The Gotham Fool
‘I pity the fool who wants to work for nowt and build roads for some poncey king’ - Gotham Fool
Special power: Work shy
Comic Release Date: June 2014
The Gotham Fool (1156 – 2014) is a character with roots in an old story that the Norman King John (who ruled England between 1156 and 1216) intended to travel through the Nottinghamshire village of Gotham to hunt. Since this would mean the village would be taxed to pay for the public highway that would inevitably follow, a plan to feign insanity was hatched to discourage the King from making his journey.
When royal messengers arrived, they found the men of Gotham engaged in absurd tasks. As an 1874 version of the tale puts it, they: “found some of the inhabitants engaged in endeavouring to drown an eel in a pool of water; some employed in dragging carts upon the roof of a large barn, to shade the wood from the sun; others tumbling their cheeses down a hill, that they might find their way to Nottingham for sale; and yet others employed in hedging a cuckoo which had perched upon an old bush”.
Afraid such madness might be infectious, the messengers departed and advised the King to choose an alternate route, at which news the men of Gotham said to one another: “we know there are more fools pass through Gotham than remain in it”. The Gotham Fools are mentioned in the Towneley Mysteries in the 15th century and a popular miscellany, Merrie Tales of the Mad Men of Gotham, was published in the 1600s.
Gotham Fool Facts
1: Bob Kane, one of the creators of DC Comics Batman in 1939, acknowledges his memories of tales about the Gotham Fools as a child was his inspiration for naming Batman’s hometown Gotham City, to reflect its insanity.
2: A nursery rhyme about the Gotham Fools appeared in the anthology Mother Goose’s Melody (1765):
Three wise men of Gotham
went to sea in a bowl
If the bowl had been stronger
my song would be longer
3: Performance artist Simon Raven, whose work is about performing absurd acts in public, questioning our assumptions about what is normal, is from the village of Gotham.
4: Protestors organising against developments that destroy ancient woodland, or economic summits rewriting laws to suit corporations, often use absurd or eye-catching techniques to make their points, just as the men of Gotham once did.
5: Alice Oswald’s debut poetry collection, The Thing In The Gap-Stone Stile (1996), concludes with a long narrative piece called The Three Wise Men Of Gotham Who Set Out To Catch The Moon In A Net.