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Off My Mind: Do Henchmen Belong in Arkham Asylum?

Do you have to be insane to work for an insane boss?

Gotham City has quite a few interesting villains. There's always been the question of whether or not the costumed villains are there because of Batman. Batman's rogues gallery has a diverse mix of bad guys, most with some sort of gimmick or theme. It's because of these gimmicks that when caught, they are usually sent to Arkham Asylum, an asylum for the criminally insane.

Villains rarely set out to accomplish their mad schemes alone. They are known to have a gathering of thugs or henchmen at their side. The question of where henchmen come from was brought up before. What happens to them after they are caught?

For criminals such as Joker and Two-Face, it makes sense that they would be sent to Arkham. What happens to their henchmen? Are they considered insane or are they tried separately and sent elsewhere?

== TEASER ==

In the different depictions of Arkham Asylum over the years, it's a pretty big place. Even if you took all of Batman's villains, there'd still be enough room for other inmates. Not all of Batman's villains are considered insane, even if they choose to wear a costume and base their crimes on a specific theme.

There is also Blackgate Penitentiary located in Gotham Bay. Blackgate is where other criminals go. Past inmates included Bane, Catwoman and Cluemaster. There seems to be some discrepancy as to where Batman's villains belong. I brought up the question of whether or not Mr. Freeze belongs in Arkham. He has been portrayed as being obsessed with trying to save his wife Nora but originally he was a simple crook forced to where an air-conditioned suit. He never really seemed to be insane. Batman has even said that the inmates of Blackgate are as dangerous as the ones in Arkham since they are "not crippled by dementia."

While there is the question to where some of the villains belong, the same goes for the henchmen. They are just hired thugs. They choose to follow the villains' orders in the hopes of making a name for themselves and earning some big money. What does that say about their mental state?

It could be argued that they are just motivated by money and not necessarily crazy. Getting a gig with Joker could or Penguin could lead to some big scores. If henchmen kept resumes, being able to say you worked with some of the biggest names in the criminal underworld would carry a lot of weight. It could even lead to the thug getting their own little criminal empire if they earn a big enough reputation and learn from their experiences.

On the other hand, you almost would have to be a little insane to choose to work for someone like Joker or Penguin. There most likely isn't any health benefits offered and they have been known to kill the hired help when part of a scheme goes wrong. Working for a costume villain pretty much always ends up with the 'boss' being defeated by Batman and getting sent to Arkham. Do the henchmen really think the next plan will be successful? A rational person would know better than to hook up with a boss that is known to be insane and a killer.

Not only is Gotham City under the protection of Batman, but his countless allies as well. Small time criminals might be able to avoid his attention for a while but the 'costumed crazies' are almost guaranteed to attract his wrath. Willingly risking your life to work for an insane killer in a bright colored costume with the guarantee to get busted by Batman doesn't instill too much confidence in a thug's sanity. Arkham is usually reserved for the big time disturbed villains but we have seen other petty inmates inside as well.

They may not be on the same level of crazy as the big villains but you have to wonder what they must be thinking to join forces with them. But they most likely wouldn't be at the same level of insanity as the other inmates of Arkham. For the henchmen trying to decide where to seek employment, they might want to consider the fact that working for an insane villain could lead others to believe they are insane as well. That could make a huge difference when it comes time to being incarcerated. Henchmen don't want to get locked up but being locked up with the criminally insane could lead to a different level of dangers than in a regular prison.

56 Comments
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Posted by venomyak

You definettley have to be a little crazy to work for Joker.

Posted by wowylied

Personnally i'm am more interessted int ha fact that arkham asylum and blackgate still exist in the new 52.

In a world with so much goldy character (superman, martian manhunter, apoolo, captain atom, firestorm, jenny quantum and maybe the doctor from the authority) and with character like apollo and midnighter who would have raid gotham and nuked arkham asylum in one night if there were in their past universe it is really a big hole in the whole plot.

