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Canonical Comical Cartography; or, The Batcave is in New Jersey
June 9, 2014 10:16 AM   Subscribe

The Cartographer Who Mapped Out Gotham City from Smithsonian Magazine. A look at a real-life map of a fictional city. Illustrator Eliot Brown "didn’t just design the city; he designed an implicit history that writers are still exploring."
posted by HonoriaGlossop (39 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
Very cool, thanks for the link...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 10:42 AM on June 9


There was another map (possibly in an animated series?) that put Gotham at about where Stamford is, which tickled me.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:44 AM on June 9


So Wayne Manor (and the Batcave) isn't even in Gotham City any more?
posted by Curious Artificer at 11:00 AM on June 9


It never was, taxes are too high
posted by thelonius at 11:16 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


Also for the same reason Professor Xavier put his school in Westchester - there's no room for a Stately Mansion and its associated underground hangar, network of caves, supercomputer installations and occasional alien observation outposts in a New York City analogue.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:24 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


I was raised to believe it was a thinly veiled allusion to Newark, NJ.
posted by Renoroc at 11:27 AM on June 9


Gotham. Is so gentrified right now it's impossible to find an abandoned subway stop lair without needing like three roommates.
posted by The Whelk at 11:32 AM on June 9 [6 favorites]


There was a supplement for the old DC Heroes Rpleplaying Game (Mayfair Games) called The Atlas of the DC Universe by Paul Kupperberg. It placed Gotham City in New Jersey, and Metropolis in Delaware.
posted by magstheaxe at 11:40 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


I always assumed that Gotham was just a New York/Chicago mashup seen through Fritz Lang goggles.
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:42 AM on June 9


What about Coast City? Still a giant crater after the cyborg Superman destroyed it?
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:43 AM on June 9


there's no room for a Stately Mansion and its associated underground hangar, network of caves, supercomputer installations and occasional alien observation outposts in a New York City analogue.

Doc Savage would beg to differ.
posted by valkane at 11:45 AM on June 9


DC geography gets extra confusing when they also use real cities. If Gotham a New York analogue, then where is it if NYC also exists? Is Metropolis also a NYC analogue, or is it Chicago instead and on the Great Lakes instead of the east coast (I prefer the Great Lakes location, it makes sense for it to be the big city a Kansas boy would head for, but have seen it placed on the Atlantic seaboard too often).

Then you've got the other DC cities. I'm not going to go into Star City, Central City, Coast City, or even Sub Diego. I always figured Bludhaven is Newark to Gotham's New York, but if Gotham is Newark, then Bludhaven is Philadelphia or maybe Baltimore?

I'd love a DC universe that went full tilt with the fictional cities and never mentioned New York or Chicago.
posted by thecjm at 11:49 AM on June 9


Who was it who said that Metropolis is New York City int he daytime, and Gotham is NYC at night? I think it might've been Denny O'Neil, but i'm not sure.
posted by kewb at 11:49 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


Ah, but the (Teen) Titans were headquartered in New York, no?
posted by Curious Artificer at 11:50 AM on June 9


Yeah, the eastern seaboard does start getting awfully overcrowded if you add all the fictional cities and the real cities together.

Maybe the DC-universe NYC, Philadelphia, Chicago etc., are just a lot smaller, since big chunks of the population that would otherwise live there lives in Gotham/Metropolis/etc., instead?
posted by mstokes650 at 12:02 PM on June 9


Gotham. Is so gentrified right now it's impossible to find an abandoned subway stop lair without needing like three roommates.

No kidding. Last time I was there, I called for a car using Lyft and THE BATMOBILE PULLED UP.

I was like, what's going on, Batman, and he said everybody needs a little leg up in this sharing economy.

Then he started crying.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:03 PM on June 9 [10 favorites]


According to the JLA/Avengers crossover series, the DC Earth has more landmass than the "real" planet, and that's how places like Coast City, Gotham and the generic Middle Eastern nation of Qurac fit in.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:08 PM on June 9 [4 favorites]


If Gotham a New York analogue, then where is it if NYC also exists?

IIRC, Gotham is an NYC analogue, but located on the NJ coast.

