Gotham City in Batman vol. 3, #14
(March 2017). Art by Mitch Gerads.
|Notable locations||Ace Chemicals
Gotham City Police Department
|Notable characters||Bruce Wayne
|First appearance||Batman #4
Gotham City (// GOTH-əm) or Gotham is a fictional city appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics, best known as the home of Batman. Gotham City was first identified as Batman's place of residence in Batman #4 (December 1940).
The city is depicted as being within close proximity to Metropolis, and the vast majority of DC Comics references place Gotham City specifically in New Jersey. Cities such as New York City and Chicago have also influenced the look and feel of Gotham over the years.
Within the DC Extended Universe, the 2016 film Suicide Squad reveals Gotham City to be located in New Jersey. Locations used as inspiration or filming locations for the urban portion of Gotham City in the live-action Batman films have included Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, New Jersey, and New York City.
Writer Bill Finger, on the naming of the city and the reason for changing Batman's locale from New York City to a fictional city, said, "Originally I was going to call Gotham City 'Civic City.' Then I tried 'Capital City,' then 'Coast City.' Then I flipped through the New York City phone book and spotted the name 'Gotham Jewelers' and said, 'That's it,' Gotham City. We didn't call it New York because we wanted anybody in any city to identify with it."
"Gotham" was a nickname for New York City that became popular in the nineteenth century; Washington Irving had first attached it to New York in the November 11, 1807 edition of his Salmagundi, a periodical which lampooned New York culture and politics. Irving took the name from the village of Gotham, Nottinghamshire, England, a place inhabited, according to folklore, by fools. The village's name derives from Old English gāt 'goat' and hām 'home', literally "homestead where goats are kept", and is pronounced // GOHT-əm, like the word goat (cf. Chatham, // CHAT-əm, a similar name where the letters th represent a "t" sound followed by a silent "h" rather than a "th" sound). The Joker references this etymology in Detective Comics #880, in which he tells Batman that the word means "a safe place for goats". In contrast, "Gotham" as used for New York has a different pronunciation by analogy to other words spelled with "th" and is pronounced as // GOTH-əm, like the word Goth.
Gotham City, like other cities in the DC Universe, has varied in its geography over the decades because of changing writers, editors, and storylines, but the majority of references place Gotham City in the state of New Jersey. In Amazing World of DC Comics (March 1974) #14, publisher Mark Gruenwald discusses the history of the Justice League and indicates that Gotham City is located in the state of New Jersey.
In the World’s Greatest Super Heroes (August 1978) comic strip, a map is shown placing Gotham City in New Jersey and Metropolis in Delaware. World's Finest Comics #259 (November 1979) also confirms that Gotham is in New Jersey. New Adventures of Superboy #22 (October 1981) and the 1990 Atlas of the DC Universe both show maps of Gotham City in New Jersey and Metropolis in Delaware.
Detective Comics #503 (June 1983) includes several references suggesting Gotham City is in New Jersey. A location on the Jersey Shore is described as "twenty miles north of Gotham", and Robin and Batgirl drive from a "secret New Jersey airfield" to Gotham City and then drive on the "Hudson County Highway"; Hudson County is the name of an actual county in New Jersey.
Batman: Shadow of the Bat, Annual #1 (June 1993) further establishes that Gotham City is in New Jersey. Sal E. Jordan's driver's license in the comic reveals his address is "72 Faxcol Dr Gotham City, NJ 12345".
Gotham City is the home of Batman, just as Metropolis is the home of Superman. Given the close proximity of the two cities, Batman and Superman often work together and frequent each other's cities. The distance between Gotham City and Metropolis has varied over the years, but the two cities are usually depicted to be within driving distance of each other. This distance has ranged from being hundreds of miles apart to Gotham and Metropolis being shown as twin cities on opposite sides of the Delaware Bay, with Gotham City in New Jersey and Metropolis in Delaware. The Atlas of the DC Universe from the 1990s places Metropolis in Delaware and Gotham City in New Jersey.
