Arkham Asylum

Arkham Asylum

Infobox comics location

imagesize =
caption = Arkham Asylum as it appeared on "".
publisher = DC Comics
debut = "Batman" #258 (1974)
creators = Dennis O'Neil
type =
residents =
races =
locations =
subcat = DC Comics
altcat = Gotham City
sortkey = PAGENAME

The Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane is a fictional setting, a psychiatric hospital in the DC Comics Universe, usually in stories featuring Batman. Many psychotic criminals, including a number of Batman's enemies, such as The Joker and Two-Face, are held within the Asylum.


Arkham Asylum is located on the outskirts of Gotham City, and is where those of Batman's foes considered to be legally insane are incarcerated (other foes are incarcerated at Blackgate Penitentiary). Although it has had numerous administrators, its current head is Jeremiah Arkham. Inspired by the works of H. P. Lovecraft, the asylum was created by Dennis O'Neil and first appeared in "Batman" #258 (October 1974); much of its back-story was created by Len Wein during the 1980s. In the foreword to the book "The Dark Ages: Grim, Great, and Gimmicky Post-Modern Comics," Jack C. Harris claims that it was he who conceptualized the idea of Arkham Asylum, and that any other such claims are false.

Arkham Asylum does not have a good record, at least with regard to the high profile cases; escapes are frequent (on at least one occasion, an obsessive-compulsive multiple murderer was signed out of Arkham into the care of an incontinent, alcoholic vagrant on the grounds that he "looked like a responsible citizen"), and those who are 'cured' and released tend to re-offend. Furthermore, several staff members, including at least one director, have ended up as residents, notably Dr. Harleen Quinzel, Lyle Bolton and, in some incarnations, Drs. Jonathan Crane and Hugo Strange.

In addition, prisoners with unusual medical conditions that prevent them from staying in a regular prison are housed there. For example, Mr. Freeze is not technically insane, but he requires a strongly refrigerated environment to stay alive, which for some reason only Arkham can provide.


The one-shot graphic novel "" establishes that the Asylum is named after Elizabeth Arkham, founder Amadeus Arkham's mother. The original name of the asylum is Arkham Hospital. Its dark history began in the early 1900s when Arkham's mother, having suffered from mental illness most of her life, committed suicide. (It is later revealed that she was actually euthanized by her son, which his mind repressed.) Amadeus Arkham decided, then, as the sole heir to the Arkham estate, to remodel his family home (known as Mercey Mansion) in order to properly treat the mentally ill, so others might not go untreated and suffer as his mother had. Prior to the period of the hospital's remodeling, Arkham treated patients at the State Psychiatric Hospital in Metropolis, where he and his wife, Constance, and daughter, Harriet, had been living for quite some time.

Upon telling his family of his plans, they moved back to his family home to oversee the remodeling. While there, Arkham received a call from the police notifying him Martin "Mad Dog" Hawkins — a serial killer referred to Arkham by Metropolis Penitentiary while at State Psychiatric Hospital — had escaped from prison, and sought his considered opinion on his state of mind.

On April 1, 1921, Arkham returned to his home to find his front door wide open. Inside, he discovered the raped and mutilated bodies of his wife and daughter in an upstairs room, Hawkins having carved his nickname on Harriet's body.

Despite this family tragedy, the Elizabeth Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane officially opened that November. One of its first patients was Martin Hawkins, whom Arkham insisted on personally treating. On April 1, 1922, after treating Hawkins for six months, Arkham strapped him to the electroshock couch and purposely electrocuted him. The death was treated as an accident but contributed to Arkham's gradual descent into madness, which he began to believe was his birthright. Eventually, Arkham was institutionalized in his own hospital, where he died.


Arkham Asylum was named in honour of the fictional city of Arkham, Massachusetts, one of the settings of H. P. Lovecraft's horror stories. In fact, when the asylum first appeared, it was actually in the city of Arkham; Its Gotham location, and the subsequent alternative explanation of the name, were later retcons.

Lovecraft's Arkham Sanitarium may have been inspired by the Danvers State Insane Asylum (aka the Danvers State Hospital) in Danvers, Massachusetts. Danvers State Hospital was erected according to the Kirkbride Plan devised by Victorian-era mental health professional Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride. In the comics, Arkham Asylum is often drawn with Victorian elements suggesting the Kirkbride model.

