happy to say that Flintlock doesn’t fall into those categories and in fact is a really refreshing read.

The books each have 3 characters with their own short stories split three ways in the books: Lady Flintlock whom the books are titled after, Shianti the pirate queen and The Clockwork Cavalier. I’m mostly going to focus on Shianti and Flintlock even though I really enjoyed Clockwork Cavalier (which also has my favourite art work by Ed Machiavello in the books)

I strongly believe that representation in the media has larger effects on society than is given credit. The philosopher Jaques Rancier in his book ‘The Politics of Aesthetics’ talks about how systems of privilege and oppression work primarily through the aesthetic, determining who has a voice and who is represented in society. It is not unreasonable to conclude that the aesthetic has both preserved a pecking order throughout history, but has also been used to challenge the status quo in the favour of the oppressed. It is with this theory in mind that I believe and support positive representation of oppressed races, genders and sexualities in mainstream and indie culture, as it contributes to change in our society and how people are viewed in our society. 

It is with my view on representation in mind that I will talk about the Flintlock books. I was thrilled when I saw that two out of the three characters were not only women, but also graced the covers as major characters rather than filler material, and I was even happier with their costuming and poses. The front cover of the first issue has both Shianti and Lady Flintlock, both stood in strong action poses, both fully clothed in period costume rather than in bikini variants, book two of Flintlock has Lady Flintlock astride her horse looking completely badass and powerful. 

The old adage is that ‘Sex sells’. It is very refreshing to see creators starting to ignore this, and providing varied characters for comic readers to look up to. When I say this it’s not that I believe that sexuality is bad, but rather that I believe that it shouldn’t be all that exists, nor should it be the only thing taken into consideration when formulating a character. Flintlock from the get go presents us with female characters who are defined by their actions rather than their sexual worth, and while a lot of work that depicts female characters staring passively into the distance, both Lady Flintlock  and Shianti stare us in the eye, confronting the reader and establishing power. 

The above panel is the first page that confronted me as I opened Flintlock 1, it’s extremely striking and sets the tone for the first story, which is of course Lady Flintlock, the story of a female highwayman. I will try not to go into too much depth story wise as I genuinely would like anyone who reads this to pick up a copy for yourselves, but the overall story between the two issues follows Lady Flintlock in her double life and centres a lot around the mysterious reasons she is a highwayman and the retaliations of the rich folk she steals from. The story overall reminds me a lot of an 18th century batman story, with a more sympathetic protagonist. The work is imaginatively written, staying within the confines of history but still generating excitement and flare and still having empowered female characters, something that is quite often lacking from period work.  Flintlock herself is a very interesting character, portrayed as both being very capable in a fight but also quick on her feet against adversity. It was interesting to me that the artist Anthony Summey didn’t shy away from showing Flintlock also taking a beating, this might sound like strange praise but too often are strong women beaten down in stories and suddenly powerless, this didn’t happen here, it was portrayed similarity to how a fight between two men might be.

I was genuinely slightly bummed when I finished Lady Flintlock in issue 2 as I wanted more answers about her background and intentions, I was however quite happy to see more of Lizzie in issue 2 and look forward to seeing more of their friendship in issue 3.

My personal favourite character out of the three title characters in Flintlock is Shanti (drawn by Lorenzo Nicoletta)

Her character design is interesting and it’s really cool that a woman of colour was put in such a place of power as a pirate queen. And to mention sexualisation yet again there is a lack of it in Shanti design, the poses  she’s in are strong and her costumes aren’t designed to show flesh, and as a woman of colour she doesn’t exist to be exotic or fetishised because of her background, she is surrounded by men who respect her ability and wisdom rather than as a damsel. 

As I previously stated I won’t go to much into the story lest I ruin it but Shanti is portrayed as an often brutal but also principled pirate captain with an extremely loyal crew. The Shanti stories have a far more dreamlike quality in the telling and despite being grounded in realism feel like a fantasy story at times. She’s shown as being very capable and using both her wits and prowess as a fighter.  while at times I found her methods violent and sometimes hard to look at  I also found myself respecting her logic and principles and agreed with her judgements if not her punishments. 

The enthusiasm for the subject matter of all three characters really seeps through the writing of Flintlock. Steven Tanner has clearly thought a lot about the the characters he’s created and you can really feel the love for them in the work. The history of the period has been thoroughly researched and I was delighted to find some of that research shared in both books, talking about the real women who were highwaymen and pirates. 

