Very few entertainment properties can claim that they have such a comprehensive, diverse, and well-documented geography such as DC Comics. Atlantis, Metropolis, Gotham, Central City, Smallville, Star City – there are so many places to explore in the DC universe.
Whether in space, on Earth, or underwater, the DC Comics heroes and villains have told thousands of stories that have populated the cities you will find on this list. Some stories destroyed these places, other stories rebuilt them. But most of all, each of these cities have their own histories and personalities. More than serving as backgrounds to action scenes, they were in many ways active participants in each of their heroes’ journeys. For better or worse, these characters wouldn’t be who they are if it weren’t for the cities they ended up in.
This list goes as far as 1939, when Metropolis was first seen, and 1940, when Gotham and Keystone City first appeared in a comic book. It travels to Krypton, exploring many of its cities, and also dives into Atlantis. It explores the origins of some of our favorite DC characters and what makes their cities so special.
These are the 15 Most Important DC Comics Cities, Ranked.
The city of Kandor, which was first seen in 1958’s Action Comics #242, is the original capital of Superman’s planet Krypton – way before Kryptonopolis. It is divided into Guilds: there is an Artist Guild, a Labor Guild, a Military Guild, and a Science Guild.
The most memorable story concerning Kandor was when Brainiac pretty much shrunk and stole the city for himself. Later, Brainiac went as far as kidnapping Superman and placing him inside the contained city, but that backfired, as the hero defeated his nemesis.
14. Calvin City
Calvin City is where Al Pratt, the original Atom, went to college. He would later become a professor in Calvin College. It is a neighboring city to Ivy Town, which is home to Ray Palmer and Ryan Choi (both of whom would later become Atom themselves).
Albert Pratt is a 5’1” guy who gained super-strength. He is the original strong diminutive guy, originated in 1940, having paved the way for Marvel’s Ant-Man to be created in 1962. Pratt’s Atom is a founding member of the Justice Society of America, a super-team that came way before the Justice League.
Not much is described regarding Calvin City besides its Calvin College, a Kord manufacturing plant (from Kord Enterprises, which would later be bought by Wayne Enterprises), and a Huntsinger Forest Reserve.
13. Keystone City
Home to Jay Garrick and Wally West (respectively the first and third Flash), Keystone City, Kansas is just across the Missouri River from Central City, which is where Barry Allen, the second and most popular Flash, is from. However, it is important to understand that Keystone been located in Kansas is a recent discovery. The city’s actual location, like Gotham and Metropolis, had been historically described in very vague terms.
Sports play a big role in Keystone City. They’ve got the Keystone Kings in basketball, the Keystone City Combines in hockey, and have had two baseball teams: Keystone City Patriots and Keystone City Salamanders (yes, really!).
Keystone’s first appearance came with Flash’s introduction in 1940’s Flash Comics #1. In a crazy Teen Titans story titled Titans Tomorrow, the entire city of Keystone had been turned into a giant Flash museum.
12. Argo City
Not to be confused with Ben Affleck’s 2012 film Argo, Argo City is yet another city in Krypton.
Though it is the birthplace of Kara Zor-El, aka Supergirl, Argo City was pretty ignored in the pilot episode of the CBS (and later, The CW) TV show Supergirl. The television series chose to focus on the entire planet of Krypton as Kara’s place of origin, which was probably for the best, as it is safe to say that CBS audiences might’ve been left confused by the concept of multiple cities in a fictional planet most only know very little about.
Kara and Argo City were introduced in 1959’s Action Comics #252, just a few issues after Kandor’s first appearance. In the Superman vs. Aliens comic book crossover between DC Comics and Dark Horse Comics, it is explained that the Aliens came from an abandoned ship that crashed in Argo City, and Superman is even rescued by Supergirl.
After Kandor was shrunk and abducted by Brainiac, Kryptonopolis became the new capital of Krypton. But most importantly, Kryptonopolis is known for being the birthplace of Superman himself, Kal-El.
