There’s historical precedent — and our pal PAUL KUPPERBERG had a big hand in it…

Rachel “Lois Lane” Brosnahan, David “Superman” Corenswet, director James Gunn

Ken Hommel, a TV exec known around comics circles, posted pix on Facebook the other day from his trip to the Cleveland sites where James Gunn has been shooting Superman. (Cleveland being where Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were reared.)

Guess what jumped out at me — besides the references to George Reeves, Curt Swan and Frank Quitely on storefronts: that Metropolis is clearly identified as being in Delaware:

But, wait, isn’t Metropolis a stand-in for New York? Generally, yes. Though, not always. Either way, longtime fans may recall that DC put Metropolis in the Blue Hen State a few decades ago — and our pal Paul Kupperberg played a big role in it as the writer of 1990’s Atlas of the DC Universe.

Here’s Paul — and click here for 13 FASCINATING FACTS about said Atlas:


Everybody knows Metropolis, the home of Superman, Lois Lane, and the Daily Planet.

But who knows exactly where Metropolis is located?

To tell you the truth, I didn’t let the question much bother me as a kid. Based on the late-1950s and early-1960s comics I read, and the George Reeves Adventures of Superman TV show I was exposed to growing up, if I did bother to think about, I decided Metropolis was probably somewhere in the Midwest, in Ohio maybe, or Illinois. It made perfect sense to me when in 1972, DC Comics declared the small town of Metropolis, Illinois, as the “hometown of Superman” and announced plans, complete with designs by Neal Adams, to build the Amazing World of Superman theme park. The theme park was killed by an economic downturn but Metropolis has made the most of its Superman connection to drive tourism to the town.

The exact whereabouts of the fictional Metropolis remained, as far as I recall, officially unspecified. If E. Nelson Bridwell, DC’s staff historian and continuity nitpicker, had an opinion on the subject, I don’t remember what it was, but I found that being able to physically locate the city was irrelevant to any of the dozens of Superman and Jimmy Olsen stories I wrote over the years.

When I wrote The Atlas to the DC Universe (Mayfair Games, 1990) I was tasked with amalgamating all the available data on every town, city, nation, planet, and dimension in the DCU and quantifying them, from population to location and everything in between. When it came time to drop a pin in the map for Metropolis, I went through everything I’d accumulated on the subject—this was pre-internet and pre-digital, so “everything I’d accumulated” was stacks and stacks of paper and photocopies—and found one of the few concrete published references to the city’s location.

It was a panel from the syndicated World’s Greatest Super-Heroes Starring Superman newspaper strip by Martin Pasko, George Tuska, and Vince Colletta that showed a map of the East Coast of the U.S. with Metropolis sitting on the south side of Delaware Bay, just a quick drive away over the Metro Narrows Bridge from Gotham City in New Jersey.

Gotham in Jersey. Metropolis in Delaware. Check and check! I had 200 entries to write (and dozens of crudely hand drawn maps for places like Ivy Town, Star City, and Qurac to create) so I moved on, happy to have two of the biggies out of the way.

Besides, and I can’t stress this enough, I was hired for the gig by Mayfair Games, not DC Comics, and told to write an atlas that would be useful as a tool in their RPG universe, not a guidebook for the DCU.

But of course, whatever the original intent, the Atlas was too handy a reference for it not to be picked up by editors and writers, and I quickly started getting blowback about things I had included. By far the biggest reaction was to my placement of Metropolis (and Gotham) on Delaware Bay. Some didn’t like that Metropolis, in particular, was on the East Coast, insisting it belonged in the Midwest. A lot of the complaints were that putting these large cities where I had didn’t leave room for the cities that actually existed in those locations, like Dover and Atlantic City.

I had two responses to these complaints, the first being, “Then don’t use the Atlas.” The second was, “So, you can suspend your disbelief enough to buy that a humanoid from an alien planet can fly unharmed through the sun but not that the fictional Delaware Bay can be big enough to accommodate these cities?”

I don’t know where DC Comics continuity ultimately placed Metropolis (though I’m sure its location remains irrelevant to the telling of the stories themselves) but after 30-plus years of complaints and arguments about the subject, I’m pleased to see that Superman director James Gunn has come down on the side of me and the Atlas. And, of course, on the side truth, justice, and the American way… direct from Metropolis, Delaware!