While the work isn’t without faults, I would say it’s nuanced and researched enough that the positives definately outweigh the negatives, I would possibly criticise Clockwork Cavalier for example as there are no women at all in the story bar two in the background of the first issue, while the stories are pretty short I would still expect more at least visible if not necissarily speaking but that is a fairly minor criticism.  But I think Flintlock is a series we’re intent shines through and I was I left feeling very positive about the work.

While some may argue that it’s problematic to praise work both written by and drawn by men about women I would argue that acceptance of women in a male saturated community needs male creators like Steve who are both welcoming and thoughtful towards female readers. I have had the pleasure of meeting Steve and attending several of the same conventions with him, and one of the draws of purchasing Flintlock for me was seeing so many young women and teenagers buying the Flintlock books and being respectfully catered to and  welcomed at his stall. I believe that seeing positive and varied depictions of women in comics, not to fill a niche but as quality work will encourage more women to be  involved in the creative side of the comic community. This is why I chose to review Flintlock and why I recommend it as a series to follow and support. 

Edinburgh Comic Art Festival-Panels Comics

My fourth round up of ECAF goodies! Today I’m looking at my purchases from Panels Comics: Meteor and Cosmic, though more so Cosmic as Meteor is on haitus. 

I first came across Panels Comics in MCM Glasgow earlier this year, they were across from us (Frisson Comics) in the Comic Village which meant that I got to gaze at their lovely work all weekend, I ended up buying a pack of zines from them which I enjoyed immensely, they were experimental and full of interesting concepts. I started following Faye Stacey and Letty Wilson on Instagram and decided that next time I saw them at a convention I’d purchase some bigger books. 

Both books I bought ended up being illustrated by Wilson. I was drawn to the retro colouring and the intricate covers of the books initially. Meteor is both written and illustrated by Wilson and Cosmic is written by Erin Keepers. I would like to say before I talk properly about Cosmic, that Meteor even though there is currently no new content is definitely worth a read, the writing is funny and dark and the art is full of beautiful details. It reminded me of Big Hero 6 in a way thematically (well if Big Hero 6 was set in a dystopian future and merged with Akira) If you can cope with the Firefly effect of needing more when you’ve finished, definitely grab a copy! 

Now onto Cosmic, just wow. The story is centred around a young woman who wakes up in the centre of a crater with no memories but with a sense of purpose. The storytelling and pacing are phenomenally well done, the reader is introduced to the protagonist as she starts to learn about herself, Wilson art conveys the sense of wonder and innocence that the character must be feeling quite well. The story progresses in a fairly natural way, with the unnamed character learning about her environment and trying to find her way to the city.

The characters we meet on the way are likeable and as a reader I got very attached (a very SPOILER event happens in the story that I can’t elaborate on but left me feeling emotional and shocked)

Wilson’s beautiful artwork compliments Keeper’s intriguing tale perfectly. The aesthetic of the work and the intrigue at the end of the first issue has left me wanting to know more. As with NYX Cosmic will definitely be a regular purchase at future conventions (along with other works offered by Panels Comics)  

Edinburgh Comic Art Festival- NYX in the Overworld

More summaries of my goodies! 

I managed to grab the the first issue of NYX in the Overworld by Hari Conner at ECAF this year. It was hard to choose from all the lovely things for sale on her table (Hari is a talented illustrator and has a lot of really cool bags and accessories I’d love to own) but ultimately since I was at a comic festival I decided I wanted to take a chance on a new comic series! 

I chose the first issue of NYX (there are 5 issues plus a spin off novel currently available) as I’m not always into this type of comic but I really liked the style of illustration on the cover and because I figured if I loved it there are more issues to buy so I wouldn’t be left hanging! 

I’m very glad that I gave NYX a chance, the story is funny and engrossing, Conner manages to use the premise of ‘what if the rules of RPGs were applied to life’ in a way that isn’t intrusive to the story and actually adds depth to the characters journey. 

The protagonist is a sweet character, they’re determined and sometimes a little naive (which makes it even better when they succeed). As an aside Conner explained to me that she purposely didn’t want the characters to have male or female pronouns which I quite liked and apparently it’s explained more in future issues. 

