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The Elizabeth Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane, better known as Arkham Asylum, is a psychiatric hospital north of Gotham City. It has featured prominently in the various continuities of the DC Multiverse. Depicted as a remote, labyrinthine stone facility, Arkham has housed many of Batman's most notorious foes, including Joker, Riddler, Two-Face, and the Scarecrow. Jeremiah Arkham is the asylum's current director.

Etymology and concept

Within the Batman mythos, Arkham Asylum was named for the mother of Amadeus Arkham, a Gotham psychiatrist who founded the institution after his mother's mental illness led to her untimely death. In reality, Amadeus had euthanized her, although he repressed that memory. According to Batman Unauthorized: Vigilantes, Jokers, and Heroes in Gotham City, a compilation of contemporary analyses edited by Dennis O'Neil, the asylum was named for a somewhat similar facility known as "Arkham Sanitarium" mentioned in the horror fiction of Howard Phillips Lovecraft. As a result, DC's Arkham was supposed to mirror Lovecraft's dark and brooding literary characteristics while providing an essential intertextual supplement to the background atmosphere of equally dismal Gotham City.[1]

Arkham Asylum first appeared in October 1974 in Batman #258, written by Dennis O'Neil and pencilled by Irv Novick. At this point it was simply described as "Arkham Hospital" and implied to be somewhere upstate, in a rural setting. Nevertheless, in Batman #326 writer Len Wein described the asylum as being "deep in the suburbs of Gotham City". Arkham's fictional history was not established until 1985, during an issue of "Who's Who in the DC Universe", also penned by Wein. For several years thereafter it existed as little more than a storytelling device used by writers as a temporary confinement for Batman's deranged Rogues Gallery, making only brief cameo appearances when supervillains were incarcerated or re-incarcerated there. Occasional breakouts from Arkham were often referenced by supporting characters such as James Gordon, whose exasperation at the asylum's obvious security maw finally led him to criticize it as a "revolving door" for its denizens.[2]

Arkham's rather simplistic portrayal was first challenged by Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, in which Grant Morrison introduced the concept of using the Arkham setting to explore the psychology behind Batman and members of the Rogues Gallery. Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth has since been followed by a number of similar storylines which focused exclusively on the facility and its fictional dynamics, including Arkham Asylum: Living Hell and Arkham Asylum: Madness.

Fictional History

Suicide Squad AA1

The first Arkham Asylum, built into the ancestral home of Amadeus Arkham.

According to Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, the crumbling Victorian mansion at the heart of the original Arkham Asylum was a single-family home, occupied at the beginning of the twentieth century by the Arkham family. Arkham Asylum: Living Hell elaborates on this information, disclosing that the actual structure was built long before the early 1900s as the "Gotham House of Madness and Ill Humors". The grounds were owned by an occult expert named Jason Blood, who carried out exorcisms on the mentally ill. His patients hailed predominantly from Gotham's poor and superstitious townships, where psychiatric disorders were regarded as synonymous with demonic possession. Blood kept his charges starved and confined to suspended cages, even murdering some in an attempt to obliterate their evil spirits. Blood later sealed up the basement to keep the spirits imprisoned. The House of Madness and Ill Humors was closed down, and the land itself sold to the Arkhams.

After the death of Elizabeth Arkham's unnamed husband, she was cared for by their son, Amadeus. Elizabeth was plagued by dementia and perpetually bedridden; at some point Amadeus told others that Elizabeth had slashed her own throat, but in reality he'd done so when she became too much for him to handle on his own, then repressed memories of the murder. Following Elizabeth's apparent suicide in 1920, Amadeus, now an aspiring psychiatrist, inherited the house which he dedicated to accommodating those suffering from serious mental illnesses, as had Elizabeth. Of particular interest to Amadeus was his onetime patient Martin "Mad Dog" Hawkins, a serial killer who raped and sexually mutilated his victims. Arkham felt compassion for Hawkins, whom he perceived as being trapped in the penal system with no hope for proper psychiatric treatment. Construction on the new Elizabeth Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane began the following year with the stated goal of providing such an alternative for mentally ill offenders. As the necessary renovations to the Arkham home began in earnest, Amadeus moved his wife Constance and daughter Harriet to neighboring Metropolis, where he temporarily treated Hawkins and his other patients at the state psychiatric hospital. He returned to Gotham on multiple occasions to oversee work on the new asylum, though on one such occasion "Mad Dog" Hawkins escaped. Arkham was consulted during the manhunt by the Metropolis police and prison authorities, but the felon was not successfully recaptured.

As work on the asylum neared completion, Arkham moved his family back to Gotham, unaware that he was being stalked by Hawkins. He arrived home in April 1921 to discover Hawkins had raped and murdered both Constance and Harriet, even leaving his nickname carved on Harriet's fresh corpse. Although seemingly detached from their deaths Amadeus was in fact permanently unhinged by the incident, which further ushered his descent into madness. Hawkins was tracked down by the Gotham City Police Department (GCPD), and when Arkham Asylum opened its doors in November 1921 he was committed as its first inmate. Arkham personally treated "Mad Dog" for several months without incident, but on the anniversary of his family's murder he suffered a psychotic break and executed Hawkins during a faux electroshock therapy session. The GCPD ruled it an accident. Arkham's mental state continued to deteriorate until 1929, when he attempted to kill his stockbroker, and became a ward of his own hospital.

