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Friday, March 11, 2011

Geography of the DC Universe


While the Marvel Universe has always been billed as "the world outside your window" (despite the disappointing lack of radioactive Spider-Men outside my window...) and uses a reasonable facsimile of the real New York City as the backdrop for many of its stories, the DC Universe (home of Batman and Superman) has, from the earliest days of Gotham City and Metropolis, presented geography further removed from our world, one which features several major fictional cities.

Siskoid, of the excellent Siskoid's Blog of Geekery, recently asked his readers to take a list of ten of DC's most notable fictional cities and assign them a fictional state, along with the general location of where that state would be (the Earth of the DC Universe is physically larger than our world, so these new states would simply fit in and around existing ones).

I left my response in the comments section of that post, but had so much fun doing it, I thought I'd expand on my answers here. So get ready for one of my geekiest posts ever. Below are the list of the fictional cities, the name of the state I created in which to house each city, that state's approximate location and my reasoning behind the state name (as well as known facts from comic books and other official DC sources about the cities).

(And be sure to check out Siskoid's original post and the comments section thereof, as there are tons of great answers. I'm personally kicking myself for not coming up with Polk, one of the presidents most responsible for America achieving it's "Manifest Destiny", as a state name).


1. Metropolis - Home of Superman


Known Facts: Somewhere in New England, sometimes thought to be in Delaware. Metropolis has also famously been described as "New York City in the daytime", or the positive aspects of major urban cities.  

My Fictional State: Plymouth (somewhere on the NE seaboard, north of New York City)
In the real world, the colony of Plymouth was one of the earliest successful English colonies in America (it's the colony the people we think of as Pilgrims founded) but was eventually annexed by the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which comprised a good chunk of New England (including present day Massachusetts).

So I figured in the larger DC Universe the Plymouth colony stuck around, and eventually got turned into a state just like its other colonial brethren. And being one of the first English colonies, it's fitting that it would house the city of one of comics' first super heroes. 


2. Gotham City (and Blüdhaven) - Home of Batman (and his associates)


Known Facts: If Metropolis is New York City during the day, than Gotham is New York at night, representing the seedy underbelly of the urban megacity. Some comics have suggested that Gotham (and it's downriver sister city, Blüdhaven) is located in New Jersey.

My Fictional State: New Wales (south of New York, in and around New Jersey)
I figure that if, after the Dutch ceded their colony of New Netherlands and its capital New Amsterdam to England and both got renamed New York in honor of the Duke of York (the title usually bestowed upon the king's second-eldest son), then at some point on the larger American continent of the DC Universe, there would have been a colony named for the king's eldest son, the Prince of Wales, which would eventually become the state of New Wales, home of Gotham City.


3. & 4. Central City and Keystone City - Home of the Golden Age Flash (Keystone City) and the Silver Age Flash (Central City)


Known Facts: In modern comics, Central and Keystone are considered "twin cities" located across a river from one another (sometimes outright stated as being in Missouri and Kansas, respectively).

My Fictional State: Sioux (Central City) and Platte (Keystone City) (in the Plains region, south of the Dakotas, west of the Mississippi).

If one were to name a state after one of the dominate Native American  tribes in the Midwest, as I've proposed here, the more correct name would be "Lakota", as it is more specific to the region in which  I envision this state to be. "Sioux" is more generic and can apply to several different ethnic groups within the Great Sioux Nation, but I figure, in the course of the DC Universe's American history, it makes sense that the US would appropriate the less accurate term for a state name.

The state of Platte, meanwhile, comes from the river of the same name that flows from the Missouri river through Nebraska and into eastern Colorado and Wyoming, serving as a significant watershed for the Great Plains region. Like the Missouri, Mississippi and Ohio rivers, it deserves to have a state named after it.


5. Midway City - Home of the Silver Age Hawkman, Hawkgirl and the Doom Patrol.

Known Facts: Considered a Midwestern city loosely modeled on Chicago, it was once thought to be in Illinois, but recent sources put in near Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. 

My Fictional State: Tippecanoe (between Illinois and Indiana)
Named for the 1811 Battle of Tippecanoe, which occurred in present day northwest Indiana and broke the power of Native American leader Tecumseh's growing confederation of Indian tribes. Later, William Henry Harrison would parlay his success as the general leading the US forces in the battle into a historically-short term as President of the United States.


6. Coast City - Home of Green Lantern Hal Jordan.


Known Facts: Once destroyed by Mongul (which drove Hal Jordan to become an insane super-villain for awhile), it's since gotten better. Definitively located in Californa, it is considered to be located specifically in northern California, between San Fransisco and Green Arrow's Star City (see below), though it is often portrayed as analogous to San Diego or Los Angeles.

My Fictional State: North California (north of Californa, natch)
We already have a North Dakota, a West Virgina and a South Carolina, so why not a North California, especially since the size of California as it is caused some consternation in Congress when it applied for statehood?


7. Star City - Home of Green Arrow


Known Facts: In modern comics it is depicted as roughly analogous to San Fransisco, though further north than San Fransisco's actual location.  