Arkham is similar to several real life mental hospitals. Ward's Island in the East River was the home of the New York City Asylum for the Insane, opened around 1863, and the nearby Roosevelt Island once had several mental institutions and prisons including the New York City Lunatic Asylum.

Publication history

Arkham Asylum first appeared in 1974, in "Batman" #258 by Dennis O'Neil. In this story, it was named as "Arkham Hospital" (although it was already clear what kind of hospital it was); "Arkham Asylum" first appeared in another O'Neil story the following year, but it was not until 1979 that "Arkham Asylum" completely replaced "Arkham Hospital" (and the occasional "Arkham Sanatarium") as the institution's name. By 1979, too, the move to have the asylum closer to Gotham had begun; that was completed in 1980, when "Batman" #326 by Len Wein described the Asylum's location "deep in the suburbs of Gotham City". (Perhaps for this reason "Batman" #326 is listed in some histories as the first appearance of Arkham Asylum.) It was also Wein who, in 1985's "Who's Who" #1, created its current back-story.

Arkham Asylum has been demolished or destroyed several times in its history, notably during the events of "Batman: The Last Arkham" (see below). It was also seriously damaged at the beginning of the "Knightfall" storyline, when Bane used stolen munitions to blow up the facility and release all the inmates. After these events, the asylum was relocated to a large mansion known as "Mercey Mansion", where it remains to this day. At the beginning of the "No Man's Land" storyline, the asylum was closed down and all its inmates set free (a timer was used to open the doors two minutes before the city was sealed). This was orchestrated by the administrator himself, who had the choice of releasing the inmates or watching them all starve or kill each other. In the middle of the story, it is revealed that Batman has established a hidden base within the subbasement of the asylum during the "Prodigal" storyline known as "Northwest Batcave." [Batman: No Man's Land Secret Files #1] During the "No Man's Land", Arkham was taken over by the Joker and Harley Quinn. With the sole exception of the Riddler, the inmates elected to remain in the cut-off Gotham City.


Originally, Arkham Asylum was used only to house genuinely insane characters - the Joker and Two-Face were inmates from its very first appearance - but over the course of the 1980s a trend was established of having the majority of Batman's supervillain opponents end up at Arkham, whether or not they were actually insane. This is likely due to some of the facility's high-tech features that make it more efficient to hold a villain such as Clayface there than in another prison. Nearly all of Batman's enemies have spent some time in Arkham.

Other DC Universe publications that feature Arkham Asylum and its inmates include Alan Moore's "Swamp Thing" (wherein Jason Woodrue -- The Floronic Man -- is detained) and "The Sandman" by Neil Gaiman, wherein John Dee (Doctor Destiny) escapes to wreak havoc on both the 'real' and 'dream' worlds.

Arkham has also been featured in varying capacities in a number of high profile DC miniseries events, such as "Identity Crisis, Day of Vengeance," "Countdown", and "Crisis on Infinite Earths" among others.

List of notable inmates

Batman villains

* Abattoir
* Alberto Falcone
* Amygdala
* Black Mask
* Blockbuster (in "Batman Confidential" #21)
* Calendar Man
* Catman (in "Batman Confidential" #21)
* The Cavalier
* The Charlatan (Paul Sloan)
* Clayface I (Basil Karlo)
* Clayface II (Matt Hagen)
* Clayface III (Preston Payne)
* Clayface IV (Shondra Fuller)
* Cornelius Stirk
* Crazy Quilt
* Doctor Double X
* Doctor Phosphorus
* Dragon Fly
* Film Freak
* Firefly
* Harley Quinn
* Hugo Strange
* Hush
* The Joker
* Killer Croc
* Killer Moth
* Lock-Up
* The Mad Hatter
* Magpie
* Maxie Zeus
* Mr. Freeze
* The Penguin
* Poison Ivy
* Professor Milo
* Ra's al Ghul (committed as "Terry Gene Kase" in "Detective Comics 840")
* The Riddler
* Rupert Thorne
* Santa Klaus
* The Scarecrow
* Silken Spider
* Signalman (in "Batman Confindeltial" #21)
* Tally Man II ("BATMAN" #654)
* Tiger Moth
* Tweedledum and Tweedledee
* Two-Face
* The Ventriloquist
* Vox
* Warren White
* Witch (Samantha Voz)
* Zsasz