Since the 1920s, Arkham Asylum has been destroyed, usually violently, on multiple occasions and rebuilt or expanded; for those patients with unique security or health considerations, customized facilities have been installed at considerable expense, such as a refrigerated cell for Mr. Freeze. The asylum has continued to grow larger and more modern in appearance, although as the lion's share of the budget is devoted to security treatment options have inevitably suffered. Despite the installation of advanced technological security measures in the era of metahuman criminals, the inmates have still been able to escape or take control of the facilities from time to time.

The first named director of Arkham Asylum was Achilles Milo, who successfully applied for the position after driving his predecessor insane with a narcotic that induced psychotic episodes. Milo then struck a deal with two patients, "Madman" Markham and "Kid Gloves" McConnell: he would secretly release them to commit robberies, then provide them with an alibi in exchange for half their loot. Milo suffered the fate of the previous director when he was driven insane by his own drugs and committed to the asylum. (Batman #326, August 1980)

Director Robert Huntoon was the last known administrative head prior to Jeremiah Arkham; during his tenure Arkham was rocked by ruinous scandals, including one daring escape by the Joker during the events of Batman: The Killing Joke that involved his replacement with a body double, and another in which Abattoir infiltrated a cleaning company Huntoon had contracted to launder the linens. Huntoon made a number of changes to his security policies, including the installation of an anti-riot system that flooded the cell block corridors with gas in the event of a mass disturbance, and permitting guards to carry handguns, to little avail. Despite these shortcomings, his regime developed an excellent working relationship with Batman; on several occasions the Dark Knight contacted Huntoon directly to arrange interviews with various patients. (Detective Comics #628, April 1991)

Shortly before the aforementioned affair with Abattoir came to light, Roger Huntoon confirmed his retirement and named a member of the Arkham family as his likely successor. This proved to be Jeremiah, nephew of Amadeus Arkham and a psychiatrist of some questionable scruples himself. Jeremiah's first act as new director was ordering the entire facility demolished and completely rebuilt. During the demolition process, he had the old files, including his uncle's diary, disposed of in a symbolic bonfire. The new Arkham Asylum adopted a similar facade to the former Arkham ancestral home, but there the resemblance ended: the inmates were now held in a sprawling, circular, complex which imitated a classical labyrinth. Jeremiah also introduced a new fixture in the form of glass observation walls for the cells, which robbed the patients of some former privacy but allowed convenient round the clock observation. For his own safety and the safety of the staff, interviews were no longer conducted in the same room with violent inmates, except through the glass barriers or in rooms fitted with specialized isolation boxes. (Batman: Shadow of the Bat #3, August 1992) Batman was forced to infiltrate the new institution as an inmate to learn how another prisoner, Victor Zsasz, was escaping his cell by night and committing crimes in Gotham. Jeremiah would later pit the other inmates against Batman as part of an intense psychiatric study. Mere months later, this incarnation of Arkham Asylum was destroyed by Bane, who unleashed the inmates to weaken Batman. Recapturing the escapees took Batman weeks and left him physically and psychologically drained. Municipal authorities were forced to house former Arkham patients at Blackgate Penitentiary until the damage from Bane's attack could be repaired.

Mercey Mansion TBF2

The second Arkham Asylum, on Mercey Island.

Arkham Asylum's second location was discovered inadvertently by the Joker, who stumbled upon the old Mercey Mansion, situated on Mercey Island off Gotham's northern shoreline. This reclusive, multi-storey gothic manor was constructed by Eric Mercey, a Gotham socialite who'd made his millions in the cement business, and had been abandoned for about ten years when the Joker arrived. It housed Mercey's own personal theater and a series of formerly luxurious gardens. When Batman tracked down and defeated the Joker once more, Jeremiah Arkham arrived on the scene with police to take custody of his patient. He was thoroughly enamored of the Mercey Mansion and believed that with its remote location, it would make an excellent site for yet another reconstructed Arkham Asylum. (Batman: Shadow of the Bat #38, May 1995)

A few years following its second reopening, Arkham Asylum endured another crisis when the federal government cut off support to Gotham City, which largely descended into gang violence. Cells were opened by the deserting staff, their inmates freed, and the institution closed for a year. Jeremiah Arkham was persuaded to disable the security controls and permit the patients to leave the island in exchange for his life, although the Joker stayed behind to set the facility ablaze. In the novelization to Batman: No Man's Land, he and Harley Quinn briefly continued residing there of their own free will. Around this time it is disclosed that Batman had established one of several temporary Batcaves on Mercey Island, known as the "Northwest Batcave".