During the Bronze Age of Comic Books, the Metro-Narrows Bridge was depicted as the main route connecting the twin cities of Metropolis and Gotham City. It has been described as being the longest suspension bridge in the world.
A map appeared in The New Adventures of Superboy #22 (October 1981), that showed Smallville within driving distance of both Metropolis and Gotham City (Smallville was officially relocated to Kansas in post-Crisis comics).
However, the exact location of the two cities has varied. A map of the United States in the Secret Files & Origins Guide to the DC Universe 2000 #1 depicts Metropolis and Gotham City (alongside Blüdhaven) as being somewhere in the Tri-state Area.
In Swamp Thing #53, Alan Moore wrote a fictional history for Gotham City that other writers have generally followed. According to Moore's tale, a Norwegian mercenary, Captain Jon Logerquist, founded Gotham City in 1635 and the British later took it over—a story that parallels the founding of New York by the Dutch (as New Amsterdam) and later takeover by the British. During the American Revolutionary War, Gotham City was the site of a major battle (paralleling the Battle of Brooklyn in the American Revolution). This was detailed in Rick Veitch's Swamp Thing #85 featuring Tomahawk. Rumors held it to be the site of various occult rites.
The 2011 comic book series Batman: Gates of Gotham details a history of Gotham City in which Alan Wayne (Bruce Wayne's ancestor), Theodore Cobblepot (Oswald Cobblepot's ancestor), and Edward Elliot (Thomas Elliot ancestor's), are considered the founding fathers of Gotham. In 1881 they constructed three bridges called the Gates of Gotham, each bearing one of their last names. Edward Elliot became increasingly jealous of the Wayne family’s popularity and wealth during this time period, a jealousy that would spread to his great-great grandson, Thomas Elliot or Hush.
The occult origins of Gotham are further delved into by Peter Milligan's 1990 story arc "Dark Knight, Dark City", which reveals that some of the American Founding Fathers are involved in summoning a bat-demon which becomes trapped beneath old "Gotham Town", its dark influence spreading as Gotham City evolves. A similar trend is followed in 2005's Shadowpact #5 by Bill Willingham, which expands upon Gotham's occult heritage by revealing a being who has slept for 40,000 years beneath the land upon which Gotham City was built. Strega, the being's servant, says that the "dark and often cursed character" of the city was influenced by the being who now uses the name "Doctor Gotham."
During the American Civil War, it was defended by an ancestor of the Penguin, fighting for the Union Army, Col. Nathan Cobblepot, in the Legendary Battle of Gotham Heights. In Gotham Underground #2 by Frank Tieri, Tobias Whale claims that 19th century Gotham was run by five rival gangs, until the first "masks" appeared, eventually forming a gang of their own. It is not clear whether these were vigilantes or costumed criminals.
Many storylines have added more events to Gotham's history, at the same time greatly affecting the city and its people. Perhaps the greatest in effect was a long set of serial storylines, which started with Ra's al Ghul releasing a debilitating virus called the "Clench" during the Contagion storyline. As that arc concluded, the city was beginning to recover, only to suffer an earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter Scale in the 1998 "Cataclysm" storyline. This resulted in the federal government cutting Gotham off from the rest of the United States in the 1999 storyline "No Man's Land", the city's remaining residents forced to engage in gang warfare, either as active participants or paying for protection from groups ranging from the GCPD to the Penguin, just to stay alive. Eventually, Gotham was rebuilt and returned to the U.S. as part of a campaign mounted by Lex Luthor, who used the positive publicity of his role to make a successful bid for the position of President of the United States.
For a time, the city faces various complications from gang warfare and escalating vigilante actions, due to such events as Spoiler unintentionally triggering a gang war, the return of Jason Todd as the Red Hood, and Bruce Wayne's disappearance during the war against Darkseid. Although Dick Grayson takes on the role of Batman for a time, matters become worse when a complex conspiracy initiated by the Cluemaster results in multiple villains attacking all areas of Batman's life, ruining the reputation of Wayne Enterprises and seeing Commissioner Gordon framed for causing a mass train accident. After destruction caused by the Joker's latest rampage, new villain Mr Bloom sets out to destroy the city so that a new form can 'grow' from it, but Bruce Wayne returns as Batman in time to defeat Bloom and reaffirm his role as Batman.
