Reactor

A Compendium of Comic Maps

by Jillian Steinhauer on April 16, 2014

Darwyn Cooke, Copper Canyon, from 'Parker: The Score' (all images via comiccartography.tumblr.com)

Darwyn Cooke, “Copper Canyon,” from ‘Parker: The Score’ (all images via comiccartography.tumblr.com)

The best fiction often succeeds because its creator has constructed a convincing world. By that I don’t mean a place that seems realistic, but rather a world that’s believable because it’s been thought through — pages of notes, characters described down to their beauty marks, the relationships between them, their homes and towns mapped out. Vladimir Nabokov was known to draw and diagram not just the elements of his own stories, but of others’ as well.

Comics are an especially apt medium for this type of construction, since, well, they’re visual. Diagrams and maps in comics can do different kinds of work: they can be used as exposition, to help readers get their bearings in a story, or to create a mood or feeling, or simply as a prop. They’re not even necessarily made-up — Jason Lutes’s Berlin is a series of fictional stories set in a historical place.

Roger Stern, Rick Parker, and Bob Budiansky, "The Office," from 'Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #3' (1981) (click to enlarge)

Roger Stern, Rick Parker, and Bob Budiansky, “The Office,” from ‘Peter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #3′ (1981) (click to enlarge)

Comic Cartography, a lovely blog that I discovered today, collects images of maps from all different kinds of comics, from Lutes’s Weimar-Era Berlin to the office layout of the Daily Bugle, the fictional newspaper featured in the Spider-Man comics. The wide range of work makes the blog engrossing, as it highlights the many forms and shapes that maps can take but also their underlying commonality: we use them to make sense of the world, even if that world exists only in our heads. To that end, there’s also something wonderfully meta about seeing these images within images — they seem to simultaneously represent a homing in and a zooming out.

Started by comics critic and enthusiast Aaron King, Comic Cartography is a sort of second coming of another blog from four years ago that departed from the same premise: Comic Book Cartography. That blog drew heavily on superhero and mainstream comics, whereas King’s reach seems broader, taking in everything from newspaper cartoons to graphic novels. Although he’s written that he’ll be slowing down from one post a day to whenever he finds relevant images, I look forward to following along as he continues to compile some of the most imaginative visual records in comics.

Jason Lutes, "Berlin" from 'Berlin'

Jason Lutes, “Berlin” from ‘Berlin’

Isabel Greenberg , "Land Ahoy!" from 'The Encyclopedia of Early Earth'

Isabel Greenberg , “Land Ahoy!” from ‘The Encyclopedia of Early Earth’

Nick Bertozzi, "Plan of Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914-16" from 'Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey'

Nick Bertozzi, “Plan of Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914-16″ from ‘Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey’

Dash Shaw, "Boney Borough Map 1" from 'Bodyworld'

Dash Shaw, “Boney Borough Map 1″ from ‘Bodyworld’

Jack Kirby, "Kamandi’s Continent" from 'Kamandi #1' (1972)

Jack Kirby, “Kamandi’s Continent” from ‘Kamandi #1′ (1972)

Fiona Staples, "Landfall & Wreath" from 'Saga' volume 1

Fiona Staples, “Landfall & Wreath” from ‘Saga’ volume 1

h/t @ALVAREZ_JUSTIN

Correction, 4/23: An earlier version of this post confused the relatively new Comic Cartography blog with an older blog called Comic Book Cartography. It has been corrected.

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  • Aaron King

    Hi! Thanks for the write-up. A couple things: I’ve been running the blog
    for about 4 months (not years), and while I’m winding down from a daily
    posting rate, I’m certainly not giving up. I’ve just decided not to
    spend as much time obsessively looking for and scanning maps. When I
    come upon them naturally, in the wild, I’ll still be posting them.

    Second,
    I am all man and no static. The guy in the Forbes article runs a
    different blog, I guess, that I had never heard of before. Secret
    twinsies, I guess! My name is actually Aaron King, which is much more
    boring than Half-Man Half-Static, but I think it fits me.

    Thanks again!

    • Jillian Steinhauer

      Hi Aaron,

      Thank you for writing! I’m so sorry for the mixup—it looks like I confused you with Comic *Book* Cartography, which was started four years ago and is based on the same premise. Lightning strikes twice! I will update our post accordingly. Thanks for the awesome blog.

      • Aaron King

        Thanks! I hope I didn’t seem pushy. I really DO appreciate the coverage, and it’s partially my fault for not putting my name anywhere on the blog. I just felt like the work should speak for the artists and the medium instead of for me. And thanks to your signal boosting, that art and those artists are reaching more people than before, which is great!

        Thanks again!

        • Jillian Steinhauer

          Not pushy at all. Correcting misinformation is GOOD.

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