LGBT characters are also discussed in the story without drawing attention to their orientation which is really cool to read. 

A quality I quite like as a comic reader and artist is when the artwork improves throughout the comic. NYX starts off good and ends up looking great, you can see experimentation throughout the first issue which is cool and because each chapter is divided by the level of the character it can be read that the artist’s work is also levelling up!

As an aside this is my favourite joke so far! 

I say so far because I will definitely be continuing with this series and watching it grow. The only real thing I’d ask for is the comic to get a colour print one day but I understand that this would bump up costs so it’s definitely a deal breaker. For now I can read the comic for free in colour here (though I do prefer a print copy). You can see more of Conner’s awesome work here go go go! 

Edinburgh Comic Art Festival-Pushinka

Another review of an ECAF purchase. Pushinka by Aimee Lockwood, based on the true story of the daughter of the Russian space dog Streaks who was given to the Kennedys in 1961.

I’m not a massive history buff, and my knowledge of American history is a bit sketchy at best sometimes but this book really caught my attention and left me feeling a little teary eyed at the end. 

I’ve previously bought comics off Lockwood because her art is so gorgeous, I love the traditional feel of her linework and her textured colouring. Pushinka is no exception, Lockwood sticks to a 60s USA nostalgic colour palette of red, white blue and orange alluding to to soviet colours subtly throughout, her linework captures the playful movements of Pushinka and adds a 60s advertisement kinda vibe Which plays into the propaganda that was happening at the time. 

Overall this comic was a lovely read and is a great addition to my indie library, Lockwood’s other comics are definitely worth checking out (I previously bought North Coast Plagues which I also recommend)  

Edinburgh Comic Art Festival- Kathryn Briggs 

Frisson Comics are currently exhibiting at the first ever Edinburgh Comic Art Festival with our first book and zines. While I’m here I’m doing some shopping for unusual comics to add to the collection. Of course Triskelion by Kathryn Briggs stands out. 

I was immediately drawn to the fine art quality of her work, reminiscent of the likes of Dave Mckean and Bill Sienkiewicz (the artists who originally got me into comics) 

Her work has a gorgeous mixed media approach, offering the reader a tactile engrossing experience in the work.  

I had an intriguing conversation with Briggs when buying her comics about her work. She explained to me that she originally trained in fine art and transitioned to comics because it removed the barrier between art and viewer, she also told me that she’s interested in exploring the idea of a feminine hero through her work (the definition of which society currently can’t decide on). Her work actually contains snippets of philosophy adding context and depth to the work which I love. 

Story wise the comic is based on three feminine characters and heavily based on Greek Mythology, with Circe and Athena being prominent characters. The story plays with traditional narratives and subverts the hierarchy of hero and villain, I’m intrigued to see where this goes with the next issue. 

Only real criticism I have is that the issues are fairly short, but with the effort and imagination put into the production this is understandable, I think this series would definitely benefit from a compiled graphic novel release when finished! 

In short, check out this author/artist/amazing person

You can see more of her gorgeous work and purchase prints/art/book here

Watch this space for more reviews! 

Kickstarter Thursdays

I’m gonna try a new thing on this blog and try and keep up with it. Every Thursday I’m gonna try and review a comic I’ve bought on Kickstarter as well as do a spotlight on a Kickstarter I’ve backed recently or that looks cool! Obviously I might not always have a comic to review as its determined by Kickstarter deadlines but hopefully I’ll always be able to do a spotlight!

Without further ado….

Kickstarter review:

Cautionary Fables and Fairytales: Asia Edition 

I sprung for the package that got me the previous books as well which was a bargain really. The series focuses on traditional fairy tales and fables from different continents, so far we’ve had the European edition and the African edition which I have yet to read (though they look awesome, and might be the subject of a future review). The stories are told using the format of comics which is always an instant positive for me, with different artists and authors working on each story, some told with modern elements.

What drew me to this particular Kickstarter campaign originally was the cover art, I thought the style and colour schemes used were gorgeous plus I’ve always been intrigued by Asian cultures.

A massive kudos I have to give for this book is that usually when I see things refer to Asia it tends to be East Asia, mostly Japan, sometimes China that is included rather than Pakistan or India. This book has been very inclusive and has stories from all over the continent, I’ve learned a lot about mythologies that I don’t usually come into contact with in western appraisals of myths and legends.