Super-powered heroine Black Orchid was persuaded to visit Arkham upon her rebirth and quest to discover her identity, seeking information from Poison Ivy. She was disgusted by what she perceived as a desperate place where the patients dwelt in terror, condemning the asylum as "tottering" and "obscene". The staff are less than helpful, forcing her to seek assistance from Two-Face and the Joker, who are restrained in a common room but otherwise unsupervised. Lower risk patients such as the Mad Hatter wander the corridors freely; it is Hatter who finally guides a disoriented Orchid to Ivy's cell. (Black Orchid #1, December 1988)

Jean Loring is committed to Arkham Asylum by Ray Palmer at the conclusion of Identity Crisis, which she described as a "hellish place of weeping and wailing". (Day of Vengeance #1, June 2005)

During Batman's disappearance in the Final Crisis, a new Black Mask liberates Arkham Asylum's inmates and declares himself their new leader before destroying the asylum with a controlled explosion. (Batman: Battle for the Cowl #1, May 2009)

In Batman: Battle for the Cowl, Jeremiah Arkham wanders among the remains of the asylum as he contemplates his life. He reveals that he has discovered blueprints created by Amadeus for a new Arkham Asylum. He also contemplates the fates of his own nonviolent, "special" patients: an artist with almost no facial features who must paint facial expressions onto his almost blank face to express himself; a man obsessed with his own reflection in a series of mirrors in his room; and a woman supposedly so ugly, one glance at her face would drive anyone insane. Upon discovering his "special" patients (unharmed from the destruction thanks to their secluded cells), Arkham resolves to rebuild the facility according to his ancestor's vision, but to serve as a literal asylum for mentally ill patients in order to shelter them from the outside world. However, when told to be happy with the new development, the artist secretly paints his face white with a hideous grin, reminiscent of the Joker; it is implied that the "special" inmates, as well as Arkham himself, have given in to madness.

In the Batman: Arkham Reborn mini-series, Arkham Asylum is rebuilt and financed by Dr. Arkham, according to his uncle's specifications. However, he is soon exposed by Batman as the new Black Mask and institutionalized on the orders of the new director, Alyce Sinner. It was also revealed that the "special" patients were figments of Arkham's imagination. Sinner's regime proves far more corrupt than Jeremiah's; she is revealed to have actively worked with both Black Mask's organization and the sinister Church of Crime.

Less than a year later, Arkham Asylum was severely damaged as part of a supervillain assault on Batman, and collapsed after a giant fissure split the earth open beneath its foundations. (Batman Eternal #29, December 2014) Simultaneously, Wayne Enterprises loses most of its assets due to a conspiracy by Hush and Bruce Wayne is forced to file for bankruptcy. Wayne Manor is seized by the state and selected as the site for Arkham's latest incarnation, and Batman accepts the situation on the pretext that he can now keep a closer eye on his Rogues Gallery due to his intimate knowledge of the building. (Arkham Manor #6, May 2015)

Other versions

A somewhat apocryphal account is given for Arkham Asylum's founding in Batman Confidential #9, which claims that the facility was known as Arkham House and designed by a relatively unknown psychiatrist, Jonathan Crane, for housing what he describes to Batman as "a new breed of villain". Crane's plans to renovate and reopen Arkham House reach fruition when a crime spree by the Joker provides the impetuous needed for the city council to approve them.

In Batman of Arkham, an Elseworlds storyline by Alan Grant, Bruce Wayne is re-imagined as a prominent Gotham psychiatrist who assumes ownership of Arkham Asylum in the early twentieth century and sets out to improve its dismal reputation. After his parents' murder, Wayne had dedicated his life to the prevention of such tragedies by treating the criminally insane. Among the asylum's more colorful inmates are Killer Croc, who has been rehabilitated by Wayne and rendered docile by hypnotherapy, and Poison Ivy, who is being incarcerated for her militant suffragist actions.

Frank Miller's 1986 Dark Knight series is set in the distant future about ten years after Batman has retired. It depicts an "Arkham Home for the Emotionally Troubled", presumably a renaming of the asylum which occurs as a result of changing attitudes towards mental health. The Joker is housed there, catatonic since Batman's disappearance, 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, while arguing that Batman himself is responsible for the crimes his enemies commit by encouraging their existence; Wolper is killed when the Joker uses his lethal gas on the talk show audience.

In Miller's 2001 Dark Knight Strikes Again sequel series, it is revealed that the patients have taken over the secluded institution and have resorted to cannibalism. Plastic Man is one of the more notable meta-human patients in this version of Arkham.

During the non-canon JLA: The Nail, the Joker, using Kryptonian gauntlets provided by a genetically augmented Jimmy Olsen, breaks into Arkham, erecting a forcefield around it that prevents anyone but Batman, Batgirl and Robin from entering, while forcing the rest of the patients to fight each other for an opportunity to serve him. Catwoman wins the resulting conflict shortly before Batman breaks into the asylum, but the Joker's gauntlets allow him to capture Batman, forcing him to watch as the Joker brutally tears Batgirl and Robin apart in front of him. Although Catwoman manages to distract the Joker long enough for Batman to escape and damage his gauntlets, the grief-maddened Batman subsequently beats the Joker to death on the asylum roof before the entire building collapses, apparently killing most of its remaining inmates.

