I was looking at a Batman comic today--a collection from the 30's and 40's, when he was brand new--and realized that almost every bad guy he faced tried to drop him into a pit of spikes.
It got me to thinking.
First of all, has there ever been a villain who hasn’t tried the ole pit full of spikes trick? Everyone from Batman to Indiana Jones to Sponge Bob has narrowly (or not so narrowly) escaped a spike pit. This must be like the first thing they teach you at villain community college.
Second of all, does it ever work? I assume that it sometimes does, because occasionally, you’ll see like a skeleton down there, usually impaled through the ribs. But who are the people falling down there? I don’t think it’s ever heroes. I’m pretty sure it’s because the villain just gets pissed that he isn’t getting his money’s worth out of this stupid spike pit, so he invites his blind aunt over or something.
“Hello, Aunt Bertha, so glad you could make it.” She’s like 82 years old, creeping along with a walker. “Yes, just a little closer, you fool, and I’ll be rid of you once and for all!”
“What’s that, dear?”
“Oh, nothing. I asked you how your apricot tree was doing.”
“Well, it started blossoming a little early, and you know how that can be trouble if there’s a late freeze, but then it warmed up, and now I have more apricots than I know what to do with. I made preserves—I brought you some, I have them right heAAAAAAAH!”
And then the villain sends a minion down to gather up the preserves and get the walker out of there. Spike pits don’t look nearly as dangerous if there’s a walker down there.
I’m not saying that using your spike pit to kill old women isn’t a noble thing. I’m just saying that maybe the idea needs to be tweaked a bit.
One major problem is that they never seem long enough. The bad guy trips the switch, the hero just jumps right the hell over. That’s stupid, man. You’ve already got them trapped in the hallway. Why not just make the entire floor a trap door?
Instead of having the trap door open perpendicular to the hallway, have it open parallel, right down the center. You’d have to build a series of braces, but I don’t think it’d be that hard to rig them to a device that suddenly split them apart.
The braces go across, and when you hit the button or whatever, they slide apart and the floor drops. You hook ‘em up to some hydraulics or something, the hero doesn’t stand a chance. Even if he starts running, there’s no way he’s gonna make it to the end of the hall. And that’s just me after about ten seconds of thought. It you put some effort into it, your spike pit trap doors could be the envy of all the other super villains.
The second problem is that there’s always this crazy drop to the spikes. This is a serious flaw in the design. In the time it takes them to fall, heroes almost always catch the edge of the trap door or throw some sort of rope or spider web or whatever, and avoid landing on the spikes.
Who says there has to be a twenty foot drop to the spikes? They're freakin’ spikes, dammit, there’s no need for the drop. I step on a thumbtack, that shit jams all the way into the bone, I don’t need to fall from a second story balcony to get stabbed.
Poor spike pit design strikes again.
So make your spikes thin enough so that there isn’t much momentum needed, right? Make sure they’re sharp as hell. And then put them right under the trap door. Don’t give the good guys a chance to escape. Like one second, they’re walking along, the next second, there are pieces of metal sticking all up through their feet and legs. It doesn’t have to kill them. I think this is the main problem the villains have with this trap, is that they’re trying too hard. “A-ha! I’ll make it a really high drop! That way if the spikes don’t kill them, the fall will.” It won’t. That has been proven time and again. So just debilitate them. Once they have spikes sticking all through their bodies, you just walk up and shoot them in the face.
Or you know what? Just make sure the edge of your trap door is sharp, and then close it. Cuts ‘em right in half, you never even have to get close enough to be hit with a batarang or whatever.
And the best part? They don’t swing out of your trap and kick you in the face.
This spike pit is for closers. Are you a closer?
So, yeah. Think about it, villains. If you’re ready to be winners, I mean.