If you saw The Avengers, you are well aware that the climactic set piece was an epic battle in New York City. An alien invasion led by an evil god against the world’s greatest superheroes! Time and time again, superheroes are featured in New York, but that’s not the only way this city is important to that mythology.
New York City actually inspired the creation of superheroes in the first place. When the genre came into existence, comic book companies were all based in NYC. The soaring towers and lengthy caverns of New York were unlike anything seen before in history. They helped inspire stories about people with incredible powers and abilities.
(Careful of the Avengers, I think they’re from Jersey!)
Here are 7 superheros Inspired by New York City:
1. Luke Cage: Power Man
Luke Cage was born and raised in Harlem and spent time in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. He agreed to an experiment to grant his release and received super-strength and invulnerable skin for his troubles.
Possessing a sharp mind, street-savvy, and an unbendable moral core, Power Man first started out as a Hero For Hire in Times Square, but soon answered the higher calling of altruism. Cage has been the cornerstone of the Avengers for years in the comics and will be a huge star once his Netflix series airs next year.
2. Captain America
Everybody knows Captain America: a born leader and the personification of everything good about the USA. It’s not his strength or his shield that makes Captain America great but his good heart and an unerring sense of right and wrong.
Before he became the Star Spangled Sentinel, Steve Rogers was a boy from Brooklyn. It was New York City that gave rise to Cap’s moral code, and it’s NYC that he still calls home. It makes sense; Captain America is from the same city as The Statue of Liberty.
3. Doctor Strange
He is the Sorcerer Supreme. He was name dropped in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. He was an arrogant Manhattan surgeon before an accident ruined his hands. A subsequent quest revealed him to be the Master of the Mystic Arts. He lives on Bleecker Street.
When he debuted in the 70’s, Stephen Strange divided his time equally between defending the world and exploring Greenwich Village. His creators were from New York City and the character reflected their love for the Big Apple.
Kevin Smith once described Daredevil as The Grateful Dead of superheroes. He should be as big as The Beatles or the Stones. He’s had a movie already and will star in an upcoming Netflix series. He’s a trailblazer too, as he is the first major disabled superhero. Daredevil is blind.
New York is a living character in Daredevil’s life. DD is all about Hell’s Kitchen, and his stories center on that neighborhood. He’s been a monumentally influential figure in the superhero genre, spinning off the immensely popular Elektra character and fighting the ninja clan The Hand.
How influential was Daredevil? He partially inspired the next entry.
5. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
That theme song is playing in your head now isn’t it?
The Turtles have been nothing less than a world-wide cultural mainstay. They live in New York’s sewers and eat lots of pizza. Naturally they do. It’s New York and we’re all about the pizza here.
But the Turtles were created partially in reaction to the popular comic books of the day. They’re mutants because of the X-Men, and their ninja enemies were a direct nod to Daredevil. DD fought The Hand. TMNT fight The Foot.
Still, the Turtles were quirky and original enough to capture the hearts and minds of a generation of children, and they’re still at it. Their latest movie is only a few months old. And New York City is just as important to them as ever.
Wait, what? Batman doesn’t operate in New York, he’s in Gotham City! Everybody knows that!
Hang on a second there, let us explain the deal here. Gotham is a New York nickname of course, and in this case it’s evocative of the environment that inspired Batman. DC Comics decided to go with imaginary cities for their superheroes in order to broaden their appeal. Gotham City very clearly mirrors New York. In Batman: The Cult, it’s referred to as having bridges to New Jersey.
But DC didn’t start Batman in Gotham, the Dark Knight actually prowled the rooftops of New York City in his first few issues. They decided to call it Gotham City later. Batman creator Bob Kane was a New Yorker too.
All you need do to imagine Batman as real is to look at NYC’s rooftops at night.
This guy is all New York City, all the time. He’s synonymous with NYC. Spider-Man could exist nowhere else. Considering his main mode of transportation is swinging between buildings, he could only be effective in Gotham. Uh, sorry, we mean New York. Can’t see Spidey doing as well out on the prairies, can you?
He’s from Queens, struggling to make the bills in an expensive city that he loves regardless. He’s always overmatched but rises above his challenges. Not only is he not appreciated, he gets bad press all the time. What New Yorker can’t relate to that?
New York City is the greatest city in the world, so it’s no surprise it has inspired the greatest superheroes of the world. Comic books are a purely American invention, and without New York City to help inspire their stories, superheroes would have had a much harder time existing in the first place.
So the next time you are walking through Midtown, look up. You might see your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man swing by. Is that a gargoyle on that roof or a certain Dark Knight? Is that a bird or a plane? Cowabunga, dudes!
Wonders abound in New York City, so it’s no surprise that NYC inspires wonders right back.
This article was written by a regular Big Appled contributor, Chad R. MacDonald.
If you enjoyed this article, check out 10 Famous Movie Locations Filmed in New York!