Is Metropolis also a NYC analogue, or is it Chicago instead and on the Great Lakes instead of the east coast (I prefer the Great Lakes location, it makes sense for it to be the big city a Kansas boy would head for, but have seen it placed on the Atlantic seaboard too often).

I've always understood it to be another NYC analogue, just located in Delaware.

Then you've got the other DC cities. I'm not going to go into Star City, Central City, Coast City, or even Sub Diego. I always figured Bludhaven is Newark to Gotham's New York, but if Gotham is Newark, then Bludhaven is Philadelphia or maybe Baltimore?

I thought Bludhaven is supposed to be Atlantic City.

Coast City in in California, and as I understand it's an analogue of San Diego. However, in the past it's been placed in northern California, between San Francisco and Star City.

Wikipedia says that Star City has moved a lot. Star City's location was given as near the Great Lakes in the 1960s and near Massachusetts Bay from the 1970s until the late 1980s. In one 1970s reference, it was stated that Star City was in Connecticut. These days, everyone seems to agree on northern California, north of San Francisco.

I always understood Central City to be a semi-analogue of St. Louis, and apparently it is now, but per Wikipedia it started out life as an analogue of Athens, Ohio.

I used to be obsessed with DC geography, back when I was reading a lot of the comics. But I haven't followed it in a decade or more, so for all I know all the fictional cities have been relocated to Outer Mongolia.
posted by magstheaxe at 12:20 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


One big problem that I had with the Nolan movies was that they never seemed to have a cohesive view of Gotham. They just filmed bits and pieces of Chicago, Pittsburgh, New York and LA and tried to stick it all together but it never seemed to fit well and all of the easily identifiable landmarks in each really brought you out of the movie.
posted by octothorpe at 12:23 PM on June 9 [3 favorites]


If Gotham a New York analogue, then where is it if NYC also exists? Is Metropolis also a NYC analogue, or is it Chicago instead and on the Great Lakes instead of the east coast (I prefer the Great Lakes location, it makes sense for it to be the big city a Kansas boy would head for, but have seen it placed on the Atlantic seaboard too often).

The real world problem, of course, is that Superman and Batman were created by different people, and in their own continuity. So, both Gotham City and Metropolis were meant to be that world's New York City. Metropolis has been called "The Big Apricot" in the comics. Gotham was a well known nickname for NYC in the early part of the century.

There, of course, can be only one. Of the two, I think if you had to have analogs, declaring Metropolis the Chicago analog makes the most sense, but I think that making Metropolis the NYC analog and Gotham the Boston analog really makes much more sense.

Midway City is much more the Chicago analog that either of them. Coast City is LA. Keystone City really should be Pittsburgh, but it's been clearly shown to be in Kansas/Missouri, which makes Central City the KC analog.

Nobody, including DC, knows where the hell Central City is -- it's been shown in Ohio, Florida, Illinois, and now it's apparently right next to Keystone City, which means it's also KC. *One* of them must be KC Kansas.
posted by eriko at 12:31 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


As a kid I decided that Metropolis was supposed to be NYC and Gotham was supposed to be Chicago. I have no idea why, but I still think of them that way to this day. Machine politics, maybe?
posted by middleclasstool at 12:40 PM on June 9 [3 favorites]


Metropolis was supposed to be NYC and Gotham was supposed to be Chicago.

This was my interpretation, too; Chicago seemed right for the mob bosses and corrupt politicians that Batman fought against.
posted by AzraelBrown at 12:44 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Gotham is old, though. Chicago is too bauhaus, not enough crumbling victorian.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 12:45 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


Plus its name is, y'know, Gotham. It'd be like creating a fictionalized version of Los Angeles called Big Apple.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:51 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


My adult self tipped to the fact that NYC's nickname is Gotham and all, but my 8-10 year old Peak Comic Book inner self will never let go of the idea that Gotham is Chicago. I got my parents to buy this book around that time and read all those early stories about the Machine politics and Gangster stories, and I think that's what did it.
posted by randomkeystrike at 12:56 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


Wait, but where does Liberty City fit in? And Steelport? Can we get Alan Moore to put every fictional American city into one solid map?
posted by zompist at 1:13 PM on June 9


Astro City, now kinda sorta a DC brand, is clearly San Francisco.
posted by bonehead at 1:47 PM on June 9


Who was it who said that Metropolis is New York City int he daytime, and Gotham is NYC at night? I think it might've been Denny O'Neil, but i'm not sure.
posted by kewb at 11:49 AM on June 9 [1 favorite +] [!]


