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Superman’s Cleveland: online!

2010 November 27

Yesterday the Superman’s Cleveland promotional map made its grand debut at Carol & John’s Comic Shop, during the Black Friday super-sale. Printed copies are still available for free at the store. For those outside the Cleveland area though, as promised, I present a downloadable PDF map as well.

Also, as hinted, I’ll share a few notes and comments on this project.

First off, full disclosure: I’m not the world’s greatest Superman fan. Not even close. I probably have a dozen Superman comics out of an entire comic collection of… hundreds, at least. I haven’t counted. (My brother is a big fan, though, with the big guy’s S-shield even featured among his many tattoos.)

I’m a fan of maps, though, and of history, and particularly of the local history around us, whether here in Cleveland or anywhere, really. In this last regard, I think a lot of credit is owed to author Alan Moore who, in works like Voice of the Fire and Snakes and Ladders, has written inspiringly on the fascinating history which lurks in the past of almost any community. I noted in a recent re-reading of From Hell the following line, spoken by Sir William Gull but probably expressing a belief of Moore himself: “Maps have potency; may yield a wealth of knowledge past imagining if properly divined.”

You’ll get no argument here. And I would like to think that this new map of mine, Superman’s Cleveland, may yield up at least little knowledge for those who look it over, and enrich their sense of this oft-maligned city and its oft-underappreciated history.

In that regard, I should note that I really see this map as being an experience itself, rather than solely a route map to an experience one might go in search of. By all means, if one fancies taking a pilgrimage to the past and uses Superman’s Cleveland to go out and physically visit these sites, great. I’ve done so and there’s definitely some neat stuff to see.

But I think that, especially for someone living in this area, just looking over this map may (hopefully) enhance one’s sense of place, enrich one’s concept of this city and what it means to live here. I think there is real value in not only reading about local history, but visually seeing where it happened, and how that history relates, spatially, to one’s own home and neighborhood and familiar streets.

(Of course, if people just think it’s neat-o, that’s fine too!)

Some other notes…

This map probably began with one of Brian Cronin’s Comic Book Legends Revealed columns, which ironically featured an item about the influence on the Superman comic of co-creator Joe Shuster’s original home of Toronto. The item did make some mention of Cleveland connections, however, and various comments referred to more of them. For whatever reason, this interested me and pretty quickly I started thinking “there should be a cool map of all this.”

I began doing research online and found a surprising number of relevant sites. Frankly, one can quibble about the significance of some of those which I’ve shown. Still, all put together there was more, and more known and recorded, than I had any idea of.

Regarding the design: originally, for some reason I had the idea of having the map at the top of the page, with a title beneath that and a text area running across the bottom. Aside from concluding that putting a title up at the top would look much better, however, once I plotted out the various points of interest I realized that they basically formed a kind of wide, upside-down capital “T,” with pretty empty areas on the left and right. At that point it occurred to me, “why not use this big ’empty’ real estate on the right here for my main text area?” Which worked out pretty well, I think. Sometimes you should go with the terrain.

Most of the significant points on the map are, of course, clustered around downtown, Glenville and University Circle. I debated what to do with the two outliers on the right, Jerry’s house in University Heights and the Maltz Museum, but as noted it worked out to include them because I could make use of the resulting “gap” between them and any other points.

On the left, though, Carol & John’s was way off by itself, and including it would have required zooming out to widen the area shown by more than 50%. Fortunately it’s just a straight shot down Lorain Road (even if that might not be the fastest way there from downtown, say) so I figured I could get away with an arrow. (Also fortunately, store co-owner John embraced the idea of using this map as a co-promotion; otherwise who knows what I would have done.)

Organizing the points of interest was an interesting challenge. I wanted to show a variety of characteristics and ended up sketching a little grid to work out which locations fit which category, thereby arriving at a two-dimensional system. The color of the dots show thigns about the type of site, such as a former location where an original structure no longer stands, or a private residence. (This last was very important to me because I really wanted to emphasize that some of these spots are people’s private homes; hopefully any visitors will remember to be respectful). Then I also divided the whole set into three categories based on the kind of significance each site has; admittedly these categories are a bit of a fudge, but hopefully they at least lend some veneer of logic to the very mixed bag of sites.

The Superman-shield compass rose is (aside from the shield itself) entirely my creation. I thought about looking for an ornate compass rose somewhere but though “nah, I can do this.” This is the only “official” Superman art or graphic element I used in the map; while Superman is definitely an iconic character with the embrace of the community which goes with that status, he’s also a highly-valued property of a major corporation. I’m trusting that the very subtle S-shield will be okay, given that 1) the map is being distributed for free and 2) if DC gets upset about the S-shield being used here, wouldn’t they also be mad at all the athletes and other people who’ve had the thing tattooed onto their bodies? 😉

I could go on (for some length) but that’s probably enough notes for now. Enjoy the map! Celebrate the Man of Steel and the city of Cleveland! Go to Carol & John’s and buy Superman stuff while grabbing a free map, and e-mail Modern Alchemy to hire clever and thoughtful design talent for your communication project!

10 Responses
  1. December 2, 2010

    This is great. Thanks for the research and the map!

  2. Matt permalink
    December 2, 2010

    You’re very welcome! I really appreciate the comments from people about this. It was fun to make; the fact that other people like it is a great bonus.

  3. December 27, 2010

    Hey Matt – I wrote about this map on my blog here:

    Hope you enjoy.

  4. Eric permalink
    March 2, 2011

    Great article! On a related note I created a facebook page for a movement to get a Superman statue constructed in Cleveland if anyone wants to join it:

  5. Matt permalink
    March 3, 2011

    Cool, Eric; thanks! I’ve gotta say that, whatever one thinks of the proposed Robocop statue for Detroit, this does seem like a significantly better idea. 🙂

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