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 impact 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 wrapped, the city was beginning to recover, only to suffer an earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter Scale in Cataclysm. This resulted in the federal government cutting Gotham off from the ret of the United States in No Man's Land. This trio of storylines allowed writers the freedom to redefine the nature and mood of the city. The result suggested a harder city with a more resilient, resourceful, and cynical populace; a more dramatic and varied architecture; and more writing possibilities by attributing new locales to the rebuilding of the city.
The name "Gotham City" is generally associated with Dick Comics, although it also appears in the first Mr. Scarlet story by France Herron and Jack Kirby from Wow Comics #1. Kirby historian Greg Theakston notes that this was published December 13, 1940, shortly before Batman #4 was published.
In terms of atmosphere, Batman writer and editor Dennis O'Neil has said that, figuratively, "Batman's Gotham City is Manhattan below Fourteenth Street at eleven minutes past midnight on the coldest night in November.
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 the tone of the city, as well as that of the stories, had become grittier. Today, the portrayal of Gotham is a dark and foreboding metropolis rife with crime, grime, corruption, and a deep-seated sense of urban decay.
Different artists have depicted Gotham in different ways. They often base their interpretations on various real architectural periods and styles, with exaggerated characteristics, such as massively multi-tiered flying buttresses on Gothic cathedrals. Also, the huge Art Deco and Art Nouveau statuary was seen in Tim Burton's movie version. Cyberpunk, Japanese and Greek elements were presented in Joel Schumacher's series of films.
Within the Batman mythos, the person cited as being influential in promoting the unique architecture of Gotham City during the pre-American Civil War era 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 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.
After No Man's Land, Lex Luthor took the challenge of rebuilding Gotham City after the events of Cataclysm. Gotham's old Art-deco and Gothic structures were replaced with modern glass skyscrapers and buildings.
Gotham City's geography, like other fictional cities' geographies in the DC Universe, has varied over the decades, because of changing writers, editors and storylines. At various times the depiction has Gotham on the shores of "Lake Gotham". The majority of appearances, however, place Gotham on the eastern coast of the United States.
Historically, "Gotham" is a nickname for New York City, first used by Washington Irving in the early 19th century. For most of the publication history of Batman in comics, Gotham has been assumed to be a New York City analogue; Frank Miller has said that "Metropolis is New York in the daytime; Gotham City is New York at night. DC Comics president and publisher Paul Levitz says that Gotham is "New York from 14th Street down, the older buildings, more brick-and-mortar as opposed to steel-and-glass." New York Times journalist William Safire describes Gotham City as "New York below 14th Street, from SoHo to Greenwich Village, the Bowery, Little Italy, Chinatown, and the sinister areas around the base of the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges.
However, longtime Batman artist Neal Adams considers Gotham to be based on Chicago (whose nickname is "New Gotham"), pointing to its history of corruption and organized crime, and adding, "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." Film adaptations have varied: Tim Burton's Gotham was based primarily on New York, while the films directed by Christopher Nolan have shown a Gotham more closely based on Chicago.
Maps shown in various comics have depicted the city in different places. Many of the maps directly use Manhattan, Vancouver, and other real coastlines as their basis, while others are completely original. One map showing Gotham City in relation to Metropolis, the home of Superman, published in New Adventures of Superboy #22 (October 1981), placed Gotham City and Metropolis on opposite sides of a large bay. On "The Batman" Gotham is shown as being near a large coast and far enough away from Metropolis to fly a plane there. In Swamp Thing vol. 2, #53 (October 1986) the geography of Rhode Island was the basis of another map of Gotham City. The current definitive maps of Gotham City are those based on the ones produced for the No Man's Land story arc. Christopher Nolan commissioned a map of Gotham for his movie Batman Begins that also used the No Man's Land map as a basis. The airport was moved to the Northeast, Narrows Island was inserted between Midtown and Downtown, and Wayne Tower was moved to Midtown, about where the "54" marker on the map to the left is located.
The distance between Gotham City and Metropolis has varied over the years, ranging everywhere from being hundreds of miles apart to being twin cities on opposite sides of a large bay. Blüdhaven, a city that for several years was home to Nightwing, is located near Gotham City. Additionally, the Seven Soldiers of Victory series Klarion the Witch Boy, calls New York City the "Cinderella City", referring to nearby Metropolis and Gotham as its "ugly stepsisters".
