Arkham Asylum (House of Health…or Madness)

By  Phil Perich for Before the Bat: The Gotham Podcast


I was trying to think of a topic for this week’s blog.  Had there been a breakout character this week on Gotham? I covered The Penguin last week.  Then it hit me.  The title of this week’s episode and a big focus this week.  Arkham!  The Asylum first appeared in Batman #258 (October 1974).  In this first appearance it was called Arkham Hospital.  

The name Arkham Asylum comes from the fictional institution in many H.P. Lovecraft stories where it is located in Arkham Massachusetts.  It wasn’t until Batman #326 (1980) that the full name Arkham Asylum was used.  The asylum had a long history of madness that predated most of it’s “patients”.  In the early 1900’s, Elizabeth Arkham, suffering from a mental illness, committed suicide.  Her son Amadeus then turned the house into a hospital from the mentally ill.  It was later revealed that Amadeus had killed his mother and repressed the memory.  Amadeus later treated a patient named Martin “Mad Dog” Hawkins.  Hawkins went on to kill Amadeus’s wife and daughter.  Amadeus still insisted on curing Hawkins, but later killed him in an electroshock “accident”.  This began Amadeus’s slow descent into madness until he became a patient in his own asylum, where he eventually died. Once the likes of Joker, Two-Face, Poison Ivy and many other patients entered the asylum, escapes became an almost daily occurrence.  The asylum seemed to have a revolving door for its inmates.  Eventually, The asylum is taken over by Jeremiah Arkham, Amadeus’s nephew.  In the beginning, his treatment techniques are radical to say the least.  But once murders are committed on Gotham’s streets matching the (supposedly) committed killer Zsasz, Batman gets himself committed to the asylum to investigate in Shadow of the Bat #1-4 (June-September 1992).  

During the year long No Man’s Land storyline (1999), After a powerful earthquake, the United States abandons Gotham City and seals it off from the rest of the country.  Arkham Asylum is emptied and most of the inmates set up little kingdoms in the city. With the original Batcave destroyed and outside the city, Batman sets up several smaller satellite Batcaves.  In a ironic twist, one such Batcave is under the now abandoned Arkham Asylum, which had been a “home” for so many of his enemies.

Jeremiah Arkham would eventually follow his uncle’s path into madness.  Working in secret for months, Arkham developed a new personality, as the 2nd Black Mask.  He was apprehended by the Dick Grayson Batman in Batman #697 (May 2010), and locked away in his own asylum.  

Does the asylum have some dark power that corrupts those who stay too long in it’s walls?

Keep watching Gotham, we’ll probably see more on Arkham and let me know what you think!

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Until next week, be good. Remember Gotham has many dark corners!

Posted on October 21, 2014 .