Gotham City

From Academic Kids


Gotham City is a fictional city appearing in DC Comics, and is best known as the home of Batman. It was finally named as Gotham City in Detective Comics #48 (February 1941); before then, Batman's adventures happened in either New York City or an unnamed city. Gotham is known to be architecturally modeled after Chicago, Illinois or Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but with more exaggerated vices.

In terms of how Gotham City's atmosphere is usually depicted, it has been said by some that, metaphorically, Metropolis (home to Superman) is "New York during the day," and Gotham is "New York at night." This comparison is helped by the fact that Metropolis is more often seen during the day, and Gotham more at night. Longtime Batman writer and editor Dennis O'Neil has also said figuratively that Metropolis is New York above 14th St., and that Gotham City is New York below 14th St. Within the comics themselves, however, New York, Metropolis and Gotham City all exist as separate cities.

Gotham City's atmosphere took on a lighter tone in the comics of the 1950s and part of the 1960s, just as the tone of the Batman stories had taken on during that era; by the early 1970s, however, Gotham's tone (and the Batman stories themselves) returned to being grittier.



According to Swamp Thing #53 (and various subsequent comic book stories), Gotham City was founded in 1635 by a Swedish mercenary and was later taken over by the Kingdom of Great Britain. During the American Revolutionary War it was the site of a major battle and various occult rites were rumored to have been conducted within the city. Perhaps for these reasons Gotham is a dark and foreboding place rife with crime, grime, and corruption. Despite this, Gotham City has maintained a thriving economy and is considered a major economic center of activity.


The unique architecture of Gotham City can be traced back to Judge Solomon Wayne during the pre-American Civil War era. Wayne's entrepreneurial skills made him a leading citizen in Gotham, starting a dozen businesses including the Gotham Buggy Whip Works. His campaign to reform Gotham came to a head when he met Cyrus Pinkney, a young architect looking for a commission. After the promotion of Pinkney's designs in the Property Holders Association, Wayne commissioned the first "Gotham Style" structures to be built in what is now the center of the city's financial district. Despite mixed reviews from critics, the Gothic architecture became a focal point for a thriving commercial center. Wayne and Pinkney would raise a dozen similar buildings in the years that followed, as Gotham took on a new face that would make it famous the world over.

GCPD and corruption

In addition to rampant organized crime activity in the city, the Gotham City Police Department (GCPD) was steeped in corruption up until the late 1980s. The strongest blow against police corruption came in 1986, when an increasing amount of conspiracy charges against Commissioner Gillian Loeb forced him to resign his position. The Falcone crime family, which had had a stranglehold on Gotham's underground for generations, finally crumbled by the end of the 1980s, when a series of killings shook the structure of the mafia organization. After the death of Carmine Falcone in 1988, the Mafia lashed out in sloppy, retaliatory crimes, which, in combination with rising gang violence, severely crippled organized crime in Gotham City. Simultaneously, the ebbing presence of corrupt police officers allowed James Gordon to become the new commissioner, a man determined to eradicate crime wherever it existed.

Arkham Asylum

Numerous costumed maniacs have emerged, necessitating the construction of an asylum dedicated to the incarceration of the criminally insane (called Arkham Asylum in homage to the fictional city of Arkham, Massachusetts in the works of H. P. Lovecraft, whose stories often included forbidding and decrepit New England cities with histories of occult practices and other evils). The origins of the asylum have been traced back to 1920, when psychiatrist Amadeus Arkham converted his estate into a mental health institution. Dr. Arkham studied under Carl Jung and Aleister Crowley, and pioneered several key concepts in criminal psychology. Unfortunately, a series of personal tragedies caused Dr. Arkham's mental deterioration. At the start of the Great Depression in 1929, Amadeus was incarcerated for assaulting his stock broker. He died years later, imprisoned in the asylum he created. His nephew, Jeremiah Arkham, currently runs the asylum, and oversaw its reconstruction in 1992, and its movement to the Mercey House in 1995. Unfortunately the asylum has rarely managed to cure or keep its various insane inmates for long.

