Top 5: Superhero Prisons

In the world of caped crusaders and costumed criminals, what comes after the good guy catches the bad guy? Unless they're the killing type, it's prison; jail; a penitentiary; the pokey.

5. IronHeights Penitentiary (DC Comics)

Created just 10 years ago in the pages of The Flash, Iron Heights remains a dangerous but alluring place. It’s the home-away-from-home for many of the Rogues as well as other criminals from Keystone City and Central City. It’s got a bad rep of bad treatment for its prisoners, but hey, don’t they deserve it?

4. 42, AKA Negative Zone Prison Alpha (Marvel Comics)

Introduced during Marvel’s Civil War era as the super-hero equivalent to a black prison to house both villaind and unlicensed heroes, it’s the brainchild of Reed Richards, Tony Stark and Hank Pym as an idea to make a world with super-powered people safer. Fully automated and placed in the Negative Zone, it’s since been overrun by Blaastar.

3. The Phantom Zone (DC Comics)

Unlike the other prisons on our list, the Phantom Zone isn’t a building or a place – it’s a dimension. Similar to the way criminals were languished on Australia centuries ago, the Phantom Zone was used by the Kryptonian government to house its most dangerous adversaries.

2. Project: Pegasus (Marvel Comics)

Originally intended as a research center, this facility nestled in New York State’s Adirondack Mountains has become one of the defacto place to emprison’s Marvels villains since the 80s. They’ve had a string of superstar security guards from the Thing to Quasar and recently Darkhawk.

1. Arkham Asylum (DC Comics)

Under it’s full title of “The Elizabeth Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane”, it’s classified as a psychiatric hospital more so than a prison… but in the case of comics, that’s more semantics than anything else. It’s become a key component of Gotham City’s darkside, and even inspired a string of video games on shelves now.


  1. Arkham is such an amazing background character. A city within a city. I just love playing through it on that game for PS3. 

    As an honorable mention i’d like to throw in a nom….even though its not actually a superhero related thing, and its function has been repurposed. The Prison from “The Walking Dead” is such an important comics prison. 

  2. Arkham is definitely the undisputed number 1, but I would say Riker’s Island should be on there. It always has supervillains in it and it was the background to the formation of the New Avengers.

    An honourable mention should also go to the Big House, the Hank Pym devised prison where all the inmates are shrunk down to doll sized! Such a good idea.

    Good list otherwise, Love the Project Pegasus, diagram. After this and the recent 9 Realms diagram, I think there should be more diagrams in comics.

  3. I’d be interested to see what didn’t make the lift. The only other prisons I can really think of is the Raft and the prison from Hard Time.

  4. I’m sorry why is there a MERMAID in a blouse in the Phantom Zone? Kind of off topic, I know, but no, serioulsy what could a well dressed MERMAID do on Krypton that would result in her being imprisoned? In the Phantom Zone?!
    Other than that (which will haunt me for the rest of the day, I swear to Zod), great list. I do think the Prison in “Walking Dead” might belong on that list, since that was around the time I realized this book is too Gods’ Blessed Scary for Betsy, and stopped reading.

  5. Iron Heights may be my most favorite single issue ever.  If I could offer a #6, the prison that the Plutonian is trapped on now is quite amazing.

  6. Avatar photo Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    This is almost certainly my love of Suicide Squad talking, but I’m fond of Belle Reve Prison. Belle Reve was where the Squad operated out of, where they were briefed for missions, and where most of them lived. It was a great setting for the series.

  7. The Raft is pretty cool – a mega-max security prison inside of a super-max security prison.  Like a Russian nesting doll of scum and villainy.

    Also, Hulkbuster bases/prisons.  Nowadays convenient hideouts for clandestine teams (Civil War: X-Men for one).  Or the Pens from Age of Apocalypse – come in human, come out freaky…or dead.  Or a gladiator for the guards’ amusement.

  8. TAKRON-GALTOS!!!  (Also, best prison name)

  9. It may be gone from Marvel now, but the Vault was was THE place for storing super powered criminals back in the day.  What ever happened to it anyway?

  10. If we take prison in less literal terms.

    Didn’t Charles Xavier’s mind become a prison muliple times? I know wolverines mind was a prison recently. Basically any X-man mind can be a prison.

  11. There’s the Vespa Prison/Asylum planet from Irredeemable.

  12. You know what’s similar about all of these places?

    None of them can hold a prisoner for more then a couple of days! Ah, security in comics. Never fails….accept when they do fail, quite often. 

  13. Stronghold penitentiary from the Kirkman books is a good one.

  14. no love for the Raft

  15. I vaguely remember Superman having to place Lori Lemaris(sp?) in the Phantom Zone many years ago for the same type of reason as Mon-el, to save her life.

  16. 42…. did they ever release the unlicensed heroes?  In GOTG, weren’t there still people/heroes doing time? 

  17. Takron-Galtos.  TAKRON-GALTOS!  It’s a friggin’ PLANET, people!