I was rereading the phenomenal final issue of Grant Morrison’s Seven Soldiers of Victory series last night, and was particularly struck by his conception of New York City. It was the first time I had read since starting at the Queens Ledger/Brooklyn Star, which is the point at which I fully immersed myself in the City, so it was particularly enjoyable to catch the nuances of his version of New York City. The story is about the invasion of faeries from a higher reality into the fictional universe, and seven less-than-super superheroes who have to fight them off.
For those not in the know, which I assume includes most of you, the New York City of Seven Soldiers exists within the DC universe, home to the fictional super-cities of Gotham and Metropolis, and several less famous cities like Keystone, Coast City, and Opal City. These fictional cities, home to superheroes and fantastically exaggerated architecture far outshine anything that the real New York City has to offer. Morrison decided to set his superhero epic in the DC universe’s New York City, which has been relatively overlooked by creators in favor of the fictional cities. So Morrison, ever the innovator, decided to fill the fictional New York City with the architectural projects that were imagined and even designed, but never built.
The New York Times, which is much more of an authority on the city’s architecture than I am, ran an article
on Seven Soldiers in 2005:
The first issue of Seven Soldiers, published last February, features a broad Manhattan skyline that includes a hotel that the Spanish architect Antonio Gaudí designed for New York nearly a century ago. Not far away is the so-called Rolls-Royce Building (its facade resembles a grill) that the Austrian architect Hans Hollein unsuccessfully proposed as the new headquarters for Chase Manhattan Bank in the late 1950's. And snaking around the two buildings is the Mid-Manhattan Expressway, the elevated highway long championed by New York City's powerful urban planner Robert Moses.
All of these buildings, Mr. Morrison said, will reappear in other issues of the Seven Soldiers series, as will other unrealized architectural marvels. The opening panel of Manhattan Guardian's third issue, for example, featured Frank Lloyd Wright's domed futuristic complex Ellis Island Key, which the architect designed shortly before he died. Mr. Morrison, who lives in Glasgow, said by embellishing on the existing New York he was tapping into his favorite comic book power: the ability to create alternative realities. "Things as they are have never really been enough for me," he said.
Also for your reading pleasure is a wiki
of New York locations featured in the series. Worth clicking within that link is a section on the Secret Subways.
Of course, I’m not one to catch every reference made in the series, and Morrison is known for packing his stories with arcane and historical details, but there is a cute mention of an event occurring on “Broadway and Lennon St.” I think I can safely assume that Lennon St. is a rededicated 72 St, named for the Beatle that was shot there.
There’s probably a ton of other references in the story, and I’m looking forward to reading it again and seeing what else I can spot.