SPIRE CITY AND THE WORLD OF “JOHNNY SATURN”
The majority of “Johnny Saturn” takes places in Spire City, a fictional town much like a cross between Chicago and Indianapolis. It is an upper Midwestern city located in Illinois on the Illinois/Indiana border. Spire City is a quite tall, sporting a high concentration of skyscrapers. Like most Midwestern cities, there is a strong international element, and an equal measure of shabbiness. Spire City was built on relatively even terrain and laid out in a grid pattern by the same architect that designed Indianapolis and Washington DC. Each block is bisected by two alleys, making space for four buildings, but, over the last century and a half, some of these blocks have been redeveloped for much larger structures that take up entire blocks, such as Spire City General Hospital, the Spire City Government Center, assorted arenas, etc. Spire City has embraced its rich, metahuman history, and the Spire City Sound is a music style that was once popular with Jazz, Blues, and Big Band music.
Spire City was established as a port town on the northwestern banks of the southernmost Great Lake, Lake Avernus, the smallest of the Great Lakes. Avernus is fed by Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes Watershed to the north, and it feeds into the Lethe River (aka Big Opossum River) to the west, which itself feeds into the Mississippi River System, making Spire City accessible from both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Sorrow Bay, part of Lake Avernus, is home to Spire City’s dockyards.
The city is flanked to the north by Interstate 60, which itself splits off Interstate 65 that connects Indianapolis and Chicago. I-60 connects Spire City with the East and West Coasts. The city also has an extensive subway system that has been in use since the 1880’s.
Beneath the city is a huge, honeycombed world made up of access tunnels, reservoirs, sewers, steam tunnels, abandoned subway stops, and the basements and boiler rooms of forgotten, now vanished buildings. This is the subterranean realm of the Mole People, or that part of Spire City’s homeless population, who have established communes and towns in this vast, subterranean world. They pirate their essential needs from the city above, and they feed what they don’t need to the alligators below. Elysium City, a ramshackle multi-level underground town, is at the center the Mole People’s social network. There are other, similar subterranean towns, each named after the different regions of the Greek Underworld, Hades. Below the Mole People’s towns lies the kingdom of the Alligator King.
Near the city, there is Mount Hollyrood Cemetery, the Hesperides International Airport, the Bolton Maximum Security Penitentiary, the Tartaros Supermax facility, and Wheaton Heights. The Plegthon Industrial District that lies southeast of the city is a rust belt relic with little beauty and is mostly ruined and abandoned. This is where the derelict bridge piling featured in the first story arc is to be found, as well as the shabby Wissenschaft Inc. factory. Wheaton Heights is a posh, gated suburb.
The first two major story arcs take place in the years 2011 and 2012.
MEDIA: Spire City has two major newspapers, the Spire City Gazette being the second largest and considered to have a liberal agenda. There is Spire City Public Radio (SPR) among the city’s many radio stations. Channel 4 Action News is the largest local news show, with a morning show beginning at 5:00 am, an evening broadcast at 6:00 pm, and a late night news roundup at 11:05 pm. “Meta Matters” is a 10:00 pm program about metahuman issues, positive and negative. Hosted by Heather McHenry, it focuses more on celebrity metas, and is an entertainment show as much as it is a news show.
SPORTS: Spire City has never had a successful or well-regarded professional sport history. For basketball, there is the Spire City Ferrets, and they have the second to worst record in the NBA. In football, the Spire City Opossums are an unremarkable team that has never made it to the Super Bowl. In baseball, there are the Wheaton Warriors, a relatively new minor league franchise.
MISCELLANEOUS: While not intended as an all-inclusive list, here are additional elements to the Spire City milieu.
- Correctional: The Bolten Maximum Security Penitentiary is built northwest of town; this is the source of the C-Blockers. The Tartaros Supermax Facility is located deep beneath the Bolten Penitentiary, and this is where metacriminals are incarcerated.
- Medical: Spire City General is the city’s largest hospital, and it has a highly regarded trauma ward.
- Hotel: Northanger Arms is a posh five-star hotel where Ramirez “Manny” Calabria is head bellhop.
- Education: Spire City University is a respected institution with a well known nursing school and a prestigious English department. Victoria Shelbourne, aka Staff of Life, is a tenured physics professor here.
- Dining: Corky’s Bar is a popular cop bar, while Spire City Java is a local chain of high-end coffee shops.
- Industry: Synn Tech is a multinational corporation specializing in pharmaceuticals. It was founded in Brazil by Gerhard Synn soon after World War II, and it is now privately owned by his son, Dr. Horatio Synn. Wissenschaft Inc. is a division of Synn Tech that is operated by Dr. Wissenschaft, and it owns much of Spire City’s medical establishment, as well as illegal cybernetic labs around town and the human organ black market.
COSMOLOGY: There are many variations of reality in the Spire City world, be they religious, mythological, or science based.
- Higher worlds, for example, are those that exponentially more real than the known Earth plane, while Lower Worlds are successively less real than the Earth Plane. Elect descended from a higher world in 1900, and his intensified nature granted him his reality bending powers.
- Heaven and Hell are both literal realities in the “Johnny Saturn” universe. Heaven has seven levels, and it is populated by angels, such as Turiel, the Angel of Noble Failures. Hell has nine layers, each successively worse than the last, and it is populated by demons, such as Norghiel the Demon of Thoughtless Cruelty. The Astral Plane is the dwelling place of ghosts, dreams, imagination, and beings that were never born.
- Elemental Planes: Within and a part of the Earth plane are four elemental planes, Air, Earth, Fire, and Water. Within these live sylphs (Air), gnomes (earth), salamanders (fire), and undines (water), all considered to be lower order beings.
- Forced Perspective Space: In between everything, there is Forced Perspective Space where the laws of three dimensional space are jumbled, and the world looks as if it were a cross of surrealist art and optical illusions. This plane can be accidentally accessed via optical illusions, although most mortals who enter are shredded by conflicting perspective or driven mad. Persephone Synn-Underhall has been known to employ this space for short-range travel.
- Mythological Worlds: In the Spire City universe, all the mythological worlds, such as Olympus, Asgard, and Faerie, are all quite real and interconnected with the Earth plane.
- Memeplex Worlds are those composed of interconnected series of memes.