The different styles of artwork adds to the eclectic feel of the stories, I was slightly disappointed it was black and white rather than colour but for the sheer amount of content in the book I can understand why this was opted for and the illustrations are gorgeous regardless.

If anyone is interested in a copy, you can buy it digitally or physically from here, for $20 it’s an absolute bargain, for the quality of content and artwork and sheer size of the book you should snatch it up!

Kickstarter Spotlight:
Enough Space for Everyone Else: An Anthology

Ok there are quite a lot of really cool Kickstarter projects on at the moment but this one stood out for numerous reasons (which I’ll get to) and it isn’t even 100% funded yet!

First of all, the artists taking part in this project are extremely talented, a look through the example pages left my mouth watering. I’m very much a believer in comics moving away from the traditional Marvel styles and story telling techniques to being more adventurous and diverse in appearance, this project promises just that.

Secondly, and this sealed the deal for me when I backed it, this project aims to explore new paths of space stories to follow, rather than sticking to the tired old space exploration/ colonisation stories this book is exploring new directions to take the space travel genre. People always say ‘if you don’t like it, make your own’ which is what these guys have done and this gets infinate respects from me, and means that each story will be new and exciting. Go, pledge now!

One of the main reasons I Kickstarter is that it allows projects that wouldn’t necessarily be made by mainstream means  to be created and in public awareness for those who need to see something besides what is provided in popular media. This project is a really good example of this.

If this post was interesting to any of you, and you have any suggestions for kick-starters that you think deserve a spotlight send me an email at or leave me a comment here!

Star Wars VII

Like many other people, I adored the new Star Wars film which I was lucky enough to see at midnight on the opening night (before people could spoil it for me) and again a second time a couple of weeks ago.  There may be some minor spoilers below. 

I thought the film was spectacular in many aspects, I loved the return in traditional effects (myself and my friends who I saw the film with gasped simultaneously when we saw Admiral Akbar in 80s style costume), and I loved the character progression not only throughout the movie, but implied progression between movies. Most of all I loved the portrayal of women in this film,  previously Star Wars films seem to have tried but simply failed to have strong women in the forefront (Leia is a badass granted, but the stupid gold bikini definitely makes me cringe every time). This new film seems to have corrected these slights quite a lot, Leia is now no longer a princess, but a general who is not only in charge with saving the galaxy but also staying strong in the face of losing her son, we have Rey, a capable intelligent woman who for once in a sci-fi, isn’t sexualised at all but is both funny and courageous, and we also have side characters like Fasma and Maz who are both leaders (OK Fazma was a tad disdain ting with her lack of screen time). I totally recommend this film, it’s fun, witty, exciting and importantly, ground breaking. Here is the illustration I was inspired to make after my second watch 🙂 I’m so excited now for episode 8!  


Moonshot Kickstarter

Sorry for my silence for a couple of weeks, I shall post some new artwork up soon! While i’m here though I want to bring attention to this awesome comic Moonshot– The indigenous comics collection which currently has a Kickstarter! Check it out, the art looks beautiful, and it’s got a really cool subject matter.. Check out these images900e948d616e6f604918f1b182f94e2f_large b21de6087e66fe334cde0a23b9e848af_large



‘MOONSHOT will be printed as a 200 page, full colour, high quality volume showcasing a wide variety of stories and artistic styles, highlighting the complex identity of indigenous culture from across North America. Most of the original stories created exclusively for this volume are between 5-10 pages, including pinup art and prose passages.

The traditional stories presented in MOONSHOT are with the permission from the elders in their respective communities, making this a truly genuine, never-before-seen publication!’


Batman essay: Masks, Mirrors and Duality

Batman Arkham Asylum: Masks, Mirrors and Duality-
By Katie Whittle

The graphic novel Batman Arkham Asylum a serious house on serious earth Morrison, G. McKean. D, (2004) DC Comics (Arkham asylum) contains prevalent themes of mirrors, masks and the concept of dual personalities. This essay is a means to explore their importance within the novel and by extension how other media is incorporated into the story. I expect to find that Masks are literally used within the novel as a means to alienate the audience as well as a way to add a supernatural element to the comic, metaphorical masks, and mirrors used as a means to show duality and vulnerability in characters. All three are used within surrealism and within the horror genres; this essay will determine to what extent Arkham Asylum uses these tactics.

