"Once Upon a Midnight Dreary": One Halloween, the Mad Hatter is invited to the Arkham Detention Facility for Youth by Oswald Cobblepot. He arrives to find displays that appear to mock him, aggravating him. He is further surprised
- Let us agree... we shall never speak of this night again.
- — Penguin
Synopsis for "Once Upon a Midnight Dreary"
One Halloween, the Mad Hatter is invited to the Arkham Detention Facility for Youth by Oswald Cobblepot. He arrives to find displays that appear to mock him, aggravating him. He is further surprised and perturbed by the arrival of Cobblepot, who has apparently received a similar letter from the Hatter - meaning that neither had actually invited the other.
As a flash of lightning reveals the silhouette of the Scarecrow in a facing window, the pair rush over to confront him, only to find a stuffed dummy in his stead. The Scarecrow, however, is in the room as well, having apparently received a third letter from the Hatter and Penguin both. If not him, then who had invited them all? Another flash of lightning reveals the terrifying silhouette of the Batman, and the three villains panic at the thought that he would set a trap for them.
This panic is heightened when a particularly indignant thump of the Penguin's umbrella brings down the chandelier on them, and they narrowly escape it. Penguin is certain that Batman rigged it, but the other two are doubtful. Grumbling, but eagerly sharing their grievances with the Batman, the three villains bond, though the Batman's threat looms over them.
Daring to make an escape by sneaking outside, the trio find themselves lost in a hedge maze, and separated. Ominously, a music box that was tipped over in their escape attempt begins loudly playing the song "Three Blind Mice" as they stumble through the maze, half expecting the Batman to leap out. Eventually, overcome by fear, the three of them decide to run back inside.
Defeated, they begin blaming one another, hurtfully reminding each other of their painful childhoods, which they learned about while staying at the detention facility. As they get closer to their emotional breaking points, they are suddenly gassed with Fear Toxin, and shuffle away from each other, each facing fears unseen by the others. The hatter is haunted by the image of Alice Dee, who did not grow up to be what he expected of her. The Penguin is haunted by his unloving mother. The Scarecrow becomes again his distant father's guinea pig in studies of fear. In their hallucinations, each of the men falls down the stairs of the facility in turn, and loses consciousness.
By morning's light, they wake, and shuffle out the front door, agreeing never to speak of the evening they had again.
That morning, Bruce Wayne wakes from a good sleep, admitting to Alfred that he had taken the night off. While he had stayed in, he had also delivered the three invitations. The villains had merely tortured themselves.
Appearing in "Once Upon a Midnight Dreary"
- Tucker Cobblepot (Mentioned only)
- Karen Crane (Mentioned only)
- Jason Cobblepot (Hallucination)
- William Cobblepot (Hallucination)
- Robert Cobblepot (Hallucination)
- Cover gallery for the Batman: The Dark Knight Annual series
- Images from Batman: The Dark Knight Annual Vol 2 1