If I Can Make It There… Eh, You Know the Rest

9 Addresses and Locations in New York City That Aren’t Nearly as Exciting as the Same Places in the Marvel Universe

1. Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum, 177A Bleecker St.
While it’s pretty cool that many of Marvel’s heroes make their homes in a real-life city — and not a fictional Metropolis or Coast City, like the heroes over at the Distinguished Competition — the one downside is that comic fans visiting New York City for the first time might end up feeling a little disappointed if they choose to visit places where their heroes are supposed to reside. Take the home and headquarters for Dr. Stephen Strange, Marvel’s master of the mystical arts. In the comics, his home is a prominent three-storey townhouse at 177A Bleecker St. in Greenwich Village, a rather impressive edifice with a  distinctive skylight on the topmost floor. There really was a building at that address; according to Peter Sanderson’s The Marvel Comics Guide to New York City, it’s the building where, in the late 1960s, Roy Thomas and Gary Friedrich shared an apartment while starting out as comic-book professionals. When handed the assignment to write Doctor Strange, Thomas used his old mailing address to place the doctor among the many eccentrics and artistic types residing in the Village (though one online source claims it was artist Bill Everett who suggested that particular address to Thomas). Visitors in search of eldritch energies or supernatural happenings will have to content themselves with a simple door in between the juice bars, delis and tattoo parlors that do business in that fine part of the city. Surely, such an unassuming doorway could never be a portal to a world of enchantment and mystery… or could it?

2. Daily Bugle Building, E. 39th St. and Second Ave.
The Spider-Man movies had New York’s historic Flatiron Building, at Fifth and 23rd, stand in for the Daily Bugle Building, but in the Marvel universe the paper’s offices are located at this intersection. That places it in the Murray Hill neighbourhood on the east side, within spitting distance of Grand Central Station, the United Nations and the Queens Midtown Tunnel (handy for a Queens boy like our Mr. Parker). According to Marvel lore, Bugle publisher J. Jonah Jameson bought the Goodman Building (named after Marvel’s first publisher, Martin Goodman) and moved all the paper’s offices and printing presses there, a move he commemorated by renaming the building after his tabloid and placing 30-foot-tall letters spelling out the paper’s name up on the roof. Never let it be said Jameson was a novice in the self-promotion game. No such luck finding those letters on any real-life buildings; the Daily Bugle Building, like the paper it houses, is entirely fictional, and high-rise apartment buildings stand in its stead.

3. Baxter Building, E. 42nd St. and Madison Ave.
Just around the corner from the Daily Bugle Building stands the Baxter Building, home and headquarters for the Fantastic Four and easily one of the most famous buildings in the Marvel Universe. The quartet chose the midtown building as their base of operations in Fantastic Four #3; Reed Richards then earned his rep as the world’s smartest man by getting permits for a rooftop landing pad and a rocket silo along the building’s side (the Negative Zone is a cakewalk compared to navigating New York’s zoning bylaws). The man also knows his real estate; located between Grand Central Station and the main branch of the New York Public Library, the building sits on some of the most sought-after land on Earth. Well, on this Earth, anyway… it’s anyone’s guess how folks in the Marvel Universe feel about living and working next to a building that on any given day could shoot up into space, disappear into the bedrock, get attacked by goons, or serve as Ground Zero for an extra-dimensional invasion. Maybe it’s like how people live in San Franscisco without freaking out about earthquakes. The actual intersection: lots of skyscrapers and higher-end shops, including… oh hey, a TD Bank. That’s cool.

4. Yancy Street, Lower East Side

We all gotta come from somewhere. For Benjamin J. Grimm, that “somewhere” was Yancy Street, a place typically represented as a rough neighborhood in New York City’s Lower East Side. There was a running gag in the early Fantastic Four years that saw members of the Yancy Street Gang taunt Grimm, a.k.a. the Thing, with pranks and messages like the one seen here; the youthful scamps were never fully depicted, and usually seen only in shadow or heard hollering from off-panel. Yancy Street doesn’t exist, but there is a Delancey Street in the same neighborhood in which FF artist Jack Kirby was born and raised, so it’s very likely he drew inspiration from that street’s name (which, it should be noted, could not possibly intersect with 10th Ave. as seen in this picture, given that 10th runs nowhere near the Lower East Side). Quoth Wikipedia: “Delancey Street has long been known for its discount and bargain clothing stores. Famous establishments include the Bowery Ballroom, built in 1929; Ratner’s kosher restaurant (now closed); and the Essex Street Market, which was built by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia to avoid pushcart congestion on the neighborhood’s narrow streets.” Yeah, boo to pushcarts!

