Bagged & Boarded: DC Geography 101 - Where in the World is Clark Kent?
by Jeff Ritter
Published: April 2, 2008
Where in the world is...Clark Kent?
No, no. He's not missing. He's in the Justice League, his own titles, guest appearances and so forth. No, I mean where is he geographically? Get out your atlases, school is now in session.
Let's start out with an easy one, multiple choice.
If you live in the Marvel Universe, you most likely reside in __________.
a. Menomonie, Wisconsin
b.Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
c. Fullerton, California
d. New York, New York
As long as you've read ANY Marvel comic other than the old West Coast Avengers or the England-based Excalibur, you've no doubt picked New York. Ding-ding! CORRECT! Double or nothing if you can actually find it on a map (you'd be surprised how few can these days...and remember, some day you'll have to elect one of these idiots -- oh wait, never mind). This was mostly a case of "doing what you know" and in the glory days of the Mighty Marvel Bullpen, everyone making Marvel comics lived in New York. With so many Marvel characters bopping around the Big Apple, I'm always disappointed when I watch a Marvel movie and don't see some crossovers. I mean, why couldn't a CGI Human Torch wave as he jets by Spidey, or fly up and do the Fantastic Four Human Signal Flare Maneuver (TM) off in the distance? MJ could say something like, "Pete, up there, do you need to go?" And suave, macho stud Parker could say, "Naw, I'm sure Johnny and Ben can take Fin Fang Foom or the Mole Man. Besides, I'm mostly Queens and the Lower East Side. Wanna go watch that new Ghost Rider DVD at my apartment?" And she'll say, "Hmmm...I never liked Nick Cage that much. But I have a DVD of my own to show you and let me just say, Tiger, you're about to hit the jackpot!" And then Garth Ennis would laugh maniacally while the Spider-writers tried in vain to escape the ropes and ball-gags he used to...well, you get the picture. My point is, for as far and wide as this great land of ours is, it's sorta silly to lock the whole terrestrial Marvel Universe into one city (yeah, the X-Men are in Westchester, but that's still NY and close enough for me).
What I'd love to see, and I think they might be moving in that direction, is to have the Marvel heroes spread out and see the grand ol' U.S.A. I was really looking forward to The Initiative launching a bunch of new books, like Avengers: Montana or The Delaware Defenders, or the Oregon Order (oooh...kinda spooky in an Orwellian sort of way). And while those titles are said somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I really mean it would be great to see some variety in the Marvel landscape. Creators work from where they live and send in their work electronically these days. Mike Huddleston, Brian Hurtt and Rick Burchett are or have been St. Louisans (might be more, those are just off the top of my head), and St. Louis has PLENTY of crime. We invented Crystal Meth and are currently perfecting the Drive By Shooting. You're welcome. Let me set it up like this: I'd pick Cardiac (he's a doctor, we've got some good hospitals), a new Nightwatch (I kinda dug his costume), Dust (we have a growing Muslim population and she's one of the more interesting characters in recent years), Silhouette (always liked Shadowforce powers for some reason), Jack Flag (that dude rules!), Meltdown (aka Boom Boom) and if I could get away with it I'd grab an unused Ultraverser, like Prototype. That's a nicely multi-ethnic group that in several ways are representative of the Midwest and particularly St. Louis sensibilities. I'll write it, Mike Huddleston could draw it, and presto -- Marvel now has a new cityscape to play with. I mean, what villain wouldn't want to try to destroy the Gateway Arch? For villains, I'm thinking The Rhino, because he's awesome and the Serpent Society, because they're annoying and fun to beat up on. I wouldn't object to using The Trapster, The Shocker or Ultimatum either. So there ya go, the Missouri Guard (or some such title). See? That was easy!
The Man of Steel guards City Hall. But where IS City Hall?
But what about DC? And why did I start this column asking where in the world is Clark Kent? Simple: I can't find Metropolis. In fact, I'm not sure anyone can. The McNally's New American Atlas just has a big-ass "?" in the index for Metropolis. But if you really want to scratch your head, do a Wiki search on it. Or read on, and I'll save you the trouble.
Where exactly Metropolis is depends on where exactly you happen to be looking. If I recall, there was an episode of Smallville where Clark and one of his girlies (can't remember who) were perched atop a barn or something and he pointed out into the distance to Metropolis. That was pretty confusing because we KNOW Smallville is in Kansas, and even Superman would have a hard time seeing an East Coast city on the horizon because of the curvature of the earth, telescopic vision or not. According to the show, the address of the Daily Planet is Metropolis, KS.