Home to Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van, Kal-El’s parents, Kryptonopolis was where Jor-El prophesized Krypton’s destruction, and where he built the rocket for Kal-El to escape in time.
Kryptonopolis is also unique in the sense that it is the only Krypton city not named after a Kryptonian word, such as Argo and Kandor. Its name is actually much closer to Metropolis, which would eventually become Superman’s home.
Though it is the birthplace of Kal-El, he was raised in Smallville and eventually became an adult in Metropolis, so it is safe to say that Earth played a much bigger role in Kal-El’s development than Krypton.
10. Midway City
Loosely based on the city of Chicago, Midway City, Michigan is of much importance to the DC Comics universe.
Midway City is known as the place where the Doom Patrol team was formed, though in later issues the team moved to Kansas City. Midway is also home to Hawkman and Hawkgirl, who worked in the Midway City Museum as a front. More recently, the 2016 film Suicide Squad was actually set in Midway City.
The city’s first appearance was in 1961’s The Brave and the Bold Vol 1, also credited for introducing Hawkman, Hawkgirl, and Midway City’s police commissioner George Emmett. The Doom Patrol eventually left Midway because their activities became too expensive for the city to keep up with. As a matter of fact, Midway City has a history of having a negative perception of costumed vigilantes, and George Emmett is recognized as being responsible for changing those notions.
Blüdhaven is described as being an economically struggling city that fell into the hands of Roland Desmond, the second version of the DC Comics villain Blockbuster.
Roland moved to Blüdhaven because it was his mother’s hometown, so he preyed on the city’s economic struggle and took control of all criminal activities that happened there. However, Roland didn’t foresee that Dick Grayson (Nightwing, formerly Robin) would also move there eventually, becoming Blüdhaven’s first ever superhero.
During the 2005 DC Comics event Infinite Crisis, Blüdhaven was attacked with radioactive chemicals that forced the city to be confined inside a quarantine structure called The Wall. Later, Captain Atom (not to be confused with the diminutive hero Atom) was credited with destroying the city altogether with a nuclear explosion.
8. Star City
Home to Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow, Star City is a very important location in the DC Comics universe. Its first appearance was in 1959’s Adventure Comics Vol. 1 #266.
While it is clear that Star City sits by the ocean, for many years its precise location on the map was unconfirmed, like has always been the case with Gotham and Metropolis. More recently, however, there has been a certainty that Star City is positioned more or less where San Francisco exists in California.
On The CW television series Arrow, Star City was originally named Starling City, but it eventually became Star City in the fourth season. Additionally, in the sixth season of the TV show Smallville, Star City was once mentioned by Lex Luthor.
7. National City
National City is Supergirl’s home on Earth, and it serves as the stage for her The CW television series Supergirl.
Home to the football team National City Sharks, National City is located in California and it serves as the headquarters to Cat Grant’s company CatCo Worldwide Media.
In the TV show, Kara Zor-El, the Supergirl, goes to work as Cat Grant’s assistant in a very The Devil Wears Prada dynamic. In the comics, however, Cat Grant is introduced as a reporter for Metropolis’ Daily Planet who serves as a love interest to Clark Kent. Eventually, she leaves Metropolis for Washington D.C. to become President Lex Luthor’s Press Secretary. While the comic version of Cat Grant does intersect with Supergirl, she does not have much to do with National City.
6. Coast City
An analogue to San Diego, California, Coast City is the birthplace of Hal Jordan, the Silver Age version of the superhero Green Lantern.
More recently dubbed as “The City Without Fear”, Coast City is known to have been destroyed in the 1990s and rebuilt after the Infinite Crisis comic book event. In the poorly-received 2011 film Green Lantern, Coast City was filmed in New Orleans, Louisiana. The New Orleans Lakefront Airport was portrayed as the movie’s Ferris Aircraft headquarters.
The city’s first appearance was in 1952’s Superman #77. More recently, Coast City has been mentioned a couple of times on The CW shows Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow. In an episode of the NBC television series Powerless, Coast City was mentioned as being the destination for a company’s retreat.
