Updated date:

Big Crimes, Little Cities


I'm not a writer; I'm not that good with grammar . . . honestly, I'm hardly literate, but I love comic books and want to talk about them.



Big Cities, Big Problems (SAM #3)

So, I'm playing the new Spiderman game the other day. Minding my business, swinging through Manhattan, and stopping every couple blocks to break up a robbery, or a mugging. It's a big city, New York! Lots of goings-ons around every corner. It's very easy for a person (like a superhero for example) to get caught up in whatever they're doing so that they can't address every possible problem. But even with that being said, they sure do a good job. The hero always seems to be ever-vigilant and can be in the middle of an investigation while still able to lay the smackdown on some perpetrator.

So, as I'm webbing up some bad guys, somebody asked me, "why do bad guys seem to only commit crimes where the superheroes are?" And this got me thinking... she makes a lot of sense!

Gotham City

Gotham City

The 'Burbs vs The 'Burgh

The majority of heroes we read about have a home base. Like I mentioned above, Spiderman occupies New York City, Batman obviously has Gotham and even the newest iteration of SHAZAM has him fighting evil out of Philadelphia (previously Fawcett City). What do these examples have in common? A couple of things...

1) They are based in large cities

2) Most of the crimes/criminals that they face off against, will appear within these city limits. Rarely do we see an instance where the hero must travel beyond the confines of their domain to fight the bad guy.

These two points bring us back to the question, why do the crimes keep happening here? I mean, I get it. Large cities/metropolitan areas have the largest/densely populated area of people with things to steal from. Cities can be home to some of the richest and most powerful people in a region due to the high costs of living. Cities also have the majority of normal folk who are down on their luck and willing to do anything to scrape by, or they just feel an injustice from the people living the ritzy life. Odds are, this is where the crimes are going to happen regardless of how nonsensical it may be because as I've mentioned in a previous article (http://hub.me/ao1Zb), hoodlums will keep showing up despite how many times the good guy crushes them to dust.

But humor me for a moment and think about if the criminals and villains we read about were just 5% smarter, and assuming their only goal wasn't to simply kill the hero. I believe the crooks would be much more successful! Yes, there is a lot of opportunities to score big in the Urban areas but what if the lawbreakers just rode the train a few more stops....who would be over there to stop them?

Spiderman overlooking Manhattan

Spiderman overlooking Manhattan

Here's a perfect example (See Photo Above). We see Spiderman residing over Manhattan, like an eagle, stalking its prey, ensuring nothing is amiss in his territory. But if you look off to right (presumably Southbound), you will see a body of water separating his city from the remainder of the continental United States. Depending on where he is standing that land could be either West New York, NJ, Hoboken, or even as far south as Jersey City. Each of which is about a 15-30 minute train ride from Penn Station in NY....very easy to get to. The point is if you are a low to mid-tier criminal and you want to make a score or steal some cash, it stands to reason that you're odds of being caught and broken to pieces by the Web-Slinger (or even Daredevil for that matter) before you make a clean getaway, are much much slimmer than if you decide to operate in the hero's backyard! Do you know how long it would take for Parker to swing to Hoboken!?! Even if he caught the 8:15 train, once he's at the station there's nothing for him to swing on over there, he'd have to walk to the crime! You'd be gone before they even got to Weehawken.

Another point to make is, I feel that offenders are not fully realizing their crime-potential. Sammamish, WA is one of the wealthiest cities in the U.S., with an average household income of $183,000 (According to 2019 NPR Article: What Sammamish's high median income really means), but the beauty of it is, that it exists just about 21 miles from the city center of Seattle, so this turns out to be a roughly 30-minute drive, or an hour-long train (if you can't drive). 30 minutes! 30 minutes is all the additional planning a criminal would have to do to score off one of the wealthiest areas in the country and avoid being turned into Green Arrow's pin-cushion...It seems like a really good investment of your hooligan-time, because I don't recall seeing any other crimes happening over there.

Seattle to Sammamish

Seattle to Sammamish

And that is only if you are targeting the richest areas. All of the heroes seem to be tied to the largest cities they can find...but what about the slightly smaller cities? Why not the second-largest city for your master crime? SHAZAM is based out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania's largest city, yet Pennsylvania's second-largest city, Pittsburgh, sits 304 miles away. Do you think that Billy Batson is just sitting around waiting to hear about crimes that are occurring in Pittsburgh! The Steel City!?! I think not...So again, why aren't more criminals popping up there? Are you telling me that Mr. Mind couldn't turn the Dirty 'Burgh into his own evil playground without SHAZAM having the slightest clue? I'd call you crazy.

Mr. Mind plotting against SHAZAM


All-in-all, I'm glad that the criminals of comic books decide to try to best our heroes within city limits. It creates a rich history and lore behind every building. It makes the place seem more alive, more dynamic; like it evolves along with the characters. Ask yourself, who has seen more crazy $#!+, Batman or the streets of Gotham? All I'm saying is if there's a villain in any of these stories that wants to really boost their odds of success, read my article ;)

Related Articles