Gotham City is by far the most infamous fictional city of all time. With villains galore, and the gothic architecture to match its villainous inhabitants, Gotham City, created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, is a hub of crime and deception. Its streets are caked in criminal activity, whether it be situated from the Iceberg Lounge, owned by Oswald Cobblepot (Penguin) himself, Blackgate Penitentiary, Arkham Asylum, or from the lower depths where giant crocodiles lurk, demons lay dormant, and a court of owls nest among the deceased. Gotham is a city built on crime, societal dysfunction and, albeit secretly, the occult.
However, amongst the darkness and travesty let off by Gotham and its people, a shining light stands heroic and vigilant, intent on protecting the city from itself and from the evil within. That light is, of course, Batman. Created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane in 1939, Batman has always been the dark knight of Gotham City. Leaping rooftops and beating criminals, the Bat is a fundamental addition to the crime-ridden city and transcends as its protector to almost being an inevitability - a product of circumstance - that without Gotham City, there’d be no Batman.
Gotham’s origins are steeped in mystery and have had many incarnations along Batman’s 80-year publication history, and thus, there are many ridiculous things most people will forget about the criminal metropolis. That’s why here in this list we’ve decided to come up with the 25 misremembered facts and/or mysteries about Gotham City that only a devoted comic book fan would be able to remember. This is the 25 things about Gotham City that everyone forgets.
25 Batman Wasn’t The First Superhero To Grace Its Streets
Although the caped crusader is well-known for originating from and establishing his base in or around Gotham City, he wasn’t the first superhero to do so. Indeed, it was Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern that took up the mantle of protector of Gotham long before Batman (at least in modern continuity). Once President of Gotham Broadcasting Company, and varying somewhat from the other Lanterns, Scott’s powers come from The Starheart, rather than a colored lantern, a magical entity created three-and-a-half billion years ago bound with a collation of mystical energies once astray in the universe.
24 Its First Utterance
Gotham itself wasn’t even mentioned until Batman issue #4 published in 1940. Titled, The Case of The Joker’s Crime Circus, this issue established Gotham as the monolithic, grandiose, criminal cesspit we know today, with its dark color pallet and high-rising, impending skyscrapers and its dirty, crime-swollen streets. This is the issue that started it all. Incidentally, it’s also the issue that established Batman’s no-elimination rule, albeit rather incredulously as our titular character still manages to slice open a shark while letting his side-kick, Robin, duck in order to dodge a bullet and let someone else take the hit.
23 New Place, New City, New Me
In fact, Batman himself didn’t truly move his base of operations to Gotham City until issue #48 of Detective Comics in 1941. Prior to this, Batman’s adventures were set in New York City, but Bill Finger, creator of Batman, wanted his own fictional city for the hero, an exploitative playground that is both original yet, identifiable with a number of real-world cities. Henceforth Gotham has been predominantly Bruce Wayne’s city of origin and, in the modern continuity, he has been situated there for most of his life.
22 Gotham’s History According To Alan Moore
Gotham has a myriad of different origins in comics, TV, and movies alike, but the one that most refer to as the established history of the city was written by Alan Moore, in 1986 for issue #53 of DC anti-hero series, Swamp Thing. In this issue, he describes Gotham as being founded by a Norwegian mercenary in 1635 and later taken over by British Colonists (a tale that mirrors that of New York). During the American Revolution, Gotham was the site of a great battle as detailed in Rick Veitch’s Swamp Thing issue #85 featuring the revolutionary hero, Tomahawk.
21 The Gothic In Men
There’s a reason why Gotham is so drenched in gothic architecture, and it’s due to a certain ancestor of Bruce Wayne, the judge and extensive businessman, Solomon Wayne. Bruce’s great-great-great-grandfather moved to Gotham when it was nothing more than a small village, with nothing but a Havard degree, a law book, and a bible.
Yet, with a little initiative, he established a number of businesses and became the most prosperous citizen in just six years.
After meeting architect, Cyrus Pinkney, Solomon decided he’d found the style that suited Gotham best, the Gothic, and thus, promoted this style throughout his remaining years.
20 The Bridges Are Named After The Founding Fathers
Another ancestor of Bruce Wayne (I’m starting to see a trend here) and another impactful set of changes to the now infamous Gotham City. The son of Solomon Wayne, Alan, lived in Gotham his whole life, largely due to his family house being considered haunted, and is attributed as one of the founding fathers of the Gotham City we know today. Along with Theodore Cobblepot (yes, Penguin’s ancestor) and Edward Elliot, Alan commissioned the construction of three great bridges, within Gotham, by step-brothers Nicholas Anders and Bradley Gates, each adorning a respective founding father’s name.
19 Like, What Even Is A Phone Book, Anyway?
The name, Gotham, can be attributed to various historical influences but the one most precedent to fans of the series is the method in which creator, Bill Finger, decided upon it.
While flipping through the New York City phone book, Finger landed upon a store labeled, “Gotham Jewellers.” He liked the name so much, he moved to change his original title, Civic City, to Gotham City and the rest is history. It’s also coincidently the name of a small village in Nottinghamshire, England and derives from the term for “homestead where goats are kept” in Old English.
