Blog: Ashley Digs Deeper into Gotham and Metropolis

The Story Geeks blogger Ashley Pauls responds with an additional perspective to the same topic discussed in this week’s podcast – digging deeper into Gotham and Metropolis. Want to share your own take? Join the conversation in The Story Geeks Facebook group!

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1. Before we dig into Gotham and Metropolis specifically, let’s talk about locations as a concept in superhero storytelling. Batman has Gotham, Superman has Metropolis, Flash has Central City, Daredevil has Hell’s Kitchen, Spider-Man has New York, etc. How does a dedicated location impact a hero’s story?

In many cases, the superhero’s location almost becomes a character itself (and sometimes even an antagonist).

The location shapes who the superhero is and how they choose to fight crime. There’s a sense of darkness and grittiness in Gotham, which reflects the darkness and grittiness of Batman’s character. It’s hard to see Ben Affleck’s Batman being at home in the version of New York City depicted in Tom Holland’s Spider-Man films (and vice versa).

While it’s fun to see globe-trotting or even intergalactic superheroes like the Guardians of the Galaxy, I also appreciate some of the more intimate and narrowly-focused storytelling that comes from a superhero deeply invested in one community, like Daredevil in Hell’s Kitchen. He’s not fighting to save the world or the universe; he’s fighting for the neighborhood he lives in.

2. How are Gotham and Metropolis different? How are they similar?

I’ve heard Metropolis described as New York by day and Gotham as New York by night.

Gotham is a much grimmer place than Metropolis. In Christopher Nolan’s version of the famous fictional city (the version I’m most familiar with), corruption and crime have been allowed to fester openly, and the people there are just trying to survive (or, in the case of Gotham’s criminals, trying to take advantage of the broken system).

Metropolis strikes me as more of a hopeful city; even the name “Metropolis” communicates a bustling, thriving metro area that embraces progress and looks towards the future.

Both Gotham and Metropolis have their problems, of course (as any city does). But the way those problems manifest are very different.

3. Why does Metropolis need Superman?

I see Superman as representing the best that humanity is capable of. He’s a symbol of strength and justice, a defender of those who cannot defend themselves. He’s an optimistic force of light and good, and that’s the sort of hero that fits well with Metropolis’s progressive outlook.

4. Why does Gotham need Batman?

As a superhero, Batman veers far closer to the “anti-hero” label than Superman does, and it makes sense because he lives in a city where crime and corruption are the norm. Gotham needs a hero who is tough and won’t be intimidated by the violence surrounding them.

5. If Batman and Superman succeeded as heroes to the point where they were no longer needed, how would these cities look different?

Metropolis without a need for Superman would probably continue on progressing like normal, just without the antics of Lex Luthor to create problems. 😉

Gotham without a need for Batman would represent a more dramatic transformation, and we’d probably see it start to look a little more like Metropolis, actually. It would be interesting to see what the city could accomplish without fear and corruption holding it back.

As a side note, I also feel that Superman would have an easier time adjusting to a Metropolis that didn’t need him, than Batman would have to a Gotham that didn’t need him. Superman would probably travel elsewhere to find people in need that he could help, but Gotham is such an integral part of who Batman is that he’d probably have trouble adjusting to NOT being a vigilante.

Perhaps there are comics that have explored this concept, but I’d be very interested to see what a post-vigilante life for Batman would look like. At the very end of “The Dark Knight Rises,” we appear to see Bruce Wayne happy and at peace. But would this feeling last? Would he feel the need to continue fighting crime, and would another city be as receptive to his methods?

Would completely exorcising the darkness in Gotham also completely exorcise the darkness within himself?

6. What does villainy look like in each city? Why do we see the types of villains that show up in each?

Just as superheroes like Batman and Superman are defined by their cities, so are the villains they face. Let’s take a look at some of the most famous villains from these two cities.

The Joker represents crime, chaos, and darkness. He’s a twisted, terrifying villain, a manifestation of the worst of Gotham. He disrupts the order that Batman tries to bring to Gotham, and pushes Batman towards the dark side.

Outwardly, Lex Luthor is nowhere near as creepy as the Joker. In fact, Lex Luthor could walk into a shopping mall and not cause immediate fear and panic (unlike the Joker). He represents progress and capitalism gone wrong; he’s the dark reflection of Metropolis’s futuristic attitude.

7. Both cities mirror their heroes. Metropolis is bright and optimistic, and Gotham is dark and disillusioned. Would the cities benefit at all from swapping heroes?

I don’t really see Batman’s brand of vigilantism working well in Metropolis, and Superman probably wouldn’t function well in Gotham, either.

Part of me thinks it would be good to send Superman to Gotham, in hopes that his optimism would bring some light to the city. Yet I also fear that Gotham’s darkness would cause him to become discouraged and cynical.

Batman and Superman are both uniquely positioned to be the superhero their particular city needs.

8. Put yourself in the shoes of a resident of Gotham or Metropolis. What do you think your opinion of the city and its hero would be? Where would you rather live?

Even though I like Batman better as a character, I would 100 percent rather live in Metropolis. 😉

If I lived in Gotham, I might actually be a little afraid of Batman. I’d worry about what might happen if he became corrupted and turned against the city.

Metropolis seems like a far less violent and dangerous place to live. I’d be proud to live in a city protected by Superman, and I’d feel safer knowing he was watching the skies.