Thursday, 15 July 2010

Icon #60 Gotham City

The most iconic fictional city.
Number 60 then.  Even I'm a bit staggered that something that started on the 12th of March 2009 is still going strong.  That I actually have something planned for the hundredth Icon Post is probably a bit worrying but hey ho, the 60 is up and even when I struggle to think of a topic I get a whole host of ideas from twitter.  Cheers guys.

Fairly obvious choice I guess.  But this is my first Batman related Icon Post, but it's the 60th, so fuck it, Gotham wins.

The great thing about a comic book city is that each artist, or film maker makes the city their own.  It never needs to look the same, conforms to no map and even it's placement in the United States is up for debate.  How cool is that?  I guess for all of us that have ever loved a Batman comic it exists somewhere in our heads as a place where it's almost always night, with plenty of buildings in close proximity to one another for the, well, swinging between them on a rope thing.

So in this messed up head of mine where is Gotham and what the hell is it like?

In it's early conception Gotham was based on New York.  But it never feels quite like that to me, NYC is just not dark enough with too much glitz. Christopher Nolan (director of the last two Batman movies) has publicly said that he sees Gotham as a comic book Chicago and although I've never been (to either city) that just seems to sit better.  In the comics it's location jumps about, sometimes on the East Coast, sometimes sat on the edge of Lake Gotham.  In my mind, and I'm delving deep here, I see it on the East Coast, but sort of Chicago, uprooted and dumped by the sea.  But then I am a bit mental.

I picture it as a seedy, dirty city, as only a place that could birth a hero like Batman, could be.  The opposite of Superman's Metropolis, with it's shiny towers and even shinier and slightly boring hero.  Gotham pervades Batman's history, it's crime having such a direct impact on his creation.  

What makes Gotham so iconic for me is who lives in this fictional city by the sea/lake.  Gotham is just shot full of famous characters.  Forget Batman and think about the villains for a second.  Even those of you that have never picked up a comic book or a graphic novel can name three, maybe four of them.  Don't deny it, YOU know who lives in Gotham City.  That's pretty cool huh?  Or not cool at all I guess, depending on your point of view.  But you know their names, have a pretty good idea of what they look like and the clothes that they wear.

Gotham, when it's at it's best in the comics or in a movie, feels real and alive.  Two of the best examples of that are Nolan's two movies and Frank Miller's All Star Batman and Robin comic.  Nolan brings Gotham back down to earth after the Tim Burton excess and pantomime. (Admittedly it was Schumacher that truly dragged that series down.)  It looks suitably seedy, dark and crime ridden where the thieving rich party on dead men's graves.  Miller's Gotham almost feels from another time altogether, chock full of criminals and almost permanently rain filled in Jim Lee's gorgeous pen work.  It's brooding in both, with something awful and unpleasant lurking around every turn, which is just how Gotham should be.  Gotham shouldn't feel like somewhere you'd want to visit it should feel like the type of place you'd want to avoid, Nolan and Miller capture that brilliantly.  (Even if I still maintain that The Dark Knight is a brilliant but flawed movie.  Another time another post.)

I didn't really want to dwell on Gotham's history, the plagues and earthquakes that have befallen it, but rather capture why, for me anyway, it's a special fictional city.  When Bob Kane created it back in 1940 he could have had no idea that this made up place would mean so much to so many of us.  But it does.  Gotham; dangerous, black as night, and home to the God damned Batman.
"Batman's Gotham City is Manhattan below Fourteenth Street at eleven minutes past midnight on the coldest night in November" - Dennis O'Neil (Batman writer)
 Tonight's post is dedicated to (from twitter) @germgirl, @whitespider1066, @mtrh, @maverick99sback, @AverageUsername, @SoulIsTheGoal, @Giusep03, @formulaic666, @Girl_In_A_Box, @EmmaBunce, @DavieLegend, @Louisa_Hibble, @TeamB_O_B, @wpbbc, @twosoups, @lmlc, @nicky_t, @Jeemie1970, @comedyfish, @KyeLani, @sn00pyj, @FatmanSlimming, @MissJanie @themonkey1976 (and from facebook) Toby, Ricky and JMcG.