Superman: Emperor Joker features Superman being committed to Arkham Asylum under the care of "Warden" Solomon Grundy and chief guard Calendar Man, who have replaced Jeremiah Arkham and Aaron Cash, respectively. The other staff members are also inexplicably missing, having been succeeded by parademons. Mercey Island is later uprooted and transferred to the cockpit of a gargantuan space capsule known as the S.S. Arkham, where skeptics, intellectuals, academics and others perceived as overly rational are imprisoned to lose their minds. It is revealed that these peculiar circumstances were the result of the Joker being granted Mr. Mxyzptlk's powers and reshaping reality to his liking.

In Batman: Crimson Mist, the third part of the trilogy that began with Batman & Dracula: Red Rain, a vampiric Batman, corrupted by his thirst for blood, murders all of Arkham's prisoners including Amygdala, Victor Zsasz, and the Mad Hatter drinking their blood and decapitating them to prevent their resurrection as vampires.

In Batman: White Knight, Arkham was only turned into an asylum after the rise in "super-criminals" like the Joker and before that it was a historic location known as Old Fort Arkham. Arkham Asylum was used to indefinitely hold super-criminals and over several decades the only successful cured cases which it made were those of Dr. Harleen Quinzell AKA Harley Quinn after she left the Joker for his torture and possible murder of the young Jason Todd, and years later Jack Napier AKA The Joker after he began taking a medication secretly created by Harleen which temporarily cured the chemical imbalance in his brain caused by his chemical bath and after months of intense therapy he reentered society as Jack Napier although not before using Arkham's library to create a law-suit against Arkham and the GCPD. The now cured Napier began campaigning as a human-rights advocate who claimed that Arkham Asylum was used by Gotham's "Gate-Keepers" to keep the public afraid of super-villains they made no attempts at curing and in-fact made worse, that way Gotham's 1% could further advantage over the fear of the tax-payers who needed to pay higher taxes to keep Arkham active and rebuild the areas of Gotham which Batman and his rogues destroyed. Napier's campaign is successful and eventually he becomes a Councilman who has the then unstable Batman arrested and sent to Arkham himself for unregulated violence until a new super-villain called Neo-Joker rises and Batman is needed to take her down. Napier himself inadvertently develops an immunity to his drugs and suffers from a split personality between Napier and Joker until finally Joker takes over completely and he is sent back to Arkham although with a much nicer cell for his good deeds as Jack Napier.


Arkhamlogo latest BTDK

The latest Arkham emblem in the DC Universe, a possible homage to Batman: Arkham Asylum.[3]

Arkham Asylum has been explicitly described by Jeremiah Arkham as a private psychiatric hospital. (Batman: Shadow of the Bat #4, September 1992) It is unclear whether it is a proprietary institution managed as a business entity with publicly traded stock, or a non-profit facility which does not depend on profit to remain competitive. The grounds of the original asylum belonged solely to the estate of Amadeus Arkham. (Arkham Asylum: Living Hell #5, November 2003) Other incarnations of Arkham have been depicted as federal facilities, which received direct funding and support from the U.S. government. (Batman Adventures #1, June 2003) In the film Suicide Squad, the asylum is a municipal hospital owned and managed by the Gotham public health department.[4]

Despite its status as a private hospital in the mainstream DC Universe, Arkham is also granted certain legislative privileges by Gotham City. For example, Gotham law empowers the asylum to unilaterally detain any person or persons under indefinite psychiatric observation. Said individuals cannot be institutionalized through formal means without the consent of their families or the judicial system, but they can be held for any period at the director's discretion. (Swamp Thing #66, November 1987) This loophole has allowed Arkham to incarcerate specific characters, such as Jean Loring, while circumventing the bureaucratic process normally associated with institutionalization. (Identity Crisis #7, February 2005)

A number of other states and cities have transferred dangerously insane supervillains to Arkham Asylum despite its rather discouraging reputation, either because they lack facilities of their own to hold them, or find it easier to dump their criminal problem on Gotham City. Patients transferred from outside Gotham have included the Polka-Dot Man, Doctor Double X, Seeder, Doc Willard, the Dummy, Dancer, the Crumbler, and Mister Thornton. Nearly every member of Batman's Rogues Gallery has been incarcerated at Arkham under various circumstances. Stockbroker Warren White, better known as the Great White Shark, was initially sent to Arkham after evading a white-collar fraud conviction in the Gotham courts by pleading insanity. His time inside the asylum drives him truly insane, and White comes to manipulate the system from within as a ruthless underworld racketeer. (Arkham Asylum: Living Hell #6, December 2003)

