Gotham and Metropolis

This is stupid but I need to get this off my chest.

If I was a DC writer how would I handle the depiction of Gotham City and Metropolis?

Well in short I would make them two different rival cities battling for the cultural heart of America. Also I wouldn’t put them across the harbour from each other like in Batman Versus Superman because that is just goddamned stupid. While it should be practical to move between the two cities it shouldn’t be something that can be done without effort or care. A character from one city should also be noticeably uncomfortable in the other; having to change their clothing styles even their speech and mannerisms in order to fit in or to maintain a disguise. A crossover, even a minor villain crossover should be a big deal, not a cheap gimmick. Superman and Batman teaming up on anything should be an apocalyptic event similar to Churchill and Stalin teaming up to battle Hitler.

Also Metropolis is a city that needs Superman and Gotham is a city that needs Batman. Since these are two very different heroes it follows logically that the environments where these heroes live and form the centerpiece are vastly different.

Metropolis: The city of the American Dream

Metropolis is a city of the future. It is cosmopolitan, high tech, outward looking and highly optimistic. Metropolis is the city where the world meets. Sadly for the inhabitants of this fair city Metropolis is also arrogant, elitist and prone to utopian thinking. When criminal or terrorist elements strike it comes as an enormous shock to both the city’s elite and the man on the street. The police are well equipped with many high tech gizmos but poorly trained and inexperienced when dealing with violent crime. With the eyes of the world on Metropolis a bank robbery is international news. In contrast the Joker robbing a bank with a Sherman tank is just a Wednesday afternoon in Gotham City. Most crime in Metropolis is fraud, embezzlement or corporate espionage. Most of the murders in the city are the results of such crimes or their aftermath.

The gangs that eat away at Metropolis are shadowy, sophisticated, have international ties and hide themselves in a veneer of plausible deniability. They also to the dismay of the police have easy access to high powered weaponry; cutting edge technical support and can dance circles around law enforcement. There’s also an awful lot of lawyers running around making the waters even muddier.

Metropolis is also not a very second amendment friendly city leaving the population feeling helpless in the face of a crime wave. They know the gangs are out there but what can they do?

This is the world in which Superman finds himself. He can deal with a direct obvious threat quite easily but most of the threats he will face are subtle, indirect ones he might not see coming. Can he bring the people of Metropolis hope? Can he stop the evil doers with the eyes of the entire world upon him?

Tune in next episode to find out…

Gotham: The City of the American Spirit

Gotham is the city of America’s past. The sleeping giant having nightmares while freaks and clowns cause mayhem in the shadows. Gotham was once America’s pride but in recent times has become America’s shame. Gotham City had its glory days first in the era of Prohibition and then second in the darkest days of the second world war. In America’s darkest hour Gotham City with its great steel mills and chemical factories became the heart of the war effort and quite literally the arsenal of democracy. A lot of the those weapons and explosive factories closed after the war and were never truly replaced but the mark left on the city never went away… and many were abandoned in place with their tools and machinery simply left to rust. Which brings us to one of the more interesting aspects of that legacy.

In Gotham City there is a great deal of WWII and Korean War era weapons floating around the black market and yes you can buy a bazooka if you know the right people. There is also at least one operating factory that is producing Thompson sub machine guns. These are the preferred and most prestigious weapon in Gotham organized crime circles. Gotham is a city that looks to its past and after all if you’re going to shoot someone why not do it in style? Gotham Pride runs deep. Why use a crappy foreign gun? That’s an insult to the man you’re shooting! What are you a communist or something?


Gotham made with good American steel.”

The police and common citizens of Gotham are not helpless. They are however badly over matched against an endless tide of violent, audacious, highly skilled criminals. Hiding behind the circus of costumed freaks and supervillians hides a deep embedded subculture of organized crime layered throughout the city in elaborate networks. While mostly made up of the old mafia dating back the prohibition days these crime gangs have evolved under intense Darwinian pressure into flexible, anti-fragile, self repairing organizations.

Gotham City gangs also have a very strong “mid-level leadership caste” made up of very talented criminals who are bound together by the old mafia codes and Gotham Pride. Unlike in other cities simply throwing the boss into Arkham Asylum does not break up a gang. In fact the Joker Gang actually thrives when “Mr. J. is in the joint” and the Lieutenants can focus on the business side of the gang instead of inflicting chaos and mayhem. The Joker of course finds this state of affairs incredibly amusing.

Batman is generally too busy dealing with the latest crisis to deal completely with these mid level criminals much less ordinary street crime. All he can do really is give the police and common man a fighting chance and in Gotham everyone is expected to fight. One way or another in Gotham City life will punch you in the face, you’re just expected to not go down too easily.

The steel mills of Gotham lay empty, the docks are mostly abandoned or used for smuggling.. Gotham is dying but not yet buried. The old factories may rust but the city’s pride remains. If the need was great enough the steel mills could be put back into production, new workers trained and the docks reclaimed from the gangs. People of Gotham don’t need hope. Gotham just needs a chance, a tiny break in darkness and gloom and the city will claw its way back into the light. Can Batman give the people that chance or will the darkness win in the end?

Gotham and Metropolis

6 thoughts on “Gotham and Metropolis

  1. Fantastic example of secondary world building in someone else’s sandbox 🙂 The fact that you meant to write something else goes to show what can happen when the muse has other plans.

    You totally nailed the mood and ethos of both cities, especially Gotham. One aspect of that city’s culture that I’d love to get your take on is the widespread police corruption. How does it affect the underworld networks, private citizens, and Batman?


    1. Gotham never really broke out of the post-war depression and it’s been very, very hard to get a straight job for at least two generations. This means that everybody is at least a little bit crooked. That’s bad enough and then you consider the fact that the Gotham Police dept and the street thugs are recruiting from exactly the same pool of rough minded lower-middle class men who can only dream about the better days their grandfathers told them about. Every family in Gotham has one son in the police and another son or nephew in the gangs. This makes Christmas dinner conversations somewhat awkward and leads to a lot of brother versus brother in the line of duty. The Gotham Code tries to ease out some of this social pressure and everyone does their best to keep business and family separate. Sadly this doesn’t always work out and many a tale of tragedy are played out in dark streets of Gotham.
      How does this effect Batman? Well not only does he need to know which handful of police officers he can trust completely, he also needs to know how far he trust the ones he can ‘almost trust’ and under what conditions they are likely to cave to corruption. Batman is the world’s greatest detective not because he wants to be but because he needs to be.


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