5. Central City
As previously mentioned, Central City is home to the second and most popular Flash of all, Barry Allen, and the place we see on The CW’s The Flash TV series. Even though the upcoming The Flash film is still in early development, it is pretty safe to assume that Barry’s home will also play a huge role in the movie.
There’s a lot to be found in Central City: the Flash Museum in the City Center, the Central City University, the S.T.A.R. Labs. Most of Barry Allen’s adventures take place in Central City, and on his current live-action TV show, he faces several foes, such as the Reverse-Flash, Heat Wave and Captain Cold, Zoom, and Savitar, there.
Since the first Flash, Jay Garrick, was actually from Keystone City, Central City wasn’t introduced until 1956, in the comic issue Showcase #4. During the 25th Century time jump, Central City was rebranded as Central Cityplex.
The second most important place in the Superman mythos is Smallville, Kansas, the city where his Kryptonian rocket lands, where he meets his Earth parents Martha and Jonathan Kent, and where he is named Clark Kent. Ultimately, Smallville is where Superman grows up and becomes the strong and honorable man that he is. It is also where, in certain stories, Clark would occasionally run into a young Lex Luthor, who later becomes his ultimate and most consistent foe.
Smallville was the main setting for many Superboy comic issues and for The CW (originally called The WB) television series Smallville, which ran for ten years. While the TV show filmed the city of Smallville in British Columbia, Canada, the 2013 film Man of Steel chose to portray the city through the countryside scenery in the state of Illinois.
After Smallville, Clark Kent moved to Metropolis and became the full-fledged Superman we know today.
Home to the Daily Planet and LexCorp, “The City of Tomorrow” has been portrayed on the big screen in Superman I through IV, Superman Returns, Man of Steel, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Metropolis is known for having been greatly inspired by New York City, therefore considered as the intersection between business, diversity, and hope in the DC Comics universe. It is also the city with the longest comic book history on this list, since Metropolis first appeared in a story in 1939 (beating Gotham and Keystone City, which were introduced in 1940).
Besides Superman, Lois Lane, and Lex Luthor, Metropolis has also been home to Doomsday, Prankster, Bizarro, and many others. It was often portrayed as a “twin city” to Batman’s Gotham, though the proximity between one another has varied greatly throughout the years.
Atlantis, while technically a continent, is seen by most DC Comics fans as a particular place just like Gotham, Metropolis, Central City, or any other, and one of great importance to the entire universe. It first appeared in 1939’s Action Comics #18.
Atlanteans, led by their king Aquaman, are some of the most incredible creatures in the entirety of DC Comics. They are known for being strong authoritarian warriors who faced many battles in order to protect their people.
Since the upcoming Justice League film will introduce Aquaman to the DCEU, it is very possible that Atlantis will get its first ever live-action movie adaptation. The closest Aquaman and Atlantis had ever gotten to a live-action feature film before was in the fictional entertainment business of HBO’s hit series Entourage. Either way, we’re sure to see Atlantis in Justin Lin’s Aquaman.
1. Gotham City
With so many interesting places to choose from, it is tougher than one might imagine to pick the #1 most important city in the DC Comics universe. But in many ways, it had to be Gotham.
Batman’s city has been the setting for many of DC’s most memorable comic books, such as Batman: Year One, The Killing Joke, and The Dark Knight Returns. It has also been in every Batman movie, like Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, and also in the more recent DCEU films.
It is home to the Arkham Asylum, the Batcave, and the Wayne Tower. It was a stage to characters such as Batgirl, Catwoman, Robin, The Joker, Harley Quinn, Penguin, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, Two-Face, and so many others.
It is the DC Comics city with the biggest representation of popular characters, the city that has been adapted the most to TV and cinema, and that the city even people who have never read a comic book can recognize.
Do you agree with our top 5? Do you think a different DC Comics city should’ve taken the #1 spot? Let us know in the comments below!