Q: Can a setting, location, or place actually be "a character," as people often say about Gotham City or Bioshock's Rapture, and if so, what exactly does that mean? -- @Jon_Ore
A: Technically, no. No matter how well-developed or intriguing a setting is, no matter how many good stories have been set there or how characters and creators have talked about it, it's still just that: A setting. The action and development, even if they're a reaction to the setting or have effects on the setting, are all things that happen to characters. The setting just provides the backdrop.
Practically, though, they can be close enough that for all intents and purposes, they might as well be characters, with everything that comes with it.
Q: I'm interested in Hitman as a character in the larger DCU, and "the area of Gotham so bad that Batman doesn't go there," because Batman is a dude that has paid multiple visits to a planet literally called Apokolips. -- @kingimpulse
A: For those of you who haven't been following the War Rocket Ajax podcast, Matt and I have been spending the entirety of 2014 ranking every single comic book story ever on a master list from the best (Amazing Spider-Man #33) to the worst (Identity Crisis). Last week, we finally got around to Hitman, and while it eventually fell between The Dark Knight Returns and Impulse #3, the conversation that we had about it involved me mentioning that Tommy Monaghan lived in a section of Gotham called "the Cauldron," which was so thoroughly lawless that they didn't even really notice when No Man's Land swept through.
There's a pretty obvious reason why it went down that way, of course, but the more I thought about your question, the more I realized that it's the core of Hitman's complicated relationship with the universe where it's set, which is one of the best things about that comic.
I'm not a big fan of Tim Burton's 1989 Batman movie, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this week, but there's definitely one thing that I think it did right. Burton's Gotham City, redesigned for the screen by Anton Furst, is absolutely beautiful. The Academy Award-winning production art direction is stylish, terrifying, visually engaging and arresting on a level that the rest of the movie has a hard time living up to, creating a world that looks like Batman could exist there.
It's also one of the movie's lasting influences on the world of the comics. Ever since Furst and Burton unveiled their version as a backdrop for the Joker blasting Prince from a boombox while trashing an art museum and Batman blowing up a chemical plant with his remote-control car, Gotham has adhered to their vision of the city, transforming from the bustling stand-in for New York that it was before and becoming its own unmistakable entity. And in true comic book fashion, the comics accomplished this by blowing everything up and starting over.
For those of you who don't keep up with live-action superhero shows made for tiny Japanese children, Kamen Rider Gaim is the latest in the long-runing series of Kamen Rider shows. Focused on young Kouta Kazuraba, the show revolves around a secret power struggle within Zawame City, a community dominated by the massive Yggdrasil corporation, and the monsters that are emerging from the mysterious Helheim Forest to battle the Armored Riders who have unlocked the power of the forest's fruit. And it's also apparently taking place in Gotham City.
See, in the latest episode of the series, we finally got a glimpse of an actual map of Zawame City, and it turned out that it's just Eliot R. Brown's map of Gotham, in use at DC since 1998, turned on its side. And I am delighted by this news.
Whenever I talk about my status as the World's Foremost Batmanologist, one of the jokes I always go with is that I'm more familiar with the layout of Gotham City than I am with certain sections of my own hometown. It's only a slight exaggeration, too -- ever since I first saw the map depicting battle lines in the pages of the 1999 No Man's Land crossover, I've been obsessed with the cartography defining Batman's hometown.
What I didn't know until the recent article posted by the Smithsonian Magazine, was that the map of Gotham City that's been in use for the past 16 years in comics and movies was originally created by Eliot R. Brown, the artist previously best known to me as the man behind Punisher Armory.
Maybe it's because I read a lot of fantasy novels and played a lot of video games in my misspent youth, but I've always really liked seeing maps of fictional places. I obsess over them, to the point where I could probably still get around Grand Theft Auto 3's Liberty City better than I could navigate sections of my own hometown.
In yet another late night diner conversation about pop culture, the After Hours crew at Cracked.com -- whom you may know from their fantastic discussion about the secret horror of Back to the Future -- debates whether or not Batman is actually
I'm a big fan of vintage travel posters. Some lovely prints of classic pieces depicting Africa and the Orient Express hang on my walls, but they might have to give way to a series of elegant travel posters based on some of genre fiction's most famous locales
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