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The Gotham City Livability Index
Judging various incarnations of Batman’s hometown by how awful it would be to live there.
Gotham City: it’s not a nice place to visit, and you certainly wouldn’t want to live there. And yet, against all logic, people do. Lots of people. Here’s a town in which ordinary citizens — Gotham’s best and brightest, even — can get gunned down while taking their kid to see a Zorro movie. (Admittedly, they probably shouldn’t take a shortcut through a place called “Crime Alley,” but the Wayne family’s support of independent theaters should still be lauded.) But some Gothams are worse than others. With The Batman's introduction of yet another vision of a Bat-city in the grips of crime, corruption, and costumed bad guys, now’s a good time to consider which Gothams might actually have something to offer their residents, and which practically demand their citizens consult Redfin for housing in virtually any other zip code.
Silver Age Batman Comics (1957 - 1970)
Batman (TV Series)
If you must live there, your best bet is the Gotham City of the post-war years, specifically the Gotham found in the comic books of the era and in the hit ’60s series. Sure, it’s still a dangerous place, one in which the antics of criminal masterminds like Catwoman, Joker, and the Riddler (to say nothing of Egghead, King Tut, and other second- and third-stringers) regularly wreak havoc on the city. But their plans, while dastardly, are pretty easily foiled, occasionally by surfing contests. And, thanks to the introduction of that impish sprite Bat-Mite, anything can happen. (Literally anything: he’s a tiny magic being obsessed with Batman who wears a little batsuit.) Plus, the place just pops with color! Bang! Pow! It’s a great place to live, relatively speaking, but you might want to explore other options eventually.
Bronze Age Batman Comics (1971 - 1985)
Tim Burton’s Gotham: Batman / Batman Returns
Batman: The Animated Series
Joel Schumacher’s Gotham: Batman Forever / Batman & Robin
You’ll certainly want to clear out before the 1960s turned into the 1970s, when Batman’s comic book adventures take a darker turn. Sensing readers were fatigued with the campy villainy of the TV series, DC comics creators brought in half-human beasties like Man-Bat or the immortal eco-terrorist R’as al-Ghul, who challenged Batman to shirtless swordfights far away from home. Meanwhile, Gotham grew increasingly noirish, and the Caped Crusader’s caped crusades found him taking on increasingly lethal foes. Gotham started to look pretty unsafe. Still, it remained a mostly functional city, in spite of all the danger. The same can be said for the stunning dark deco Gotham of Tim Burton’s Batman films and of the similarly styled Batman: The Animated Series. Sure, you might get killed by deadly Joker gas in either, but, gosh, the city and everyone in it looked amazing. Schumacher’s version, while by and large safer, is also more annoying. It might be harder to get killed by, say, Mr. Freeze or Two-Face, but you’d still have to listen to that awful Seal song all the damn time.
Golden Age Batman Comics (1939 - 1956)
Modern Batman Comics (1986 - Present)
Christopher Nolan’s: Batman Returns / The Dark Knight / The Dark Knight Rises
Matt Reeves’s Gotham: The Batman
Still, Gotham’s sketchy ’70s and the big- and small-screen incarnations they inspired were nothing compared to the first glimpses of Gotham that greeted readers in his earliest adventures, which was simply overrun with thuggish, tommy gun-toting gangsters, in addition to Joker, in his original maniacal murder-clown incarnation, and other lethal threats. It’s a scary place! (To be fair, it got progressively less scary as the Golden Age progressed, Batman picked up a Boy Wonder sidekick, and pre-Silver Age whimsy set in. And if you enjoy giant pennies, model dinosaurs, and other oversized props, there’s no better place to live.) The original Gotham was so scary, in fact, that when Frank Miller and other ’80s comic book creators decided to make a grimmer, grittier (and often grodier) Gotham, the result looked a lot like the Gotham of yore, albeit one filtered through the mean streets of ’70s crime films. Pick up a Batman comic these days, and that’s more or less the Gotham you’ll still encounter, though the influence of big-screen Gothams, like the ones featured in Christopher Nolan’s films, tend to creep in as well. About those Nolan films: Gotham goes through an interesting arc over the course of his trilogy, evolving from grimly stylized in Batman Begins to cities that, in the subsequent entries, look a lot more like modern American metropolises. By The Dark Knight Rises it even seems to be in the process of being rejuvenated (until things take a dark, Bane-induced turn, of course). Gotham’s not really in great shape in Matt Reeves' new The Batman, but it at least appears like it might be in the earliest stages of an upswing by the film's end. Maybe. You never know with Gotham City.
Just Outright Hellholes
Batman: Arkham (Video game series)
Gotham (TV Series)
Zack Snyder’s: Batman V Robin: Dawn of Justice / Justice League
Thinking of moving to one of these Gothams? Horrible mistake. From the almost comically dangerous Gotham of Rocksteady Studios’ Arkham games to the Taxi Driver’s-New York-but-shittier Gotham of Todd Philips’ Joker, these are Gothams that double as magnets for every imaginable urban nightmare. Want a police force so corrupt that the least crooked cops serve as the heroes? Stop by the Gotham of the Fox series Gotham, a city in which Bruce Wayne is still too young to stand up to emerging threats like Penguin in Riddler (who enjoy a five-seasons-long love/hate relationship). But even these look like paradise compared to Snyder’s Gotham, where winged parademons just kind of fit into the landscape and the hero’s idea of mercy is sending his foes to certain death by branding them and letting their fellow prisoners do them in. All that, and rents are through the roof! Have you considered one of the Carolinas? They offer affordable housing, some of the best barbecue you’ll ever taste, and virtually no murderous ventriloquists dummies.