Gotham City is the home of Batman and the setting for most of his crime fighting adventures. It was first introduced in one of the very first Batman comic books from 1940, but not officially mapped until 1998. Illustrator Eliot R. Brown took on the difficult task of mapping Gotham for the “No Man’s Land” arc, and he explains the process beyond his creation in an illuminating blog post here: http://www.eliotrbrown.com/wp/gotham-city-map.html
Gotham is a dark city with a fierce criminal element lurking beneath the surface (often right on the surface itself). The seediest, most sinister elements of New York and Chicago inspired Gotham’s design and atmosphere, and the Batman films were shot in these cities as well. Therefore, Brown wisely chose Manhattan, where he himself grew up, as a template when creating his map of Gotham. Certain elements in Batman storylines (for example, “The Dark Knight Rises”) also indicate that Gotham has to be an island with bridges to the mainland.
Here Brown describes some of the guidelines he had to work within during the early planning process:
The DC Comics editors made it clear that Gotham City was an idealized version of Manhattan. Like most comic book constructs, it had to do a lot of things. It needed sophistication and a seamy side. A business district and fine residences. Entertainment, meat packing, garment district, docks and their dockside business. In short all of Manhattan and Brooklyn stuffed into a … well, a nice page layout
Brown then began sketching out the city, and received a list of place names to insert. Just imagine- the comic books had been running for nearly 6 decades by this point. He had to take every significant location which was mentioned and insert it into the map in a logical place. Anxious fans were waiting to see if he got it right, ready to pounce if a street name seemed misplaced. It must have been a great deal of pressure to be under for the ambitious cartographer.
But ultimately, he pulled it off! Below you can see Brown’s final product, the Map of Gotham:
Brown’s map was featured in “No Man’s Land” and would go on to be used in subsequent comics and films. Brown says that he is ultimately pleased with his creation, concluding that he would feel right at home in Gotham. For me personally, I would wait until all those pesky villains had been vanquished before visiting.