The superheroes of the comic book universes live and fight crime all over the world, many of them in fictional cities. But there are a few notable ones who call New York City home, and those who may not have been born there but have a story line there. It is important to note that many fictional cities in comics are generally modeled after New York. The most prominent example is Gotham City. Given that New York was given the moniker Gotham, we’ve decided to include some of the superheroes of Gotham to this list. So, here is a list of come of New York City’s most famous superheroes who call the city home.
1. Captain America
Steve Rogers may be one of Marvel’s most iconic comic book characters, but as his character in the popular movie with Chris Evans likes to say “I’m just a kid from Brooklyn.” Roger’s grew up in New York during the Great Depression. Appalled by Nazi actions in World War II, he, tried to enlist in the army to fight, but was continually denied due to his exceptionally scrawny physique. Eventually Rogers underwent a chemical procedure in which he would turn him into Captain America just in time to fight the Nazis. He became the literal embodiment of American ideals of justice, liberty, and spirit.
Years later, Captain America would join Marvel’s supergroup of heroes, the Avengers. The character, created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, made his first appearance in March 1941 in the Captain America Comics #1. Lately, Captain America has been re-popularized through new franchise of movies.
Spider-Man is probably the most notable superhero from New York City. The story follows high schooler Peter Parker, born in Forest Hills, Queens, through his adventures as a masked vigilante after being bitten by radioactive spider. This particular Marvel comic is most distinctly set in New York with no fictional city name to let readers assume otherwise.
Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Spider-Man’s first appearance was in Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962. The comics gained popularity throughout the years, first becoming an animated TV series in 1967, and eventually a movie trilogy with Tobey Maguire. The movies were rebooted in 2012 with actor Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man.
See our article on the film locations for Sam Raimi’s 2002 “Spiderman” for the film locations featured in Spider-Man’s New York.
Gotham’s Dark Knight is a DC Comics character that protects Gotham City by night and is completely unassuming billionaire, playboy, philanthropist Bruce Wayne by day. We all now Gotham City to be New York City, but it is important to note that a comic book character did not give New York it’s nickname “Gotham.” The term is believed to come from the folktale The Wise Men of Gotham, a crazy little English town. Washington Irving started using the term in 1807 to poke fun at New York residents by comparing them to this village where people pretended to be crazy.
Today, Gotham City from the Batman comics is basically seen as New York, although Chicago and Los Angeles are also used for film locations in the Dark Knight trilogy from Christopher Nolan. Created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, Batman first appeared in Detectives Comic #27 in 1939. In 1964, DC was planning on killing the character off completely because sales were doing so poorly but editor Julius Schwartz completely reinvented the character, saving Batman from permanent death.
Today, Batman is one of the most well-known comic book characters next to Superman. Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns served as the inspiration for Christopher Nolan’s movies which catapulted Batman into even greater popularity. The television show Gotham, filmed in New York City, explores the life of Bruce Wayne before he becomes Batman.
See the impressive NYC film locations for Gotham here.
4. The Fantastic Four
The team, comprised of Reed Richards as Mister Fantastic, Sue Storm as the Invisible Woman, Johnny Storm as the Human Torch, and Ben Grimm as the Thing are a group of astronauts who inadvertently gain superpowers after a mission gone awry in space. Eventually, they become a group of superheroes, saving New York City and the world from evil villains. Their home base and headquarters are in the fictional Baxter Building in Manhattan.
Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the Fantastic Four first appeared in Fantastic Four #1 in 1961. This was the first Marvel superhero comic, created in response to DC Comic superhero group, Justice League of America. Not to be left behind, The Fantastic Four movie was released in 2015.
5. Jessica Jones
Photo: Myles Aronowitz/Netflix
Jessica Jones is a fellow Midtown High classmate of Peter Parker’s (who she also happened to have a crush on). Jones gained her powers after she and her family were in a car accident with a truck carrying radioactive materials. Jones survived, gaining superhuman abilities, but lost her family in the process. After being adopted, Jones moved to New York City where she would become friends with Peter Parker and take on the alias Jewel as her superhero name.
A relative newcomer to the list here, Jessica Jones was created by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos in November 2001 appearing first in Alias #1. Alias was the first “Marvel MAX” book to show explicit sex, language, and violence. On November 20, 2015, Netflix premiered the first season of Jessica Jones, its second superhero show behind Daredevil.
To see more about the show, check out our NYC film locations for Jessica Jones.