* Adam Strange (in "New Frontier")
* Ambush Bug ("ACTION COMICS" #560)
* Amadeus Arkham
* Batman (in "Shadow of the Bat" #1-4)
* Bite Fact|date=April 2008
* Brainwave II ("JSA SECRET FILES" #2)
* Cheetah (Barbara Minerva) ("WONDER WOMAN" Vol. 2 #35)
* Condiment King ("BIRDS OF PREY" #37)
* The Crumbler (as per "Green Lantern (vol. 2) #117")
* Dancer ("BRAVE & BOLD" Vol. 1 #143)
* Deadshot ("SUICIDE SQUAD" Vol. 1 #34)
* Death Rattle (Erasmus Rayne, from "Arkham Asylum: Living Hell")
* The Defenestrator
* Doc Willard ("WORLD’S FINEST" #254)
* Dr. Destiny ("JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA" #175)
* Doodlebug (Daedalus Boch, from "Arkham Asylum: Living Hell")
* Doug Moench & Norm Breyfogle (writer and artist, respectively, of "Batman 492", which started the "Knightfall" storyline; they can be seen on a list of escaped Arkham inmates on the Batcave computer)
* Dream Girl
* The Dummy ("WORLD’S FINEST" #247)
* Everard Mallitt (from "Shadow of the Bat #1-4")
* Fidel Finnegan III ("DETECTIVE COMICS" #635)
* Floronic Man (from Alan Moore's "Swamp Thing" stories; "SWAMP THING" Vol. 2 #52)
* Humpty Dumpty
* Jane Doe (from "Arkham Asylum: Living Hell")
* Jean Loring ("IDENTITY CRISIS" #7)
* The Key (JLA #120)
* Kryppen the Poisoner (from "Batman: Arkham Asylum - Underworld Unleashed")
* Kobra (Suicide Squad #33)
* Lunkhead (from "Arkham Asylum: Living Hell")
* Martin "Mad Dog" Hawkins
* Mister Thornton ("SUPERMAN FAMILY" #197)
* Nightwing (committed as "Pierrot Lunaire" in "Batman 678")
* Professor Ivo ("JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA" #218)
* Professor Powder ("DETECTIVE COMICS" #635)
* Psycho-Pirate (at the conclusion of "Crisis on Infinite Earths)"
* Resnick Fact|date=April 2008
* Cary Rinaldi ("Batman: Journey into Knight" #6)
* Robert Amherst (NSA agent committed as "D. Jones" in "Batman" #605)
* Solomon Grundy (from "Batman: The Long Halloween")
* Seamus Sullivan Fact|date=April 2008
* Tenzin Wyatt ("THE DEMON" Vol. 3 # 9)
* Thornton ("SUPERMAN FAMILY" #197)
* Tommy CarmaCarma ("BATMAN" #402)
* Tony Finch ("H-E-R-O" #9)
* Tsui Walker ("CHRONOS" #11)
* Tucker "Junkyard Dog" Long (from "Arkham Asylum: Living Hell")
* The Veil ("ANIMAL MAN" #7)
* Vernon Jamson ("BATMAN: SHADOW OF THE BAT" #80)
* Wyndham Vane ("SHOWCASE ‘95" #11)
* Zatanna ("JLA: BLACK BAPTISM" #2)

* Mike Ramirez; Carl Vesuvia; Kenneth Ayers; Wallace Miller ("Batman: Journey into Knight" #11)
* Tiger Moth; Silken Spider; Dragonfly ("DETECTIVE COMICS" #838)

Graphic novels featuring Arkham Asylum

"The Dark Knight Returns"

"The Dark Knight Returns", written by Frank Miller in 1986, was set about twenty years in the future. It depicted an "Arkham Home for the Emotionally Troubled", presumably a renaming of the asylum which occurred as a result of the extreme political correctness which had evolved in Miller's dystopian setting.

The Joker has been kept there, catatonic for the ten years since the retirement of Batman, but awakens when the vigilante resumes action. Under the employ of the home is Bartholemew Wolper, a condescending psychologist who treats the Joker humanely, even going so far to arrange for him to appear on a late night talk show. In its sequel it is revealed that the patients took over and resorted to cannibalism.

"Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth"

"Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth" is an original graphic novel written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Dave McKean. It was published by DC Comics in 1989. The book sold over 500,000 and was for many years DC's best-selling graphic novel.

The book was praised for its exploration of ideas and storytelling and also proved financially and artistically lucrative for Morrison.