Mirrors and masks have very similar cultural connotations and are used for very similar metaphorical meanings in modern media. Both can represent duality (as is a primary use in Arkham Asylum which I will expand upon later), both can represent one’s desire to be an ideal being and both can be used to deceive using disguise. A key scene in Arkham asylum which links the two themes strongly is on pages 32and 33. Batman in this moment of the comic is facing the traumatic death of his parents. When seen in his present form he looks barely human, McKean’s depiction of him is a shadow, a literal bat, but in flashbacks we see the very human Bruce. The panels are lined in a way to contrast the two, in the memory (which begins to take place in the mirror) we see the vulnerable, human child Bruce Wayne; in the present we see the almost disfigured, animalistic Batman. The mask here serves to force the viewer to see Batman in a more threatening light, as well as to accentuate the humanity of the young Bruce. The mirror works in a similar way, embodying the metaphor of duality and acts as a window into Batman’s Psyche and as a key to looking into the past and, later on the future. These combined symbols set the main key for the rest of the novel: The duality of Bruce and Batman.

The literal mask and the metaphorical mask within Arkham asylum work very differently. The most prominent use of the literal mask (and the most important) is Batman’s own mask.

Take Batman (Christian Bale), for instance. His costume functions in three ways: first, to

cover Bruce Wayne’s face, to mask his identity; then to shield his flesh, to mask his vulnerability;

and finally to terrify his enemies, in other words, to mask his humanity. Dudenhoeffer, L. (n/a), Kennesaw State University Masks of Infamy:The About-faces in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight

Dudenhoeffer’s analysis of Batman is a more traditional view of how Batman’s mask is used. Although still accurate within the context of the Batman universe, Arkham Asylum’s Batman is much darker and is a much more pessimistic version of this breakdown. Rather than just masking Bruce’s identity, the mask almost seems to consume it. The layout of the mask even looks like Batman’s face is being devoured by a monstrous entity, the ‘mouth’ consuming the top of Bruce’s head and leaving only his jaw. Not only has Bruce become his mask, he is also being destroyed by it. Batman is essentially becoming his mask and thus becomes a beast, dehumanised.

In addition to this, another important way Batman’s mask dehumanises him is through his eyes. At no point in the graphic novel do we see his eyes, they are constantly hidden in shadow, instead we are given full view of his mouth and often his teeth, this re-enforces the bat imagery (bats are associated with blindness and the dark). Eye contact is considered an important part of human interaction, in western culture a lack of eye contact suggests deceptive or untrustworthy behaviour, the lack of visible eyes on Batman’s mask make the reader uneasy and serve to make Batman even more un-relatable and distanced. In short, Batman’s mask is used as a means to make it harder for the audience to see him as fully human; it forcibly makes the reader scared of him, as well as creates a rift between hero and viewer. The mask also, with its ambiguity and connotations of darkness adds the suggestion that Batman is no more stable than the villains he fights.

Throughout the novel Egyptian tarot cards are shown. Egyptians are famous for their death masks, and the tarot represent various gods in their masks. On the final page of the novel the tarot card ‘the moon’ from the Thoth deck is shown prominently.

[on Egyptian death masks]Thus, the deceased would receive the god into himself and, simultaneously retaining his individuality, would become the image of the god..Florenskii, P .A. (1996)Iconostatis. The Conclusion: Egyptian Death mask and the life of the saint, Vladimir’s seminary Press

The Egyptians believed that by dressing their dead in the image of a god, that the dead in death would become the god while retaining their humanity. The Egyptians knew that if they veiled their dead in the essence of a god then they would be safer in the afterlife, much in the same way that if Batman became a bat he would be similarly safer. It’s particularly interesting to note that the god depicted is Anubis. Anubis is primarily in the god of mummification (in this context, the process of turning the body into a god) and his secondary role is weighing the hearts of the dead to decide who is worthy in the afterlife, a task Batman himself takes up metaphorically in his role of a superhero. The design of Batman’s costume is unusual in Arkham Asylum, instead of the traditional Batman costume with the short ears and pale grey and yellow colour scheme, McKean decided to make the ears longer and the costume darker than usual depictions giving an air of similarity between the two. Jackals and Bats are both linked symbolically to death.