Posted by Nudeviking

@wowylied: I don't understand. Why is the existance of Arkham and Blackgate in the New 52 a hole in the plot? There are still criminals in the New 52. There are still crazy people in the New 52. Why wouldn't they still exist in the New 52?

Posted by wowylied

It is not the fact that they are crazy but the asylum was always a motel for vilain who could escape anytime and with no death penality. Adding character who in their past univers killed guy like that and even in this one are saying that they are wanting to fight and killed street vilain is an error for me.

We even have godly character who could zap them in one second.

Posted by clemj
@venomyak: or for every other criminal from arkham
Posted by Soulstealer

@venomyak said:

You definettley have to be a little crazy to work for Joker.

Or you could just think you'd get rich fast. But that's more being stupid than crazy.

Posted by halfpastwhenever

Brian Azzarello's 'Joker' is a good story to see things from a henchmens point of view. I'd recommend giving that a read.

Posted by Grim

@Soulstealer said:

@venomyak said:

You definettley have to be a little crazy to work for Joker.

Or you could just think you'd get rich fast. But that's more being stupid than crazy.

i feel like you work for Penguin or Blackmask to get paid. Joker sens his men with no plan but to cause chaos most of the time, so i feel like the sadistic freaks go to him to cut loose without people judging them directly. If you rape a woman and light a dog house on fire under joker's watch, everyone will assume you where just doing as the Joker said.

Posted by primepower53

You HAVE to be crazy to work for someone like Joker, Two Face, Mad Hatter, etc.

Posted by HolySerpent

The Serpent was here

Posted by The Mighty Monarch

All I'm imagining now is Mark Hamill as The Joker saying, "You don't have to be crazy to work for me.... but it helps."

Posted by KnightRise

@wowylied: you bring up a good point, maybe midnighter doesnt care about gotham, or he's afraid of batman

Posted by Calico5

For street credit the henchmen would want to be locked up with villains like the Joker. Mad Hatter's lackeys are probably under his control some way or another; so they could get well if Arkham actually helped people instead of just held them. Freeze and his henchmen don't belong there, his motives are based around Nora not some insane need for chaos (or order and power if the ends justify the means). Crazy people regardless of henchmen or not should go to Arkham everyone else big name or not should go to Blackgate.

Posted by GothamRed

maybe they're not crazy, maybe villains have great benefit packages

Posted by Migz13

hmmm... depends...

I think Arkham is reserved for the "Cream of the crop" only in Gotham if you know what I mean.

If you're a criminal and you were caught and sent to another prison in Gotham then that means you haven't reached "that level" yet. Hahaha!XD

Posted by PhoenixoftheTides

I had the feeling that while some of the henchmen were crazy enough to buy into their boss's psychotic shticks, other were just greedy and would just pay lip service to their boss in order to move up the ladder. Some are just mean, violent psychopaths that probably are more unhinged than their boss, but lacked the savvy to build an empire or an organized "business". I'd imagine that there were "normal" people on the payroll, too (we've seen a few confirmations for some of these roles) - like accountants that knew how to hide financial gains or mask electronic records for bank transactions, nurses and doctors that are the go-to people when villains need medical treatment and lawyers who specialize in getting them off the rap/out of prison when possible.

P.S. This is why Batman's villains should build criminal empires in Metropolis! Superman is so busy beating up on aliens and Lex Luthor's giant robot suits that I would think they could operate there for years before getting caught. Batman, Nightwing, Black Canary and Green Arrow tend to specialize in their chosen cities of habitation, so you could really clean up in a city that had enough superpowered fights that the underworld could go unnoticed.

Posted by KidSupreme

Mmm.....

Posted by Soulstealer

@Grim said:

@Soulstealer said:

@venomyak said:

You definettley have to be a little crazy to work for Joker.

Or you could just think you'd get rich fast. But that's more being stupid than crazy.

i feel like you work for Penguin or Blackmask to get paid. Joker sens his men with no plan but to cause chaos most of the time, so i feel like the sadistic freaks go to him to cut loose without people judging them directly. If you rape a woman and light a dog house on fire under joker's watch, everyone will assume you where just doing as the Joker said.