18 It Was Once Home To A Daemon Bat Creature
Thomas Jefferson was one of the founding fathers of America and a prominent figure in the Batman mythos. Fiction has it that prior to his political incentive, Jefferson was rather interested in the occult. So much so that in 1765, alongside his secret cabal companion, Jacob Stockman, Jefferson summoned the bat Daemon, Barbatos, in an attempt to tame and control it. Yet, inevitably, Barbatos turned against them and attacked the occultists until they were able to seal it in an underground temple situated beneath Gotham. Jefferson abandoned occultism after this point and decided to pursue a career in politics instead.
17 Wayne Tower And Its 13th Gargoyle
Alan Wayne, after the construction of the three great bridges surrounding Gotham, wanted to construct something that would stand tall amongst the city, something that would insight protection and inspiration for the people of Gotham.
That’s why, in 1888, he commissioned the construction of Wayne Tower - the tallest building in Gotham and occasionally the HQ of Wayne Industries and a home away from home for Batman, with twelve gargoyles situated atop to guard each entrance to Gotham City. However, there is a hidden thirteenth gargoyle that works to prevent entrance to the tower from the air. How handy!
16 Greater Creators
On the topic of Wayne Tower, did you know that the streets in which it is situated are named after the two very specific comic book creators? Yes, indeed the tower is built on the corner of Finger and Broome streets, the former an obvious reference to Batman co-creator, Bill Finger, and the latter a less well-known reference to the comic book legend, John Broome, who famously contributed the creation of an all-new Flash, Barry Allen, and the Silver Age Green Lantern, Hal Jordan. Now their names are etched in fictional concrete.
15 No Man’s Land
Gotham City was once a site of a great earthquake as written by, Joseph B. Gorfinkel, in 1999 for the crossover event, Batman: No Man’s Land. Gotham suffers the results of a magnitude 7.6 earthquake and thus, the US government declare it a no-go area, destroying its bridges and evacuating everyone bar the criminals from the city. Bruce Wayne then leaves, disappearing for months in order to lobby the government to rebuild the city to no avail.
Sound like The Dark Knight Rises?
That's because Christopher Nolan took inspiration from an amalgamation of various Batman comics, No Man’s Land included.
14 Lex Luthor To The Rescue
Following on from Gotham’s destruction as per the great earthquake, it fell to none other than Lex Luthor himself to rebuild and reclaim the once towering city. Superman’s arch-nemesis is brought on board after Batman’s failed attempts to lobby the government’s attention and thus the bold billionaire acts to rebuild the city, using Bane, who's been promised a private island of his own, to thwart any disruptions by The Joker. The government inevitably reverses the No Man’s Land order, allowing Gotham to re-join the United States. All’s well that ends well, eh? Bar the mass-destruction, of course.
13 Gotham Has A History Of Turning Doctors Insane
Gotham is well-known to house the malevolent Arkham Asylum, a mental institution for the criminally insane, and one that turns doctors insane. Dr. Harleen Quinzel is a prime example of this. Employed as Joker’s personal psychiatrist, she was set to treat The Clown Prince of Crime’s unwavering mental health issues.
However, she was turned insane by this endeavor, becoming Harley Quinn in the process.
Another is Dr. Amadeus Arkham, who, after founding Arkham, proceeded to go a tad crazy and off his own mother, then wear her wedding dress to mistreat further patients. Got a little bit Psycho up in here.
12 It Actually Has A Street Called Crime Alley
After the destruction of Gotham as per the aforementioned earthquake (check example 11) Bruce Wayne ordered the maintenance of the very scene of his parent’s demise, Crime Alley. Yes, this was the place where Batman was created, where Joe Chill infamously robs and offs the philanthropic Thomas and Martha Wayne in front of their eight-year-old son, Bruce.
Officially titled, Park Row, the inhabitants of Gotham began calling it Crime Alley due to the amount of criminal activity that would surround it. It was also the location where Batman met Jason Todd (the second Robin)…awkward.
11 Humpty Dumpty Get Off That Wall
Ever wonder where all the tacky signage props that once littered Gotham's rooftops have gone? Well, it turns out, there’s a reason why they’ve all disappeared. Humpty Dumpty, or Humphrey Dumpler, was once a faltering repairman, who accidentally destroyed his own house and whose final endeavor labeled him a fool and a criminal as he attempted to repair the Gotham Clock Tower only for it to fall, causing a chain-reaction all the gigantic props on Gotham’s rooftops. This caused the Senate to place a ban on oversized signs and advertisements known as “The Sprang Act.”
10 Gotham, Gotham
Gotham is supposedly based on a number of real-world cities, metropolises that equate to that of... well, Superman’s Metropolis itself. However, there’s one city that Gotham takes its main influence from, the city that never sleeps: New York, New York. A port city with a magnificent skyline, bridges connecting the islands and a dark criminal underbelly to boot it’s no surprise that New York is a prime location to film Batman features.