"Arkham Asylum: Living Hell"

"Living Hell" was written by Dan Slott, penciled by Ryan Sook with inks by Sook, Wade Von Grawbadger and Jim Royal. The series was edited by Valerie D'Orazio. Eric Powell created the painted cover art which appeared on both the original series and graphic novel compilation.

This six-issue miniseries and the subsequent trade paperback provided an intricate and multi-layered look at Arkham Asylum from several points of view: the director (Dr. Jeremiah Arkham), a psychiatrist (Dr. Anne Carver), the guards (particularly one Aaron Cash), and the inmates (with particular focus on previously-unknown residents "Jane Doe" [a cypher who assumes the identities of those she kills] , "Junkyard Dog" [a man obsessed with trash] , "Doodlebug" [an artist who used blood in his paintings] , "Lunkhead" [a hulking bruiser] , "Death Rattle" [a cult leader who speaks to the dead] , and, perhaps most memorably, "Humpty Dumpty"). The driving force is the recent incarceration of a ruthless investor, Warren "The Great White Shark" White, as well as the demonic element suggested by the title. White, facing charges of massive fraud, decided to cheat the system by pleading insanity, not realizing the horrors of Arkham. The most familiar characters, such as the Joker, Commissioner Gordon, Batgirl, and Batman himself, appear for comparatively few pages in this work.

"Batman: The Last Arkham"

Written by Alan Grant; pencils by Norm Breyfogle.

Originally a four-issue storyline that kicked off the "Shadow of the Bat" series. In it, the old Arkham Asylum is destroyed, to be replaced by a new and more modern facility. The story introduces Jeremiah Arkham, the asylum's director, and nephew of Amadeus Arkham; and serial killer Victor Zsasz. These two have, in an uneasy partnership, captured Batman and are holding him prisoner in Arkham, attempting to see what makes him tick.

This story makes a few passing references to the flashback events of "Arkham Asylum", such as Amadeus Arkham taping over the mirror, and his journal is shown early in the story. Jeremiah also mentions his relative's descent into madness. This would seem to indicate that at least some of the events in the "Arkham Asylum" graphic novel did occur in the main continuity.

An episode of "" titled "Dreams of Darkness", also about Batman in Arkham, seems to have been a very loose adaptation of this storyline, replacing Zsasz with the Scarecrow, and replacing Jeremiah Arkham with a more nondescript administrator, who is portrayed as clueless and naive rather than sinister.

"Black Orchid"

"Black Orchid", written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Dave McKean, also featured Arkham Asylum. The award-winning graphic novel introduced the crimefighter Black Orchid, who dies, is reborn and starts a quest to find her identity. During this she encounters Batman, who directs her to Arkham Asylum, where she meets The Mad Hatter, Poison Ivy, Two-Face and the Joker. Arkham is viewed as a desperate place where inmates dwell in madness and terror, much in the same fashion as in "A Serious House on Serious Earth" (also illustrated by McKean).

Arkham in other media

Arkham has appeared beyond the pages of the comics in numerous guises and designs. Its appearances include:

Live-action films

"Batman Forever"

* "Batman Forever": Arkham was seen at the end of the film, and designed as a tall, spiraling castle-like structure, with narrow hallways lined with brightly-lit glass bricks. The Riddler was incarcerated in a large padded cell. The psychatrist seen was named Dr. Burton, a reference to Tim Burton, who directed 1989's "Batman" film and "Batman Returns". There was a more in-depth sequence involving Two-Face escaping from Arkham at the beginning of the film, but it was cut.

* "Batman Forever" (SNES game): The video game adaptation of the film features Arkham as its first stage. While the film shows Arkham as being in a remote forested area, the backgrounds in the game seem to place it on the waterfront, directly across the bay from Gotham.

"Batman & Robin"

* "Batman & Robin" [ [ DVD Review of "Batman & Robin"] ] : Arkham appeared a number of times in this film. It first appeared when Mr. Freeze was taken there midway through the film, and later at the end when both he and Poison Ivy were shown as cellmates.

"Batman Begins"

"Batman Begins": Arkham played a much larger role than a simple jail in this film, with Jonathan Crane (also known as the Scarecrow) being either the administrator or at least a high ranking doctor at the Asylum, and using it to conduct cruel experiments with his fear gas, using his own patients as guinea pigs. He also used the pipes under the Asylum to empty his toxin into the Gotham water supply.

