Gotham City a "thinly-concealed New York City" and other DC Comics cities

In the Thread Does Gotham City permit handguns? Elendil’s Heir says the following:

The Wiki page for Gotham City has got Elendil’s Heir’s back on this:

Now, I had actually never known that Gotham City had ever been a nickname for New York, so I never recognized that connection. However, Gotham City has never seemed like a disguised New York City to me.

I’ll put my lack of credentials right up front: I am not much of a comic book guy. Mostly everything I know about comic books I know from comic book movies. Those of you more familiar with the DC Universe will, I’m sure, have illuminating observations to share.
My (uneducated) take:

I had always seen Metropolis as the DC stand-in for New York.

Gotham, I had always seen as Chicago (in it’s prominence on the national landscape) and as Detroit (in it’s character).
I had hoped the wiki page for Gotham City would have a full list of other DC cities in the “related articles” section, but no-go. I had intended to list all of the major ones and ask DC fans to share opinions on what city stands in for what real life city.

Though the OP is woefully unable to list the other major DC cities, perhaps someone more qualified will. I know there’s a Central City, but I don’t know enough to say what real life city it may best correspond with.

Interested to see if there’s any debate about Gotham vs Metropolis for a New York City stand-in.

I’ve always thought of it as Metropolis was NYC during the day and Gotham was New York at night.

I am by far an expert but I always though Central City (Flash’s turf) was Chicago and Coast City was LA.

Actually, Metropolis is a real city at the southern tip of Illinois:,_Illinois

And the current crop of Batman movies film in Chicago, so there is at least a touch of the Windy City in Gotham…TRM

Both were NYC in the beginning. Almost every city in comics was New York, just as almost every movie took place in New York. It’s hard today to appreciate how much NYC towered over all other cities at the time. No other city existed in popular culture. Even L.A. barely had an identity in its own movies. If a movie city wasn’t identifiable it was L.A. but that’s just saying it was a sunny backlot.

Batman started as a vigilante and sorta, semi, creature of the night but got cleaned up very quickly. Superman started as a unknown crusader fighting for labor but got cleaned up very quickly. In both cases they existed in the “big city.” There was only one big city and that was NY. It’s still pretty much true today, which is why what Quimby says is taken as the attitude of the books.

DC (and Marvel) have been trying for decades to push their characters into other more-or-less named and identifiable cities to give readers across the country someone to root for. That works about as well as “Hot in Cleveland” being about Cleveland. There is only one big American city and that still is NYC. Every other city in comics are fake New York’s with fake personalities.

:sigh: Siegel & Shuster (the creators of Superman) were from Ohio. Their version of Metropolis was Cleveland. Metropolis was redefined as New York later (even called “New York” for a while in the early 1970’s).

NYC only became the only American city later (as Chrissie Hynde discovered before writing, “My City Was Gone.”)

It was Marvel that set almost every series (except the Hulk) in NYC.

Metropolis was Cleveland and Toronto before it settled in on New York. It’s hard for New Yorkers to appreciate how much New York really doesn’t tower over all other cities.

Metropolis is Cleveland (where both Siegel and Schuster lived) and Toronto (where Schuster lived before moving to Cleveland), not New York. Schuster is known to have based Metropolis’s skyline on TO. [ETA: Curse you, Chronos, I’d have beaten you, had I not looked up just where the Gotham driver’s licence reference was!]

Gotham, FTR, is most consistently* put in New Jersey - first suggested by Mark Greunwald in the 70s, canonized by Keith Giffen in the 80s (an issue of Legion of Superheroes has the Batcave found in the ‘Jersey Sector’ of Metropolis, which covers most of what had been the Eastern US in the 30th century), then made more explicitly so in the first Shadow of the Bat annual, which shows a driver’s licence that states the owner lives in Gotham City, New Jersey. It’s also stated as 100 miles from New York in an issue of Birds of Prey, which would put it either in southern New Jersey, or eastern Rhode Island.

  • It’s rather inconsistent - only a handful of DC cities are given consistent locations** - but Jersey is most consistent.

** Off the top of my head: Happy Harbour, Rhode Island; Coast City, California; Star City, California (and even that’s relatively recent consistency); and St. Roche, Louisiana.

Back in the 70s there was a standard collection of DC urban settings and there was an “Ask the Answer Man” column that offered the contemporary editors’ and writers’ notions of where they wereovated. This is what I can recall off the top of my head–

Superman - Metropolis - wssentially Nrw York and not New York at the same time (because New York also existed)

(None of the fictional settings replaced any real city)
Smallville - Kansas

Batman - Gotham City - also NY but not NY and across the harbor from Metropolis

Green Arrow - Star City - Connecticut

Green Lantern - Coast City - California

Flash (B. Allen) - Central City - Ohio

Flash (J. Garrick) - Keystone City

Hawkman - Midway City - Michigan

Oh, duh…I forgot Keystone City and Smallville being in Kansas (since the 80s), and Central City in Missouri. (… Or maybe Central’s in Kansas, and Keystone’s in Missouri…the two of them are right on the border, and twinned.) :smack:

Smallville’s particularly facepalmy.