Arkham in its various incarnations has proved to be extremely porous; escapes, even from maximum security wards, are bizarrely frequent; administrative releases are often handled in a negligent manner (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 consequently suffer from high recidivism. Arkham escapees and legitimate releases alike nearly always go on to commit subsequent crimes that land them back in the asylum to safely plot their next caper rather than the city jails or Blackgate Penitentiary. The administration is usually portrayed as ineffectual and corrupt, with inmates sometimes managing to seize control of the facility and embarking on an orgy of murder, destruction, and mayhem unopposed. A temporarily reformed Joker once claimed that Arkham survived on exorbitant subsidies from Gotham City, and its administration blackmailed the taxpayers by intentionally allowing the most dangerous patients to escape, then using the ensuing publicity of their crime sprees to demand more funds. (Batman: White Knight #2, January 2018)

With few recurring exceptions, such as Aaron Cash, the security force is troubled by exaggerated levels of apathy and, according to Arkham Asylum: Madness, a crippling turnover rate. At least one guard was hired despite a history of violent felonies, for which he served a sentence at Blackgate. (Arkham Manor: Endgame #1, June 2015) Harvey Bullock once described Arkham guards as "rent-a-cops" who were "amateurs and blind to boot". (Batman #523, October 1995)

The asylum's medical staffing has proved even more questionable, given how unstable several resident psychiatrists have become, including Jeremiah Arkham, Alyce Sinner, Harleen Quinzel, and, in some incarnations, Jonathan Crane and Hugo Strange. Although the asylum is rebuilt in larger and larger iterations, an inevitable trend towards overcrowding has led to a breakdown in patient segregation—for instance, housing nonviolent and relatively harmless offenders on the same block or even in the same cell with serial killers, as in Arkham Asylum: Living Hell and compels the staff to simply focus on warehousing the inmates rather than rehabilitating them. The practice of employees trading contraband, and even release forms, to prisoners in exchange for sexual favors is rampant. (Black Orchid #1, December 1988)

Patient neglect is pervasive, which undoubtedly plays a major role in the countless number of escape attempts; for instance, in Neil Gaiman's The Sandman, inmates are not even provided with clothing, and Doctor Destiny is left naked in an unheated cell. (The Sandman #5, May 1989) Journalist Vicki Vale once published an exposé alleging many other patients were suffering under similar circumstances. Vale noted the prevalence of outdated techniques such as prolonged confinement to straitjackets and confirmed Destiny was not an isolated case; she accused Arkham of intentionally leaving its inmates unclothed, switching off the heating to their wards, and housing them in decrepit, waterlogged cells.[5]

Although the policy has fluctuated, Jeremiah Arkham initially never issued uniforms to supervillains admitted to his care in costume, preferring they remain so clothed so as to better shed light on their various disorders. This minimal supervision has allowed prisoners to smuggle in contraband, such as the Scarecrow did with a vial of fear toxin. (Batman: The Dark Knight #15, February 2013) Arkham seems to favor prolonged solitary confinement as the preferred discipline for problem inmates; in Black Orchid Poison Ivy reports being held in solitary for three weeks on end, while Scarecrow is sentenced to three months in solitary at the conclusion of Arkham Asylum: Living Hell.

As Arkham does not seem to effectively treat its charges, a sentiment echoed often by police commissioner James Gordon, and it likewise cannot keep them detained, it remains under constant surveillance by an ever-vigilant Dark Knight and the GCPD.


"Arkham Asylum is generally portrayed, on the exterior, as a caricature of an insane asylum: a gigantic, gated Victorian home on a dark and stormy night. The image of the run-down, dreary building contrasts nicely with the individuals caged within, making Arkham a memorable location in nearly every comic in which it is featured. Arkham Asylum sometimes contains modern or futuristic technology, but every version includes some level of decay and entropy, resulting in a place constantly on the edge of disaster."
―Arkham being described in the critically acclaimed Icons of the American Comic Book, Volume One.[6]

Arkham Asylum was associated with a rather unique visual motif for nearly a decade after its introduction, usually appearing as a sprawling Victorian campus with old stone walls and a number of dilapidated wings. Like the Arkham Sanitarium of Lovecratian fiction, it was based on Danvers State Hospital and several other nineteenth century lunatic asylums which adopted a similar architectural style. When Jeremiah Arkham's tenure as director commenced, work crews dismantled the old Victorian-era stonework, replacing it with a series of concentric labyrinthine corridors. The disorienting and mazelike atmosphere to Arkham's interior is intentional, engineered to confuse the inmates so even if they escaped their cells, they would find it difficult maintaining a sense of direction and leaving the building. CCTV cameras were now installed in every room and at periodic intervals in every corridor. Exterior windows were now fitted with heat and motion detectors, while magnetic foil insulation in the walls helped jam suspicious signal reception in the cell blocks.

Arkham Asylum reverted to its roots as an imposing manor when Jeremiah relocated operations to Mercey Island following the asylum's destruction by Bane. The Mercey Mansion was portrayed as possessing a particularly dark and gothic exterior which included pointed arches, octagonal towers, flying buttresses, vaulted ceilings, and decorative spires. It was an extremely tall, multi-storey structure, sweeping upwards to emphasize its loftiness and grandeur.


"Those people are crazy in there! Legitimately crazy. Sick! They're monsters, and in Arkham they get treated like monsters!"
Dr. Byron Meredith, former Arkham psychiatrist.[7]
Arkham Orderlies1

Arkham orderlies stealing inmates' medication.

