DC Cities: Where the Hell Are They?

When reading DC Comics Presents #87 yesterday, I noted an interesting panel in which Superman realized he was on Earth-Prime ("our" Earth) because certain well-known cities of the DC Universe just weren't there.This is interesting, because it represents one of the few clues as to where some of these cities actually are in the DCU's version of the United States. Looks like Gotham shares some of its territory with our New York, while Star City - home of Green Arrow - sits within the borders of the greater Boston. Seems a bit close for comfort, considering the DCU ALSO has a Boston and an NYC. One of my favorite resources for this info is the DCHeroes RPG's Atlas of the DC Universe, which at least attempts to give OTHER states a big city. The Atlas puts Gotham in southern New Jersey (close), and Star City in northern California (pretty far from Boston). Metropolis (which Superman simply can't find in the above panel) is in Delaware, Central City in Missouri, and Midway in Michigan. Not surprisingly, Coast City is in California. The information may come from the Amazing World of DC Comics fanzine, which it agrees with.

But are they really there? Or like the Simpsons' Springfield, are they nowhere in particular? They are iconic cities, so we may think of them as icons, ideas, concepts. Gotham is New York at night, Metropolis is the city in the daylight. That kind of thing. But there's something really satisfying about placing them on an actual MAP.

Alas, there's a lot of conflicting evidence. Metropolis, for example, may have been initially modeled on Toronto or Cleveland. A 1977 Ask the Answerman column places both Metropolis and Gotham adjacent to New York, which unconvincingly makes that part of the world into its biggest urban sprawl. (Incidentally, that column places Star City in Connecticut, Central City in Ohio and Midway in Michigan.) Action Comics #143 has the Statue of Liberty in Metropolis Harbor, making it seem like the city IS New York under another name. The Death of Superman story line and Countdown to Infinite Crisis both place it in the state of New York, if not New York itself. Seems like an embarrassment of riches for a single state. I think I still prefer Delaware.

Where would YOU like to place DC's fictional cities?

22 comments:

Trey said...

I think the DCU Atlas' placement of Gotham and Metropolis are pretty good.

Star City is probably hardest to place--is it east coast, Great Lakes (like in early DCU RPG publications) or west coast?

Anonymous said...

For no specific reason cause I never went there, I always felt Gotham was Chicago.

Will said...

Remember that was pre-Crisis geography. The Crisis screwed up a lot of things around

Anonymous said...

Anonymous- The Gotham architecture probably resembles Chicago more closely than any other real city.

For me, Star City was Seattle, but DC has a "real" Seattle. Metropolis was New York, but DC has a "real" New York, etc.

Best not to think about it and just enjoy.

- Mike Loughlin

Ed said...

I want Gotham City to be Chicago, but the name "Gotham" implies otherwise.

Something I was pondering the other day regarding the "Metropolis/Gotham/New York" problem was what if Gotham and Metropolis weren't cities but boroughs on N.Y.? So Metropolis was like Manhattan and Gotham was like Brooklyn? Just a thought.

Jeff R. said...

I like the midwestern Metropolis, really; having it be the nearest big city to Smallville, as in the version in the TV show of that name. If only there weren't so much evidence of Metropolis having a sea port...

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

I'm from Chicago, and the Star City map in the Atlas was pretty much made up of several cities and counties in Indiana, and one or two from the Illinois side. I thought it was cool to see, but its been mentioned several times that Star City is north of SF that I just thought of Eureka, and of course Seattle. But that Atlas was spot on for Indiana.

Flashes get a KC/KS thing, but further south, I recall an issue from the 90s where Superman visits Jay Garrick, who is down the road from Topeka, which is near Smallville.

Myself, when reading the 60s Hawkman, I assumed Midway City was Chicago. No offense to anyone up there, but why would there be a museum and the Doom Patrol HQ in Sault St. Marie?

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Again, going by the Atlas. And I should add that the Star City map listed the area at the IL/IN border right near Lake Michigan.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

And not to dwell on this, but in the JLA/Avengers crossover, I recall one of the Avengers saying something like the DC Earth was larger and far more populated on the Eastern seaboard. That's what I was going to say until the Atlas was brought up.

Siskoid said...

Actually, I think it was Superman saying Marvel Earth was smaller, but same difference.

The big Michigan town now, of course, is the Question's Hub City.

And then there's the stuff that's not in the Atlas, cities that sprang up later, like Wonder Woman's Gateway City and Blüdhaven. I like the Virginias for the former, and maybe Hartford (another whaling town) for the latter, personally.

Lazarus Lupin said...

Let's put the DC cities in Obama's extra 7 states. See he's from the DC universe!

Lazarus Lupin
http://strangespanner.blogspot.com/
art and review

Quilty said...

I've given this question some thought over the years. I think the key to understanding the large fictional cities coexisting with large real-world cities if to think of the real-world cities as having much smaller populations than the fictional ones. So, Gotham City can exist in northeastern New Jersey, perhaps a greatly expanded Newark that includes nearby smaller cities such as Jersey City, Secaucus, Elizabeth, and so on. Part of real-world New York's 8 million inhabitants would be residents of Gotham in the DCU.

Likewise, Metropolis can stand in for real-world Wilmington, DE, to fit in more or less with the DCU. Metropolis is much larger than Wilmington, of course, meaning that in both area and/or population of nearby cities such as Dover, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Harrisburg, Allentown, and Bethlehem are much smaller than in the real world.

My opinions on a few more cities: Star City is Tacoma, WA, fitting in with the Mike Grell-era positioning of Green Arrow in Seattle. Coast City is Long Beach, CA, home to many aerospace companies. I agree with Central/Keystone as the two real-world Kansas Cities. I think Midway City was situated on the Great Lakes, probably near Chicago, which would fit in with Hawkman's home as being in Chicago in the Hawkworld series. So for me Midway would be a larger Gary, IN. Ivy Town is New Haven, CT, making Ivy University the DCU stand-in for Yale.

Siskoid said...

Obama actually mentions 60 states (he flubbed on the word "forty" then sais 1 to go, and that Alaska and Hawaii weren't included).

10 states is more than enough for the DCU to fit its cities!

Siskoid said...

How far are we from a naming contest?

Siskoid said...

I'll tell ya: About a day away from it.

Needed content for tomorrow, as it turns out.

Bill D. said...

Pretty sure that Happy Harbor, Rhode Island, home of the JLA's original Secret Sanctuary and Snapper Carr, is supposed to be over in the Newport/Middletown/Bristol area of the state.

Robert said...

Boston isn't that big, and it doesn't have a lot of suburbs. Star City must be about a fifteen minute drive from downtown Boston.

Loki said...

There's an issue of Catwoman that seems to imply that Gotham City is located directly across the Hudson from New York City...

And wasn't Hub City based on Chicago?

Siskoid said...

Which would have helped for Robin's commute to Titans Tower!

As for Hub City, I always imagined it as Detroit, but you're probably right.

Friscovi said...

Didn't O'Neil once say in the letter column when he was writing the Question that Hub City was a stand in for East-St. Louis? I'm pretty sure I remember that.

Martin Gray said...

Great article. Those cities do seem to move about a lot - perhaps the DCU tectonic plates are extra scary?

I remember when that DCCP panel appeared, it blew my tiny mind!

Siskoid said...

Sure explains Gotham's earthquake.

 

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