Recent events

In the late 1990s, Gotham City suffered from an artificially created plague, and was given its most devastating blow when an earthquake (measuring 7.6 on the Richter Scale) struck the city in 1998. After much political controversy, a federal edict cut off the city from the rest of the United States, with most of Gotham's residents evacuating in the process. After a full year as a federally proclaimed "no man's land," the reconstruction of the city was initiated by privately owned businesses, and later taken over by the Federal Works Projects. Old landmarks were painstakingly restored or recreated in tribute to the city's rich history. New buildings were erected, in addition to the completion of the Gotham Rapid Transit System, which included the longest independently operated monorail system in the world. Gotham thus regained its identity, and remains today as one of the greatest cities in the world.


A list of Gotham City's mayors, in chronological order from earliest to latest:

  • Hamilton Hill
  • Armand Krol
  • Marion Grange
  • Daniel Danforth Dickerson III
  • David Hull


One of Gotham City's most famous residents is Bruce Wayne, CEO of Wayne Enterprises and noted philanthropist and playboy.

Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern, is also based in Gotham City.

Besides Green Lantern and Batman, other superheroes that have operated in Gotham City include several youths in the role of Robin (Batman's sidekick), Nightwing (the original Robin Dick Grayson's adult superhero identity), and Batgirl.

Apart from Gotham's superhero residents, the residents of the city were featured in a back up series in Detective Comics, "Tales of Gotham City" and in two miniseries called Gotham Nights. In addition, the Gotham City Police Department is the focus of its own series, Gotham Central.

Businesses and other features

Gotham City is a major economic center within the DC Universe's United States; among its important areas include manufacturing, shipping, finance, fine arts (with its numerous museums, galleries, and jewelry displays), and the production of giant novelty props.

Major businesses based in Gotham City include its most noteworthy corporation, Wayne Enterprises, which specializes in various industrial aspects and advanced technological research and development.

Noteworthy newspapers in Gotham City include the Gotham Gazette. In the Silver Age comics, the editor-in-chief of Metropolis newspaper the Daily Planet, Perry White, had once worked for the Gazette early in his career.

Wayne Manor, the mansion estate of Bruce Wayne, is located on the outskirts of the city.


Several maps of Gotham City have been produced over the years. Many of them are directly based on Manhattan, though one map is based on the Rhode Island coastline, and others are completely original. A map of Gotham City used in the 1989 film Batman was actually an inverted map of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. In the same movie, a map of the Axis Chemical plant was actually a map of the Capitol Hill neighbourhood in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. The current definitive maps of Gotham City are those based on the ones produced for the "No Man's Land" story arc. These maps closely follow the geography of southern Ocean County, New Jersey, with Gotham City's location nearly matching that of the Mystic Island area.

While some references place Gotham City as being located in New Jersey, Gotham's features and location have been altered at times due to the capricious nature of the writers, editors and storyline. At other times, Gotham has been depicted as being on the shores of "Lake Gotham". The majority of appearances place Gotham as being on the east coast of the United States, however.

The distance between Gotham City and Metropolis has varied over the years, with the two cities having been shown as everywhere from being hundreds of miles apart to being twin cities on opposite sides of a large bay. Bldhaven, a city that's the current home of Nightwing, is located near Gotham City.


  • Brown, Eliot. "Gotham City Skyline." Secret Files & Origins Guide to the DC Universe 2000. New York: DC Comics, 2000.
  • Grant, Alan. "The Last Arkham." Batman: Shadow of the Bat 1. New York: DC Comics, 1992.
  • Loeb, Jeph. Batman: The Long Halloween. New York: DC Comics, 1997.
  • Miller, Frank. Batman: Year One. New York: DC Comics, 1988.
  • Morrison, Grant. Arkham Asylum. New York: DC Comics, 1990.
  • O'Neil, Dennis. "Destroyer." Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight 27. New York: DC Comics, City

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