Amadeus Arkham

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Amadeus Arkham
Publication information
PublisherDC Comics
First appearanceWho's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe #1
Created byLen Wein, Grant Morrison, Dave McKean
In-story information
Alter egoAmadeus Arkham
Team affiliationsArkham Asylum

Amadeus Arkham is a fictional character in DC Comics. He was the founder of Arkham Asylum and is the uncle of Jeremiah Arkham.

Publication history[edit]

He was created in 1984 for the entry for Arkham Asylum in Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe #1. The story was retold and expanded in 1989 in Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth. The graphic novel is interspersed with flashbacks to Arkham founder Amadeus Arkham's life and childhood. The character recently appeared in DC's The New 52 as a protagonist of All Star Western alongside Jonah Hex.

Fictional character biography[edit]

The Who's Who entry establishes that the Asylum was named after Elizabeth Arkham, the mother of founder Amadeus Arkham. The original name of the asylum was Arkham Hospital. Its dark history began in the early 1900s when Arkham's mother, having suffered from mental illness most of her life, committed suicide (it was later revealed that her son actually euthanized her and repressed the memory). Amadeus Arkham decided, then, as the sole heir to the Arkham estate, to remodel his family home in order to properly treat the mentally ill, so others might not suffer as his mother had. Prior to the period of the hospital's remodeling, Arkham treated patients at the State Psychiatric Hospital in Metropolis, where he, his wife Constance and daughter Harriet had been living for quite some time.

Upon telling his family of his plans, they moved back to his family home to oversee the remodeling. While there, Arkham received a call from the police notifying him that serial killer Martin "Mad Dog" Hawkins — referred to Arkham by Metropolis Penitentiary while at State Psychiatric Hospital — had escaped from prison, and sought his considered opinion on the murderer's state of mind. Shortly afterward, Arkham returned to his home to find his front door wide open. Inside, he discovered the raped and mutilated bodies of his wife and daughter in an upstairs room with Hawkins' nickname carved on Harriet's body.

The shock of the murders brings back the memory of killing his mother. For many years, Elizabeth suffered delusions that she was being tormented by a supernatural creature and would call to her son to protect her. One day, however, he finally sees what his mother saw - a great bat, a spectre of death. Taking a pearl-handled straight razor from his pocket, he cuts his mother's throat to end her suffering. He then blocks out the memory and attributes her death to suicide.

Traumatized, Amadeus puts on his mother's wedding dress and takes out the pearl-handled razor. It is vaguely implied that Arkham cannibalizes his family's remains in a shamanic ritual.[1] Kneeling in the blood of his family, he vows to bind the evil spirit of "The Bat," which he believes inhabits the house, through ritual and sorcery. He treats Hawkins for months until finally electrocuting him in a shock therapy session. This incident is treated as an accident by the authorities. Soon after, Arkham freefalls into madness. He continues his mission even after he is incarcerated in the Asylum himself after trying to kill his stockbroker in 1929; he scratches the words of a binding spell into the walls and floor of his cell with his fingernails and constantly belts out "The Star-Spangled Banner" in a loud voice until the day he dies.

Decades later Dr. Cavendish, another doctor in the asylum, believes he is a reincarnation of Amadeus and frees the inmates. Towards the end of the story, he takes another doctor, Dr. Adams, hostage, dresses himself in the dress of Amadeus' mother and relates Arkham's history to Batman before attempting to strangle him. Dr. Adams saves Batman by killing Cavendish with the same razor Amadeus used to kill his mother.

Amadeus' role in creating the asylum, Hawkins' history with Amadeus and Amadeus' descent into madness have become canon and are the origin of Arkham Asylum in all incarnations of the asylum since.

In September 2011, The New 52 rebooted DC's continuity. In this new timeline, Amadeus Arkham is re-established as having been the partner of the bounty hunter Jonah Hex. Amadeus is a psychologist who specializes in criminal behavior and lives in a mansion with his mother. Amadeus often partners up with Jonah Hex in an effort to solve a series of murders that were committed by the Gotham Ripper and even uncovered a child slavery operation run by Thurston Moody of the Court of Owls.[2]

In other media[edit]

Video Games[edit]

  • The spirit of Dr. Amadeus Arkham was featured in the video game Batman: Arkham Asylum voiced by Tom Kane. The spirit of Arkham is unlocked by scanning several tablets scattered around Arkham, supposedly by Amadeus himself. They retell the story of Amadeus euthanizing his mother, the death of wife and daughter by Mad Dog, Mad Dog's death at the hands of Arkham's guards and finally Amadeus' descent into madness. It is hinted (and later confirmed) that Warden Quincy Sharp, who believes that he is Amadeus reincarnated, is responsible for the messages as evidenced by his attempts to kill Poison Ivy, Killer Croc, Joker and Harley Quinn being recorded onto the tablets. While there is no knowledge as to how he attempted to kill them, Sharp mentions his plans to lobotomize Harley and attempt to kill Joker in his sleep, which is thwarted by the Scarecrow. If Batman scans all the tablets and comes back to the security office where he left Quincy Sharp, he will find in his place a final message telling Batman to continue his work. Amadeus' cell can also be found in the game, the entirety of its walls and floor covered with binding circles as in Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth.
  • In the video game Batman: Arkham City, it is revealed that Sharp's delusions of being Arkham's reincarnation were the result of drugs and hypnotherapy delivered by Dr. Hugo Strange with the help of Mad Hatter. Scanning items related to certain inmates reveal that Sharp had treated the inmates abusively, notably by locking Mad Hatter in the physically lowest cell in the Asylum with the clear intent of him never getting out (whether he meant to kill him is unclear) and again trying to murder Poison Ivy by locking her in a cell and letting her die of her Titan overdose caused by the Joker, only for a priest covered in pollen to give Ivy the needed ingredients from the pollen to heal herself. Listening to the Blackgate inmates shows that some of them are aware of Sharp's inhumane treatments towards his patients (having occasionally been victims themselves), as well as Sharp often murdering his patients.
  • A statue of Amadeus Arkham can be seen outside on the Arkham Asylum stage in the 2017 fighting game Injustice 2.

DC Extended Universe[edit]

Like most other incarnations, Amadeus Arkham is the founder of Arkham Asylum in the DC Extended Universe. He was first mentioned in Time Out Shortlist Gotham and Metropolis, a two-part fictional guide to the cities of Gotham City and Metropolis released by Time Out Group, Turkish Airlines, and Warner Bros. as a tie-in for the 2016 film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.


  1. ^ Arkam Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth 15th Anniversary Edition ″This was originally a shamanic cannibal sequence, of which only vague hints, suggestions and shadowy threats remain″.
  2. ^ All-Star Western #4

External links[edit]