In other cultures masks are also seen as a way to tell a story. Voltaic masks for example not only enable the wearer to become the god they represent but also the story they tell. Voltaic masks very rarely represent humans; Zoomorphic masks are more common and instead of only representing one subject matter, they contain symbols which tell a story and icons that represent certain aspects of the village’s life. The wearer essentially becomes the story and the story acts to reassure and remind the community of their origins and gods. The colours, shapes, icons and animals used represent different connotations and stories.

By their continual reference to rigid and coherent code, the masks coordinate human activities into a reassuring and balanced whole, the language of the shapes, the designs, the rhythms, and the colours, confirm the community’s sense of reality and give it control over its own time and its own space. Voltz, M. Voltaic masks, (1982), Cambridge MA, Drama review

In a sense Batman’s mask is used in a similar fashion. To the community of Gotham city his presence and the symbolism of his costume and mask also provide comfort and reassurance of safety. His mask is layered symbolically like the voltaic masks. The colour black, is associated with death, stealth and mystery, the bat is associated with night, death and rebirth, the shape of the mask (and the wings of the cape) could be compared with traditional demon illustrations. The story the mask tells is of Bruce’s own fear of bats.

Pages 15 and 16 show one of the most symbolically telling scenes of the comic, an amalgamation of symbolism and references are on this page (some of which I will be exploring extensively later in the essay) the scene is a chaotic over view of the asylum’s inmates, it is hard to distinguish individuals amongst the chaos. In the centre however, is a man with a bird head, we see him at no other point in the comic. An angel is hanging upside down from a chandelier and script from the Jewish Kabala is scribbled on top of the writing. Speech bubbles are dotted around the page (most filled with rambling) but some with biblical references: father dear father I have to confess, some say God is an insect…, I believe God is in man. The combinations of anthropomorphism and biblical references have similarities with Hieronymus Bosch’s garden of earthly delights (1490), especially with the sense of surrealism and confusion that it creates. The bird masked man in this context represents the hellish world the inmates live in, as well as a direct contrast between the calm dusky scene Batman leaves and the confused nightmarish one he enters. The bird headed man could also be a reference to Max Ernst’s surrealist work Une Semaine De Bonte which also includes bird headed men and women in disjointed realities. The scene is from Batman’s point of view and a way to get the audience to experience the insanity he himself is seeing.

Metaphorical masks also play an important role in Arkham Asylum; their use is throughout the book in various repeated forms. This is described in Jung’s persona archetypes as the Mask Persona.

When we analyse the persona we strip off the mask, and discover that what seemed to be individual is at a bottom collective: in other words, that the persona was only a mask of the collective psyche. Fundamentally the persona is nothing real: it is a compromise between individual society as to what a man should appear to be. C. Jung, Year and publication unknown

One of the most prominent uses if the mask persona is the use of a mask of sanity. Two prominent characters, Amadeus Arkham and Cavendish both wear this mask and it is represented visually through lack of clear features in the face (smudging/ distortion) When both characters are going through mentally revealing moments their faces become harder to distinguish working in similar way to Batman’s mask, dehumanising them. In the opening pages we are first introduced to Arkham and his insane mother. On the first page, an adolescent Arkham is seen walking up the stairs to see his mother, text boxes are imposed over the scenes ‘until the night in 1901, when I first caught a glimpse of that other world. The world on the dark side….’ The dark side mentioned here refers to the world of insanity his mother is living in. As Arkham finishes talking, his face is shown as a mirror image staring back at himself distorted. This is a representation of his true self, his equally insane self, living in the ‘darker world’ which is covered by his mask persona. When the young Arkham interacts with his mother there is a stark contrast between how their faces are shown. Her face is clear and all her features are clearly defined. While she is insane, this is her true self with no mask, Arkham’s face in contrast is darkly shadowed and miscoloured, implying his own self denial. Later in the book it is revealed that he eventually killed his own mother and this mask is a sign of what’s to come. As the book progresses, Arkham’s face is shown in different ways. When keeping up the pretence of normality his face is hard to see, heavily blurred or shown as demonic and skull like, it is not until later in the book when he embraces his own insanity, that the audience clearly see his unmasked visage
Cavendish is shown in a similar way, although as an audience we do not know he has gone insane until the end of the book however there are visual clues when Batman is first introduced to him. Cavendish is portrayed in a different light to Arkham, throughout the novel we know Arkham has psychological issues so his mask is more subtle, with Cavendish we are purposely led to ignore his façade until the end. When we first see him, he is wearing a red clown nose and smudged red lipstick around his face. His stature suggests authority and the tone of his words suggest professionalism. He and the Joker are juxtaposed for a page, Joker’s speech which is red and ragged and erratic looks far more crazy than Cavendish’s neat black and white text boxes, Joker’s makeup even makes Cavendish’s red nose look less ridiculous. By contrasting this character with far more extreme characters, it was easier to hide his insanity and keep up his mask. The red nose and makeup at first glance was put there by the Joker but is also a visual clue that Cavendish and Joker are alike.