Watchmen is an acclaimed graphic novel set in New York City. It is important to note that there is no superhero group called “the Watchmen” here. Instead it is a term that comes from graffiti drawn on the pages and references throughout the novel (the most famous, “Who watches the Watchmen?”). Set in the city, it follows a group of friends who used to fight crime together, some with powers, some brilliant, some just rich and very muscular as they try to find the person murdering their former superhero friends. They ultimately uncover a plot to destroy the world and race to stop it before it’s too late.
Created by Alan Moore and David Gibbons in 1985, the comic holds the title of one of the greatest comics of all time, including a spot on TIME’s Top 100 Novels published since 1923, and one of TIME’s Top 10 Graphic Novels along with Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. A seminal work, Watchmen questions the idea of the superhero as a public and moral figure and gives a whole new meaning to the superhero genre.
Photo: Nicole Rivelli/Netflix
Born and raised in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen is Matt Murdock. After saving a man from oncoming traffic, a truck containing radioactive material spills a little in Murdock’s eyes, effectively blinding him, but giving him incredible superhuman senses and athletic ability. So, Murdock becomes Daredevil, another superhero in the Marvel Universe presiding over the safety of New York City.
What makes this character so special is that despite the superhuman abilities, he also has a disability: blindness. This makes the character highly accessible and unique at the same time.
Created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett, Daredevil made his first appeared in Daredevil #1 in April 1964. Much like the other DC and Marvel superheroes, Daredevil moved beyond the comic book pages to TV animation and to live action. In 2003, Ben Affleck starred as the superhero in a film that was not very well received.
Most recently, in April 2015, Netflix released the first season of Daredevil with Charlie Cox as the lead. There was some controversy surrounding the new show surrounding accessibility for the visually impaired. On April 27, 2015, NPR reported that Netflix finally added an audio assistance option so that blind people could enjoy the show with everyone else.
Next, check out our 12 NYC Film Locations For “Daredevil”
Although her status as a hero or villain is a little ambiguous, despite this, she eventually becomes part of the “Batman family” as DC Comics puts it. Born and raised in Gotham City, she ultimately tried to protect the East End of Gotham. Her first appearance was in Batman #1 in 1940, created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger.
Her character has been played by Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry, and Anne Hathaway in three different films. Catwoman has also been featured in everything Batman related in animation from television shows like Gotham to video games. Camren Bicondova plays the young Catwoman who starts off life in Gotham as Selina Kyle.
9. Luke Cage
Photo: Myles Aronowitz/Netflix
Born Carl Lucas in Harlem, Cage spent his youth involved with street gangs. After seeing how his racketeering was hurting his family, he stopped. Later on, he volunteered for an experiment on cell regeneration where it would eventually go wrong and instead of killing him, would make him inhumanely strong. So, he adopted the alias Luke Cage and became a Hero for Hire, opening an office in Times Square‘s fictional Gem Theater.
Cage’s character was created in 1972 by Archie Goodwin and John Romita Sr., making his first appearance in Luke Cage Hero For Hire #1. As one of the many superheroes in New York, Cage came to know the Fantastic Four, Spiderman, and Jessica Jones. You can see him on the new Netflix series Jessica Jones.
10. Iron Man
Iron Man is Tony Stark, famous genius, billionaire, playboy, and philanthropist with a metal heart. Born on Long Island, Tony is well connected with New York City. His father’s technology company, Stark Industries is based in the city. The Avengers, one of the Marvel superhero groups Iron Man is part of also have their headquarters in New York.
Iron Man is probably one of the most famous superheroes today due in part to the Avengers cinematic universe and Robert Downey Junior. The character was created in Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Larry Lieber, and Don Heck in 1963 in Tales of Suspense #39.
11. Doctor Strange
Doctor Strange, though born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, did move to New York for college where he pursued his pre-med degree and did his residency at New York Hospital. At eight years old, attacked by demons, Strange was rescued by the Ancient One, an ancient sorcerer who protects the Earth’s dimension as the Sorcerer Supreme, the role Doctor Strange would eventually inherit. Doctor Strange lives in a fictional mansion known as the Sanctum Sanctorum in Greenwich Village at 177A Bleecker Street.
The character was created by Steve Ditko in 1963 with a first appearance in Strange Tales #110. Beyond the comics, Doctor Strange has made appearances in animated television shows, video games, and has also been referenced in novels. At the end of this year, a feature film about the superhero starring Benedict Cumberbatch will be coming out. It is set for release on November 4, 2016.