Inspired by H. P. Lovecraft’s 1920 short story, “The Doom That Came to Sarnath,” this new animated Batman film takes fans back to a Prohibition Era Gotham steeped in horror and decadence. It is an adaptation of a parallel-earth storyline introduced by DC Comics’ three-issue “Elseworlds” miniseries “Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham” (2000–2001), written by Richard Pace and Mike Magnola and illustrated by Dennis Janke and Troy Nixey. At the beginning of the movie, Bruce Wayne is shown to be on an expedition to find Prof. Oswald Cobblepot and his crew in Antarctica with his three underlings, Kai Li Cain, Sanjay Tawde, and Dick Grayson. They discover that the crew was shipwrecked and that most of the crew members were dead. Amid the frozen desert, Bruce locates Cobblepot and follows him to a cave, where he finds one of Cobblepot’s crew members, August Grendon, a disfigured and creepy-looking figure hard at work trying to chisel out a cosmic deity from the icy cave. At this moment, Bruce catches a glimpse of the cosmic being’s true form and collapses in agony. Several mutated penguin-like figures attack Bruce inside the cave, but he is able to fend them off and capture Grendon. The party sets off on a course back to Gotham after a twenty-year odyssey, as proclaimed by Bruce, with Grendon as a captive, but a terrible misfortune follows them on their homeward journey.
The film features a star-studded roster of some of the most iconic Batman villains of all time; all mashed together in a classic Lovecraftian horror-mystery narrative.
The Penguin (Prof. Oswald Cobblepot)
The Penguin appears as Prof. Oswald Cobblepot in the film, a man who has been driven to insanity amid the cold, frozen desert of Antarctica after he and his crew suffered a shipwreck there. One of the oldest adversaries of Batman, The Penguin, first appeared in “Detective Comics” issue #58 and is well-remembered for his signature top hat and monocled look and for carrying a weaponized umbrella, and in the Gotham universe, the Penguin is a master criminal, famously known for being an advisor to the city’s underworld. In this film, the character has been used as a sort of catalyst for the exposition of the main narrative. Bruce finds Cobblepot’s journal among the ruins of his ship, which contains several secrets and documentation of his adventures and is essential to the plot.
Mr. Freeze (August Grendon)
In “The Doom That Came to Gotham,” Mr. Freeze is alluded to through the character of August Grendon. Grendon is a part of Prof. Cobblepot’s crew that gets shipwrecked in Antarctica, after which he becomes an agent of the “cosmic deity’ (Iog-Sotha). He is discovered inside a cave by Bruce as he is searching for Cobblepot and is brought back to Gotham. He is responsible for the deaths of two of Bruce’s most trusted apprentices: Sanjay Tawde (whom he freezes to death) and Dick Grayson (killed while trying to stop Killer Croc from breaking him out of his confinement). The film features a different version of Mr. Freeze from the original (Victor Fries) version of the main Batman comic book continuity, which has a different backstory and personality.
The Cthulhuesque-cosmic entity, teased at the beginning of the film, is portrayed as the root of all evil in the film. Its figure bears a striking resemblance to the Lovecraftian imagination of an all-powerful and all-devouring cosmic being that is ruthless in its approach. It is the entity that Ra’s al Ghul worships and claims had created life itself millions of years ago. It is seen as an indefinitely large, amorphous being with tentacles whose true form cannot be perceived by human senses.
Two-Face (Harvey Dent)
When it comes to Batman villains, Two-Face needs no introduction. The character of Harvey Dent, like all the other characters, is given a unique backstory in this film. He was a good friend of Bruce Wayne and Oliver Queen and was on his way to becoming the Mayor of Gotham. And in doing so, he becomes the target of Ra’s al Ghul, who wishes to use him as a tool to open a gateway to Iog-Sotha, his master. He is poisoned by poison ivy and consequently becomes two-faced because of the deformity that the poison has caused. Created by Bob Kane, the character of Harvey Dent first appeared in Issue #66 of “Detective Comics” in 1942 and has since then been one of the most enduring antagonists of the Batman universe.
Talia Al Ghul
Talia al Ghul is the daughter of Ra’s al Ghul and is instrumental in executing his plan to unleash Iog-Sotha on the world. She is the only surviving member of her father’s centuries-old cult, ‘The Cult of Ghul,’ and has command over demons and other creatures of the dark. She traps Etrigan after he saves Bruce from Daitya, a demon summoned by her, and resurrects her father to bring forth the destruction that he had promised millennia ago. First appearing in “Detective Comics” #411, created by Bob Brown and Dennis O’Neil, Talia al Ghul is a recurring character in the Batman universe, alternating between the roles of a supervillain and an anti-hero. In the main comic book continuity, she is even portrayed as a lover of Batman and the mother of Damian Wayne. She is also known as a member of the ‘League of Assassins,’ headed by her father and heir to the throne of his terrorist organization.
Ra’s al Ghul (Cthulhu)
Ra’s al Ghul is the film’s chief antagonist and the leader of the ‘Cult of Ghul.’ He was resurrected by Talia so he could fulfill his desire to summon Iog-Sotha on Earth. He births Poison Ivy from the inner essence of Grendon to poison Harvey Dent and create a gateway to the cosmic deity using his physical form. In the final battle against Batman, he reveals his true form as the monster Cthulhu and almost succeeds in bringing Iog-Sotha through the gateway to Earth but is finally stopped by Batman and Etrigan. When it comes to the Batman Universe, Ra’s al Ghul is definitely one of the most iconic villains of all time, a title spot contested by perhaps only a few others. Created by Dennis O’Neil, Julius Schwartz, and Neal Adams, the character was first introduced in Issue #232 of “Batman,” “Daughter of the Demon,” in 1971.
Killer Croc is introduced as a minor character in the film and is forever at the beck and call of Talia al Ghul. He is tasked by her to free Grendon from Bruce’s ship at Boston Harbor and is responsible for the death of Dick Grayson, who tries to stop them. He brutally attacks Batman twice in the course of the film, on the say-so of Talia, and is killed in the second encounter. In the original comic continuity, Killer Croc, or Waylon Jones, was a wrestler who suffered from a genetic disorder that gave him a crocodilian appearance but with superpowers. He turned to a life of crime after being driven insane by the irreversibility of his condition.
In the film, Poison Ivy is born from the essence of Iog-Sotha residing inside Grendon for one chief purpose: to poison Harvey Dent, which she fulfills with ease. She takes on a demonic form while battling Oliver Queen and is killed by him in a final act of self-sacrifice. Poison Ivy made her first appearance in “Batman” Issue #181 in 1966 and was created by Carmine Infantino and Robert Kanigher. She is a recurring supervillain in the Batman universe and has been featured in several “Batman” issues over the years.