Gotham City is a fictional city appearing in DC Comics, and is best known as the home of Batman. Batman's place of residence was first identified 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 New York or Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but with more exaggerated vices. The name Gotham is an old nickname of New York.
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, similar to the tone of Batman stories of that era; by the early 1970s, however, Gotham's tone (and the Batman stories themselves) had become 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.
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.
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.
Additionally, James Gordon retired from service as Gotham's police commissioner. He currently is a law professor at Gotham University. He has been succeeded by the new police commissioner, Michael Akins.
A list of Gotham City's mayors, in chronological order from earliest to latest:
- Hamilton Hill — before KnightSaga
- Armand Krol — early 1990s; during KnightSaga; lost election to Grange; later died from the Clench virus unleashed by Ra's al Ghul in the "Legacy" storyline
- Marion Grange — late 1990s; failed to prevent the federal government from declaring No Man's Land before being assassinated by agents of Nick Scratch.
- Daniel Danforth Dickerson III — early 2000s; elected mayor following No Man's Land; corrupt; assassinated by the Joker
- David Hull — current
A number of heroes associated with Batman have operated in Gotham City. These include several youths in the role of Robin (Batman's sidekick), Nightwing (the original Robin Dick Grayson's adult superhero identity), Batgirl and The Huntress.
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.
Other DC Comics characters outside the Batman-related titles also reside in Gotham City. Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern, is based there and Plastic Man has been said to operate out of Gotham City as well. The original Black Canary was shown as residing in Gotham in the Justice Society of America series, and in later years, her daughter resided there during much of the Birds of Prey series. In the original Justice League of America series, it was revealed that Zatara and Zatanna also resided in a mansion known as Shadowcrest, located in Gotham. Tommy Monaghan, the title character from the Garth Ennis comic-book series Hitman, is a hired killer from Gotham's "Cauldron" neighborhood.
Notable areas, landmarks, institutions and businesses
In addition to Arkham Asylum, other major facets of Gotham City seen in Batman comics include:
- Blackgate Maximum Security Penitentiary – the city’s main prison, located on Blackgate Isle.
- Brentwood Academy – a privately run high school once attended by Tim Drake (Robin III).
- The Clocktower – A tower in central Gotham which once located the secret headquarters of Barbara Gordon, currently known as Oracle.
- Crime Alley – Formally "Park Row," Crime Alley is a small side street, located in the East End, where Thomas and Martha Wayne were killed by Joe Chill during Bruce Wayne's youth, after the family had visited a cinema. It is a dangerous, crime-infested area.
- The East End – an underdeveloped part of town, where poverty and crime are widespread (in the 2005 movie Batman Begins a similar type of area in Gotham is referred to as The Narrows). Some comics writers occasionally conflate the East End together with Crime Alley.
- Finnigan's - a bar popular with uniformed police officers in Gotham.
- Gotham Heights – The affluent area where Wayne Manor is located. Also known as "Bristol" and/or "Crest Hill", due to mutual proximity of the three neighbourhoods of those names.
- Gotham County High School - A public high school once attended by Tim Drake (Robin III).
- Grand Avenue - Gotham City's version of New York City's Broadway.
- The Iceberg Lounge - a nightclub in the city centre operated by the Penguin.
- Killinger's Department Store - Large department store similar to Macy's in New York.
- Monarch Playing Card Factory - the factory where a costumed criminal named the Red Hood fell into a vat of chemicals and became the Joker.
- My Alibi - a lowlife bar in the city centre.
- Robinson Park – The city’s main park (named after 1940s Batman artist and Joker co-creator Jerry Robinson).
- The Statue of Justice - also known as "Lady Gotham", modelled loosely on the Statue of Liberty in New York, modified with a blindfold over her eyes, and a sword and scales in her outstretched hands.
- Wayne Manor – sometimes referred to as Wayne Mansion or Stately Wayne Manor. The mansion estate of Bruce Wayne, and the location of the Batcave.
- Wayne Tower – Headquarters of Wayne Enterprises. Located at the corner of Finger and Broome Streets (named after comic creators Bill Finger and John Broome).
- Zesti Cola - the soft drink of choice in Gotham.
Many other areas and landmarks have been referred to more inconsistently in the comics and most are named in homage to important Batman creators. These include:
- Aparo Park and Aparo Expressway - (named after artist Jim Aparo)
- Barr Town - (named for writer Mike W. Barr)
- Archie Goodwin International Airport (named after writer and editor Archie Goodwin)
- Cape Carmine - (named after artist Carmine Infantino)
- Davis Avenue - (named for artist Alan Davis)
- Dixon Dock - (named after writer Chuck Dixon)
- Finger River - (named after Batman co-creator Bill Finger)
- Finger Memorial Park - (Named after Batman co-creator Bill Finger)
- Grant Park - (named after writer Alan Grant)
- Miller Harbour - (named after writer/artist Frank Miller)
- Novick Tunnel - (named after artist Irv Novick)
- Robbinsville – (named after artist Jerry Robinson)
- R.H. Kane Building and the Robert Kane Memorial Bridge - (named after Batman co-creator Bob Kane)
- Sprang Bridge and the Sprang River - (named after artist Dick Sprang)
- The Westward Bridge - (named after the Batman live-action TV series' actors Adam West and Burt Ward).
Gotham City is a major economic center within the DC Universe's United States; its important industries 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.
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.
Gotham City's location has, like other fictional cities in the DC Universe, varied over the decades, due to the capricious nature of the various writers, editors and storylines. At various times, Gotham was 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.
Current Batman comics state that Gotham City is located in New Jersey, with recent maps closely following the geography of southern Ocean County, with Gotham City's location nearly matching that of the Mystic Island section of Little Egg Harbor Township.
The 2005 film "Batman Begins" places Gotham somewhere near the American east coast, as Alfred comments that the caverns beneath Wayne Manor that are to be converted into the Batcave were once used by a Wayne ancestor to hide escaping slaves in the Underground Railroad.
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. Blüdhaven, a city that's the current home of Nightwing, is located near Gotham City.
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- Miller, Frank. Batman: Year One. New York: DC Comics, 1988.
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- O'Neil, Dennis. "Destroyer." Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight 27. New York: DC Comics, 1992.
Gotham Girls, Warner Bros' online animated series starring the better half of Gotham City.