Batman’s Adventures in Wonderland: How Lewis Carroll’s Mad Hatter Became a Villain
DOCUMENTATION • PROOFREADING • CONCISENESS
Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland has been endlessly converted into different mediums, languages, and story influencers. One of the stories that Carroll impacted was DC Comics’ Batman–specifically one of his villains. The Batman villains are characterized by their deep-rooted psychological issues and their instability levels. The Mad Hatter, otherwise known as Jervis Tetch, is a prominent villain in the DC Comics Batman continuum. His wide variety of appearances range from the comics, to the 1968 episode of The Batman/Superman Hour titled “A Mad, Mad Tea Party,” Batman: The Animated Series, to the popular Arkham video game series. Although his motives, obsessions, and quirks have changed drastically since his comic debut in Batman #49 in 1948, his character’s constant characteristic is heavily imitating or recreating scenarios from the Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. And like the majority of the Batman nemeses, the Mad Hatter has also become a darker villain from his initial debut, often being associated with pedophilia, mind control, and child smuggling/trafficking. My goal in this paper is compare and contrast Carroll’s Mad Hatter with DC’s Mad Hatter. Jervis Tetch is obviously inspired with Carroll’s own work, and creates his own version of the hatter. So it’s very interesting to note how he chose to identify with a character that is usually known for being an ally to Alice (like in Tim Burton’s 2010 film representation of Alice in Wonderland,) or even a love interest. Instead, Jervis Tetch represents another side of Carroll’s Mad Hatter, a much darker version. To complete my goal, I will be analyzing different character traits that the traditional Mad Hatter has always had and how these characteristics were perverted to malicious tendencies for his villainous interpretation in the DC continuum. I will be examining the Mad Hatter chronologically to exhibit how much darker his crimes/actions became, with a special emphasis on the Arkham video game series.
Batman #49, 1948
Jervis Tetch made his comic debut in this issue of the original Batman comic by attempting to steal a trophy from the Gotham Yacht Club along with all the guests’ valuables. However, as per usual, Bruce Wayne happened to be at the event and thwarted the Mad Hatter’s plans. This crime lines up well with the overarching themes presented during the Golden Age of Comics when villains and heroes alike were surface level characters, not yet having their convoluted backgrounds or psyches that line up to our modern expectations. Yet despite the lack of character depth, DC Comics still decided to publish the Mad Hatter as a villain. The evil Hatter’s quirks include rhyming, possessing a weaponized tall hat, and physically resembling John Tenniel’s illustration of the Mad Hatter himself. Although Carroll’s Hatter does not rhyme as much as DC’s, it is interpreted as Tetch’s own interpretation/take on the Carroll novel itself. And even with minimal rhyming, Carroll’s Hatter still finds ways to make Alice upset with his words during the Mad Tea Party when she tries to voice her opinions:
“’Really, now you ask me,’ said Alice, very much confused, ‘I don’t think—‘
‘Then you shouldn’t talk,’ said the Hatter. This piece of rudeness was more than Alice could bear: she got up in great disgust, and walked off.”
Carroll’s Mad Hatter is not mortally evil, but he is unpredictable and rude to Alice, making these characteristics fall into a morally gray area. Going back to this early version of DC’s Mad Hatter, he too falls into a morally ambiguous zone. Stealing and assault are obviously more inherently evil than crude remarks, but this is where both Hatters are the most close on the vast moral scale.
The Prequel: Arkham Origins, 2013
Although this game came after the first (Arkham Asylum) and second (Arkham City) game, it serves as a prequel to the Arkham series, which is why I have chosen to put this first even though it is not real-time chronological. In this universe, Batman meets Jervis Tetch in this game. Many key Carroll Hatter elements are introduced in the scene they are together such as the Hatter’s obsession with Time, Alice, and his increased insanity. This game was released decades after the Hatter’s initial debut; so many eras of the Comic timelines and evolutions have passed by. Villains in our concurrent continuity have moved on from the basic hit and run to developing into more in-depth characters that represent and have psychological issues.
The 2nd Game: Arkham City, 2011
The Hatter is not seen again until the 2nd game, since he had not been in Arkham Asylum during the 1st game. In this game, the Hatter has gathered up several guards and thugs and placed mind control masks on them so that they would all participate in his tea party. He attempts to place a mask on Batman to pull him into his similar illusion of madness. Similarly to Carroll’s Hatter, Tetch utilizes witty wordplay. Specifically a moment where Tetch requests that Batman drink “his special tea, his specialty…” Tetch also reference how Alice is incredibly predictable, similarly to how the original Hatter often criticized Alice’s “normal” responses.
The 3rd Game: Arkham Knight, 2015
The final installation of the series relies on the progression that both the Batman and the Mad Hatter have endured throughout the franchise. Tetch had even created a book titled “Batman’s Adventures in Wonderland” and using his hypnosis and hallucinogens, made Batman go into the illusion that he was smaller and in the book, like Alice when she would eat or drink the foods given.
The Mad Hatter in the books was never defined as “good,” he was mad and unpredictable. However, in the spectrum of unpreditableness, Carroll’s original Hatter was more toward the good side. He never did anything to mortally endanger Alice or anyone else. He was mad, but not evil. On the other hand, DC’s Mad Hatter endangered a variety of people with different crimes.
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