City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

Superheroes and the city

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Steven Poole wrote a nice review of a good-looking new book on comics and superheroes in last week’s Guardian Review (I’m even timeshifting my newspaper reading these days). Looks very interesting, and the review ends with an observation about the relationship between cities and comics, something I’ve mentioned before, predictably.

"His final chapter is the best: a reading of superheroes in their various urban environments that is studded with lovely aperçus. Bukatman draws an analogy between the 1811 imposition of Manhattan’s grid street system and the rectilinear layout of traditional comic strips which was subsequently exploded and dissolved for artistic effect. The strange fact that superheroes always live in big cities persuades him that the liberating sight of Superman flying, Spider-Man swinging or Batman leaping through the skylines is again an attempt to domesticate the dehumanised concrete sprawl. Superman, Bukatman says, "represented, in 1938, a kind of Corbusierian ideal. Superman has X-ray vision: walls become permeable, transparent. Through his benign, controlled authority, Superman renders the city open, modernist and democratic; he furthers a sense that Le Corbusier described in 1925, namely, that ‘Everything is known to us’."

The Guardian: ‘Everything is known to us’
Matters of Gravity: Special Effects and Supermen in the 20th Century [Amazon UK | US]


2 responses to “Superheroes and the city”

  1. no, 2 self Avatar

    latest discoveries:

    Royston Tan’s controversial short film ‘Cut’Movie satire of Singapore’s nanny statecityofsound: Superheroes and the cityDan Hill highlights a Guardian article about comics and urban topographydelivered (almost) daily at (almost) midnight via


  2. Yoz Grahame's Cheerleader Avatar

    Someone to look up to

    Standing on a street corner in an American grid city, you can turn four ways and see sky all the way to the horizon, shown by avenues like cupped hands. Into the blue – this is where you find your…


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