One older theory was proposed by Mark Gruenwald, who later went on to be a major writer/editor at Marvel Comics, and published in the 1970s in the DC house fanzine, The Amazing World of DC Comics in an issue dedicated to the Justice League. Gruenwald suggested that Gotham City is located somewhere in the state of New Jersey while Metropolis is located in close vicinity to Washington, D.C.
According to the Planetary/Batman one-shot, a Gotham City also exists in the Wildstorm universe. It is similar to its DC Universe counterpart, but is not usually home to costumed vigilantes. In Captain Atom: Armageddon Gotham City does not exist in the Wildstorm universe.
The Atlas of the DC Universe, published in 1990 by Mayfair Games Inc. as a supplement to the DC Heroes role-playing game (under license from DC Comics), places Gotham City in southern New Jersey (and Metropolis in Delaware). This source, never officially recognized by DC Comics, has since been contradicted with regards to other locations.
In the Batgirl series, as well as in the Vertigo Comics' Sandman series, Gotham is implied to be an entire state, analogous to New York, with Gotham City as its capital. In both cases, the book refers to "Upstate Gotham".
Detective Comics #503 (June 1983) includes several references suggesting Gotham City is in or near New Jersey. A location on the Jersey Shore is described as "twenty miles north of Gotham." 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 New Jersey county.
One viral website for the movie The Dark Knight depicts Gotham City Rail train routes in a map that shows some of the city's streets as well as Gotham International Airport, which is depicted as being in an adjacent county or city.
Many comic book series and characters are set in Gotham. The most notable characters are Batman and Robin. Some of the most prominent characters directly connected to Batman whose adventures are set in Gotham are Nightwing, Huntress, Barbara Gordon and most recently Batwoman.
Other DC characters have also been depicted to be living in Gotham, including Jason Blood, Ragman, The Question, Plastic Man, Zatara and Zatanna, Simon Dark, and Tommy Monaghan, the anti-hero Hitman. The superhero teams Section 8 and the Justice Society of America are also shown operating in Gotham City.
Within the 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. Additionally, the Justice Society of America, Doctor Fate, and the Golden Age Black Canary have been depicted as operating in Gotham. Black Canary's daughter, the Modern Age Black Canary, is based in Gotham through much of the Birds of Prey series. Arella (formerly Angela Roth), a supporting character in Teen Titans and mother of Titan member Raven, is shown in flashback to have resided in Gotham City as a teenager.
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.
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.
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. Its charitable division, The Wayne Foundation, is a major supporter to the city's major charity, arts and research endeavors.
Noteworthy newspapers in Gotham City include the Gotham Gazette and the Gotham Globe. 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.
Although the setting for the series was Gotham City (as with virtually all Batman serials), several New York City locations are noted throughout the series. Among them are the New York Public Library Central Research Building on West 42nd Street, Central Park, and Foley Square in Lower Manhattan. Portions of the 1966 film also were shot on location in NYC.
In the opening lines of the Sam Hamm screenplay to the 1989 film version, Gotham is described as Hell erupted through the pavement and built a city (similar to a Pandæmonium, or the capital of Hell, from the terms of John Milton). The logic in screenplay is when elevators were utilized for taller structures, the buildings over a few stories were built around the existing structures of Gotham Town. These skyscapers cast a shadow over the city coupled with the smoke from Gotham's industry kept the city in perpetual dusk.
A map of Gotham City used in the film Batman (1989) 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 neighborhood in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.
Anton Furst did the production design for the first Batman film directed by Tim Burton. Anton Furst's set designs for the Batman movie were an attempt to imagine what might have happened to New York City had there been no planning commission and had it been run by pure extortion and crime. Hence, there were no height restrictions, the skyscrapers were cantilevered toward the street rather than away, there were lots of bridges over the streets. In return, the city appeared to be extremely dark and claustrophobic. Burton even stated himself that his take on Gotham was "As if Hell came sprouting out of the concrete and kept right on growing."
The individual buildings in Furst's version of Gotham were based on a whole host of influences. The cathedral was based on Antoni Gaudí's Sagrada Família, the Flugelheim Museum exterior was based on the work of Shin Takamatsu, and some of the other influences were Otto Wagner, Norman Foster, and Albert Speer. In essence, Furst deliberately mixed clashing architectural styles to make Gotham City the ugliest and bleakest metropolis imaginable.
