Comic books are rooted in New York City history: many fictional cities allude to our metropolis, several comic creators were born or have lived here and a large number of comics actually take place in New York City.

Superheroes are becoming increasing popular and as such, a plethora of comic book shows have popped up within the last few years. Major networks like FOX and the CW attended the Upfronts press event last week to promote their upcoming seasons. With the strong ties superhero TV shows have with our thriving metropolis, New York City was undoutably a fitting location for the event.

Here are five current superhero and comic shows set in cities that mirror New York City:

5. Gotham in Gotham

In addition to FOX’s Gotham being filmed in New York City, the similarities between the two cities don’t end there. Of course, Gotham mirrors the aesthetics of the city since the show features key buildings like The Bronx County Courthouse and Grand Central Terminal, but Camren Bicondova, the actress who plays young Catwoman, cites diversity as the strongest link between Gotham and New York City.

Gotham, a Batman prequel story has been taking great strides to diversify the well-loved characters in the show. Danny Cannon, co-executive producer, spoke on the matter, stating that since Gotham is a fictional city, “everyone should exist there. There’s no way on earth we would have a show like this limit itself with out-of-date values.” It was a huge stride for primetime television to give a well-known character like Penguin, who was never previously portrayed as gay, a male love interest. Despite potential fallback with longtime Batman fans, Gotham went for it and created a fascinating dynamic and power play between Penguin and Riddler.

The portrayal of minority characters in power positions is more common in Gotham than most major network TV shows — from Fish Mooney, who at one point had her own criminal empire, to Penguin who held the position of governor to Tabitha Galivan and Barbara Kean, both bisexual, who manipulated their way to the top of multiple crime syndicates. Like Gotham, New York City is a melting pot of different races, religions, and sexual orientations. The city has long been at the forefront of many social rights issues like the Gay Rights Movement and the Civil Rights Movement. From Malcolm X to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, some of the most well-known American activists have made their mark here.

Comic creators and diversity have their own history in New York City as a good number of the greats are Jewish and many, like Stan Lee, are from the city. Comic books are often created to encapsulate adversity and to fight against oppression. Hydra, the evil organization in Captain America, was a parallel to the Nazi regime, Superman has a plethora of Jewish symbolism, and X-Men is often considered an allegory for gay rights.

Also, check out NYC Film Locations for TV Show Gotham on FOX.

4. New York City in Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage

Photo: Myles Aronowitz/Netflix

Rather than having characteristics in common with New York City, some comic creators decided to cut out the allusion of a fictional city by setting their characters in the place they were going to mirror anyways. Three Marvel shows on Netflix, Jessica Jones, Daredevil, and Luke Cageare set right in prominent areas of New York City.

Jessica Jones is one of the newer comic book characters to have her own show as she debuted in Alias in 2001. The Netflix series centers around Jessica Jones and her history with the villain Kilgrave (whom she had an abusive past with) as she tries to save another girl that he kidnapped. While places like the Lincoln Tunnel and the Meatpacking District are recognizable in the show, it’s not directly stated which part of the city the scenes take place in. Much of it, however, is reminiscent of Hell’s Kitchen, where Jessica frequents Luke Cage’s bar. The show eventually introduces Cage, who went on to get his own series.

Daredevil, or “the “devil of Hell’s Kitchen,” is a blind superhero who takes it upon himself to clean up Hell’s Kitchen in a red body suit that’s shaped like the devil. His alter ego, Matt Murdoch is a do-gooder lawyer with slightly more drawn morality lines than his latex wearing self. Hell’s Kitchen is nowhere near as destitute or full of criminal activity as it was when it was ruled by the Irish mob. However, the state of the city in Daredevil is more geared toward Hell’s Kitchen’s history. Some notable New York City building cameos are the New York State Supreme Court and the secret Rockefeller Roof Gardens.

Luke Cage may have gotten its start in Jessica Jones but the Harlem-based series is holding its own. The series, which was filmed in Harlem and Brooklyn, seamlessly intertwines Harlem history and historic references, giving it an authentic feel. The idea of preserving the culture of Harlem and staying true to its roots are important and prevalent themes that allow the show to pay homage to the area and all it has accomplished for the community. Some notable film locations are Pop’s Barber Shop which is located in the Mount Morris Historic District and Newton Creek.

Also, check out NYC Film Locations for Jessica Jones, Netflix’s New Marvel Series and NYC Film Locations for Luke Cage, Netflix’s Latest Marvel Show Set in Harlem.

3. National City in Supergirl

Supergirl’s National City is just as much of an epicenter for journalism as New York City is to the real world. Despite Earth 38’s technology that advances far beyond that of regular old human Earth, National City thrives on journalism and it’s the main source of news for people in the city. The series, previously on CBS, kicks off with Kara Danvers watching the news to see her human sister crashing on a plane, which led to the birth of Supergirl, and Kara accepting her powers to help the people of National City.

