Are Gotham and Metropolis neighboring cities? If not, how do Batman and Superman meet each other? And in the upcoming film trailer for Dawn of Justice, Batman is shown watching his Wayne tower being destroyed by Superman. How are they in the same city?
There is a DC Comics-licensed Atlas of the DC Universe (published 1990) :
Subsequently, a fan used the information and maps from this atlas to create a free web-based version:
Here is a panel showing Gotham and Metropolis:
They're fairly close together geographically — less than 50 miles by this map's scale, if we go the way the crow flies!
Statement from the author of the web version:
The information presented in this atlas is based on the Atlas of the DC Universe supplement for Mayfair Games' DC Heroes RPG and the Secret Files: Guide to the DC Universe 2000 comic. I have tried to included up-to-date information from recent comics but I sadly can't know everything.
Traditionally, no. They are not neighbors. However, in the new DC Extended Universe, they are.
Zack Snyder acknowledged both of these facts at the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con.
In the Warner Brothers movie panel in Hall H—the kind of thing that is always a bombastic affair, made even more so when the subject is an upcoming slate of superhero movies with lots and lots of earthshaking fights—one of the biggest moments was also one of the quietest. After a comic book and movie history that involves nuclear bombs, earthquakes, plagues, supernatural swamps, and conspiratorial owls, Gotham City (home of the Batman, duh) is…moving.
Or maybe it’s Metropolis (where Superman lives, double duh) that’s moving. Either way, director Zack Snyder said that one of the biggest steps he was taking away from comics canon in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice involves geography. “The big rule that we broke is that we put Gotham and Metropolis right next to each other,” Snyder says. “It made sense to us and worked for our story that they were kind of sister cities across a big bay. It’s like Oakland and San Francisco, kind of.”
He notes that the standard geography is that they are not neighbors, but that he has put them "right next to each other".
- Where is Gotham City located? (relates to all versions of Gotham)
- Can we deduce the location of Metropolis by where the World Engine landed in the Indian Ocean? (relates specifically to the DCEU)
In Dawn of Justice, we're pretty sure Bruce Wayne was in Metropolis on business the day his building was destroyed.
As for where the cities actually are, we don't know exactly, but our best information says they're currently very close together -- probably in the general vicinity of New York City.
Like almost all fictional comic book cities, Gotham and Metropolis do not have very well-established locations. This is particularly true in the extremely new "DC Extended Universe", which as of right now contains exactly one film, Man of Steel.
As far as I know, Gotham has always intended to be a stand-in for New York City. Any time a location for Gotham has been mentioned, it's been close to New York City. This usually means either somewhere else in New York State (e.g. one of the islands), or else somewhere nearby in New Jersey.
Metropolis, on the other hand, is a bit of a moving target. Initially, it was visually modeled after Toronto (one of Superman's creators grew up there) but set approximately where Cleveland is (where Superman's creators lived when they first wrote him.) It sort-of migrated its way east, until it also settled around New York City.
At one point in the 1970s, an issue of Detective Comics gave locations for all the major DC cities, claiming that both Gotham and Metropolis were "just across the harbor" from New York City, though I'm not sure if that information actually matches up with the comics of the time.
Regardless of exactly where it is, though, Metropolis has always been somewhere in the New England area, which is a pretty compact and densely-populated region. Having lived just inside the southern part of New England for a while, I can tell you that people move between those cities all the time, for anything from shopping trips to commuting for jobs.
So, assuming the DCEU follows the lead of the modern DC comics universe, as it seems to be, those two cities would easily be close enough to each other that Batman (or Bruce Wayne) could get back and forth pretty quickly.
On a related side-note: both cities are intended to be New York City -- they just represent different aspects of it. Frank Miller, for example, explained it as:
Metropolis is New York in the daytime; Gotham City is New York at night. src
Gotham was based on the seedier aspects of New York City. In fact, there was a slum called "Gotham Court" on the lower east side.
This website states the following:
Cherry Hill is most unfortunately known for its most horrific slum — Gotham Court, “one of the worst tenements along the East River.” It would later be made infamous in Jacob Riis’ renown 1890 blistering survey of How The Other Half Lives.
In a 1995 article entitle "ON LANGUAGE; Jersey's Vanishing 'New,'" New York Times journalist William Safire described Gotham City as
New York below 14th Street, from SoHo to Greenwich Village, the Bowery, Little Italy, Chinatown, and the sinister areas around the base of the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges.
Metropolis has been depicted in numerous locations, including New York (the movies), Chicago (Lois & Clark), Los Angeles (the 1950s TV show), and somewhere in Kansas or Missouri (Smallville- they never specify which state, though one episode mentions the Metropolis sewers emptying into the Mississippi River, which might mean a reference to St. Louis or one of the other cities along the river- This was contradicted, however, by other references that indicated it was possible to commute daily from Smallville by car).
I remember seeing a map once in a book about Superman where Metropolis was near New Castle, Delaware, and Gotham City was near Salem, NJ - thus they were up the Delaware river from in the map that shows them near Lewes, Delaware and Cape May, New Jersey.
I have also heard that they were often depicted on opposite sides of New York Harbor, one in New Jersey and one on Long Island near Brooklyn.
In Smallville Metropolis was in (or near) Kansas.
And I have heard that several other locations have been suggested.
It should also be noted that Metropolis was originally based on Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
From Global News:
The Superman character was co-created by Canadian artist Joseph Shuster. Born in Toronto, he is a cousin of Wayne Shuster, one-half of the beloved Canadian comedy duo Wayne and Shuster. Joseph, who passed away in 1992 at the age of 78, said Metropolis was modelled on Toronto and the Daily Planet was inspired by the Toronto Star, which he delivered as a kid.
The co-creator and original artist of Superman, Joe Shuster, modeled the Metropolis skyline after Toronto, where he was born and lived until he was ten. Since then, however, it has become a fictional analogue to New York City.
Gotham; albeit a nickname for New York was ostensibly modelled after Chicago.