Saturday, July 13, 2013

Spoiler Saturday--Another Issue Of Superman Unchained, Another No-Prize

Wow, Scott Snyder seems bound and determined to unhinge me with minor details in his Superman Unchained scripts.

Last time it was with the vagaries of supposedly top-secret space stations. This time, however, I think I'm on somewhat firmer ground, as we raise the question, how big is Smallville?

Terrorists are trying to bring down the world's tallest building, the Burj Kahilfa in Dubai:

As he's trying to save the building, and the people inside, Kal-El thinks captions this little factoid on us:

36,000 people? In Smallville? Really?

All right, game on!!

*Initially, I had been willing to dismiss this as a simple transcription error--perhaps Snyder had written "3600" or "thirty-six hundred," but somewhere between script and lettering it got muddled.

But, it turns out, not so--because the Burj Khlaifa was built to accommodate "up to 35,000" people. (Granted, it has probably never been near maximum occupancy, and probably has no more than 12-15,000 people at any one time. But that's just getting too hyper-picky. Maybe the Dubai Comicon was going on that day...) So credit Snyder for doing the research.

BUT that also means he must have meant it when he says Smallville has a population of "roughly" 36,000. Game still on!

*The town I grew up in--Portage, Michigan--was no Smallville. A largely suburban community, we had two major shopping malls. The worldwide headquarters of Upjohn pharmaceuticals (later Pharmacia later Phizer) was here. We had two high schools, with a total number of students of roughly 2500-3000. My graduating class was nearly 300.

Does any of that sound like your image of Smallville? Because while I was growing up, Portage's population hovered between 36,000 and 40,000. And while we were no Metropolis, we sure didn't feel like "Ma and Pa Kent had a farm and then a small general store on Main Street" territory.

Compare with some of the more rural towns not too far from Portage/Kalamazoo (population numbers from the 2010 census):

Mattawan: 1,997
Schoolcraft: 1,525
Three Rivers 7,811
Constantine 2,076
Paw Paw 3,534
Vicksburg 2,906
Bangor 1,885

Those are all big enough to have their own high schools; don't those sound more like the size you'd envision Smallville to be?

*Taken from a Kansas perspective: if Smallville did have roughly 36,000 people, it would be the 12th biggest city in Kansas, between Leavenworth and Hutchinson. Counting just towns with more than 5,000 folks, there are 48 cities in Kansan smaller than "Smallville." And that doesn't count all of the smaller towns--Kansas law allows cities to incorporate when they reach a population of 300. It also doesn't count the 1400 townships, or the hundreds of unincorporated communities.

Again, all of those smaller towns, townships and unincorporated areas sound a lot more like our ideal of Smallville.

*Of course, this is the nu52, and we've not seen too much of Smallville there. Perhaps it's bigger post-Flushpoint. Maybe it's attracted some big businesses, or perhaps Google Fiber came to town, and the resultant IT revolution made Samllville the regional hub for data centers and the such.

*Maybe Smallville was named ironically, like Greenland...

*Perhaps there's a Smallville county, and "our" Smallville is merely the county seat, so Superman is speaking of the whole county, Smallville plus other towns and townships and unincorporated areas.

*Or, maybe it's the Busiek Hypothesis run amok. Kurt Busiek speculated that, given all of the extra cities, DC Earth must be larger than ours, or have a greater surface area. Given that, perhaps the definition of a small town is different than on our tiny Earth. Perhaps on DC Earth, 36 thousand is a small town...

*Or, like Lois Lane, perhaps Scott Snyder is a big city boy who has never been outside of a burgeoning metropolitan area, and has no idea what the population of a tiny town might actually be. Maybe he thinks thirty-six thousand is small...

Or, maybe Snyder was just trolling me, trying to make me waste my Saturday morning on researching populations and town sizes. Well played, sir...well played.


Dave-El said...

1) I can't remember the source but I think some post-crisis story crediting Smallville as being named after some guy named Small. Still, 36K seems a tad large for how Smallville has been portrayed.

2) Smallville is like Springfield in the Simpsons: It is whatever it needs to be. (Including its population.)

3) Seems risky to let Snyder use the Dubai tower as a plot point given that in the real world, that could happen.

Slay on, Monstrobot!


Anonymous said...

Maybe it's like Portage, but all the corporate HQs and malls are in nearby towns.

Kind of like the town I'm from, Cheshire, CT (pop 29,000, and only a few square miles smaller than Portage). Malls and major retail are in the towns to the east, west, north, and south. There's a growing light industrial base in the north end of town, but there are still farms around town. Oh, and there's a state prison or two. I don't know if they count towards the town's population or not.

It's pretty much just a matter of zoning. If Smallville is surrounded by towns full of strip malls and office parks, but Smallville has restricted such development, Smallville would become a desirable place to buy a home.

Anonymous said...

This is great! I would have never caught this either.

Love reading your posts each day. Keep it up!

Martin Gray said...

I'm still upset at finding out a 'Smallville strip mall' isn't what it sounds like.