Section 5. The Imagined Worlds of Comics, Graphic Novels, Video Games, Film and Television


1. Map of Krypton from the Amazing World of Superman Treasury
National Periodical Publications, 1973

Superman, the fictional comic book hero created by the writer Jerry Siegel and the illustrator Joe Shuster, first appeared in a 1938 issue of Action Comics #1, published by DC Comics. Hailing from the planet Krypton, Superman (named Kal-El by his parents) was sent to earth in a spaceship as a young child just moments before his home planet exploded. After crash landing outside of the rural farming town of Smallville, he was adopted by the Kent family and named Clark. As an adult, Clark Kent works as a reporter for the Daily Planet in the city of Metropolis and uses his superpowers to fight crime. Originally created as a comic book hero, Superman has frequently been featured in radio and television series, as well as movies and comic strips. This map was included as a bonus souvenir for fans in the 1973 Amazing World of Superman Treasury, a compendium of Superman lore and activities related to the comics and television series.

In this illustrated map of Superman’s home planet, Krypton, like Earth, is divided into two hemispheres: the “New World” and the “Old World,” with continents and bodies of ice in Arctic and Antarctic zones. Numbered insets show detailed views of Krypton’s notable geographical features. Of particular interest is no. 9, “Vathlo Island – Home of [a] highly developed Black Race,” depicted with elements of Afro-futurism popular in the 1970s in both film and fiction (and notably similar to Black Panther’s Wakanda in the Marvel universe). Although the DC universe only mentions Vathlo a handful of times, we do know that Black Kryptonians first appeared in the storyline in the comic in 1971. In 2021 it was announced that Ta-Nehisi Coates is writing a new Superman film for Warner Brothers, and one wonders if we will soon learn more about Vathlo Island.

2. Map of the Land of Wakanda
Marvel Comics, 1973

Created by Stan Lee, the fictional African country of Wakanda first appeared in the Marvel Universe in a 1966 issue of Fantastic Four. Home to Marvel superhero the Black Panther, Wakanda has been depicted both in comics and on film as a technologically advanced nation concealed from the rest of the world in order to protect its supply of the extraterrestrial element of vibranium (as well as its technological advances and its inhabitants). An early attempt at mapping Wakanda occurred in a 1973 issue of Jungle Action Featuring the Black Panther (vol. 2, #6). The two-page spread includes three maps–one of the nation as a whole, one of Central Wakanda (home to the Black Panther), and a more detailed map of the layout of T’Challa’s Palace Royal (showcasing what a 1970s audience would have thought to be advanced technology, e.g. a library with video-tape facilities, microfilm projectors, and perfect acoustics). While the early-maps of Wakanda (like the early comics themselves) relied heavily on Western stereotypes of Africa, the blockbuster 2018 film resulted in a variety of new Afro-centric maps of Wakanda, as has Ta-Nehisi Coates’ recent re-imagining of the series for Marvel Comics.

3. “Hyrule Overworld Lore,” from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Nintendo of America, Inc., 1992

As any gamer knows, maps are an incredibly important element in video game play. While the majority of contemporary video game maps are now encountered digitally within the games themselves, this printed map of Hyrule was issued by Nintendo with the 1992 American release of their popular game “The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past,” for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

In a world before the internet, Youtube, and Twitch streams helped individual players unlock the secrets of video games, printed maps offered instructional tips to players preparing to immerse themselves in the world of a particular game. In Hyrule, there is an outdoor Overworld (pictured here) and an Underworld of dungeons, caves, and building interiors (pictured on the verso). The yellow insets surrounding the map of the Kingdom of Hyrule provide important tips to players about to assume the role of Link in his quest to free Princess Zelda. The map folds indicate that the item was included (along with a printed instruction manual) inside the original plastic game cartridge case.

4. Charlie Higson’s The Enemy: An Illustrated Map
Francesco Francavilla, 2013
Courtesy of the Collection of Stephen Hornsby

Italian comic book artist Francesco Francavilla created this publicity poster for Charlie Higson’s young adult horror book series about zombies in post-apocalypse London. Illustrating the events of the first five books in the series, the map shows the streets of central London and familiar landmarks, such as Buckingham Palace, Houses of Parliament, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Tube stations, as well as routes taken by characters in the series such as the Holloway Crew, Ed, Dognut’s Crew, and Sam and the Kid. These children have formed groups to ward off terrifying adult zombies. Grisly images of zombies pursuing children fill the margins around the map. Skulls mark zombie attack sites. Following in the great tradition of monsters on maps (#mapmonsters), “The Enemy” may be the first ever zombie map!

5. The Continent, A Fan Made Witcher Map
Aaron Barnett, 2020

As fantasy novels continue to be adapted for movies and television, some fans are creating their own world maps in an attempt to better understand the universes in which they are immersed. With Netflix’s adaptation of Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski’s series of novels about Geralt of Rivia (the eponymous “Witcher”) well into its second season, British Art Director Aaron Barnett created an illustrated map of “The Continent,” where the various plotlines of The Witcher series occur. Such maps help new and old fans situate the geographic nuances of the storyline. With the Netfix series growing in popularity (preceded by the Witcher novels and video games), Barnett’s is but one of many Witcher maps currently available. Interested viewers may also wish to check out the interactive digital map created by Netflix to accompany the series. Geographers at the University of Warsaw have also recently released a detailed map of the Continent, which includes commentary on the terrain. Notably, Sapkowski did not create a map of “The Continent” for his novels, partially because he claims the world is continually evolving.

Next Section: 6. Myth and Allegory