Arkham Asylum has employed both psychiatrists and clinical psychologists; the latter are responsible for conducting most patient interviews and prescribing medication. As the most immediate concern for Arkham's administration is reducing the aggressiveness of high risk patients, prescriptions are often doled out for dopamine inhibitors such as Thorazine. Other recurrent medications used by Arkham staff include Haloperidol and Fluoxetine. (Robin, Volume Four #23, December 1995) Due to the fact that most incarcerated supervillains such as the Joker rarely display the common side effects of these drugs, it has been theorized unscrupulous orderlies are failing to make certain they are properly administered, or are pilfering the real medication and substituting cheaper, alternative pharmaceuticals which are less sedating, have lower rates of relapse, and result in subtler side effects.[8]

Interviews are held periodically by Arkham's therapists for evaluation purposes; in the event of dealing with high-profile cases, sometimes an entire team of doctors may be present. (Detective Comics Volume Two #17, April 2013) Patients are encouraged to discuss their lives, thoughts, and desires. The psychiatrists do not adhere to any set therapeutic model, so the results of the interviews may vary; for example, in Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth Dr. Ruth Adams favors word association asking the interviewee to respond with the first word that comes to mind when offered an item from a word list. These sessions occur in specialized evaluation rooms overseen by orderlies prepared to physically restrain the patient as needed. If additional force is called for, each room is also fitted with a "panic button" that summons a crash team of armed security officers held on perpetual standby. A member of the team carries a video camera to document the incident from the guards' perspective and guarantee no excessive force is exerted off the record. (All-Star Western Volume Three #22, September 2013)

Jeremiah Arkham's regime is a known proponent of electroconvulsive therapy. It is probable that the employment of shock treatment as punishment may be used in an unethical manner to deter antisocial conduct among the inmate population. Jeremiah once forced a "difficult case" to undergo ECT after he was observed smuggling contraband to the Joker, without providing a medical pretext or taking the patient's specific diagnosis into consideration. (Batman Villains Secret Files and Origins #1, October 1995)

According to Vicki Vale, the asylum also practices insulin shock therapy.[5]

Despite the prevalence of so many other outdated psychiatric techniques, Arkham neither encourages nor routinely authorizes prefrontal lobotomies. Jeremiah Arkham has stated that he does not consider lobotomy a "progressive" treatment, dismissing it as a poor substitute for medication and therapy. (Batman #67, September 2008) The liberal use of lobotomy procedures to control Arkham's most feral inmates is further discouraged by bureaucratic restrictions and opposition from patients' rights groups. Arkham staff must obtain prior approval from the State Board of Medical Examiners before performing a lobotomy.[9]



  • Amadeus Arkham, founder of the asylum, Amadeus named the institution after his deceased mother Elizabeth.
  • Jeremiah Arkham, M.D., nephew of Amadeus, current asylum director.
  • Hugo Strange, Chief psychiatrist of Arkham. He is often depicted as experimenting on inmates.
  • Alyce Sinner, onetime director of Arkham following Jeremiah Arkham's arrest.
  • Lyle Bolton, former decorated Arkham guard, now known as the minor supervillain "Lock-Up."
  • Harleen Quinzel, M.D., former psychiatrist, seduced by the Joker; now known as "Harley Quinn."
  • Aaron Cash, Arkham chief of security; sports a prosthetic hook in place of his hand, which was bitten off by Killer Croc. Unlike many of his colleagues, Cash is neither insane nor corrupt, and is a trusted ally of Batman.
  • Dr. Ingrid Karlsson was a psychiatrist beloved to the inmates and lover to Jeremiah Arkham. She was killed in a riot, shortly after giving birth to Jeremiah's daughter, Astrid who was delivered by the inmates.


  • Achilles Milo, onetime director of Arkham before being driven insane and being committed himself.
  • Eric Border was an orderly working for the asylum who claimed to be a man from Metropolis who just wanted to help the inmates. Border became an ally of Batman only to later reveal that he was in-fact the Joker in disguise.
  • Dr. Simon Ecks, a psychiatrist who worked at the asylum in New 52 continuity until paranormal energies from the asylum turned him into the meta-human criminal, "Doctor Double X".


Originally, Arkham Asylum was used only to house genuinely insane characters - the Joker and Two-Face were patients 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 because of some of the facility's high-tech features that make it more efficient to hold a villain such as Clayface there than in a prison. Nearly all of Batman's enemies have spent some time in Arkham.

Other DC Multiverse publications that feature Arkham Asylum and its patients include Alan Moore's Swamp Thing (wherein Jason Woodrue—Seeder—is detained) and The Sandman by Neil Gaiman, wherein John Dee (Doctor Destiny) escapes to wreak havoc on the city.

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.

Notable Patients

Batman's Enemies:

Other Notable Inmates & Patients:

  • Ambush Bug: The comedic superhero Ambush Bug is shown to have been an inmate of Arkham at some point after gaining his powers.
  • Amadeus Arkham
  • Batman: During Batman: Shadow of the Bat, Batman fakes insanity to investigate how Zsasz is committing murders in Gotham whilst also serving a sentence at the Asylum.

