Mapping the World of Superheroes

superman over earthWhen I was a kid, I was fascinated by geography and exotic locations throughout the world. This interest translated into the comic book world as I was fixated by the ways that Marvel and DC depicted the locations for their superheroes.

I always liked the fact that Marvel’s characters did their work in real world cities. Spider-Man always found a convenient location in New York City to stash his camera to take photos. The Fantastic Four, Daredevil, and the Avengers also operated in the Big Apple. Outside of the U.S., we had Alpha Flight operating in various locations within Canada, and Wolverine first debuted in the forests of Québec.

Unlike Marvel’s real world locations, I had a hard time figuring out the locations of DC’s cities. Metropolis and Gotham City are depicted as cities that are very close together, almost like twin cities, but both cities are fictional versions of New York City. On the other side of the U.S., Coast City, the home of the Green Lantern, is a fictionalized version of Los Angeles. The Green Arrow lives in Star City, but Star City’s location has always been confusing as its location has shifted from the U.S. Great Lakes to the east coast of the U.S. to currently northern California.

In the pages of comic books, location has played an important role in many comic book stories. For example, Galactus chose New York City as the starting point in his first attempt to devour the earth. Since the majority of Marvel’s superheroes operate in the Big Apple, countless battles have occurred in New York City. One of the more famous moments in the DC Universe’s geography occurred when the Cyborg Superman and Mongul destroyed Coast City and most of its inhabitants.

Fast forward to modern times with our ubiquitous online world, and the work of visualizing the comic book world gets very interesting with interactive online maps such as Google Maps. For example, a guy named Jack has created a Google Map called the “Ultimate Nerd Guide To New York City”, which includes locations for Peter Parker’s apartment, Dr. Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum, Stark Tower, and Avengers headquarters:

View Ultimate Nerd Guide To New York City in a larger map

Another mapper named Alex has created a Google Map to clarify the DC Universe’s landmarks within the United States. This map shows locations such as Central City, the Fortress of Solitude, and Themyscira (the home of Wonder Woman):

View DC Comics Map of the United States in a larger map

I recommend clicking on the pins for this map because there are some very cool map pop-up captions.
Outside of the realm of Google Maps, I also found a neat website called “Comic Cartography”, which shows random map images from comics. The locations are diverse and thought-provoking, such as this recent map showing the movement of the Terrigen Mist, which was originally published in the re-launched Amazing Spider-Man #1 (2014).

Terrigen Mist

As a computer nerd and a comic book fan, I feel that online maps do not yet fully represent the world of superheroes and superheroines. We already have the “Grand Comics Database”, which is a comprehensive database of comic book characters. On the encyclopedia side, and Wikipedia do a good job of providing reference articles for comic book characters. But we still don’t have a definitive online map that represents all comic book locations. So how about it? Who wants to start up the definitive internet map of comic book characters? There could be a lot of money to be made here.

Peter Chin
Peter Chin
Articles: 19
1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
6 years ago