— THE ATLAS OF THE DC UNIVERSE: Paul Kupperberg Reveals 13 FASCINATING FACTS. Click here.

— The TOP 13 Greatest Classic DC COMICS ROLE-PLAYING GAME Supplements — RANKED. Click here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. Hi Paul,

    Wow! The Concept for Superman’s Future illustration laying out the proposed theme park sure brought back childhood memories that have been latently buried for quite some time–I was probably last aware of this in the 1970s as I forgot about it long since. I do more readily recall via the letter columns in Superman (and maybe Action Comics?) how Metropolis, Illinois was playing up the Superman connection–and that the US had an actual town called “Metropolis”–if quite tiny (c. 7000 people during the 1970s) compared to the urban scale of the fictional city in Superman and Action.

    It never occured to me, despite the Illinois connection, to think of Metropolis (the fictional one) as being in the middle of the country, the Midwest, like the actual one, if you will (Central City–by it’s very name, sure–if even more “central’ like in Missouri or Kansas). But this is the first time I’ve heard of the idea of it being, in all places, Delaware (I clearly missed the 1990 Atlas). Having it opposite of Gotham City along Delaware Bay seems quite appropriate esp. given the Apollonian / Dionysius or the light / dark contrast that metaphorically defines the two cities and their key heroes (Superman & Batman) –but I’m still having a difficult time wrapping my head around a New York-sized city (in terms of population–c. 8 million) as in a state that barely has a 1 million people in it with its largest (actual) city having just approx. 71,000 people (Wilmington).

    OTOH, Metropolis’s very name (Gk: “Mother City”) suggests a place on the eastern seaboard as tied to the US’s earliest foundations along the Atlantic coast. While still a paradoxical (or contradictory) head-wrapper / scratcher, perhaps there is something appropriate about the “Mother City” as being located in “The First State,” reflecting Delaware’s noted nickname.

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    • I still have my Atlas of the DC Universe!

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    • The first mention of Metropolis being in Delaware that I know of is from Amazing World of DC Comics #14, the Justice League of America issue, from 1977. In the member biographies the city and states were listed for just about all of DC’s fictional cities with Smallville being in Maryland and Metropolis being in Delaware. (Gotham is in New Jersey.) I don’t know who wrote the bios, but I always assumed Nelson Bridwell had a hand in them.

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      • Hi Randy,

        Wow–great to know. I missed this too even if very much around collecting comics in 1977. Smallville in Maryland? Hmm. And the “Mother City” in Delaware. Well, I guess that makes the move to the big city much less Herculean–even if Superman can do the Herculean. I suppose the current idea that Clark Kent began as a farm boy in the Midwest–like in Kansas–didn’t become entrenched into the DC cultural memory until the 1980s, notably with John Byrne’s Man of Steel. Otherwise, I still cannot think of Metropolis as being in Delaware. Esp. as I think of Metropolis’s population as being Chicago- or NYC-sized, making the city some 3 to 8 times the population size of the actual state.

        Gotta ask: what’s with the very oversized avatar that is blocking your text? (Thankfully it was readable in the email response I got).

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    • DC addressed the location problem in universe. Several times, characters have crossed over to our earth and noted that our earth is smaller than theirs. Thereby explaining how the DCU has so many extra cities and countries from ours.

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  2. It always seemed to me that in the original and early works, Metropolis was a stand-in for Chicago, and Gotham was a stand-in for New York. Smallville seems placed in Kansas, and it would have been quite natural for Clark to seek newspaper work in Chicago from there. To think that anyone from Kansas in that day and age would skip over half the country to seek work in Delaware just seems absurd.

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    • Hey Not that Joe,

      I like the thinking here connecting Smallville and Chicago (I had not thought of it–but it is quite sensible), esp. given the latter’s prominence as the US’s second-largest city from c. 1890 to c. 1980. And yeah, in wanting to seek work in the “big city,” Delaware is not the first place you would have in mind regarding the relocating–at least not in our current reality / universe.

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  3. I always thought Metropolis was in Kansas. 🙂

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  4. As a reader, I placed Marvel heroes in NY and DC were in their own cities/states. Gotham existed in place of a NY. At least that’s how I dealt with it. Just didn’t think about it any further…

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