In terms of atmosphere, Batman writer and editor Dennis O'Neil has said that, figuratively, Batman's Gotham City is akin to "Manhattan below Fourteenth Street at eleven minutes past midnight on the coldest night in November." Batman artist Neal Adams has long believed that Chicago, with its proliferation of mobsters in the 1940s, was the basis for Gotham, commenting, "Chicago has had a reputation for a certain kind of criminality," says Adams, who lives in New York. "Batman is in this kind of corrupt city and trying to turn it back into a better place. One of the things about Chicago is Chicago has alleys (which are virtually nonexistent in New York). Back alleys, that's where Batman fights all the bad guys." The statement "Metropolis is New York in the daytime; Gotham City is New York at night" has been variously attributed to comics creators Frank Miller and John Byrne
Stone gargoyles are commonly depicted on the buildings of Gotham City, such as the thirteen gargoyles on Wayne Tower. Various artists have depicted Batman perched atop gargoyles while keeping watch over Gotham City.
In designing the award-winning Batman: The Animated Series, creators Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski emulated the Tim Burton films' "otherworldly timelessness," incorporating period features such as black-and-white title cards, police airships (although no such thing existed, Timm has stated that he found it to fit the show's style) and a "vintage" color scheme with film noir flourishes. Police airships have since been incorporated into Batman comic books and are a recurring element in Gotham City.
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. However, by the early 1970s, particularly with Dennis O'Neil becoming a prominent Batman writer, the tone of the city, along with that of the stories, had become grittier. Significantly, by the 1970s, Gotham's real-life counterpart, New York, had lost much of its 1960s "Fun City" luster and was beset by urban problems including public fear of rising crime, a declining economy, police corruption and municipal financial mismanagement. In most stories since the 70s, the portrayal of Gotham is that of a dark and foreboding metropolis rife with crime, grime, corruption, and a deep-seated sense of urban decay.
During his run as a writer, Batman scribe Grant Morrison brought about a more optimistic interpretation of Gotham City. As Morrison stated: "If Gotham was so bloody awful, no one normal would live there and there'd be no one to protect from criminals. If Gotham really was an open sewer of crime and corruption, every story set there would serve to demonstrate the complete and utter failure of Batman's mission, which isn't really the message we want to send, is it? You've got Batman and all his allies as well as Commissioner Gordon and the city still exudes a vile miasma of darkness and death? I can't buy that. It's simply not realistic and flies in the face of in-story logic (and you know I like my comics realistic!) so my artists and I have taken a different tack and we want to show the cool, vibrant side of Gotham, the energy and excitement that would draw people to live and visit there."
In the Batman comics, the person cited as an influential figure in promoting the unique architecture of Gotham City during the 19th century was Judge Solomon Wayne, Bruce Wayne's ancestor. His campaign to reform Gotham came to a head when he met a young architect named Cyrus Pinkney. Wayne commissioned Pinkney to design and to build the first "Gotham Style" structures in what became the center of the city's financial district. The "Gotham Style" idea of the writers matches parts of the Gothic Revival in style and timing. In the storyline Batman: Gothic the Gotham Cathedral plays a central role for the story as it is built by Mr. Whisper. Whisper is man who has sold his soul to the devil. Mr. Whisper is the antagonist in the story.
In a 1992 storyline, a man obsessed with Pinkney's architecture blew up several Gotham buildings in order to reveal the Pinkney structures they had hidden; the editorial purpose behind this was to transform the city depicted in the comics to resemble the designs created by Anton Furst for the 1989 Batman film. Alan Wayne expanded upon his father's ideas and built a bridge to expand the city. Edward Elliot and Theodore Cobblepot also each had a bridge named for them.