    A young Black Manta, institutionalized in Arkham Asylum

  • Black Manta: In pre-New 52 stories, a young Black Manta was incarcerated as a child in the asylum for a developmental condition (heavily implied to be autism) after Aquaman killed his father. The boy received horrific treatment in Arkham including painful experimental procedures and the staff ignoring his wails of pain caused by an intolerance for cotton, leaving him in cotton lined cells and beds.
  • Cheetah: The third Cheetah (Barbara Ann Minerva) is often depicted an inmate of the asylum. It was in Arkham that Minerva completed her transformation into the Cheetah when disciples of the sorceress Circe came to visit her and gave her a potion to do so.
  • Doctor Destiny: Justice League enemy Dr. John Dee AKA Doctor Destiny was sent to Arkham after the discovery that he could enter the minds of others as he slept and control their dreams. At Arkham he was kept on drugs which made him incapable of dreaming, only worsening his condition.
  • Floranic Man, the plant-creature/mad-scientist who was mentor to Poison Ivy.
  • Jean Loring: The main love interest and ex-wife of the Atom, Jean was committed to after she murdered both Sue Dibney and Jack Drake during Identity Crisis.
  • Lunkhead
  • Martin "Mad Dog" Hawkins: The murderer of Amadeus Arkham's family was among the first inmates treated at Arkham. However, Hawkins was eventually killed by the Doctor during an "accident" in electroshock therapy.
  • Psycho Pirate: Roger Hayden AKA The Psycho-Pirate was a silver-age enemy of Doctor Fate and the Hourman, being a man with the power to manipulate the emotions of others. During the multiverse-spanning event of Crisis on Infinite Earths, Psycho-Pirate became a henchman for the cosmic villain known as the Anti-Monster who aimed at destroying the multiverse. When this resulted in the multiverse being rebooted, Psycho-Pirate was the only individual on New Earth who retained memory of the Crisis. As a result, he was imprisoned on Arkham Asylum as he was driven mad by the memories of different realities and cosmic deities.
  • Rag-Doll: The original Rag-Doll Peter Merkel who was an enemy of the original Flash, Jay Garrick was shown as an inmate of Arkham during the New 52.
  • Tucker "Junkyard Dog" Long
  • Woozy Winks: The bumbling side-kick of Plastic Man, Woozy Winks was an inmate of Arkham before teaming up with Plastic Man.

In other media

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


Schumacher Films

Arkham is frequent prominently in both Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. In the films, it is depicted as a tall, spiraling castle-like structure, with narrow hallways lined with brightly-lit glass bricks. Batman's enemies are often held in the Asylum after their capture, often immediately afterwards.

In Batman Forever, Edward Nygma was incarcerated in a large padded cell after his brain is scrambled by the destruction of his Box devices. There was an alternate opening sequence involving Two-Face escaping from Arkham at the beginning of the film, but it was cut due to its ominous implication of violence.

In Batman & Robin, Mr. Freeze is imprisoned at the asylum after his capture by Batman, though he escapes with help from Poison Ivy and Bane. After their scheme to freeze Gotham is foiled by the Batman Family, both Ivy and Freeze are imprisoned as cellmates, despite both being different genders.

Batman Forever (video 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.

The Dark Knight Trilogy

In 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. One notable change in this version of Arkham from the comics was the location; while still on an island separate from the rest of the city (by 9 large drawbridges), in Batman Begins, it is located in the slum region known as The Narrows, as opposed to the remote forests that surround it in the comics. By the end of the film, it is implied that the Narrows has been rendered uninhabitable. Victor Zsasz is an inmate here and in The Dark Knight it is stated that Carmine Falcone is an inmate. In the aftermath of the film, Arkham Asylum is closed with many of its inmates moved to Blackgate Prison. The novelization of The Dark Knight Rises implies that the Joker is held there as its only inmate.


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Snyder Films

Arkham features briefly in the "DC Extend Universe" films Suicide Squad and both versions of Justice League. Batman also mentions it briefly in the extended edition of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, revealing to have arranged for Lex Luthor to be imprisoned there. In the the director's cut of Justice League, the Asylum's external sign refers to it as "Arkham Home for the Emotionally Troubled", a reference to The Dark Knight Returns.

The Batman

Main article: Arkham State Hospital (Reevesverse)

Arkham appears in The Batman as an asylum for the mentally ill, and is called Arkham State Hospital. It is revealed that Martha Wayne was an in-and-out patient of the asylum due to her traumatic experience from her parents' death where her mother killed her father and then committed suicide. Towards the end of the film, Riddler is incarcerated in Arkham for his crimes against Gotham City, where he makes a new friend who was also admitted into the asylum a year prior after being defeated by Batman.


DC Animated Universe

Batman: The Animated Series
Arkham Asylum

The Animated Series Arkham Asylum.

