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 the 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.


Early versions of Brown's Gotham map, via Smithsonianmag.com


The impetus behind mapping out Gotham City was, of course, the most comic booky reasoning of all. It was created during the planning stages of No Man's Land so that the creators behind the massive earthquake that leveled Gotham could know exactly what it was they were leveling.

Before that, Gotham had existed as just a vaguely New York-ish sort of place, with loosely defined areas like the East End, Chelsea and Midtown. Brown took all of those places and laid them out on a series of islands, adding in places like Robinson Park (the massive stand-in for Central Park named for the Joker's co-creator, Jerry Robinson) that would play a big part in the story.

Of course, as Brown himself says, "defining" Gotham City isn't really defining it at all:

“If a writer wants Batman to face Croc on a glacier-bound treehouse for mutants—then that's what he writes and gets drawn. If, the next month, Batman is now chasing Harley Quinn at a 24-Hour Endurance Sports Car Race Track—poof, there it is. All right in Gotham City. Put in a better way, it is about allowing the writers to have their freedom.”

My biggest familiarity with the Gotham map came from its appearance in the DC Universe RPG, which went in-depth to detail the "New Gotham" era of the city with plenty of hooks for roleplaying adventures. This is also how I know the names of all Gotham City's sports teams, because I am a complete and total turbonerd.