Christopher Nolan, who once lived in Chicago, effected a depiction of Gotham that featured distinct Chicago architecture. Batman Begins features a CGI augmented version of Chicago while The Dark Knight more directly features Chicago infrastructure and architecture such as Navy Pier: however, The Dark Knight Rises abandoned Chicago, instead shooting in Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, New York City, Newark, New Jersey, London and Glasgow.
Arkham Asylum: Living Hell mentions the "Sprang Act", which forbids Gothamite businesses from advertising on rooftops. It was passed after minor villain Humpty Dumpty over-wound the mainspring of the city hall clock, causing the hour hand to jump off and knock one of the billboards down, causing a chain reaction.
A common theme in stories set in Gotham is the rampant and recurring corruption within the city's civil authorities and infrastructure, most notably within the Gotham City Police Department. During stories set early in Batman's career (most notably Batman: Year One), Commissioner Gillian B. Loeb was depicted as having his hands in many pockets. However, Batman found evidence for conspiracy charges, forcing Loeb to resign his position. Later stories depicted subsequent commissioners as also being corruptible, or open to various forms of influence. In other stories, Batman has had to take on crooked cops, either acting in collusion with supervillains, working for the mob, or on their own. Later stories, featuring James Gordon as the new Commissioner, show the two characters often uniting to purge corruption from the force. Gordon was the commissioner for about 9 to 10 years of continuity, then retired, handing the police force over to his replacement, Commissioner Akins. Recent stories have returned Gordon to the position of Commissioner, unfortunately to find corruption taking a greater hold since his departure.
Corruption escalates during Batman Eternal when Gordon is framed for causing a major train accident and a new commissioner is appointed with ties to the old gangs, but Batman and his allies are eventually able to replace him with their ally Jason Bard, only for Bard to resign when he is revealed to have been working with Hush to destroy Batman. During Bruce Wayne's temporary 'retirement' after he was left with amnesia following his last battle with the Joker, the police department even created their own Batman using various donated technology, with Gordon acting as the GCPD's official Batman, but he returned to his old role in the department after the true Batman returned. In the 1966 television series, Batman, the Gotham City police force was not a focus of the stories.
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Other DC characters have also been depicted to be living in Gotham, such as mercenary Tommy Monaghan and renowned demonologist Jason Blood. Within modern DC Universe continuity, Batman is not the first hero in Gotham. Stories featuring Alan Scott, the Golden Age Green Lantern, set before and during World War II depict Scott living in Gotham, and later depictions show him running his Gotham Broadcasting Corporation.
Apart from Gotham's superhero residents, the residents of the city feature in a back-up series in Detective Comics called Tales of Gotham City and in two limited series called Gotham Nights. Additionally, the Gotham City Police Department is the focus of the series Gotham Central, as well as the mini-series Gordon's Law, Bullock's Law, and GCPD.
Several mayors of Gotham have appeared in the comic book series that collectively form the Batman Family of titles:
Gotham City is a major economic center within the United States of the DC Universe. Its important industries include manufacturing; shipping; finance; fine arts, represented by its numerous museums, galleries, and jewelers; and the production of giant novelty props. In addition to its commercial seaport, it also supports a naval shipyard.
Otisburg is the district in Gotham that runs straight through the northern segment of the island and connects to Gotham County on the mainland.
Burnley is the district that runs at center of Gotham.
The East End is an underdeveloped part of Gotham laden with poverty, crime, prostitution, and the circulation of illegal drugs and weapons. Catwoman takes an active interest in protecting this area.
Old Gotham is the district more well known for the location of Oracle's Clock Tower and the GCPD headquarters.
The Diamond District is a district of Gotham that is home to the city's wealthiest citizens.
Robinson Park is the city's main park. During "No Man's Land", Poison Ivy claimed this area as her own.
Chinatown is a district that is home to a solid and traditional Chinese community. Known for its restaurants and oriental markets, Chinatown residents seem to consider themselves a self-contained community and neither ask for nor feel that they require assistance from "outsiders". The district's main street could be accessed through an ornate golden gateway on Gate Street.
Wayne Manor is the mansion estate of Bruce Wayne and is most commonly depicted as being just outside of Gotham City. The Batcave is located beneath Wayne Manor. It is also known as Wayne Mansion and Stately Wayne Manor.
