July 22, 2012

The Question of Gotham City - Answered

Note - I have just seen the newly released movie The Dark Knight Rises - and will be referring to it, but I will try not to include any spoilers.  That said - it may be possible that something I say may some how trigger something in the mind of someone that may inadvertently spoil their movie going experience.  So, that said, if you have not seen the movie and do not wish to risk it - don't read any further.

Still here?  Ok.  Good, on with the show.

For as long as I've known about Batman and Superman, I've often wondered - which hero's city is New York.  I know, it's a pretty dumb question, especially since the DC universe actually has a New York, but still I couldn't settle the issue in my head. Eventually, primarily due to Superman's role as the unofficial spokesman for the DC universe, and the real-world Chicago's tendency toward crime and corruption at the highest of levels - I decided that Metropolis must be New York, and Gotham must be Chicago.

This view was propped up - in my mind - when the last Batman movie - The Dark Knight - was shot primarily in Chicago, and even included the city's notable use of "upper" and "lower" multilevel stacked streets.

However - the most recent movie destroyed any such notions for me. And, again, I'm trying not to give anything away - but when the President of the US comes on TV and talks about Gotham City, he calls it "our greatest city". There is also a stock exchange located in Gotham.  And the fact that the city is made up of islands connected by bridges.

Not to mention that much of the styling of the Gotham Police uniforms is clearly based on the NYPD.

Of course, the question has been answered famously by comic icon Frank Miller, who said "Metropolis is New York by day, Gotham is New York at night."  This was a shortened version of a quote by Batman writer Dennis O'Neil who said something to the effect of (and there are differing versions of this quote, but here is one of them), "Gotham is Manhattan below Fourteenth Street at 3 am, November 28 in a cold year. Metropolis is Manhattan between Fourteenth and One Hundred and Tenth Streets on the brightest, sunniest July day of the year."

Of course, trying to nail down the location of a fictional place is like trying to nail jello to the wall. It keeps moving and sliding around.

For example, the question was answered in 1990, when DC actually released an atlas of the Earth as it exists in their fictional universe.  The answers there were, um, surprising.

According to the book "The Atlas of the DC Universe" [interactive map - scan from the book - Amazon Link] published in 1990, Gotham is in New Jersey.  It is not Jersey City or even Newark.  It's actually closer to Atlantic City.

Also on that map, Metropolis, and this makes no sense at all, but it's in Delaware.  I don't know of a single city in Delaware that would be even close to being Metropolis, but the location on this map puts it on top of a city called Lewes at Cape Henlopen.  (Note, the "Cape" name is the actual real-world name, not some made-up comic book name.)

So, there you have it.  Neither city is New York.  Gotham is in Jersey, and Superman is flying around Delaware for some reason.

Keep in mind, the aforementioned book was for a game - the DC Heroes role playing game - and is probably not even close to being considered "canon".  (My fellow comic book / sci-fi geeks know what that word means, and probably are the only ones reading this anyway, so I won't explain it further.)

Personally, I'm going to keep thinking Metro is NYC and Gotham is Chicago. That stops my brain from hurting.

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