Metropolis, Gotham City and New York City

I was a Marvel fan growing up and more of a Vertigo fan in my 20s, but I’m familiar enough with the DC universe to know that, in addition to Gotham City and Metropolis, the world of Super- and Batman includes New York City, the inspiration for both fictional cities.

(At least I think it does. If I’m wrong, well, this’ll be a really short thread.)

After reading a couple of Superman collections this weekend, I have some questions about the three:

  1. In the DC Universe, which is the biggest of the 3? Which is smallest?

  2. Is NYC still the cream of the crop US city, or does either Gotham or Metropolis have that honor?

  3. Where are the three cities in relation to each other?

  4. Are there any major cities (like, say, Boston) that aren’t in the DCU and that are “replaced” by Gotham or Metropolis?

  5. The big, catchall question: what role do Gotham and Metropolis play in US and international culture?

Basically, compare and contrast NYC, Gotham and Metropolis, please. Thanks.

Not an answer but here’re the Wikipedia articles on the two:

Apparently, Gotham is in NJ and Metropolis is in DE. With DC in MD/VA and New York in NY, that part of the coast must be *incredibly * crowded.

It’s also been mentioned that Metropolis is the best of New York while Gotham City is the worst. Then again, I’ve read where Metropolis is modeled on Montreal.

I could more easily picture Toronto being the model, as it’s the home town of Superman cocreator Joe Shuster.

In any case, Gotham and Metropolis are East-coast cities. In one of the last Pre-Crisis stories, Superman accidentally ends up on “Earth Prime” i.e. this world, where superheroes exist only in fiction, except for a local teenager named Clark Kent who, in addition to being teased for his goofy name, is about to discover his powers and true origin.

Anyhoo, while getting his bearings, Superman does a quick visual scan of Earth, noting: “Hold it! The Earth’s there all right… but everything’s out of place! New York is sprawled out all over where Gotham is supposed to be…Boston suburbs cover Star City [base of operations for Green Arrow and Black Canary] – and Metropolis is… Metropolis is nowhere to be seen!”

There’s a bit of a cheat there at the end, but it does establish the pre-crisis Gotham bordered NYC, possibly over “real-world” Brooklyn or Queens.


I meant Toronto.

Do the movies count?

Because in the First Superman movie, Superman takes Lois flying around Metropolis, and they see the statue of liberty.

In Batman Forever, Two Face drives a helicopter in the the Statue of liberty, though I can’t remember if it was supposed to be the real one.

I’m not sure which is supposed to be larger – NYC or Metropolis – but Gotham must be the smallest of the three, since it lost billions in real estate and millions of citizens during the events of No Man’s Land.

With Lexcorp and STAR Labs in Metropolis, and Wayne Enterprises in Gotham, both are obviously fairly major commercial/scientific centers. (Actually, I’m not entirely sure if STAR is headquartered in Metropolis or at one of their other locations, but they do operate there.)

Back in the '70s I read a sort of “alternate” Superman comic where baby Kal-El arrives on Earth “today” (i.e., the mid-70s) and his spaceship is recovered by U.S. Navy frogmen (narrowly beating out the Soviets) and he grows up as a ward of the U.S. government. Fast-forward to the year 2000 – Clark Kent is now an anchorman on the 3-D TV news, and he announces that the entire urbanized area running from Boston to Washington is being merged into a single new city: Metropolis!

Which, come to think of it, might not be a bad idea . . . but that would be a discussion for GD.

I’ve heard it said that Gotham is New York during night, and Metropolis is New York in the day.

Hunh. And all this time, I thought Metropolis was in Illinois.

Toronto? Don’t you guys mean Cleveland? All this time, I’ve been told that Supes is one of my homeboys… Whence cometh this confusion?

Joe Shuster (the artist) was from Toronto and moved to Cleveland as a child, where he eventually met Jerry Seigel (the writer) and the two of them colaborated on various science-fiction projects through the thirties before finally selling their big idea; Superman.

Then what is New York City itself… endless twilight?

NYC was the home of Firestorm.

Obviously not canon, but in Smallville, you can see Metropolis on the horizon, so it’s in Kansas.

Just to clarify, I am specifically wondering about current DC continuity. I know that both Gotham and Metropolis were in part based on NYC, and may at various points in the past have been NYC.

Bryan Ekers, that’s a pretty interesting story about where DC reality and our reality overlap.

Does NYC exist in current DC continuity? Are any heroes based there? Is it bigger than Metropolis, or not as big? And I’d guess that once Metropolis got all its B13 upgrades that it’s now the biggest ‘n’ brightest city in the DC US, kind of like NYC is here.

NYC does exist in the DC universe. In the recent JLA/Avengers miniseries, they made a point that DC’s Earth is somewhat larger than the Marvel Earth (which is comparable to our Earth) and so when the two Earths were almost merged, it was going to destroy everything.

Well, if you want to get persnickety, Metropolis could be in one of the states bordering Kansas. I remember the scene where a few of the chracters were looking at the distant Metropolis. I think it may been at sunset, which would give a clue what direction they were looking in, or it might be possible to extrapolate from visible constellations…

Ahem. In any case, the Smallville writers have portrayed Metropolis as a midwestern city, like Chicago or Kansas City, unlike the Atlantic-coast comic book version.

I can’t comment on the size, but NYC does exist, and the Outsiders are based there (in a 9-city-block spanning former bomb shelter under Brooklyn). IIRC, the Justice League was based there for a time, I don’t know if the current incarnation is.

The current JLA base is on the moon, but the JSA are based in NYC.

Additional trivia: For awhile in the '80s, the JLA was based in Detroit. It was a less-than-stellar time for the Justice League.