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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.


  1. Austin George Loomis
    May 24, 2021 @ 5:03 pm

    the reassurance that Death is not always a negative card

    “Metempsychosis” might work better as a name, then.

    the end of the Aeon of Osiris, which Crowley credited himself with the end of.

    My late cousin Ezra once said that the Christian era didn’t come definitely to an end until 17 years later (☉︎ in 6° Scorpii, ☽︎ in 23° Librae, 0ⅹⅴⅰⅰ).

    There is no particular reason to think that Morrison was influenced by [Red Dragon]—its ascension to well-known pop culture […] still lay several years ahead

    Though its own cinematic adaptation, Michael Mann’s Manhunter, had come out the year before the pitch meeting.


    • Sean Dillon
      May 25, 2021 @ 2:08 am

      Said adaptation, it should be noted, cut the Blake stuff out.


      • D.N.
        May 29, 2021 @ 10:13 am

        …and, incidentally, also cut out the really crappy tacked-on shock ending Morrison objected to.


  2. Douglas Muir
    May 26, 2021 @ 9:06 am

    This is a Morrison work I’ve felt no urge to revisit. The word that comes to mind is “overwrought”:

    in a state of nervous excitement or anxiety. Similar: tense, agitated, nervous, on edge.
    (of a piece of writing or a work of art) too elaborate or complicated in design or construction. “a pseudo-Gothic church far too overwrought for such a small town” Similar: over-ornate, over-elaborate, over-embellished. ​

    Two things. One, there was an immense amount of hype around “Arkham Asylum” when it first came out. There was a huge ad campaign, and for months it was only available in a pricey hardcover edition. Yet — curiously — it has mostly faded out of subsequent Batman lore. “The Killing Joke” has continued to inspire adaptations and retellings and retcons; creators are still responding to it. “Arkham Asylum”, not so much.

    Two, Moore has turned up his nose at “The Killing Joke”, saying — I paraphrase — that it was a waste to use advanced modernist storytelling techniques on what was just a Batman story. I actually think that’s a stronger critique here! “The inmates have taken over the asylum” is literally a lame cliche — it’s the sort of thing your Republican uncle mumbles to himself while watching Fox.

    Okay, cliches can be the foundation of good stories. Can you build a decent Batman story around this? Sure — in fact, there’s an extremely excellent video game. The Arkham Asylum game, released in 2009, won a crapton of awards, spawned multiple sequels and a prequel, and is still considered one of the best action video games of all time.

    (Fun fact: Morrison played this game and absolutely loved it. In an interview, he claimed it as an inspiration for his “Batman Incorporated” series.)

    But the video game barely relies on occult symbolism; it’s a pretty straightforward superhero adventure story. And, honestly, the comic would have been better as a relatively straightforward story too. This feels… try-hard. If you want to maintain the metaphor of the War, then Arkham Asylum was a tactical error: a misguided attempt to fight Moore on his own ground, with his own weapons.

    Doug M.


    • D.N.
      May 29, 2021 @ 10:45 am

      “Overwrought” is exactly right. I remember the first time I acquired and read “Arkham Asylum” – I was either in my late teens or early twenties – and I liked it enough. But while my position over the years on other “prestige” Batman stories of roughly the same vintage (“The Dark Knight Returns,” “Batman: Year One,” “The Killing Joke,” “A Death in the Family,” “Batman: The Cult,” etc) has remained more or less the same, “Arkham Asylum” just doesn’t do anything for me when I revisit it. What I found “cool” about the book when I was younger seems messy and pretentious to me now. (If we’re talking stories in which Batman gets knee-deep in Arkham, I’d take Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle’s “The Last Arkham” over this one.) I honestly think Dave McKean’s art is the book’s redeeming feature, which is somewhat ironic as I’m pretty sure Grant Morrison originally wanted Brian Bolland to draw it. (Of course, had Bolland drawn “Arkham Asylum,” I’d probably say his art is the book’s redeeming feature…)

      The comparison between this book and “The Killing Joke” is interesting, because for whatever faults Alan Moore himself has with “The Killing Joke,” it’s more or less a straightforward story pitting two archetypes against each other, and its disturbing content is designed to provoke an emotional response to the story as presented. Whereas with “Arkham Asylum,” I feel like the grotesquery and the shock value is all in the service of making you laud how coooool and edgy Grant Morrison is.


  3. Drawn weird
    May 26, 2021 @ 12:17 pm

    I’m genuinely ignorant on this: how revolutionary are McKean’s art and layouts in the context of comics? At least in the context of the War it seems a big leap (unless I’m forgetting something) in contrast with the more “classical” approach of stuff like Watchmen or Animal Man. Is it less incredible in light of the layouts of the Nick Fury stuff that’s lauded as having broken the classical conventions (that I also know very little about)? Will this change on how comics are drawn be covered on another chapter?


    • Elizabeth Sandifer
      May 26, 2021 @ 12:34 pm

      McKean has a substantive section on his style and work coming up, yes.


  4. Przemek
    May 27, 2021 @ 10:14 am

    “Arkham Asylum” made a huge impression on me when I first read it. I found its tense swirl of dark psychology and symbolism deeply moving. I have nothing to add to your brilliant analysis, except to thank you. Only you can make me read a long piece about a Tarot card and be happy that I did.


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