Arkham Asylum

From Academic Kids

Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane is a fictional mental hospital near Gotham City in the DC Universe, where many of Batman's foes (most famously the Joker) wind up after they are captured. It was created by Dennis O'Neil, and first appeared in Batman #258; much of its back-story was created by Len Wein during the 1980s.

Arkham Asylum does not have a good record, at least with regard to the high profile cases; those who are 'cured' and released tend to re-offend. (Furthermore, several staff members, including at least one director, have ended up as residents. See also Harley Quinn.)

In addition, prisoners with unusual medical conditions that the regular prisons cannot accommodate are housed here, like Mr. Freeze who requires a strongly refrigerated environment to stay alive.



In the world of the Batman stories, the Asylum is named after Elizabeth Arkham, founder Amadeus Arkham's mother. Its dark history began when Arkham's wife and child were murdered by one of his patients. Arkham took revenge by electrocuting him during a shock therapy session, and was institutionalized in his own facility.

In real life, it is named in honour of the 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 consequent alternative explanation of the name, were later retcons.

This first appearance was 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 Sanatorium") 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 the current back-story in which Arkham Asylum was founded in Gotham in the 1920s by Amadeus Arkham.

Arkham Asylum has been demolished or destroyed several times in its history, notably during the events of Batman: The Last Arkham (see below). At the beginning of the No Man's Land storyline, the asylum was closed down and all its inmates set free. 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. Nearly all of Batman's villains have spent some time in Arkham.</p>

Even a former Arkham employee is now an inmate; psychiatrist Dr. Harleen Quinzel went insane and turned to crime, as the loony Harley Quinn, after the Joker, then her patient, seduced her and enlisted her as his sidekick.

In the 2005 movie Batman Begins, another of Batman's rogues gallery has ties to Arkham Asylum; Jonathan Crane (aka the Scarecrow) is a doctor/intern who works at the asylum and uses its patients as guinea pigs for his fear-inducing toxins. He, of course, will become a resident in Arkham later on in his career as a psychopathic criminal.

List of Common/ Current Inmates

Graphic novels featuring Arkham Asylum

Arkham Asylum

Written by Grant Morrison, artwork by Dave McKean.

An original graphic novel (as opposed to collection or trade paperback), once the best-selling of its kind. Its distinct look comes from McKean's typical blend of painting, collage, ink drawings and other media. Morrison explored various mystic ideas, including the symbiosis between Batman and the criminals he captured and recaptured. Various threads of symbolism include the works of Lewis Carroll, the Christian Mystery Plays, the psychology of Carl Jung, the works of Joseph Campbell, and others. The canonicity of this graphic novel is uncertain, since several villains are apparently killed in it and the characterization of Batman is questionable (at one point he engages in self-mutilation).

Arkham Asylum: Living Hell

Written by Dan Slott; pencils by Ryan Sook; ink by Sook, Wade Von Grawbadger, and Jim Royal; covers by Eric Powell.

A six-issue miniseries and the subsequent trade paperback. 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 heretofore unknown residents "Jane Doe," "Junkyard Dog," "Doodlebug," "Lunkhead," "Death Rattle," 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. 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 grandson 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.

External links and references


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