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Chicago loses Batman film to Pittsburgh, gains Superman

Comic-book geeks meditate on Pittsburgh as Gotham, Chicago as Metropolis.

Had the news come sooner, it would’ve seemed like an April Fool’s joke. But there was no laughing off the bad break for Chicago when Warner Bros. Pictures announced April 5 that director Christopher Nolan and his Batman crew would not be returning this summer to film The Dark Knight Rises. Instead, the trilogy will be completed in Pittsburgh. Local film-industry watchers could give a good answer to the Joker’s rhetorical query, “Why so serious?”: Losing the mega-budget blockbuster will cost the city tens of millions in revenue.

After years of watching cop cars marked “Gotham City” driving down Chicago streets while the first two Nolan-directed Batmans filmed here, local comic-book fans felt a special sense of dismay at the loss. But there’s a possible silver lining: Superman: Man of Steel, produced by Nolan and directed by Zack Snyder, is also shooting this summer. Although no word has been issued about filming in the city, the production will spend the summer headquartered 60 miles southwest of Chicago in Plano. (Also, longtime local actor and Oscar nominee Michael Shannon will portray Kryptonian military maniac General Zod.)

So would the Superman/Batman swap soothe local comics’ fans sense of disappointment? We hit the Comic Vault in Ravenswood
to find out.

“If you wanna get geeky about it, [the Dark Knight migration] kind of makes sense,” says Chris Burnham, 33, an Andersonville artist who was recently tapped to draw DC Comics’ Batman Inc. “In the comics, Wayne Manor is in a rural suburb, but it’s in view of the city. That doesn’t exist in Chicago, but it does in Pittsburgh.”

“Christopher Nolan said in an interview years ago, when they were putting together Batman Begins, that Gotham City should have underground tunnels and rivers and bridges, and then he had an a-ha moment: That’s Chicago!” says Andersonville resident Jim Gelder, 44, a comics collector since age eight. “I have family in Pittsburgh. It’s a great city; it’s not Chicago. There are no iconic buildings in Pittsburgh.… I didn’t know about Superman. If you wanna go back to the old 1940s Metropolis, with very Art Deco buildings, Chicago has it.”

“It’s quite the disappointment,” says Ryan Duelfer, 23, an Albany Park native whose knowledge of superhero flicks runs deep (he name-checked the Richard Donner cut of Superman II as a favorite). “Chicago is Gotham to me. Now I hear that they’re bringing Superman here? This isn’t Metropolis. Chicago’s branded as Gotham. It’s kind of a weird flip.”

“I don’t really care where they film the Batman movie, as long as the movie’s good,” says Everett Watford, a 16-year-old Jones High School student and Comic Vault employee. “Now that Superman’s filming here, I’m actually really excited. I love Superman. When Transformers was filming here, I checked that out. I wasn’t an extra, but I got pretty close to Michael Bay. He was just on the other side of a fence!”

Visit the Comic Vault at its two locations (1530 W Montrose Ave, 773-728-2001 and 108 N State, 312-332-5056). The Dark Knight Rises is due out July 2012; Superman: Man of Steel, December 2012.

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