Arkham Asylum was created by Denny O'Neil (one of the editors for DC) who is also the co-creator of Ra's Al Ghul, Talia al Ghul and Man Bat. In 1974 it was Dennis O'Neil who first explored the deep psychology of Batman's inner ego. It was this that later lead O'Neil to creating a Psych Ward aka Arkham Asylum, which has since inspired origin stories, video games, and graphic novels.
It is noted that the name of Arkham comes from the HP Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos and its the setting for a majority stories within this cycle. However it is unknown if O'Neil had used this as inspiration.
Over the years, the depictions of Arkham Asylum have shifted from a rehabilitative mental institution to an anachronistic madhouse fit for gothic storylines to a foreboding prison that happens to have psychiatrists as part of its staff. During the Silver Age of superhero comic books, placement in Arkham Asylum seemed a more merciful sentence than time in prison, in keeping with the more playful depictions of such supervillains as The Joker and The Penguin. However, beginning in the Bronze Age, Arkham Asylum has slowly come to be depicted as a far worse fate than any sort of prison sentence, and most of the Bat Villains in Arkham would find even a high security prison to be a relief in comparison to their stays in Arkham. Midway into the Dark Age, depictions of the regular Gotham prison system showed it to be almost "comfy" in comparison to Arkham Asylum.
The history of Arkham Asylum began in the early 1900s. Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane is named after Elizabeth Arkham, who was the mother of Amadeus Arkham, the founder. Amadeus’s mother was suffering from mental illness and eventually committed suicide. Amadeus became the sole heir to the Arkham estate and decided to treat mentally ill patients in order for those to not go through what his mother went though. Amadeus also got married to a woman named Constance and had a daughter name Harriet. He decided to turn his family home into an asylum to treat patients, but while it was being built he treated patients at the State Psychiatric Hospital, while also living at the Hospital with his family. Eventually the family would move back to their home at the Arkham house, while back at home Arkham was notified by the police that one of his patient named Martin “ Mad Dog” Hawkins had escaped from prison.
On April 1, 1921 Arkham returns home and discovers his wife raped and murdered laying next to their lifeless daughter with “Mad Dog” carved on her body. The same year Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane officially opened in November. One of the first patients was Martin Hawkins himself, who Arkham personally insisted on treating. On April 1, 1922 Martin Hawkins was strapped to an electric chair for “treatment” and was electrocuted to death. The death was covered up as an “accident” and Arkham began to fall into madness, believing that the reason he lives is to be an executioner. Arkham would be institutionalized at his own mental hospital, Arkham Asylum, later in life. Arkham died as an inmate in his own asylum.
There are rumors that he haunts Arkham Asylum to this day or that, in his final madness, he managed to curse Arkham Asylum with a ... something ... that feeds off the madness within and will therefore never allow any patient to recover.
Arkham Asylum would later be used to imprison some truly insane characters, for example, the Joker and Two-Face who were one of the first inmates of Arkham Asylum. Arkham soon came to imprison all of Batman’s supervillain enemies whether they are insane or not, in part because it had containment facilities for supervillains far superior to those at the regular prisons.
Notable Arkham Staff
Ex-Members of Arkham:
- Jeremiah Arkham - Nephew of Amadeus. Like his uncle, he was incarcerated in his own facility
- Amadeus Arkham - Founder of the facility. Died as an inmate in his own asylum
Most Notable Inmates
- Joker is the Batman's arch foe. He was the cause of much pain in Bruce Wayne's life; such as the death of Jason Todd (Robin II) and he shot Barbara Gordon, (Batgirl) ultimately confining her to a wheel chair for the rest of her days.
- Two-Face used to be district attorney, but went insane after having acid thrown on his once beautiful face.
- Scarecrow is a former professor of psychology who uses chemical compounds to cause intense fear.
- Harley Quinn used to work at Arkham Asylum until she fell in love with her patient, mister Joker.
- Penguin is a short, chubby man who is known to be seen in the iceberg lounge with beautiful women.
- Mr. Freeze was in love and happy until a freak accident occurred and the only way for him to survive was to stay encased in ice cold armor.
- Poison Ivy is known for her obsessive behavior towards plants and almost sister like relationship with Harley.
- Bane is a large man with superhuman abilities thanks to steroids. He is also incredibly brilliant and is compared to some of the most intelligent beings by the master of assassins, Ra's al Ghul (see below).
- Ra's al Ghul wasn’t claimed to be insane until of recent. It was the only way to rid the world of his evil without resorting to murder.
- Riddler has a compulsive behavior to always speak the truth even if it’s masked in the form of a riddle.
In Alphabetical Order
In Other Media
Arkham appears in several different series.
Arkham appears in Batman: Forever. The Riddler is incarcerated there.
Arkham appears in Batman and Robin. Mr Freeze escapes from there and later becomes the cellmate of Poison Ivy.
It also appears in Batman Begins. The Scarecrow, Jonathan Crane, works there as a doctor.
Arkham appears in the Batman Begins video game.
Arkham appears in Lego Batman: The Video game and offers 15 villain levels plus a bonus Arkham Asylum level.
Batman: Arkham Asylum involves the Joker taking over Arkham and Batman exploring the island to stop him and the other inmates.
Injustice: Gods Among Us the Arkham is one of the fighting stages but features two versions of the Asylum, featuring one controlled by the Joker.