New York City is one of the largest cities in the world in terms of population and encompasses a huge area, spanning over three states (Connecticut, New York State, New Jersey). Additionally New York forms one of the main centers of the East Coast urbanized areas along with Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and Boston. Due to its prominent role at the beginning of the spread of forms of mass media such as television and radio, the city has been prominently featured in all forms of media, including comic books. One of the most famous police forces in the world is the New York Police Department (NYPD).
Although inhabited long before the arrival of Europeans, the development of the area into an urban center did not occur until visited by explorers. The city was first a Dutch colony, then British until the secession of the United States of America in the American Revolution of 1776. Since then the city has been one of the main centers of urbanization which has resulted in both the progress of science (it was one of the driving areas of the American Industrial Revolution) as well as social problems (such as the rise of crime.) In the 20th and 21st centuries these roles have become prominent as well in the media. As one of the world’s primary financial centers, the images of Black Tuesday in 1929 which led to the Great Depression are tied directly to the public consciousness surrounding this case. The drug and gang related problems in later years also served as a statement to others in the USA and beyond that there was a disparity within the USA.
The prominent role of the city also served to make it a target on September 11, 2001. Terrorists linked to al-Qaeda flew two airplanes into the World Trade Center towers resulting in the deaths of thousands. This served to also dramatically alter the perception of the USA in the world, both at home and abroad, which has been additionally linked to its portrayal in the media.
Depiction in Comics
In the early years of comics, it was more common for comics to be based in fictional cities as opposed to real ones. Thus in the 1960s when Stan Lee decided to reboot Marvel Comics one of the decisions which he made was to include real places in comics as opposed to fictional ones as it would better connect with the reader. Thus among comic book publishers, New York City is the most prominent at Marvel. Despite this various writers at DC use New York City as a model. For instance Frank Miller said that “Metropolis is New York in the daytime, Gotham City is New York at night.” Despite this numerous characters were based or have been based in New York City including the Spectre, Power Girl, Catwoman, Vigilante, and the Justice League International. Additionally the big two publishers are based in New York City as well as many smaller ones, thus the depiction of the city is something that traditionally many creators were very familiar with.
The city was also featured in many early comic books which sought to capture the noir-ish aspects of the city (as was connected to pulp detective stories.) This was evident in such characters as the Spirit and the Sandman (such depictions formed a basis for the city’s depiction later in comics attempting a retroactive capture of the same atmosphere, as with Vertigo comics.)
The following depiction of New York City are also notable: the setting for 22 Brides and Painkiller Jane; the New York Disaster in the Uniques; the setting for the Beyond Wonderland series, and Brian Wood’s hot zone in DMZ. Zenescope also often uses its iconic locations for its own covers which often portray its main characters as versions of icons, some of which include Americana.
Due to its prominent role as a prominently featured city in media in general and specifically for comic books, specific areas within New York City have been spotlighted unlike those in other cities. The following is a list of boroughs and neighbourhoods within specific boroughs. There are also outlying areas of New York City which feature prominently from time to time including towns and cities in Long Island, and the adjoining areas of Connecticut and New Jersey (which are often included in the same geographic area).
The northernmost of boroughs, the Bronx is noted for its diverse immigrant population. It is generally less famous than other areas within the city as there are not as many landmarks of note here, and although it has been at times a dangerous area of the city in terms of crime, other areas such as Harlem have been more prominently featured in such regards.
Prominent Appearances: The Bronx is rarely mentioned specifically in comics. It has appeared in such diverse series as The Boys, Minor Miracles and Blue Beetle (2011).
Brooklyn is the second most famous of New York City boroughs and correspondingly appears second most often in comparison to the other boroughs. Generally speaking this portion of the city is known for the same reasons as the Bronx (the influx of immigrants and the rise of crime in later years.) It has more famous landmarks than other borough (except for Manhattan) such as the Brooklyn Bridge. It also contains the neighbourhood Coney Island.
Prominent Appearances: It has been featured periodically in Captain America (1968, 1988, 2002) as well as more frequently in Marvel Comics Presents (1988) and various Punisher and Spider-Man series. Has also appeared numerous time in the following series: Herc (2011), the Hood (2002), G.I. A Real American Hero (2010), Spawn (1992), Hawkeye Blindspot (2011), Mystique (2003), 21 Down (2002), Bad Medicine (2012), Venom (2011), X-Factor (2006), Fear itself (2011), Spawn origins (2009), Justice League (2011), Tarzan/Carson of Venus (1998), Corriere dei Ragazzi (1972). Brooklyn Bridge itself is also featured regularly, and although it is equally in Manhattan as in Brooklyn, it is often more associated with the latter because of its name. A prominent scene in the film Fantastic Four (2005) occurs on the Bridge.
Queens has the same general presentation in comics as does the Bronx. There are fewer landmarks of note here, and generally speaking it is also an ethnically diverse area.
Prominent Appearances: Has been featured more than once in Ultimate Spider-Man (2000), Spawn (1992), The amazing Spider-Man (1963), The 100 Greatest Marvels of All Time (2001) and Fantastic Four (1961). In the movie adaptation of Men in Black (1997) Flushing Meadows park, the home of the 1964 World’s Fair, is featured prominently.
Generally speaking Staten Island is the least prominent of New York boroughs as it is isolated from them. It is generally a higher income part of the city.
Prominent Appearances: None
Often referred to synonymously as with New York City, the island of Manhattan forms the heart of the city and is home to most of the notable landmarks as well as most of its most famous neighbourhoods.
