Arkham Asylum: Madness Has Something Weird About It

Not the story, of course. It’s pretty much the standard ‘Arkham is a preposterously poorly-run madhouse’ storyline that DC has been publishing over and over again since the late 80s. No, there’s something weird in the writing/art that writer/artist Sam Kieth is responsible for.

And not in a normal ‘Sam Kieth’s art looks weird’ sort of way, either.

The panels in question come right at the end of the story, which concerns a psychiatric nurse who’s forced by dire economic conditions to take literally the worst job an RN trained in how to deal with mental patients could possibly have.

At the end of the story (SPOILER ALERT) the nurse is trying to decide whether or not to quit working at Arkham Asylum. She’s typed up a letter of resignation, but hasn’t turned it in yet:

(click to bigify)

Odd, right? And I’m not talking about ‘Human Recourses’, which is either a typo, or a really lame attempt at a pun. No, I’m referring to the fact that the typed name bears absolutely no resemblance to the signature.

Sabine Robbins is the main character’s name throughout the story – I’m not sure what that name signed next to it is supposed to be… Priha Nersha? Rile Merlo? The only thing we can be sure of is that it’s not Sabine Robbins – no one’s signature is that bad.

Of course, maybe her name isn’t supposed to be Sabine Robbins at all – let’s take a look at a panel from a few pages later, featuring a photograph of a real-life prop that Kieth uses as part of his collage-style painted page.

(again, bigification is available through clickery)

And you guessed it – the page is crumpled because Sabine’s made the unbelievably stupid decision to keep working at the worst job in her chosen field, hoping that she’ll be able to provide for her young son right up until the point that her throat is slashed by Mr. Zsasz. But I’m not here to talk about that, I’m here to look at the further inconsistencies contained in the crumpled paper.

So the name of her boss has gone from Hurd to Herd, and our lead’s last name from Robbins to Henry. Now, because this is the photo version of the image, we can assume that these were the original intended names, which were changed at some point during editing, and Sam Kieth just didn’t bother crumpling up another piece of paper and taking a new photo.

But even that bit of insight into Kieth’s artistic process doesn’t explain why the crumpled piece of paper bears the same signature as the flat one from the earlier page – a signature that looks even less like Henry than it does Robbins.

If only there was some way of finding out what was going on here… what’s that? Sam Kieth has a website? Oh, then let’s just head over there and ask him!

(two minutes later – Feel free to hum the Jeopardy theme for that amount of time if the mood takes you)

His website’s down. Guess we’ll never know… sigh.

Oh and for the record, the moral of the story, like all stories featuring the Joker, is that someone really ought to just kill the Joker already.

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