Batman (1989), the look of Gotham was designed by production designer Anton Furst, who won an Oscar for his work on the film. Wayne Manor's exteriors utilized Knebworth House, a Gothicised Tudor, while its interiors were Hatfield House in Hatfield. The Axis Chemical Works, where Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson) plunges into the chemical sludge, was filmed at a disused power station in Acton Lane, West London. The exploding exterior was Little Barford Power Station, a couple of miles south of St Neots in Cambridgeshire. Tim Burton's sequel, Batman Returns (1992), filmed city scenes entirely on soundstages. Production designer Bo Welch, who took over from Furst, based his designs on Furst's concepts.
When Joel Schumacher took over directing the Batman film series from Tim Burton, Barbara Ling handled the production design for both of Schumacher's films Batman Forever (1995) and 1997's Batman & Robin Ling's vision of Gotham City was a luminous and outlandish evocation of Modern expressionism and Constructivism. Its futuristic-like concepts (to a certain extent, akin to the 1982 film Blade Runner) appeared to be sort of a cross between Manhattan and the "Neo-Tokyo" of Akira. Ling admitted her influences for the Gotham City design came from "neon-ridden Tokyo and the Machine Age. Gotham is like a World's Fair on ecstasy." When Batman is pursuing Two-Face in Batman Forever, the chase ends at Lady Gotham, the fictional equivalent of the Statue of Liberty. During Mr. Freeze’s attempt to freeze Gotham in the film Batman & Robin, the targeting screen for his giant laser locates it somewhere on the New England shoreline, possibly as far north as Maine. The soundtrack for Batman & Robin features a song named after the city and sung by R. Kelly, later included on international editions of his 1998 double album R.
Christopher Nolan has stated that Chicago is the basis of his portrayal of Gotham, and the majority of both Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008) were filmed there. However, the city itself seems to take many cues from New York City: police cars use a paint job that was used by the NYPD in the 1990s, and the same is applicable to garbage trucks, and the Gotham Post seems to have the same font heading as The New York Post.
In Batman Begins, the art deco Chicago Board of Trade Building was used for the film's Wayne Tower, which in the film, was also as the hub of Gotham's water and elevated railway systems. Garrick Theatre stood in as Gotham's opera house. 35 East Wacker was used as the Gotham courthouse. Mentmore Towers in Buckinghamshire was used to portray Wayne Manor. Nolan desired that Gotham appeared as a large, modern city that nonetheless reflected a variety of architecture styles and periods, as well as different socioeconomic strata. The production's approach depicted Gotham as an exaggeration of New York, with elements taken from Chicago, the elevated freeways and monorails of Tokyo, and the "walled city of Kalhoon" [sic] in Hong Kong, which was the basis for the slum in the film known as The Narrows.
In The Dark Knight, Wayne Enterprises, previously depicted as the Chicago Board of Trade Building, was now the Richard J. Daley Center. As Wayne Manor was being reconstructed during the events of The Dark Knight, a digitally enhanced Hfront 71 was used as Bruce Wayne's penthouse. 330 North Wabash was used as Gotham City Hall and houses Mayor Garcia's office and Harvey Dent's office. The climax of the movie on the Prewitt Building uses the then-under-construction Trump Tower. Other Chicago landmarks seen in The Dark Knight include the Marina City towers, Willis Tower, Navy Pier, the Randolph Street Metra Station, and 111 East Wacker Drive. It is revealed that downtown Gotham, or much of the city, is on an island, similar to New York City's Manhattan Island, as suggested by the Gotham Island Ferry. However, while Gordon is discussing evacuation plans with the Mayor, land routes to the east are mentioned. In conversation with Harvey Dent, Bruce Wayne indicates that the Palisades of the Wayne Manor estate are within the city limits. In terms of population, Lucius Fox says that the city houses "30 million people". The film indicates that the city's area code is 735, which in real life is an unused code. Compared to the previous film, less CGI was used in Gotham's skyline.