Nice point.

Posted by dtm1980

Batman says it himself when he mention's Blackgate Island in the picture at the top. If prison is for sociopaths as well as psychopaths, you'd have to be a sociopath at least to want to be the right hand man of a villain. They know more about their bosses than what's in the laundry basket, ya know lol

Posted by CptPanda29

You'd have to be crazy to fight Batman really...

Posted by Superkitty

It depends on why you're working for them. Compare a henchman's wages and benefits (I imagine Joker would have the best in dental) to working a fast food job.

Posted by TDK_1997

Not all of them should be in Arkham but to work for somebody like the Joker or Two-Face you need to be a little crazy like them because you know that some time he will kill you.

Edited by doordoor123

I'd like to know where henchmen come from. There has to be over a thousand of them.

Posted by RedheadedAtrocitus

The picture of dropping the soap just made my day, lol. Seriously though, henchmen are just as motivated to serve their boss of crime as the bosses themselves, so they are just as good for Arkham as any other place that would take them. Wrong is wrong no matter the level of villain involved.

Posted by Bestostero

@CptPanda29 said:

You'd have to be crazy to fight Batman really...

touche! lol

Posted by CATPANEXE

On the other hand, you almost would have to be a little insane to choose to work for someone like Joker or Penguin. There most likely isn't any health benefits offered and they have been known to kill the hired help when part of a scheme goes wrong.

Yeah, sadly costumed and/or mutated insane super villains rarely do their books, much less pay their union dues. That's why I stick to robbing banks, carrying crates off trucks, and busting kneecaps for your average criminal. Too weak of a market to be running around with a ski mask without dental these days. Plus I don't really like cleaning the doom trap filled with carnivorous aquatic animals. I'm sure I'm not alone in this?

Posted by The Impersonator

@venomyak said:

You definettley have to be a little crazy to work for Joker.

Online
Posted by TheWitchingHour

I think Brian Azarello's work on JOKER was a great character study for henchmen. Johnny Frost is wonderfully portrayed as an ambitious henchmen with sociopathic tendencies but a lingering sense of morality. That's one of the best studies of a henchman out there. Azarello seems to think there is a very distinct threshold between a henchmen or a leg breaker and a super-villain that Johnny Frost seems to teeter on. I agree with him, that same threshold is highlighted in the difference between Arkham and Blackgate. It's kind of like the square/rectangle relationship.

Posted by DarthShap

I really think you should not try to rationalize Arkham Asylum. It is the least realistic place in the entire DCU. I mean even Bizarro World and the Fifth Dimension make more sense that Arkham. If you try to rationalize it, you end up asking yourself why the federal government does not intervene in response to a matter of such national security instead of letting all of these mass-murderers concentrated in this one place, which is really easy to escape on top of that. In that regards, Salvation Run is a thousand times more realistic than this. When it comes to Arkham Asylum, suspension of disbelief is the only way to go.

@TheWitchingHour said:

I think Brian Azarello's work on JOKER was a great character study for henchmen. Johnny Frost is wonderfully portrayed as an ambitious henchmen with sociopathic tendencies but a lingering sense of morality. That's one of the best studies of a henchman out there.

...which is kind of the problem with the book. A book called Joker should probably be about the Joker.

Posted by cmaprice

No. Grunts follow power. In Gotham, the crazies have power since they're willing to do things sane criminals won't and several of them have powers.
 
Soldiers don't have to be clinically insane to follow an insane dictator.

Posted by TheWitchingHour

@DarthShap: Did you read it? It was very good. It was told from Jonny Frost's perspective but Joker was definitely the main antagonist. And that is much more appropriate than a book from the Joker's own perspective given the anonymous and mysterious nature of Joker's own history. He is most effective when he is least understood. Revealing his inner dialogue would defeat that notion and render him somewhat inert. Azarello solves the problem by introducing a character who could easily become the Joker someday and is simultaneously enamored with and terrified by that notion. The more we learn about Frost the more we learn about the consequences of the Joker without losing the psychotic magic that he brings to Gotham. Saying it wasn't about the Joker isn't exactly accurate.

