I grew up in Kalamazoo, and seeing it "represented" in today's Gil Thorp strip (h/t to the fantastic Comics Curmudgeon) was a surreal experience. I suppose if you grew up in New York or Los Angeles or Chicago or Paris or some other major metropolis, you experience this feeling all the time-- a strange combination of "I've been there!" and "It's nothing like that!" as popular culture sets itself in your hometown. Kalamazoo has two major colleges, a major pharmaceuticals company, and world-famous tennis tournaments and piano festivals every year; it was also the home of the Gibson Guitar company and Checker Cab factories for decades. But aside from one catchy pop tune, it's hard for me to think of many references to the city in daily pop culture. And to the minor-league baseball team, even!
That said, the oddest part of the Gil Thorp look at my fair city (and believe me, there's a lot of "odd" to work through in Gil Thorp) is how "other" it seems. Even from the air, and even allowing artistic license, Kalamazoo doesn't really look like that. Other Thorp strips set in the city also fail to capture its appearance, its culture or its vibrant downtown life. It makes the character's thought balloon in the final panel--At least from here, Kalamazoo hasn't changed a bit-- all the more ironic. Which begs the question-- why Kalamazoo? Did the artists just look around for a name that might signify "small town" (although, with a population of more than 320,000, Kalamazoo ain't really that)? What signifies "minor league baseball" in comic strip terms? Does "Kalamazoo" then become a place-holder for a certain slice of "American" culture, in the same way that those aforementioned big cities signify "the urban," no matter how off their presentation in movies and TV?
And finally, do Gil Thorp artists Neal Rubin and Rod Whigham know that Kalamazoo's airport can actually handle modern jetliners? That NCC 117 in the final panel makes the Kings baseball team look like they're flying in from the world of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.