5. Avengers Mansion, 890 Fifth Ave.

A little way up the road (and a world away) from the Yancy Street neighborhood sits Avengers Mansion, the upscale headquarters for Marvel’s pre-eminent superhero team. Occupying an entire city block, the massive structure has a street address of 890 Fifth Ave., which would put it at Fifth and East 70th St. In the real world, that block is occupied by the Frick Collection, an art museum that’s renowned for its collection of old master paintings. Like Avengers Mansion, the Frick covers the entire block at the corner of Fifth and East 70th St., (even though its street address is 1 East 70th St.). Marvel artists depicting Avengers Mansion were clearly inspired by the look of the Frick House, an opulent mansion built in 1913 for millionaire industrialist and art lover Henry Clay Frick. History is silent on whether Frick ever considered himself the Tony Stark of his time, but you can bet he would have strapped on one of Stark’s suits in a heartbeat if given the chance.

6. The Hellfire Club Building, 840 Fifth Ave.
While we’re in the neighborhood, let’s head on over to the Hellfire Club, the building that serves as home base for some of the more persistent foes of the X-Men. Given the fact the club includes among its membership some of the richest and most influential people in the world, it should come as no surprise its building is located in the ritziest part of town (the club, which originated in England, actually has branches and buildings all over the world; the New York address just happens to be the one closest to Xavier’s Westchester digs). The club’s reason for existing is to increase its members’ power through furtive political and economic means, so it may seem a bit odd for them to have a grand mansion right down the street from the very sort of people who would take issue with plans for global conquest. But it provides the perfect cover, as most people assume the club to be just another place for rich folks to hang out and have the kind of fun that ordinary folks couldn’t afford. And really, what’s the point of being rich and powerful if you can’t enjoy yourself?

7. Latverian Embassy, Park Avenue in the East 60s

For all the talk about how Doctor Doom is the baddest and toughest dude in the Marvel Universe, you can’t help but wonder how far he would have gotten without this sweet little piece of real estate. Conveniently located in the Upper East Side roughly equidistant between the Baxter Building and Avengers Mansion (and a stone’s throw from the Central Park Zoo — you know, for the kids!), the Latverian Embassy is perfectly situated for those awkward moments when Doom’s plans fall apart and he needs to high-tail it back to a diplomatically immune piece of turf before the Thing plays the bongos on his metal-clad keister. According to sources elsewhere on the web, Park Avenue is home to the most expensive properties in the U.S., so props to Doom for running a feudal-era economy efficiently enough to allow for such an extravagant expense. He probably did it with tax cuts. You can fix anything with tax cuts.

8. Stark Tower, Columbus Circle
Named, of course, after the guy who got the whole conquered-hemisphere thing going, Columbus Circle is a major landmark in New York City, with several prominent skyscrapers, including the Time-Warner Center, standing tall around the traffic circle and Columbus monument at its centre. A major transportation hub, the area is also where several prominent thoroughfares converge, and it’s the point from which all official distances to and from New York City are measured. In other words, it’s exactly the kind of place you would expect a master of the universe like Tony Stark to build his shiny new corporate headquarters. Built shortly after the destruction of Avengers Mansion (in a storyline from the early ’00s), Stark Tower was intended to double as a business tower and Stark’s bachelor pad, but he gave the top floors to the new Avengers team instead (the Cher headpiece at the top is actually the Sentry’s headquarters; long story there). Over the following years, the tower served as headquarters for various government organizations, nearly collapsed during a brutal battle between the Hulk and Iron Man, and collapsed on top of Red Hulk during a battle with the Thing. Bottom line: buildings and Hulks just don’t play nice together.

9. May Parker’s house, 20 Ingram St., Queens
Until he was old enough to get his own swingin’ bachelor pad in the city, Peter Parker bunked at his Aunt May’s house, a modest affair in the middle-class neighbourhood of Forest Hills, Queens. No doubt, after a hearty breakfast of wheatcakes and platitudes, young Petey would head off to school, waving hello to all his neighbours along the way: Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel, Carroll “Archie Bunker” O’Connor, Ray Romano, Hank Azaria, the Ramones… At any rate, it wasn’t until 1989’s Amazing Spider-Man #317 that we learned the house’s street address, which places it in the decidedly non-superhero-infested Forest Hills Gardens neighbourhood. It’s a lovely area developed to resemble a traditional English village, and it would be just the sort of place you would expect to find a sweet old lady and her devoted nephew. The house used to stand in as the Parker residence in the Spider-Man movies isn’t located too far away, just a half-mile down the road on this street off Metropolitan Ave.


2 responses to “If I Can Make It There… Eh, You Know the Rest

  1. Great post!

  2. Great post! As someone who actually lives in the borough of Queens not far from Forest Hills, I’ve often wondered exactly where Peter Parker was supposed to have grown up. That, and how exactly does Spider-Man get from that neighborhood to Manhattan where, excepting Queens Boulevard, most of the buildings in the area are nowhere tall enough to use for web-slinging. Maybe he rides the Q54 bus to the L train and takes that to 14th Street and Union Square? Well, anyway, I *still* don’t know the answer to that second question, but at least now I do know where Aunt May’s house is located.

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