Take another look at my location. To be honest, I don’t even like NYC. New Yorkers grate on me. I don’t live in NYC and never have.

What I have done is to read all the history on Siegel and Schuster. I know every book on the history of comics. I’ve read the strips they tried to sell and the newspaper strip they turned into the first Superman issue and all the early Superman comics. Whatever influence they had on Superman and the city he was set in vanished before WWII started. The true war, the one that started in 1939. There is no possible reality in which Metropolis is not NYC. Metropolis is not Toronto and not Cleveland, and never was except for a fleeting moment in the hopes of provincial teenagers who got squashed by the people who counted in a flick of the eye.

And as for New York’s pre-eminence in popular and cultural and entertainment history, I present as proof all popular and cultural and entertainment history. C’mon, anything you care to name - novels, plays, vaudeville, movies, comics, newspapers, magazines - NYC was the be-all and end-all, the topmost and uppermost, the if you could make it here locale, the city that everyone left home for. Every place else was local color.

You don’t have to like it, but you can’t make a serious argument that it’s not true. Popular cultural history is my field. I get tired of reading about NYC but for about a century after 1850 there wasn’t any competition. L.A. has grown into an alternative of sorts, but L.A. is an attitude. (You know what Hot in Cleveland is about? Cleveland? Don’t be silly. It’s about L.A.) If you want a city, you have your choice of New York or New York, no matter what it’s named.

OK, so Metropolis very quickly became New York, but it’s still incorrect to say that it was New York “in the beginning”. And even if Siegel and Schuster’s influence was very short-lived, it still left a legacy: For instance, who would imagine a New York City with only one major newspaper? Yet I don’t think we ever see any real competition for the DP.

Just as added proof, the TV version of Batman had Mayor Lindseed and Governor Stonefellow when John Lindsay was mayor of NY and Nelson Rockefeller was governor.

In any case, NYC was preeminent among US cities during almost the entire 20th century. Compare the number of songs written about the city to those about other cities: there were about twice as many for NY than for Chicago or LA. New York was where it was at, artistically, with a little competition from Hollywood.

Not relevant. Cleveland had multiple newspapers, too: The Cleveland Press, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and the Cleveland News (if not others). And Metropolis had not only the Daily Planet, but the Daily Star. :slight_smile: There were probably supposed to be other papers, but they weren’t relevant to the story.

The thing was that for a couple of boys from Cleveland, New York City was hitting the big time (actually, it was that way for everyone of the era).

There’s the Daily Star (currently…I don’t know when it was introduced as a competitor for the Planet, rather than an out-of-continuity name or alternate universal equivalent thereof).

Which is another Toronto influence - they named it for one of Toronto’s daily papers (currently simply the Toronto Star), which Schuster delivered papers for when he lived there.

Then how come you don’t know how to spell Shuster?


Mostly because I can’t spell, can’t type, and was too lazy to look it up. :mad:

But I did just flip through my facsimile copy of Superman #1 just now.

Why have people been referring to the Daily Star? Because that’s where Clark Kent applies for his job as a reporter. Clark has super-strength as a baby and his parents are dead before the he goes to the unnamed city for a job.

If you were hoping to learn more about that city, you’d be disappointed. It isn’t until the last pages of the first story that you get to see the trademark vertigo-inducing 50 story+ skyscrapers, although they are simple boxes that don’t look like anything in particular. Oh yeah: they’re also in Washington, D.C., the capitol that famously has a height limit so that skyscrapers won’t overshadow the monuments and whose main streets are lined with 13 story buildings resembling those in the panels about as much as Chronos’ post on newspapers reflected reality. This story has been reprinted from Action Comics #1 as Superman’s intro.

The next story takes place out of the country; the one after that in a coal-mining town called Blakelytown; and the fourth story at a football game. Metropolis or not, when we see the city it is entirely from inside scenes or a few close-up street scenes like hailing taxis. Could have been Anywhere USA.

By 1940 the city is named Metropolis and the paper is the Daily Planet. The editor still doesn’t have a name. The city still doesn’t have an identity either. And Joe Schuster wasn’t drawing the city, so whether he was basing memories on Toronto and Cleveland no longer mattered. Battling serious eye problems he drew faces only, and left all the other work to helpers in his studio and outsiders like Jack Burnley and Fred Ray. By 1940, as I said above, neither S nor S had much control over the character. Siegel had been pushed out the year before in favor of Whitney Ellsworth, Mort Weisinger and Jack Schiff.

The best account of S&S’s early years is found in Les Daniels’ Superman: The Golden Age, which comes with the facsimile Superman #1 in Superman Masterpiece Edition: The Golden Age of America’s First Super Hero. The Metropolis we know took several years to gel, and by that time S&S had little to do with the comic.

I could be mistaken but I assumed the OP was speaking about metaphorical stand ins, not physical stand ins. At least that was how I answered the question.

Metropolis & Gotham are BOTH New York. Some famous comic book writer whose name I am too lazy to look up averred that Metropolis is New York in the day time; Gotham is New York at night.

Remember, too, that the comic book industry was based in New York and employed people who lived locally.

I don’t think they’ve ever pinned down Central City, have they? Could be Chicago. Could also be St. Louis or Kansas City (or any other midwestern city, really).