Running with the theme of introspection, mirrors are used throughout Arkham asylum. The mirror itself represents the duality of the characters and the inner turmoil characters need to face. Even when mirrors are not physically present in the story, reflections are used metaphorically to remind the reader of their presence. Characters are shown as needing to face and become their mirror or alternative selves. What characters see in the mirror is never what they perceive themselves to be until they reconcile their differing personas.

The character Two- Face (Harvey Dent) is a representative of the dual personality. Physically the character is two halves of the same person, one horribly disfigured and the other clean faced and handsome, his ego and alter-ego manifested. When forced to deny his dual personality, Two-Face is shown as a broken and confused character. This is shown when the double headed coin which Two-Face famously uses to make decisions is taken away and replaced by tarot cards. The coin represents not only his disfigurement, but his conscious persona and his shadow-self ,it is not until the coin is returned to him and he metaphorically embraces his second self that Two-Face becomes stable and strong again. Two-Face is shown both at the beginning and end of the story, and his uncertainty of himself and vulnerability is paralleled with Batman’s own. Both Characters at the beginning are at odds with themselves and it isn’t until their personality splits are repaired that peace can be restored. The self that Both Batman and Two-face have to face is their shadow self.

We carry our past with us, to wit, the primitive and inferior man with his desires and emotions, and it is only with an enormous effort that we can detach ourselves from this burden. If it comes to a neurosis, we invariably have to deal with a considerably intensified shadow. And if such a person wants to be cured it is necessary to find a way in which his conscious personality and his shadow can live together. Jung, C. (1952), Psychology and Religion: West and East

Amadeus Arkham cannot reconcile his shadow with his personality. He talks about taping his mirror so as not to see himself, and it is through this lack of reconciliation that his shadow self becomes dominant. Symbolism, pointing to Arkham’s duality, litters the book. One of the most prominent examples is the panel after he’s digested some hallucinogenic mushrooms and stares at his two clown fish. They swim in a circle closely portraying the zodiac symbol Pisces, and are imposed over his face. In legend Pisces are tied together so as not to lose each other, in this case Arkham’s conscious personality and his shadow tied together, the fish represent his need for unity.

Dual personality is displayed physically on characters through themes of transgender. Arkham is seen walking through the halls in his mother’s wedding dress; Cavendish is later seen to be wearing the same wedding dress. In both circumstances the characters are shown to be completely controlled by their shadow selves, becoming completely either one sex or the other. When Cavendish is seen wearing the clown nose and makeup when we first meet him it is implied that the Joker did this to him. The Joker can be seen as an androgynous being, a mixture of both masculine and feminine features. By pushing Cavendish into wearing makeup, he is pushing him into his shadow self .

The Joker’s androgynous self is what makes him one of the most ironically stable characters in the comic. Becoming androgynous means overcoming stereotypical attitudes about what is appropriate behaviours for males and females, so that one develops more flexible behaviour appropriate to a given situation. Bradway ,K.(1982) Gender identity and Gender Roles: Their Place in Analytic Practice, Jungian Analysis According to Dr Ruth Adams, the Joker has no actual personality and reacts to whatever information he is given; in an extreme way Joker exhibits attitudes and behaviour that are both male and female. He is shown grabbing Batman’s behind and telling him ‘loosen up tight ass’ Batman is shown to be disgusted by this behaviour and shows his own discomfort with his sexuality. Joker’s movements are a mixture of camp and sadistic, his dress is an extremely masculine cut suit (prominent broad shoulders) but his makeup is distinctly feminine in origins (red lips white face powder) Androgyny is an archetype that represents in human form the principle of wholeness. Bradway,K. The Joker through his willingness to embrace both aspects of himself, becomes whole.