National City was created for the show and doesn’t exist anywhere in the Supergirl comics but it’s taken on a life of its own and stands strong amongst other comic cities like Star City and Central City. The importance of journalism isn’t just rooted in Kara, who was an assistant turned reporter at CatCo Worldwide Media: the villains of the show have frequently targeted CatCo as a threat.

Yellow Kid Cartoon “War Scare in Hogan’s Alley,” March 15, 1896 by Richard F. Outcault via Wikimedia Commons User Infrogmation.

Interestingly, comic books have been rooted in New York City journalism since the 1890’s when the feud between William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer led to the birth to the modern comic strip. Richard Outcault, who worked for Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World, created the newspaper’s Sunday funny strip called The World’s Funny Side, which featured a character known as the Yellow Kid in 1895. William Randolph Hearst “borrowed” the character and featured it heavily in the journal’s American Humorist column. In addition to sparking an interest in comics, the strips became a vital component of the feud between the two newspapers and sparked the gimmicky, all-caps headlines and sensational writing called Yellow Journalism that became a fixture in journalism and comics at the time.

The ongoing feud between CatCo Worldwide Media and The Daily Planet (Superman’s newspaper) is mentioned several times throughout the series and is reminiscent of the historical feud between Hearst and Pulitzer. Cat Grant, CatCo’s creator, strived to get faster and more hard-hitting headlines than The Planet, and groomed Supergirl to be the superhero of CatCo much like Superman is to The Planet.

2. Star City in Arrow

Arrow’s Star City, formerly known as Starling City, features class differences that parallel New York City’s elite and lower classes. A good portion of the first two seasons focuses on Oliver Queen’s posh lifestyle as he gets used to being back home after being stranded on an island and presumed dead for five years. The narrative follows a common fiction choice of the misbehaving, playboy rich kid that gets into trouble, gets kicked out of multiple boarding schools and wreaks havoc on a prominent family name.

While this particular plot device certainly doesn’t resonate with all of New York City’s upper class, the parallels are still there. Staples in the Queens’ life include elaborate fundraisers, lavish homes and buildings that stand out against some of the more worn down buildings in less affluent neighborhoods, and for the younger Queens, an expensive and elite club scene.

Oliver may have taken his rich lifestyle for granted prior to his island adventures, but the Oliver Queen that returned to his city was a changed man who saw the corruption of the rich in his city and attempted to even the odds as a vigilante. One of the major themes in Arrow is bridging the gap between the affluent and less fortunate city people.

New York City has one of the largest gaps between its wealthy and poor inhabitants. “In 2013, the top one percent of the city earned 45.4 times the income of the bottom 99 percent on average,” according to the Economic Policy Insititute. There’s usually a correlation between wealthy areas and race: the Upper East Side is almost ninety percent white with Asians taking up about six percent and a measly four percent comprised of other races. It’s not hard to see why vigilante characters like the Green Arrow are so popular when characters like Roy Harper are pushed to petty theft just to survive and characters like the Queens live in mansions.

1. Central City in The Flash

Science and innovation are at the forefront of CW’s The Flash with S.T.A.R Labs being the central location of the show. Unlike other superheroes that magically got their powers or human superheroes that don’t have any powers at all, Barry Allen receives his powers from a science experiment gone wrong when a particle accelerator exploded.

While the science in Central City is mostly science fiction that includes time travel, super speed, and metahumans with distinctive powers, within the realm of the fictional universe, those strides are made through scientific experimentation that fail several times before they succeed. Like Central City, New York City is home to a multitude of scientific organizations as well as the birthplace of some notable historical science figures.

Like Cisco and Caitlin Snow were prone to making strides in advanced weaponry, J. Rober Oppenheimer, from New York City, created a secret facility called Los Alamos, where he helped create the atomic bomb, after operating a network of sites connected to the project in New York City (hence, the Manhattan Project). Oppenheimer was often cited as the moral compass for the bomb’s creation, but as is the case with all lethal weapons, once they get into the wrong hands, there’s no telling what they can do.

Another notable scientist from New York City was Jonas Salk. Salk developed the polio vaccine and was so confident that it would work without infecting those that were vaccinated that he used it on himself and his family. As he suspected, it developed antibodies that prevented them from getting the disease. Even at the age of eighty, when most people have long since retired, Salk tried to find a cure for AIDS, the epidemic that was particularly devastating to New York City and its LGBTQ community.

In addition, New York City is home to many science museums and events including the World Science Festival that begins on May 30th, a huge gathering for the recent March for Science rally, the New York Hall of Science, and the Museum of Mathematics. On a slightly weirder note, Albert Einstein, one of the most celebrated scientists in history, is always looking out for our city as his eyes are stored away in a New York City safety deposit box. Central City may have time travel and freeze rays but no city hoards random body parts of famous people quite like New York City.

While most cities tend to be alike in some way or another, it’s clear that New York City was the template if not the actual city that many comic book stories are set in. From journalism to diversity, to economic diversity, and scientific innovation, it is the perfect setting for heroes to don masks and capes and save the day.

Next, check out Superheroes that Call NYC Home  and NYC Film Locations for TV Show Gotham on FOXGet in touch with the author at LitByLiterature.