My Fictional State: Columbia (south of Oregon, north of North California)
Named for the Columbia River (another historically significant river) which, in our world, helps divide Washington from Oregon. Because Coast City and Gateway City (below) are both also depicted as Northern California cities, I broke two of them off into their own state of North California. But since Star City is usually considered the northernmost of the three cities, I extended it even further north, putting it in a state just south of Oregon and in the Pacific Northwest (which is an homage to Green Arrow's time in Seattle during Mike Grell's landmark run).


8. Gateway City - Home of the Golden Age Mr. Terrific, the Silver Age Spectre, and, for a time, Wonder Woman.


Known Facts: Another northern California city similar to San Fransisco. 

My Fictional State: Also in North California (I figure Coast City would be the capital, with Gateway City the center of North California's industry). With so many northern California/San Fransisco-esque cities, I figured I needed to lump at least two of them into one state.


9. Fawcett City - Home of Captain Marvel and the Marvel family.


Known Facts: A Midwestern city, alternately said to be in either Wisconsin or Minnesota, with an old-fashioned (circa 1940s/1950s) Art Deco look to it.

My Fictional State: Superior (somewhere southeast of Minnesota and north of Wisconsin)
Taking its name from the Great Lake, it would be a relatively small and insular state, but have frontage on Lake Superior to drive its economy. And true to Captain Marvel's personality, its placement in the fictional DC United States wouldn't deny Minnesota or Wisconsin their frontage on the lake.   


10. Opal City - Home of Starman and Elongated Man


Known Facts: An eastern city with a port, said by the writer who gave it much of its character to be in Maryland. 

My Fictional State: Chesapeake (on the Eastern seaboard, near Chesapeake Bay)
Chesapeake Bay drove the commerce of early Delware, New Jersey, Maryland, Virgina and North Carolina (and access to it led to quite a few border disputes amongst those same states) so it makes sense that a larger country would create a state named for this significant waterway. 

21 comments:

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

you know, this is possibly the nerdiest post by you ever, but probably not in the way you think. Yeah, the comic stuff is nerdy, but to me, the nerdy Coup de Grace is your ridiculous knowledge of american history and geography.
You need to really jump into the alternate history genre. For reals

Teebore said...

@Falen: the nerdy Coup de Grace is your ridiculous knowledge of american history and geography.

To be fair, I just finished reading a book called "The Shape of the States" which discussed why the various borders of the states are where they are, so some of the geography stuff was fresh in my mind.

That said, I'd love to write some alternate history someday. I just need to come up with a good hook...

Anne said...

ha! i too was going to comment on the extreme nerdiness of the geography and the US History

DC universe isn't too keen on cities in the south are they?

Teebore said...

@Anne: DC universe isn't too keen on cities in the south are they?

No, they're not, for whatever reason. I get that many of the writers (especially in the old days) worked in and around New York, so that explains the Eastern bias, but otherwise...???

Hannah Kincade said...

I tried to comment like 5 times and my stupid work computer wouldn't let me.

To sum up,

Yes, nerdiest post.
I appreciate you mentioning the difference between Sioux and Lakota.

Hannah Kincade said...

oh and THIIIIIS IS THE FOREST OF NO RETUUUURN!

Teebore said...

@Hannah: I appreciate you mentioning the difference between Sioux and Lakota.

I appreciate you appreciating it. It makes the extra nerdiness worthwhile.

Siskoid said...

Be assured, this extra credit work WILL be taken into account!

Dr. Bitz said...

"To be fair, I just finished reading a book called "The Shape of the States" which discussed why the various borders of the states are where they are..."

That's not helping your argument.

Anyway, is it me or does the DC Universe have a costal bias? They just lump everything into either around New England or in California. I mean, shouldn't Gateway City be analagous to St. Louis?

And is that a star-shaped forrest in the middle of Star City? If this was the real world, that would have been paved over years ago.

Siskoid said...

Coastal makes sense because the archetypal superhero city has bad guys or bad tech coming over on boats during the night, but yeah, I'd love more variety too.

DC has explored the South, but usually with real world cities like El Paso. But yeah, nowhere near.

Blitz: The forest in Star City just sprang up during Brightest Day, so they haven't had the chance to create that huge car park yet.

Teebore said...

@Siskoid: Be assured, this extra credit work WILL be taken into account!

Ha! Thanks. Really, it was just too much fun to not expand on.

@Dr. Bitz: That's not helping your argument.

Quiet you.

Anyway, is it me or does the DC Universe have a costal bias?

And not even a full coastal bias: I was thinking there had to be at least ONE Gulf Coast city for which I could create the state of Jefferson, but no, everything had to be New England or California.

And is that a star-shaped forrest in the middle of Star City?

The forest in Star City just sprang up during Brightest Day, so they haven't had the chance to create that huge car park yet.


Also, I think it's mystically protected by Deadman or something. I haven't actually read "Brightest Day", I've just picked up a few random details about it along the way.

Jeff R. said...

Well, the pseudo-in-continuity Apex City (Martian Manhunter) is almost certainly in Florida, so there's a little bit of Southern representation there...