Prominent Appearances: Outside of the other boroughs, Manhattan is generally used in the same context as New York City. If a comic is based in New York City and not specifically identified as another borough it is safe to assume it is in Manhattan.
New York City’s seaside resort. Coney Island is well known for its famous boardwalk and amusement rides. It is one of the only prominent neighbourhoods outside of Manhattan.
Notable Appearances: The Pirates of Coney Island (2006), The Warriors Official Movie Adaptation (2009)
Somewhat upscale neighbourhood known for a bohemian lifestyle, as well as being a source of the hippie movement in the 1960s. Comics from the 1960s which referenced hippies also would reference Greenwich Village synonymously. Equally in the 1960s when rebooting Wonder Woman, it was made her base of operations. It is also the base of operations for Doctor Strange.
Notable appearances: Witches (2004), The Darkness (2007), Fantastic Four (1961), Howard the Duck (1976).
Often associated with crime and poverty, Harlem has undergone heavy gentrification in recent years. Despite this it is still often displayed as a tough area of the city, and one centered around African American culture, although this is not necessarily reflected in reality. For instance, streetwise Luke Cage with a criminal past is from Harlem.
Notable Appearances: Featured occasionally in Luke Cage related comics.
Hell’s Kitchen is associated prominently with Daredevil and his enemies, led by the Kingpin. A majority of Daredevil related stories occur there. It is also the birthplace of Frank Castle. The Marvel Comic version is notable different than the real life version and is essentially a fictional place (as the real version is known for clothing and fabric wholesalers, not for crime.) Has recently been featured in Hawkeye (2012).
Notable appearances: Throughout the entirety of Daredevil appearances, or characters in crossovers with Daredevil.
New York City is home to a number of famous landmarks, often seen to be iconic with the city or the USA as a whole. Included among these are the Statue of Liberty, Grand Central Station, Wall Street and the financial district, and Ellis Island. Additionally some other institutions are known for their connection to the city, notably some of the universities (NYU, Columbia) which occasionally are shown as centers of research. The following have been featured prominently in comics:
American Museum of Natural History
A museum on the West side of Central Park featuring exhibits on zoology and anthropology.
Notable appearances: Has been featured occasionally in Captain America related series.
The largest park inside of the city and one of the most famous and largest city parks in the world. It has occasionally been seen as a location where criminals lurk, though equally it is famous for its other depictions.
Notable appearances: It is often featured from time to time in any comics related to New York City. It features fairly regularly in The Boys (2006). At the end of the movie The Avengers (2012), Thor leaves for Asgard with Loki from Bethesda Fountain, one of the prominent landmarks within the Park.
Empire State Building
For a period the tallest free standing structure in the world, the towering building has been associated with New York City since it was built. Although other large skyscrapers are equally famous (such as the Chrysler Building) the Empire State building remains one of the most prominent buildings in the city.
Notable appearances: The Punisher (2001), Preacher (1995), Chronicles of Wormwood (2007), 2000 AD (1977), Beyond Wonderland (2008), Doc Savage (1998), Mystery Man (2011). It is also used as a somewhat token high spot to view the city from. In the 1993 movie the Shadow, the villains inspect the city from above to decide how far the blast radius will be.
This real life prison is featured prominently in the Marvel Universe as a holding location for many street level heroes.
At one point the automated newsfeeds served as a way to stay connected to the happenings in the world before the advent of television and radio. Ever since then Times Square has maintained a link to media in the city, and is seen by many to be a prominent landmark and meeting point (though this is not as accurate as it relates to people that live in New York City.)
Notable Appearances: It often serves as a place of large battles in comics as has been featured in Spider Island and Green Lantern New Guardians.
United Nations Headquarters
After the establishment of the United Nations following the Second World War, New York City was chosen as one of its locations as it is a “global capital” (this despite the fact that politically New York City is not the capital of anything.) Generally speaking the HQ is featured either for its general assembly or for its security council (which is also based in here.) It occupies a small portion of land granted international status by the USA.
Notable Appearances: For a time in the 1970s, Diana Prince maintained a job at the United Nations Headquarters. It also featured prominently in the Death in the Family story arc when the Joker attempts to poison the General Assembly after being made the ambassador from Iran.
As the setting for many comic book stories, the city has many fictional locations as well which have been featured regularly.
One of the main bases of operations for Marvel’s superhero team. It is featured often as the meeting point and planning space for the team.
The most prominent of headquarters for the Fantastic Four.
A fictional newspaper with its headquarters in New York City. Closely associated with Spider-Man stories (as he was employed there) as well as with Daredevil through Ben Ulrich, one of the Bugle’s reporters.
Diana Prince’s Fashion Boutique
During her depowered phase in the 1960s and 1970s, Diana Prince relocated to Greenwich Village and opened a fashion boutique. It was more used as a base of operations, but her interaction with locals was sometimes featured, most prominent among them the gang Them!
Empire State University
Borrowing its name from the nickname of New York State (the Empire State) this university is the alma mater of many famous Marvel characters and inventors.
One of the key locations in the Fables setting from Vertigo.
Four Freedoms Plaza
A one-time headquarters of the Fantastic Four. It has since been destroyed.
Midtown High School
The high school attended by many of Peter Parker’s friends and colleagues. Featured prominently in Spider-Man stories, especially those dealing with his early years.
A system of tunnels underneath New York City inhabited by the mutant Morlocks in the Marvel Universe.
The base of operations of Doctor Strange, located in Greenwich Village.
The base of operations for Tony Stark and Iron Man, as well as generally serving as the main location for Stark Industries.
A SHIELD base of operations, located off the coast from New York City.