Yep, I'm pretty sure it was Denny O'Neil. He said something about Metropolis being Park Avenue full of laughing children at 3pm on a gloriously sunny afternoon in July, while Gotham was a piss-soaked alleyway on the Bowery at 4am where three dying junkies were enduring the coldest night of a brutal winter.

He didn't overwrite the comparison as much as I just have, but that was the gist.
posted by Paul Slade at 2:25 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Gotham is old, though. Chicago is too bauhaus, not enough crumbling victorian.

I dunno, the Batman: The Animated Series Gotham always struck me as very stylized Chicago, architecturally. I mean, look at that.
posted by mstokes650 at 2:56 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


And here I thought Metropolis was supposed to represent Kansas City, since that's the biggest metro area within reasonable driving distance of Smallville, KS.
posted by ckape at 3:34 PM on June 9


In the scripts of Alan Moore, he talks about how he set the Red Fungus Superman story in the deep south cause there where no DC universe cities in the US South and then he could use Swamp Thing.
posted by The Whelk at 3:39 PM on June 9


According to the JLA/Avengers crossover series, the DC Earth has more landmass than the "real" planet, and that's how places like Coast City, Gotham and the generic Middle Eastern nation of Qurac fit in.

IIRC it's not that it's just more landmass (i.e. smaller oceans) but that the DC Earth itself is just bigger, with borders drawn largely the same but more distance between things, more room for all these extra cities. Which is brilliantly, stupidly simple and absolutely loony when you give it any thought and I love it.
posted by jason_steakums at 4:51 PM on June 9 [3 favorites]


That's JLA/Avengers in a nutshell, really.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:22 PM on June 9


The real world problem, of course, is that Superman and Batman were created by different people, and in their own continuity.

"...Gotham returned to the status quo, rebuilt with money from Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor..."

What the what?
posted by kirkaracha at 7:42 PM on June 9


The Denny O'Neil quote, in full: "Batman's Gotham City is Manhattan below 14th Street at eleven minutes past midnight on the coldest night in November, and Metropolis is Manhattan between 14th and 100th Streets on the brightest, sunniest July day of the year."

Frank Miller said: "Metropolis is New York in the daytime; Gotham City is New York at night."

Which proves once and for all that O'Neil's talent is bigger than the Fortress of Solitude, while Miller's would leave room to spare in a capsule on the Caped Crusader's utility belt.
posted by aureliobuendia at 9:33 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


magstheaxe: "I always understood Central City to be a semi-analogue of St. Louis, and apparently it is now, but per Wikipedia it started out life as an analogue of Athens, Ohio."

Wow, those are...significantly different places.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:51 AM on June 10


"...Gotham returned to the status quo, rebuilt with money from Bruce Wayne and Lex Luthor..."
What the what?


Lex tried to pull a massive land-fraud scheme in true Gene Hackman fashion, where he'd get good PR from rebuilding the earthquake-ravaged city and then sneakily claim title to all the parts that were abandoned during the disaster so he could sell them at a huge profit. Bruce let Lex pour in all the rehabilitation money and then pulled the rug out before he could start selling.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:56 AM on June 10


The real world problem, of course, is that Superman and Batman were created by different people, and in their own continuity.

Arguable, but more no than yes, I think.

Superman was created first, in 1938. Following the good reception of Action #1, the company commissioned Batman in 1939. While the original Batman didn't reference Superman, their first team-up was in World's Finest in 1940. They've been linked since the very early days of their characters.

On the other hand, as comics were seen as disposible entertainment for pre-teen boys, nobody really cared about continuity.
posted by bonehead at 8:05 AM on June 10


The Smithsonian article sort of alludes to it, but for my money, Eliot R. Brown's big contributions to comics were his technical illustrations for The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, which for a young comics geek were the equivalent of the blueprints for the original starship Enterprise. He covered everything from Spider-Man's webshooters to the Ultimate Nullifier.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:53 PM on June 10


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