I was chatting with one of my urban planning friends (Hi, Mike!) at an outdoor cafe (because that's where urban planners hang out) about the recent death of Jane Jacobs, godmother of the neourban movement, savior of Soho, and one of the greatest intellects of our century.
The essence of Jane Jacobs' message (cities=socioeconomic rainforest, suburbs=socioeconomic desert) is almost as close to my heart as the joy of comic books. But that shouldn't surprise me: comic books are essentially urban.
Superheroes and their foes do not hang out in shopping malls (the Superbuddies notwithstanding). Like many of the specialized products of the city, the spandex set require a dense urban setting to flourish. Suburbs and small towns do not foster abandoned warehouse districts, giant props, and the poorly guarded banks, jewelry stores, and art museums that are the necessary backdrops for caped conflict.
Except Smallville. Smallville has everything. Scientific research labs. Mints. Whales. Everything.
Why is James Robinson praised? Great plotting? Jack Knight? No; Opal City. Where did the Secret Society attack? Blue Valley? The Deep Amazon? No; Metropolis. Do the residents of Wayne Manor and Arkham stay in the burbs to battle or do they meet in the city over cappucino?
Tell me, those of you raised in the surburbs: did reading comics distort your expectations of life in the Big City? When you first toured Central City (or moved there) were you crestfallen that it wasn't night 24 hours a day, that the police didn't have blimps, and that obscenely wealthy pearl-dripping matrons weren't walking their little lord Fauntleroys down every dark, trash-strewn alley of menace?