But I'm a purist. Let's get into the comics and see where that takes us. The great writer and editor Dennis O'Neil once said that Metropolis is New York above 14th Street on a nice day. Hmm...so why then are there other super groups, such as the Justice Society, based out of New York proper, and not Metropolis? Obviously, they're two separate cities. This nebulous conditional existence based on weather seems a tad flimsy. Let's go back a little more, all the way to Siegel and Shuster. Jerry Siegel was an Ohio boy, and in fact Action Comics #2 has Clark reporting for the Cleveland Evening News. Go INDIANS! Joe Shuster, on the other hand, was said to have based Metropolis on his hometown of Toronto, Canada. Superman's a hoser? No way, eh! DC's editorial column during the 1970s once offered that Metropolis and Gotham were adjacent to New York, Green Arrow's Star City was located in Connecticut (Hartford?), Central City, where the Fastest Man Alive called home, was in Ohio, and Hawkman went to roost in Michigan. But wait, there's MORE! DC used to publish a fanzine that agreed with the old DC roleplaying game at the time that Metropolis was in...drum roll please...WAIT! Let's do another quiz!
If you live in Metropolis, you reside in the state of __________.
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
The DCU circa 1990. No less than the esteemed Paul Kupperberg
puts the Last Son of Krypton in the First State.
OK, that's sort of a trick question. There REALLY IS a Metropolis, Illinois -- population about 6500, and a reasonable drive from Paducah, Kentucky. It's more like Smallville, to tell you the truth, in fact, Smallville's more like Metropolis by comparison. It's tiny. But they have a huge Superman statue in front of their courthouse and they take their name very seriously. But the answer I was looking for was "b) Delaware." For years I labored under the notion that the Big Blue Cheese was chillin' in the place where Wayne Campbell once asked, "Wha? What's in Delaware?" I always thought, "Hey Wayne, Metropolis is in Delaware." "No way!" "Way!" "Excellent!" But then as recently as the Countdown to Infinite Crisis, Metropolis is said to exist in New York State. SIGH! I give up.
Here's the thing: continuity. I know, I know, it's a means to an end but not THE end. Marvel's tidy, compact New York City manages to keep everyone and everything where you can find them. Me, I usually like that sort of thing, except it's New York. No offense to my East Coast readers, but I don't care if I ever see another ANYTHING set in New York. Every night when I go home to watch ESPN and get a handle on my fantasy teams I have to sit and wait for 45 minutes while Buster Olney or Peter Gammons give their 162nd ass-kissing of the year to Alex Rodriguez or Derek Jeter. All I want is the score of the Nationals-Pirates and Brewers-Rockies games, and if J.J. Hardy, Freddy Sanchez, Troy Tulowitzki or Ryan Zimmerman had any big hits. Los Angeles is almost equally annoying and climbing fast on the strength of Paris, Britney, Lindsay, and the rest of the 'em. Enough is enough. There are other great cities in this proud nation of ours! Spread some Marvel lovin' around!
And on the DC side, they have spread things around. Metropolis (Delaware, dammit!), Gotham (I say New Jersey -- Hi Chris and Patti!), Central City (I always thought with Keystone City so close they must be representing Minnesota-St. Paul), Star City (could’ve sworn Green Arrow was from Seattle) and even St. Roch (Hawkman's version of New Orleans?) feature some of the biggest names in the DCU. And then there's my favorite city in the DCU, Opal City. According to much-missed Starman scribe James Robinson, Opal City is in Maryland (Baltimore?). I'm perfectly alright with that. Why not? The Art Deco stylings depicted by Tony Harris would seem at home on the East Coast, and that would put them just up the road from Superman's home in Delaware. I always thought Opal City itself was a character in the Starman books. In many ways it's better developed than any other superhero hometowns outside of Gotham, and possibly about equal to Metropolis.
But you know what would be nice? A DCU Secret Files (maybe with Checkmate since they're the intelligence arm of the DCU) that gives clear maps of the major cities and the DCU nation. They ran some nice maps of Gotham in Batman's "No Man's Land." I think it would be a lot of fun for cartography nerds like me who would love to know if there's a Winick Boulevard in Star City, a Waid Parkway in Central City or Keystone, or maybe a Darryl Banks Drive in Coast City. As much as I usually complain about Marvel ignoring their continuity and DC doing a better job with it -- reboots or not -- I think Marvel has them beat here. In fact, Marvel recently released a two-issue Offical Handbook of the Marvel Universe-style Atlas series. At least they know where their heroes are.
So where in the world is Clark Kent? I, for one, would really like to know.