The clown fish previously mentioned in conjunction to Arkham can also be associated with Joker, even the name of the species is related to him. Clown fish are known to change gender when the need arises, much like the Joker’s need to change between masculine and feminine. The Clown fish can be seen to influence Arkham’s shadow side the same way Joker influences Cavendish’s.

While mirrors represent a person’s shadow side they also represent escapism and the unknown, Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1871) are referenced frequently. Alice stepping into the looking glass and ending up in wonderland is paralleled by Batman stepping into the asylum. Both Characters leave a stable, ordered world and enter a nonsensical wonderland. The book opens with the quote

‘but I don’t want to be among mad people,’ Alice remarked.
‘oh, you can’t help that,’ said the Cat: ‘we’re all made here. I’m mad, you’re mad.’
‘How do you know I’m mad?’ said Alice
‘You must be.’ Said the Cat, ‘or you wouldn’t have come here
.’ Carroll, L. (1865) Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Wordsworth Editions Ltd

Continuing the parallel between Alice and Batman, this sets up the notion that Batman is as insane as the inmates of the asylum, a notion which is re-enforced throughout. Unlike Alice however, Batman is aware of his insanity. When Commissioner Gordon says to Batman: ‘
Listen I understand if even you’re afraid’ Batman replies ‘Afraid? Batman’s not afraid of anything. It’s me. I’m afraid.’ Implying the split between Batman and Bruce Wayne. He then voices his fear of his own irrationality being exposed by Joker in the asylum. Further parallels between the two dot the comic, one being on the spread on pages 15-16. The writing across the bottom of the page in the Joker’s font reads ‘Let the feast for fools begin!’ in the centre of the page the reader can make out a dinner table filled with plates, this is an allusion to the Mad Hatter’s tea party. There are also various tarot cards, checkers and clock numerals around the page, all associated with Alice and wonderland. This mimics the surrealism of Alice but while in her wonderland these aspects are seemingly nonsensical they have rigid rules they abide, in Arkham Asylum there are no barriers.

The next time wonderland is referenced is when Batman enters a room of mirrors, almost as if he’s stepping in and out of the looking glass, Batman is reflected infinitely until the Mad Hatter’s voice echoes through the glass ‘
Twinkle, twinkle little Bat! How I wonder what you’re at!’ which is a direct quote from Lewis Carroll’s Mad Hatter on which he’s based on. Again imagery taken from the Alice series fills the room, checkers, mushrooms, a hookah and the Mad Hatter himself except more grotesque. ‘Perhaps it’s in your head, Batman. Arkham is a looking glass. And we are you.’ This re-affirms the idea that Batman is as mad as the inmates, and also is another nod to Batman’s shadow self which lurks within the asylum.

In the final page of Arkham Asylum, after Two- Face is given back his coin, the last words are taken from Alice in Wonderland.
‘Who cares for you? You’re nothing but a pack of cards’ Two-Face knocks down the tower of cards he’s built, the collapsing of the card house is similar to how Alice returns to the real world, confronting the fake constructions in her mind then destroying them.

In conclusion the symbolic uses of masks and mirrors in Arkham asylum create a cyclical effect; the novel ends how it begins. The struggles of Batman, Arkham and Two-Face are parallel to each other throughout and each come to an end when they confront themselves. Batman’s need to reconcile his humanity with his alter-ego facilitates his ability to leave the asylum. When confronted by Cavendish ‘YOU are the Bat!’ he replies ‘No. I..I’m just a man’ using the same separation between Bruce Wayne and Batman. This separation makes him weak and makes Cavendish able to attack him; it is only when he accepts his shadow self, the Bat, that Batman can escape. Batman enters with the Joker, and then leaves with the Joker. At the beginning he treats Joker as an enemy, through accepting his own madness he leaves treating him in a companionate way. In a similar fashion, Two-Face is left paradoxically whole again at the end of the story. Masks and mirrors help create an unsettling surrealistic world for the reader to gaze upon and force the reader to both deconstruct themselves and the protagonist.


Morrison, G. McKean. D, (2004) Arkham Asylum DC Comics

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Bradway , K.(1982) Gender identity and Gender Roles: Their Place in Analytic Practice, Jungian Analysis

Carroll, L. (1865) Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Wordsworth Editions Ltd