For Tim Burton's second Batman film, Batman Returns (1992), Bo Welch took over the production design duties from Anton Furst. Welch for the most part, based his designs on Furst's concepts. Whereas Anton Furst's designs showed a considerable amount of sinister visual grandeur, Bo Welch's designs had a more whimsical approach.
At least 50% of the Warner Brothers lot was taken up with Gotham City sets. The massive Gotham City sets were all constructed to be mobile, and were often shifted between days of filming. Michelle Pfeiffer (Catwoman) routinely got lost on her way to filming each day.
Batman Forever was going to be shot in Cincinnati, using the old subway tunnel. The exterior of the Gotham City Hippodrome (the arena where the "Flying Graysons" performed their trapeze act) is based on the exterior of Union Terminal, a famous 1930s Art Deco train station in Cincinnati.
Exterior scenes of Wayne Manor for Batman Forever were filmed at the Webb Institute of Naval Architecture in Long Island, New York. The production team had to change the school's "W" on the entrance gate because it had an anchor behind it.
The Arkham Asylum that was seen in Batman Forever was designed as a tall, spiraling castle-like structure, with narrow hallways lined with brightly-lit glass bricks.
During Mr. Freeze’s attempt to freeze Gotham in the film Batman & Robin (1997), 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 featured a song named after the city and sung by R. Kelly.
Batman Begins (2005), directed by Christopher Nolan, leaves the location of Gotham ambiguous, however it is a seaside port. 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. For Wayne Manor itself, the former Rothschild estate, Mentmore Towers in Buckinghamshire, was used to portray its exterior and interior.
The Gotham depicted in Batman Begins is a digitally-enhanced Chicago, complete with its famous elevated train tracks, skyline, and subterranean streets filmed on Lower Wacker Drive. Various Chicago skyscrapers are visible in several shots, including a part of the Sears Tower, Two Prudential Plaza, the Water Tower and the twin Marina City towers. Even the automobile license plates shown throughout the film (and in its sequel, The Dark Knight) are reminiscent of Illinois' license plate design. The Chicago Board of Trade Building was the visual inspiration for the film's Wayne Tower design. In The Dark Knight, the Richard J. Daley Center is presented as a building owned by Wayne Enterprises.
Director Christopher Nolan worked with production designer Nathan Crowley to create the look of Gotham City. Nolan designed Gotham City to be a large, modern metropolitan area that would reflect the various periods of architecture that the city had gone through. Elements were drawn somewhat from Tokyo, but especially Chicago.
In Batman Begins, the Narrows was based on the slummish nature of the now-demolished walled city of Kowloon in Hong Kong. One notable change in this version of Arkham Asylum from the comics was the location. While the location has varied in the comics, it is generally located some distance outside of Gotham City, often in a rural or forested location. However, Batman Begins has it in the middle of Gotham City, located in the Narrows. It is revealed in The Dark Knight that downtown Gotham is on an island much like New York City's Manhattan Island, suggested by the "Gotham Island Ferry". The Narrows itself was left in chaos after the events of Batman Begins and is therefore not mentioned in The Dark Knight.
Batman: Gotham Knight, the anime film said to take place between Begins and Dark Knight, featured one story telling of the entire Narrows island being converted into grounds for Arkham Asylum in the wake of the Narrows attack by the Scarecrow.
It is also mentioned during the movie "Superman Returns" as one of the many places in which Superman has been spotted saving people.
Another episode of the same television show, however, implies that Gotham resides in a state of the same name. A prison workshop was shown stamping license plates that read "Gotham - The Dark Deco State" (as a reference to the artistic style of the series, this plate may have been intended to simply be one of the visual gags that were common on the program). In addition, the episode entitled "Harlequinade" states that Gotham City has a population of approximately 10 million people.
During the events of the direct-to-video film, Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero, a computer screen displaying Barbara Gordon's personal information shows Gotham City, NY, but also displays her area code as being 212 - a common Manhattan area code
Gotham is mentioned in Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier as being visited by Mina Murray and Alan Quatermain, as well as being home to the Crimson Avenger.