While in the comics it is located at Mercey Island (which is at the east end of the Sprang River, which divides two of the three main islands that constitute the city), in "Batman Begins", it is in the middle of Gotham City, located in the slum region known as the Narrows.

"The Dark Knight"

Arkham is mentioned briefly by Harvey Dent, Batman, and Alfred in "The Dark Knight" but is never seen or explored in the story.

Animated films

Batman: Gotham Knight

*":" Arkham made an appearance In the animated direct-to-DVD anthology film "Batman: Gotham Knight," set in-between "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight," within the segment "." Expanding what Lt. James Gordon said that "the Narrows is lost" at the end of "Batman Begins," the film shows that the entire island of Narrows has become Arkham Asylum's ground, with Narrows residents evacuated from the island after the inmates escaped from the facility. After the riot, the city apparently turned the entire island into high-tech facility prison/hospital in a few months after the incident, enclosed by guard towers, high fences, and the island's natural barrier to keep the inmates from escape. Gotham Police Departments also sent officers to its drawbridges to make sure no one would cross - in or out - without permission.


"The Flash"

*Arkham was mentioned by Barry Allen, who is secretly The Flash, in an episode of "The Flash" television series.

"Batman: The Animated Series"

* "": Arkham has appeared frequently in the series. It is depicted as generally dark and gloomy, and the cells are similar to those in the comics, being primarily closed via glass doors. Much of the rest of the asylum resembles a prison more than a mental hospital, however; in the episode "The Trial" Fact|date=April 2008, it is explained that all criminals apprehended by the Batman are sent to Arkham rather than jail (although it is shown that the Penguin goes to Stonegate, a regular jail). In the series, neither Jeremiah or Amadeus Arkham are shown or mentioned, but the episode "Dreams in Darkness" features a character who is obviously modeled on Jeremiah, but toned down to a more compassionate persona.

"Justice League"

* "Justice League" featured Arkham in a brief cameo during "A Better World, Part 2" in an alternate dimension where a Fascist League has taken over the world and dispatches villains via execution or lobotomy. The asylum is run by a lobotomized version of the Joker and is protected by robotic copies of Superman. The entire inmate population is lobotomized by the alternate Superman's heat vision. (It can be seen that that the Ventriloquist has "not" been lobotomized by Superman's heat vision, but his doll Scarface has.) It is noted that Joker, Two-Face and Poison Ivy are used in both "Batman: The Animated Series" and "Justice League" as the key inmates of the Asylum.

"Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker"

* "": This direct-to-video animated film had the final battle between the original Batman and The Joker taking place at an abandoned Arkham. It is also the same spot where Robin (as a brainwashed, junior version of The Joker) killed Joker. A deleted scene (featured on both versions of the DVD as a special feature) has Bruce Wayne touring the abandoned Arkham, where Terry McGinnis, Wayne's successor as Dark Knight, follows and sees Joker's corpse hanging. Both the film and the "Batman Beyond" episode "Splicer" suggesting that the facility has moved to a different location.

"The Batman"

* "The Batman": Like the original Arkham, several major villains end up in this institution, such as the Joker, the Penguin, Riddler, Mr. Freeze , Ventriloquist, Hugo Strange and Clayface. Firefly goes to a regular prison, until becoming Phosphorus, who requires special chemical care.
The staff is far more heavily armored than in its previous incarnation, wearing heavy trenchcoats and gloves, which is, in spite of itself, no deterrent for the inmates to easily escape. Much like in the "Batman Forever" tie-in game and "Batman Begins", it's presented as being inside Gotham, though here it's presented as occupying a small island on a river, with a bridge connecting it to the city.

Video Games

"Batman: Arkham Asylum"

"Batman: Arkham Asylum" is an upcoming console video game for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Microsoft Windows, and is based on DC Comics' Batman. It is being developed by Rocksteady Studios and will be published by Eidos Interactive in conjunction with Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and DC Comics. It is based on the long-running comic book mythos, as opposed to most other Batman games which are adaptations of the character in other mediums besides the source material.


Lego Batman

There was an Arkham Asylum Lego set featuring Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, and the Riddler available at Toys "R" Us during late summer 2006. It also included Batmans former sidekick Nightwing who is Dick Grayson with his motorcycle and two escrima sticks and Batman in the BatGlider.


External links

* [] BOF's review of ARKHAM ASYLUM, A Serious House on a Serious Earth
* [ Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Arkham Asylum]
* [ - Videogame screenshots and info]

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