Posted by batshrine

Do you guys know which comics the pictures are from?!?!

And I agree with the people that say it depends on the bad guy and the henchman. If you are working for the joker you are more likely to be insane, but not guaranteed. And the opposite goes to if you are working for Bane.

Posted by The Stegman

If they're insane...yes, but if they're just greedy and in it for money, no, frankly I think MANY people in Arkham shouldn't be there, not every villain is insane, people like Firefly, Freeze, Penguin, Zsasz (sociopathy doesn't equal insanity) among others should just go to prison

Posted by andrea_mendoza1997

Depends on their boss.

Posted by ntb1124

Most the time the low level guys are portrayed as just regular criminals who have to fall in line to make it anywhere, even if the head of that line is the Joker or Penguin... They are not crazy, just with little options, I think in the game they joke about working for one boss then the other...

Posted by DarthShap

@TheWitchingHour: Yes, I own it and I really was not convinced. I did not expect the story to be told from the perspective of the Joker, something that should not be attempted be done because of his many levels of lunacy but when buying something called Joker, you kind of expect to go deeper into who the Joker is. I really could not care less about a quasi-anonymous henchman. Here, Joker is not about the Joker and even its Joker is nothing like the Joker. I loved Luthor not just because it was told from his perspective (although it did contribute to immersion) but because I got to explore his motivations, who the character I read about in other comics is. Azzarello's Joker is not the Joker but some weird kind of deranged hooligan. And I do not see Frost as a reflection to the Joker. It might have been Azzarello's intention but it does not work because the Joker is not supposed to be a crazy hooligan. He got the Joker wrong, just like he does not get the Batman-Superman relationship or what was great about Wonder-Woman's clay origin story, because although he is a great writer, he just does not care about what came before him.

Posted by TheWitchingHour

@DarthShap: Well I disagree. I think Azzarello did very well when he employed a show don't tell mentality when tackling the Joker. I thought it was subtle and nuanced and incredibly well done. But I do agree that LUTHOR was better. That was a wonderful example of super villain mentality and made me respect the character a lot more than I previously had. And I did not know he did a Wonder Woman origin story. You're saying it wasn't very good?

Posted by DeawonCDelaney

Why do they still even put Bat villains in different jails outside of Arkham or Blackgate, I mean seriously they should try mixing it up and put somebody like Joker or Penguin in Iron Heights I guarantee the rouges will not be to keen working with them good ole boys from Gotham. But really put all the henchmen and killers in Blackgate and the Super villains in Arkham

Posted by DarthShap

@TheWitchingHour: Well, Azzarello is in charge of Wonder Woman right now and he changed her origin, making her one out of the many illegitimate children of Zeus but not only did he change it, within the story he kept mocking the previous origin story, the one fans had cherished for decades. Azzarello is the anti-Morrison: he is obsessed with grim n' gritty and does not care about continuity or the work of anyone but himself.

And back to Joker, obviously I have no problem with "show, don't tell" but the Joker's behavior and dialogue just seemed very out of character.

Edited by kfhrfdu_89_76k

They don`t have to be, but it helps...

@doordoor123:

Most were out of work, and couldn`t any available jobs. They decide to work for a supervillain, or supervillains. Work is work...

Posted by JonesDeini

No they shouldn't...in fact, nor should their bosses. If anything they should go to Blackgate or Belle Reve. But hey, I'm applying real world logic/legislation to a world occupied with Jet pack wearing, laser gun wielding hyper intelligent gorillas. In that kind of world my no nonsense solutions just don't hold world.

Edited by JonesDeini

@doordoor123 said:

I'd like to know where henchmen come from. There has to be over a thousand of them.

In the Marvel U Taskmaster has a school where he trains them. In the DCU? I always assumed they come from broken homes in low income communities with even lower educational & employment opportunities.