Teebore said...

@Jeff R:Well, the pseudo-in-continuity Apex City (Martian Manhunter) is almost certainly in Florida, so there's a little bit of Southern representation there...

That could be my "state of Jefferson" city!

Was Apex City in the old Silver Age Martian Manhunter stories, or the Ostrander/Mandrake series from the 90s?

Jeff R. said...

Based on the Silver Age stories, but it itself is a fan-invention that only just barely has a claim to canon due to having been propogated to a DCU encyclopedia a short while back.

See http://absorbascon.blogspot.com/2010/12/i-hate-to-gloat.html

and other links from the Apex City tag there for details.

Teebore said...

@Jeff: it itself is a fan-invention that only just barely has a claim to canon due to having been propogated to a DCU encyclopedia a short while back.

Thanks for the links! Now that I get there, I remember reading about it the first time...

Jay Amabile said...

This is a subject that is always highly contested. Thanks for mentioning the Gotham/Bludhaven/New Jersey correlation. If anyone is interested I recently posted about that topic specifically: http://thesexyarmpit.blogspot.com/2011/02/gotham-city-nj.html

Teebore said...

@Jay: Thanks for mentioning the Gotham/Bludhaven/New Jersey correlation.

For whatever reason, I've always liked the idea of Gotham as being in New Jersey.

Thanks for stopping by!

Blam said...


I wish I'd been able to participate in this at the time; I love this stuff.

@Teebore: I just finished reading a book called "The Shape of the States" which discussed why the various borders of the states are where they are, so some of the geography stuff was fresh in my mind.

@Dr. Bitz: That's not helping your argument.

What he said. 8^)

I suppose that this has already been addressed, but the main reason why there are so many fictional coastal cities is likely because, well, coasts are pretty helpful plot springboards. You want as many geographic elements as possible, granted, from the inner city to rural farmland to forestry to stark mountain ranges. Having international airports, however — plus, in the old days especially, "the docks" — is key.

Establishing Metropolis as being in Kansas, close to Smallville, on Smallville was extremely shortsighted. It's highly unlikely, no offense to Kansas, that a city located there would be home to Luthorcorp, to the nation's if not the world's premier newspaper (if that's what The Daily Planet is supposed to be on Smallville, which given the headlines and the way it operates I'm not always sure is the case), and by extension to an increasingly globally aware Clark Kent not only now but in his future as Superman.

I could go on at length about where Metropolis and other locales are in my mind, but mostly it all gibes with those suggestions made in an old issue of The Amazing World of DC Comics (DC's in-house fanzine) and Mayfair's later Atlas of the DC Universe done in conjunction with its DC RPG and based on the AWODCC material with changes relevant to post-Crisis continuity. The idea of DC's Earth literally being larger than ours to accommodate the fictional cities is neat; coming up with fictional states, however, while fun, conflicts with the stories themselves too much for me to want to indulge, since to my mind the whole point of such exercises is to reconcile contradictions and explain unspoken plot points with as few new contradictions or whole-cloth inventions as possible.

Teebore said...

@Blam: plus, in the old days especially, "the docks" — is key.

Seriously. Back in the day (still, really) you couldn't be a super-villain without dock-access.

Establishing Metropolis as being in Kansas, close to Smallville, on Smallville was extremely shortsighted.

I don't even watch Smallville anymore, and that still drives me nuts.

Blam said...


I stopped watching Smallville in Season Two or so, then came back to it a while later, then gave up again... After I picked up the first five seasons on DVD really cheap I started using them to spell periods of little new TV, when I couldn't focus on writing or reading and the Internet was out and I needed a distraction, but even that never really became a habit until friends told me that Season Nine was pretty good and they announced that Season Ten would be the last. So I've been catching up on disc since last summer while watching new episodes live and should be up to date before next month's push to the finale.

The show is still infuriating from both the perspective of fealty to comics continuity (any version) and the simple question of how Clark Kent could even possibly become Superman at this point, as well as flat-out empirically not very good — in case you were wondering. 8^)

VW: Dentsel — Hansel and Gretel's floss-obsessed brother.

Teebore said...

@Blam: The show is still infuriating from both the perspective of fealty to comics continuity (any version) and the simple question of how Clark Kent could even possibly become Superman at this point, as well as flat-out empirically not very good

Tell me about it. I gave up, oh, season four, season five? In any event, I remember checking back in for the 100th episode shortly after checking out, and the frustration that episode filled me with confirmed my decision to leave as well.

I have been following the most recent season thanks to an episode by episode review conducted by Chris Sims and David Uzumeri over at Comics Alliance , and their enjoyment of the show at this point comes mainly from the portrayal of Lois and how unabashedly, awesomely bad everything else is, and from what I've read, it sounds like Clark becoming Superman is almost an afterthought at this point, what with all the other super heroes, even and especially Supergirl, running around.

I still have designs on going back and catching up with it all someday, for the unintentional comedy and novelty of it if nothing else, but its hard to find the motivation, if not the time on top of everything else.