This week Gotham is back, and the new episode introduces a couple of new characters directly from the comics (more or less). In Rogues’ Gallery, we find Jim Gordon trying to do his best with his new job as a security guard in Arkham Asylum, but things aren’t easy at all, especially because of a couple of inmates. One of these is Aaron Helzinger, portrayed by Kevin McCormick, who during the episode is subjected to a weird experiment with electrocution by his ally Jack Gruber: after the charge, Helzinger goes berserk, kills a guard and wounds the asylum’s director, Gerry Lang, escaping with Gruber. It’s likely we’ll see him again in the next episodes. This is not Helzinger’s first appearance: in The Dark Knight, he appears as everybody’s favorite character, the tattooed prisoner portrayed by Tom Lister, Jr. who throws out of the boat The Joker‘s detonator, bringing a sparkle of hope in the film’s ending and making everyone clapping their hands for the best coup de théatre in the movie. Now, let’s see together who Aaron Helzinger is in the comics.
Born and raised in Gotham City, Aaron Helzinger grew up to become a giant of a man, a hulking colossus with a childish brain and more than an issue in controlling his rage. Since he wasn’t exactly a genius, Helzinger found himself involved in unpleasant situations more often than he himself would have liked to, and his scarce control over his emotions made him become violent: his great strength did the rest, and he ended up being a danger for everyone around him. Soon enough he was arrested for the umpteenth aggression, but his low intelligence avoided him a cell in the State penitentiary and opened for him the gates of Arkham Asylum, where the doctors started to try and find a way to cure him from his fits of rage. A particularly inspired surgeon had the bad idea of removing Aaron’s amygdala, the bundle of nerves in the brain that control violent emotions, rage especially: the intervention, however, had the opposite effect, and Helzinger found himself with no filter at all in his brain to prevent him from going berserk. With his rage attacks even increased, the only possible future for Aaron, now nicknamed Amygdala, was a lifetime spent within the walls of Arkham. Unfortunately, the asylum was now under a new director, Jeremiah Arkham, a man just as mad as his patients: Arkham had started a personal war with his newest inmate, the vigilante Batman, and was obsessed with the idea of destroying him. Taking profit from Amygdala’s childish nature, Arkham manipulated him into attacking Batman, hoping that the brute would have overpowered the hero. Unfortunately, Batman’s wits proved to be a decisive weapon, and he knocked out the giant with little effort. When the Dark Knight eventually defeated Jeremiah Arkham himself, Amygdala came back to his cell with all the other inmates.
Not much time passed, however, before Helzinger could see the light again (as much light you could find in Gotham): the villainous Bane organized a major breakout, and freed Amygdala and the other patients. Out to town, Aaron befriended another escapee, Arnold Wesker, who decided to use the colossus’ strength for his own purposes. Pretending to be his friend, Wesker (known as the crime lord The Ventriloquist) asked for Aaron’s help in finding his dummy, Scarface, starting the search from a notorious bar in the slums. The clients mocked Wesker and laughed at him, and Amygdala, wanting to defend his friend, beat almost to death each and every one of them. He apologized to the bar patrons and left with the Ventriloquist, only to be found by Batman soon after: the Dark Knight knocked him out with the same strategy of the first time (a karate chop to the neck) and had him arrested. Amygdala was sent to Blackgate Penitentiary, where thanks to Jeremiah Arkham’s suggestions he entered the prison’s softball team (he had some issues when he unwillingly broke The Riddler‘s arm by throwing a softball too hard, but apart from incidents he finally had fun from the first time in years). His behavior in Blackgate convinced the warden that he could be rehabilitated, and with a new, experimental cure he was let out. Amygdala eventually became friends with Dick Grayson, the hero known as Nightwing, and started a brand new life: he lived in the same building as Dick, and found a job as a warden in Lockhaven Prison. His friendship with Dick and the other inhabitants of the apartment building managed to cure his fits of anger… at least for a while: the villain Blockbuster, wanting to hurt Grayson, destroyed his house, with most of the residents inside. Only Amygdala survived, but he was deeply traumatized by his friends’ death: with no control over his emotions anymore, he slowly reverted to his criminal life, and ended up becoming a henchman for The Penguin, and for whoever else wanted to use him and his strength.
Aaron Helzinger is a baby in the body of a giant, a muscular colossus with the mind of a small child. After the failed intervention, he has no control at all over his rage, and he often falls to psychotic episodes during which he’s able to beat anyone near him to death, feeling deeply sorry for it immediately after the burst of rage is gone. With incredible strength and durability, Amygdala can be the most peaceful and gentle of souls, or the most brutal and unstoppable of brawlers, a tragic being often manipulated by criminal masterminds to do their bidding.