Location, location, location. When Wayne Enterprises opens its doors in NBC's Powerless premiere on February 2, it welcomes us into a new city. The eagerly anticipated comedy set in the DC Universe pulls from a time-honored tradition by hanging its hat in a fictional place: Charm City. The bustling hub is just the latest made-up locale to land a spot on the DC Universe map. Over the decades, DC’s comic books have introduced geographic hotspots that are as well known as the super heroes and villains that call them home.
Where a story unfolds matters. Deciding the setting is a crucial part of the nebulous but important task of world building. DC has pulled inspiration from real urban destinations over the years, but those ideas morphed and stretched and soon names such as Gotham City and National City filled the map. The use of imaginary destinations allows for more freedom in storytelling, plus it's a little easier watch a place like Coast City get wrecked than say, San Francisco. But only a little.
I've tossed out the names of a few of DC's cities already: Gotham, National City, Coast City and now Charm City. You want more? Star City. Smallville. Metropolis. Blüdhaven. Central City. The list goes on. Though you can't actually book a flight or train to any of these places, I'd fork over dollars for a travel guide exploring the DC Universe. Each city comes with its own heroes and villains, history, crime rates and problems. They all have different personalities.
Take Gotham City. I bet you can come up with three adjectives to describe the home of Bruce Wayne/Batman without blinking an eye. I'll go first. Seedy. Gothic. Dark (literally and figuratively). Superman used an apt description in SUPERMAN/BATMAN #53, "It's like someone built a nightmare out of metal and stone." He's not wrong. None of these are the kind of qualities you want to put in a tri-fold glossy brochure.
But Gotham has roots. The city has been around for nearly 80 years. Gotham City came into the picture in BATMAN #4 and hasn't stopped being a magnet for organized crime since. It's been the backdrop of the occult, the awful, and the terrifying. The skyscrapers and gargoyles on various buildings have been beaten up, but they're still there, though maybe they've been rebuilt a time or ten.
Metropolis is another well known spot. The worldly city has gleaming streets and is usually drawn with a sense of optimism—just like its hero, Superman. It was introduced a year before Gotham in 1939. It was ACTION COMICS #16 that put Metropolis on the atlas. The home of S.T.A.R. Labs' central branch along with, perhaps less fortunately, LexCorp, Metropolis is safe and quiet. Well, as quiet as a massive urban center can be. It’s a good place to raise a family and buy a home (so long as it’s insured for super hero collateral damage). Every universe needs a city like this.
Other locations have had more tumultuous pasts, like, for example, Coast City. The base for Hal Jordan/Green Lantern first appeared in SHOWCASE #22 in 1959. Like you might have guessed from the name, it's a coastal town, with the famous Ferris Air serving as one of the city’s biggest employers. Coast City boasted a huge population. Notice the use of the past tense. Tragically, the city and almost all of its seven million residents were decimated. The cataclysmic event happened in 1993's SUPERMAN #80, when Mongul and Cyborg Superman destroyed Coast City and built the much less charming Engine City out of the remains.
The loss of Coast City had repercussions throughout the DC Universe and especially for Jordan, who was so distraught over its destruction that he absorbed the Green Lantern Power Battery, became the villain Parallax and ravaged the entire DC Universe. He destroyed much of the Green Lantern Corps and tried to rewrite history before he was famously stopped by Green Arrow.
The moral of the story? Don’t mess with a super hero’s hometown, yo.
Let's hope nothing so drastic happens to Charm City. It seems to be a nice enough place. But what will Charm City's legacy be? Which heroes and villains will become synonymous with the town? We'll find out soon when Powerless debuts.
If you could visit any of the cities in the DC Comics universe, where would you go? Tell me where and why in the comments.