DC Comics Gotham City Map Story
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Finally, whatever passed for approval was given, because I finished the Gotham City Map fairly quickly. (right) The back is dated “9/2/98″ but that may be the day I handed it in. I rendered the Gotham City Map on a 23″ x 14.5″ artboard. That’s a little larger than the standard 11″ x 17” size. I chose to work larger so that the lines would stay neat when reduced to printed size.
Here are my handwritten Gotham City place name annotations (left). I handed these over to DC Comics’ production department for proper type placement. They had the ability to lay in type in a large digital file and I did not.
Here is the Gotham City Map as you may have seen it printed (right). I have not compared my various generations of maps to this final compilation. I assume the office guys had one more go at it. I do see that they eliminated some of the street numbers and minor place names — which is too bad. I think they simply did not have access to enough maps to see how cartographers deal with tiny type and twisty, turny street shapes. Oh well, for something like place names, I have no problems with them tossing stuff in or out. Their word on such things is final.
The Gotham City Map was reprinted by DC Comics several times and to my delight, it appears in Greg Rucka’s novel, “Batman No Man’s Land.” I love the fact that they left my signature on the page. The Gotham City Map also appeared in “Batman Gotham City Secret Files & Origins” no. 1, April 2000. In that version Gotham City’s place names are numbered to reference them to a place name key at the bottom of the page.
Notice Gotham City’s strong resemblance to Manhattan. There are many bridges and tunnels connecting Manhattan Island to its neighboring land forms. Even a few tunnels the general public doesn’t know about. I hope I’ve provided the means by which The Batman and perhaps any number of others to surreptitiously sneak into and out of Gotham City by means of old steam tunnels. There is supposed to be such a thing under the East River (for real — why make something up when it’s true!). Despite the mirror image of Manhattan’s East Side, now facing West, one can see several docks and bridges, like the Manhattan Bridge, Brooklyn Bridge and even the vast and spaghetti-like Triboro Bridges. There’s a large sporting stadium to the north.
Any historian of comics will instantly recognize the names of the many, many creators who have toiled under the watchful eye of The Batman. One creator, who I knew personally and who passed on too soon, but near the time of the making of the Gotham City Map was Archie Goodwin. The DC Comics editors named the big airport after him.
Manhattan is criss-crossed and ringed with many highways, so I made sure to include as many as I could stuff in. I also added some Chicago-like bridges, right in the middle of town — most unlike Manhattan, only to add some story potential. Plus I like them.
I prepared for the Gotham City Map by reviewing some of the material I have on the Tim Burton “Batman” movie (you can buy it by clicking on the image to your left). The Art Director was the late Anton Furst, who established a lush, multi-layered confection of very old city and very new, but somehow never straying too far from downtown Manhattan. All those stone canyons and crooked streets do spell a certain time in Manhattan. In many ways, I believe, Furst set the tone for the strong revival the graphic Batman underwent — but don’t forget Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight” guaranteed a new lease on life for the Batman. If his first one wasn’t dark enough, “Dark Knight 2” certainly was.
With all that in mind, I hoped that I had kept the evocative parts of Manhattan in. All those real places where people like Lester Dent, Damon Runyan, Bob Kane, Stan Lee, Nora Ephron, Chuck Dixon, Bob Gale and the hundreds of writers who have roamed those streets have swung a literary cat and hit the familiar. My friend, James Sanders, in his book, “Celluloid Skyline” claims that the mythic New York City is bigger than the real place. The filmed city is certainly better known. A Massai warrior might recognize the Statue of Liberty, without ever having seen her in person. A young Swede might know The Empire State Building — with or without a giant ape. New York as a “dream city” is well known to the world. The idea of New York City has been so widely disseminated through movies and TV, that the world has walked its streets. By adding a “Chinatown” or an “Upper East Side,” a “Diamond District” and a large, centrally located park to my map … I am suggesting that many people who have never set foot on Manhattan might feel right at home in Gotham City.
I know I do.