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 one episode, it is explained that all criminals apprehended by the Batman are sent to Arkham rather than jail (although it is shown that Harley Quinn 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 have a more compassionate persona. It's known inmates are Joker, Mr. Freeze, Two-Face, Scarecrow, Mad Hatter, Riddler, Killer Croc, The Penguin, The Ventriloquist & Scarface, Baby Doll, Maxie Zeus, and Lock-Up. The Asylum had a much more gothic and prison-like appearance in BTaS whereas it became more sterile as the DCAU went on.

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 patient population is lobotomized by the alternate Superman's heat vision. (If you watch closely, you can see 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 Mad Hatter are used in both Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League as the key patients 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 The Dark Knight, follows and sees Joker's corpse hanging (it was implied that the new Joker placed it up there fairly recently to intimidate Bruce Wayne, or anyone investigating it, since it was bound by ropes, which the Joker's recent corpse wasn't, and more importantly, his corpse now bears the words "I know" on it.).

The Batman

Like the original Arkham, several major villains end up in this institution, such as The Joker, The Penguin, The Riddler, Bane, Maxie Zeus, Ventriloquist, Firefly, Wrath and Temblor. 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 patients to easily escape. It's located close to Gotham city limits, though here it's still presented as occupying a small island on a river, with a bridge connecting it to the city, similar to Mercy Island in the comics.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold

In the episode "Mayhem of the Music Meister" Arkham Asylum is featured. The prisoners are Joker, Mr. Freeze, Mad Hatter, Top, Psycho-Pirate, Tweedledee, Tweedledum, Two-Face, Scarecrow, Crazy Quilt, Doctor Polaris, Calendar Man, and King Tut. Batman also mentions in later episodes that other villains such as Black Mask and Hellgrammite are also prisoners there. In the episode "Joker the Vile and the Villainess" Joker is seen being transported to Arkham.

Batman: Gotham Knight

Expanding on Jim Gordon's line "The Narrows is lost" from Batman Begins, the Crossfire segment of Batman: Gotham Knight reveals that the inhabitants of The Narrows were repurposed, and the entire island (renamed Arkham Island) became asylum grounds. The asylum itself was transformed into a high-security fortress, with checkpoints and sniper towers augmenting the natural barrier of the island. This depiction was later utilized for Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Video Games

Film Tie-Ins

  • The Schumacher films' Arkham Asylum appears as the first level of the Batman Forever tie-in. The player(s) must navigate the asylum to contain a breakout organized by Two-Face to cover his escape.

Lego Batman: The Videogame

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Lego Batman: Arkham Asylum

The videogame features Arkham Asylum as the villains' hub. It includes an experiment room, and docking bay for vehicles owned by Joker, Penguin, and Two-Face.

Batman Arkham Series

Arkham is the primary focus of the 2009 video game Batman: Arkham Asylum, which takes place during a riot orchestrated by the Joker. Taking inspiration from Mercey Island of the 90's, it is located on an island off the coast of the city. Rather than one building, the facility is depicted a sprawling, multi-faceted campus with both new and old structures, including the traditional Victorian mansion of the comics, a factory re-purposed as an intensive care unit, and a vast subterranean network. This version of Arkham has also made cameo appearances in Batman: Arkham City, Batman: Arkham Origins, Batman: Arkham Knight, and Injustice: Gods Among Us.

Injustice Series

Arkham Asylum features in both Injustice: Gods Among Us and Injustice 2 as a stage. Inmates depicted in the Asylum include Two-Face, Scarecrow, Penguin, Riddler, Killer Croc, Poison Ivy, Solomon Grundy and Mr. Freeze. Hugo Strange also appears in the background of stages, though depicted as the Asylum's staff.

Telltale Batman

See also

Notable Appearances


  1. Booker, M. Keith. Comics through Time: A History of Icons, Idols, and Ideas. ABC-CLIO LLC Publishers 2014. ISBN 978-0-313-39750-9 p 898.
  2. Chapter Six - Rhyme & Reason by Slott & Sook. Arkham Asylum: Living Hell Vol 1 #6 December 2003.
  3. Knight Terrors by Finch & Jenkins. Batman: The Dark Knight Vol 2 #1.
  4. Props from the film depicting Arkham Asylum's official seal are also marked "City of Gotham Public Health Services".
  5. 5.0 5.1 O'Neil, Denny. Batman: Knightfall (Novelization). Bantam Books 1994. ISBN 978-0553096736 p 45.
  6. Rosenberg, Robin & Kosslyn, Nathaniel. "Arkham Asylum" entry, Icons of the American Comic Book: From Captain America to Wonder Woman, Volume One. Greenwood Books 2013. ISBN 978-0313399237 p 45.
  7. The Pursuit of Happiness by Layman & Fabok. Detective Comics Vol 2 #16.
  8. Langley, Travis. Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight. John Wiley & Sons 2012. ISBN 978-1118167656 p 138.
  9. Greenberg, Martin. The Further Adventures of The Joker. Bantam Books and DC Comics, 1990. ISBN 978-0553285314 chapter Definitive Therapy.