@DarthShap said:

@TheWitchingHour: Well, Azzarello is in charge of Wonder Woman right now and he changed her origin, making her one out of the many illegitimate children of Zeus but not only did he change it, within the story he kept mocking the previous origin story, the one fans had cherished for decades. Azzarello is the anti-Morrison: he is obsessed with grim n' gritty and does not care about continuity or the work of anyone but himself.

And back to Joker, obviously I have no problem with "show, don't tell" but the Joker's behavior and dialogue just seemed very out of character.

I'm loving his Wonder Woman but I know a segment of fans don't like that he altered her origin. I don't mind as I feel that was the whole point of the New 52, and I wish more books had done so and made a clean sweep/true reboot. One of my favorite things about Azz for hire work is that he's not beholden to continuity as many other writers are. I admire the fact that he's more interested in telling an interesting story, It's his best and worse quality depending on how attached you are to your version of the character. I love Diana but was never a big fan of any particular run, his take is "my" Wonder Woman because it jives best with my interpretation of the character. Altering the circumstances of her birth hasn't altered the core of the character for me. Also, I don't feel like he mocked the original origin. I certainly didn't see anything like that in a single one of his issues. He may've done so in an interview or something.

As far as his take on the Joker goes, I'm a bit ambivalent towards it. It was a good story with some wonderful art. His Joker was very much patterned after Ledger's portrayal with a good pinch of Alex from A Clock Work Orange thrown in. And while I feel like that's as valid an interpretation as any, it's just not one that fits my particular taste. Hamil will always be my Joker and if I can't hear his voice when I read the dialogue then that's how I know a writer's Joker just isn't clicking with me. I do get what DarthShap was saying about the use of Johnny Frost. I thought the book did a great job of telling HIS story. But like you I felt like the Joker was a plot device more than a character in it.

Posted by SebastianShawShank

Arkham is a big place so most likely it is filled with tons of crazy ass henchman. It is not just the Joker and Penguins private hotel. It all depends on the book. I have read about crazy henchman and I have read about henchman that are all business and just in it for the money. Criminals come in all shapes and colours, henchman and super-villans! In the end they all get beat up by Batman.

Posted by ZZoMBiE13

This article assumes one thing incorrectly. You're implying logic on the part of the criminals. People don't just decide one day to become a criminal unless it's a bad TV show. People are driven to crime or fall in with the wrong crowd. They get to that point where even working for a psychopath has its advantages.

There's also the fear element. If the Joker is running amok, better to be on his side than not most likely.

Then there's always the guy who thinks if he takes out the biggest tough guy and thus become the legend that killed (or beat) the other legend. Again, not the most logical.

Most of them likely don't belong in Arkham, but rather Black Gate with a regular visit to a therapist or counselor or maybe some kind of group therapy.

Posted by Sokugen

I hear in Blackgate they use powdered soap, three guesses as to why.

Posted by circusrock

send the Arkham inmates to Belle Reve

Posted by batshrine

@G-Man: Where are those scans from?

OH and I was rereading No Man's Land and it explicitly said that Joker got his henchmen from Arkham. But I will still stand by the depends answer on who the henchmen and who the villain is. Black mask will have people that are more sane, Joker is more likely to have the insane.

Posted by Shazam78

Unless you have just exhausted other alternatives, yes you belong in Arkham when you start working for the regular residents.

Posted by Apis

Send them to prison working for Joker,Two-Face,ect... DOSEN'T mean yor're crazy it means you're stupid. Thugs don't earn the benefit of their boss' diagnosis/sentencene. They could rob a gas station if all they wanted was money and the chance to have Batman kick them in the head.If being insane were the only reason people worked for the regulars of Arkham there would be fewer henchmen to begin with.

Posted by AtraCruor

@DarthShap: Um..... Morrison is guilty of not caring at all about other peoples work and raping years of established character to do what he wants or just ignoring it and doing what he wants

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