Described by long-time Batman editor, Dennis O’Neil, as “Batman’s Gotham City is Manhattan below Fourteenth street at eleven minutes past midnight on the coldest night in November”.
9 It’s Implied That The City Created The Bat
Batman has a somewhat reciprocal relationship with Gotham. It produces crime for Bruce Wayne to thwart as Batman in order to fill the hole left by the loss of his parents. It’s even implied in the rather outlandish storyline, R.I.P, that Batman has a backup mental identity, The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh, an ultra-violent and colorful incarnation.
In this particular story, Batman suffers a series of hallucinations, one of which involves an interesting conversation with an omniscient gargoyle, and how the city tends to shape its people. Wayne then laments thatGotham is “[a] checkerboard. A blueprint, A machine designed to make Batman.”
8 The City Was Once Flooded By Riddler
There’s been more than a few climactic, city-flattening disasters to have graced Gotham’s soil over the years. One of which was so ridiculous it ended up pitting Batman against a troop of lions in a bid for Riddler to maintain control of the city after blowing up the water reservoir and flooding the city. In Scott Snyder and James Tinion IV’s major work Batman: Zero Year, with artists Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, and Rafael Albuquerque, Batman’s origin was retold for the New 52, incorporating some elements from Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, such as his long absence from the city.
7 It’s A Crazy Neighborhood
Gotham City is home to many DC characters from all across the super spectrum. We’ve already discussed Golden Age Green Lantern, Alan Scott, but did you know that Gotham also houses such characters as Jason Blood (Etrigan the Demon), Ragman, The Question, Plastic Man (essentially Mr. Fantastic), Zatara and Zatanna (father-daughter magic duo) and Tommy Monaghan, the anti-hero Hitman? It also serves as the HQ for both superhero teams, Section 8 (named after the military designation for "mentally unfit for duty", and the Justice Society of America (the forebear to the Justice League).
6 Wayne’s Moving City
The iterations of Gotham city are myriad and vary from artist to artist and writer to writer, and therefore, its location changes too, depending on who’s at the helm. There’s been many an artist who’ve placed Gotham as a sister City to home of Superman, Metropolis, most notably Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman, which separated the cities by a bay of water. However, Gotham is generally considered to be part of New Jersey as evidenced in Bill Finger and Bob Kane’s original run back in the 30s.
5 Sheesh, Neighborhood Watch Must Be Tough
Now, although the city is filled with numerous heroes and villains alike, the villains, particularly the super ones, beat all. After vowing to rid Gotham of all crime as consequence for seeing his parents taken from at age eight, Batman has largely succeeded in dismantling crime organizations such as the Falcone and Maroni families, he has also been the cause of a variety of super-villains. After all, if it wasn’t Batman, Gotham would never have been subjected to the torments of Two-Face, Riddler or, indeed, The Joker. Maybe it’s him, maybe it’s just something in the water.
4 But He’s A Warlock, Not A Doctor
The mystery of Gotham’s tendency to produce mad villains has been attributed to many a potential source, whether it's its history with the occult, Batman, or the water itself. However, one considerably more elaborative excuse is that a sinister warlock, by the name of Doctor Gotham, lies buried beneath the city.
Imprisoned for his deeds and surviving over decades, Doctor Gotham, exudes his sinister ways, contaminating the minds of all who surround his prison.
Claiming to be the modern spirit of Gotham, Doctor Gotham claimed the name when witnessing the results of his century spanning contamination after escaping from his prison.
3 A Secret Society Has Ruled The City For Years
In Snyder and Capullo’s revolutionary run on Batman’sNew 52 iteration, one of the key additions was the revelation that the seemingly discordant city of Gotham has actually been ruled by an organized crime group known as The Court of Owls for years–ever since colonial times to be precise. Stealing children and morphing them into trained life-takers called Talons, the Court is a violent cabal of the city's oldest and most affluent families, using funds ferocity to establish political influence throughout history. Did you also know that owls are a main predator of bats?
2 Beyond Gotham
Batman: The Animated Series is a huge landmark in the Batman mythos, so much so that every incarnation of the caped crusader has taken inspiration from this gargantuan show. It even spawned a successful spinoff series under the name Batman Beyond, which depicted a newly adorned Batman, Terry McGinnis, fighting crime under the tutelage of Bruce Wayne in a futuristic Gotham. Mixing Akira-styled architecture and a Blade Runner-influenced aesthetic, Batman Beyond was the dystopian Batman series we never knew we wanted. Props to Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, and Alan Burnett and co.
1 Jack The Ripper, In Gotham?
The DC multiverse holds numerous realities and various timelines which shift and change the Batman mythos, taking the essentials and inverting/subverting them in ways you couldn’t even imagine. Take Gotham By Gaslight, for example, an alternate universe in which a 19th century Bruce Wayne is pitted against none other than Victorian serial criminal, Jack the Ripper himself.
In this steampunk, Elseworld Story one-shot by Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignolia, Batman succeeds in foiling and capturing the Ripper, only for him to be shot by the Victorian version of Jim Gordon. Ahh well, you can’t save them all can ya, Bats?