In theory, Arkham Asylum is supposed to be a place for the “criminally insane” of Gotham City to receive treatment. Although it’s supposed to be a place healing, it’s become a repository for many of Batman’s most famous villains. Since it debuted in 1974’s Batman #258, by Dennis O’Neil and Irv Novick, Arkham has held icons like the Joker and Poison Ivy to more minor characters like Mudface and Hatman, and it’s even lent its name to an iconic series of Batman video games.
Despite its stated mission, Arkham Asylum has been a breeding ground for almost as many criminals as its treats. Now, we’re taking a closer look at some of the villains who spent time in Arkham as medical professionals, staff members, facilities employees or had any kind of other official position at the most dangerous place in Gotham.
One of the villains of the ongoing Batman “Fear State” crossover event is Sean Mahoney, Peacekeeper-01. Created by James Tynion IV and Jorge Jimenez in Infinite Frontier #0, Mahoney was a security guard at Arkham Asylum. He discovered Bane’s dead body moments before a vicious attack ensued at the asylum. Mahoney saved two nurses, but as a result, he lost an arm and a leg.
After being approached by Simon Saint, Mahoney accepted a lucrative offer to rid Gotham of Batman as the face of the Magistrate program, which saw Gotham City turned into a police state. Peacekeeper-01 has a very personal grudge against Batman and the GCPD partly because his father was a disgraced cop, who was fired for taking bribes by Batman’s close ally, Jim Gordon. Saint turned Mahoney into a cyborg complete with an extremely advanced prosthesis that would give him superhuman abilities.
Created by Paul Dini, Marty Isenberg and Robert N. Skir, Lyle Bolton was a security guard at Arkham who debuted as the villain Lock-Up in Batman: The Animated Series. As a villain, Lock-Up specialized in incarceration and high-tech security systems. He wears riot gear and wields a steel chain and a baton. While he is a Batman villain, at one point, he was tolerated by the Dark Knight because with the help of KG Beast and the Trigger Twins, he had control over Blackgate Prison while Gotham City was reduced to rubble during the “No Man’s Land” crossover event. This arrangement soon ended because Batman and Nightwing overthrew Bolton. Blackgate was then retaken by the authorities.
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Benjamin Stoner, aka Anti-Fate, was Arkham Asylum’s head doctor. Created by J.M DeMatteis and Keith Giffen in 1987’s Doctor Fate #1, Stoner was chosen as the vessel of Typhon, the Lord of Chaos. Since Typhon possession of him, Stoner himself wasn’t actually a villain. Doctor Fate freed him from Typhon’s influence and thus, Stoner returned to being a human after briefly serving as the antithesis to Doctor Fate.
Hugo Strange has been one of Batman’s most fearsome opponents since he was created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane in 1940’s Detective Comics #36. Following a failed attempt to beat Batman, Strange was put in “city asylum”(at the time, the Arkham Asylum name hadn’t been created yet.)
He eventually escaped, and with that, Gotham became that much more dangerous. With genius-level intellect, the knowledge of Batman’s identity, and mastery of psychology, which he used to tortuous effect on several Arkham patients, Hugo Strange is no slouch, even compared to the fearsome villains of Batman’s rogues’ gallery. What makes the mad professor interesting is that he doesn’t just want to destroy Batman; he wants to be Batman.
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Alex Montez, a former research scientist at Arkham Asylum, was created by Geoff Johns, Rags Morales, and Michael Bair in 2001’s JSA #26. Montez was the host for the powerful corruptive spirit Eclipso. Using his scientific skills, he used his tattoos to harness the full power of Eclipso.
While the majority of the villains discussed in this article are focused on destroying Batman, Montez has usually locked horns with the Justice Society of America. In the New 52 continuity, Alex’s past was rewritten to make him an Arkham research scientist who experimented on a patent with an experimental formula that turned him into Eclipso.
Debuting in Batman: The Animated Series, Harley Quinn was created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm in 1992. Before she was the clown princess of crime, she was Dr. Harleen Quinzel, a brilliant psychiatrist on staff at Arkham Asylum.
As a result of falling in love with her patient, the Joker, through their numerous sessions together at the asylum, Dr. Quinzel lost her mind. Obsessed with the Joker, she loyally helped him in his ongoing fight with Batman. On top of being an expert psychiatrist, Quinn is exceptionally strong and agile. She is also a formidable hand-to-hand combatant. Despite the fact that Harley Quinn got her start fighting Batman, she has since largely outgrown her villainous roles and is much more of an antihero in today’s DC Universe.
Guy Daxdebuted in Grant Morrison and Tony Daniel’s Batman #676 in 2008. He was a respected French neurosurgeon who had quite the dark side. As a closet sociopath, he used the alias Le Bossu and hired thugs that dressed like gargoyles. Additionally, he used a prosthesis and grotesque mask to make himself look like a deformed hunchback figure. Dax was a key instrument in a very sinister plan to destroy Batman.
He infiltrated Arkham Asylum as a doctor, using his clearance to set the Joker free. During his crusade against the Dark Knight, he used a Librium to psychologically compromise the caped crusader. Dax even used his gargoyle thugs to infiltrate the Batcave and attack Alfred.
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Created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane in 1941’s World’s Finest #3, Scarecrow is one of Batman’s most iconic villains. As a master chemist and psychologist with genius intellect, Jonathan Crane uses his trademark fear toxin to terrorize Gotham City.
Although his existence predates Arkham Asylum by several decades, several continuities identify the asylum as one of the places where he practiced psychology, where he tested his toxins on Arkham’s residents. Since then, Crane has found himself as one of Arkham’s patients on a fairly regular basis.
Jeremiah Arkham was created by Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle in 1992’s Batman: Shadow of the Bat #1. As the great-nephew of Amadeus Arkham, he was the inheritor of the Arkham family legacy. He was also the Chief Psychiatrist and Administrative Director of Arkham Asylum. During his time working at the asylum, he was known for implementing unorthodox methods for treating patients.
As the result of his gradual descent into madness, he ultimately became another one of Gotham’s villains. As a result of spending years working with the criminally insane, Arkham became the second Black Mask, taking the mantle from Roman Sionis. When he rose to power as Black Mask II, he utilized Hugo Strange and other scientists to help him.
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