For The Dark Knight Rises (2012), the production utilized Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, New York City, Newark, New Jersey, London and Glasgow for shots of Gotham City.  Locations in Pittsburgh included the Mellon Institute and Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, and Heinz Field, which is used as Gotham City's football stadium. A scene where John Blake confronts two construction workers at the "Broucek Cement Company" was filmed at the Frank Bryan Cement Plant in South Pittsburgh. In Manhattan, One Liberty Plaza replaced the Richard J. Daley Center as the location for the headquarters of Wayne Enterprises. The JP Morgan Building at 23 Wall Street represents the exterior of the Gotham City Stock Exchange, the area of Park Avenue around 84th Street is used for the scene in which rich citizens are dragged from their homes, and Batman surveys the city from atop the Queensboro Bridge. In Newark, Military Park Station, on the Newark Light Rail, between Orange Street and Penn Station, is used as the subway tunnel through which Catwoman lures Batman into Bane's trap, and Newark City Hall was used as the Red Cross shelter inhabited by Bane's guerrilla army. An address by the president refers to Gotham City as "America's greatest city," combined with a map seen briefly onscreen, confirms that Gotham (which looks more like Manhattan than Chicago, the city that stood in for Gotham in the previous two films) is an analogue to New York City within the movie's universe. A state trooper on the last remaining intact bridge into the city is shown to be part of the "Gotham State Police," suggesting that Gotham City is in the fictional US state of Gotham.
Within the DC Extended Universe, Gotham City is located in Gotham County, New Jersey. In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, paperwork mentions that the city is in "Gotham County", and Amanda Waller's files on Deadshot and Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad reveal Gotham City to be located in the state of New Jersey.
Zack Snyder confirmed that Metropolis and Gotham City are in close geographical proximity to each other, with Gotham City being located on the edge of the New Jersey, separated from the federal district of Metropolis by Delaware Bay. Senator Debbie Stabenow makes a cameo appearance in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as the state's governor.
The Boston Globe compared the close proximity of Gotham and Metropolis to Jersey City, New Jersey and Manhattan, New York. A television spot for Turkish Airlines premiering during the 2016 Super Bowl featured Bruce Wayne (played by the film's star, Ben Affleck) promoting Gotham as a tourist destination.
During the events of the direct-to-video film, Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero (1998), a computer screen displaying Barbara Gordon's personal information refers to her location as "Gotham City, NY", and also displays her area code as being 212 - a Manhattan area code.
Batman Beyond (1999-2001) envisions a Gotham City in 2039, referred to as "Neo-Gotham". The 2008 direct-to-DVD film Batman: Gotham Knight shows Gotham as a large city with many skyscrapers and a bustling population.
Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009) opens with Batman driving Joker from Gotham City to Arkham Asylum. Joker also threatens to detonate bombs across Gotham. In Batman: Arkham City (2011), the slums of Old Gotham City (the northern island) were converted into Arkham City. Inside the prison walls, this part of Gotham contains various landmarks throughout the story, like Penguin's Iceberg Lounge, the Ace Chemical Plant, the Sionis Steel Mill, the Old Gotham City Police Department building, and the Monarch Theatre with the Wayne murder scene in Crime Alley. Most of these locations have major events in the story. In Batman: Arkham Origins (2013), an earlier, younger version of the city can be seen than that of other games in the Batman: Arkham series. In addition to the northern island, this installment in the series lets players explore a new southern island, connected to the former by the Pioneer's Bridge. In Batman: Arkham Knight (2015), the Central Gotham City is five-times larger than Old Gotham.
Lensed seemingly entirely indoors or on covered sets, pic is a magnificently atmospheric elaboration on German expressionism. Its look has been freshly imagined by production designer Bo Welch, based on the Oscar-winning concepts of the late Anton Furst in the first installment. Welch's Gotham City looms ominously over all individuals, and every set-from Penguin's aquarium-like lair and Shreck's lavish offices to Bruce Wayne's vaguely "Citizen Kane"-like mansion and simple back alleys-is brilliantly executed to maximum evocative effect