Everyone is handling the plaguetimes differently. Some of us are playing Animal Crossing (me, I am). Some, like Man of Steel actor Henry Cavill, are painting minis. Others are baking bread and watching Tiger King. Kyle McBain, though? He’s building Gotham City. You might’ve spotted his scale model on Reddit about a week ago. We loved what he was working on, and reached out to him for a bit more information and a few more shots of the work-in-progress.
KitBashing a whole city
McBain told us that the city is a mash-up of puzzles and parts. In action-figure fandom, amateur figure makers do something they like to call Kit Bashing, where parts of various action figures are repurposed to build a new figure. That’s basically what McBain did for Gotham.
“I’ve had these puzzles of Chicago, New York, and Toronto for a few years now,” McBain told us. “Those puzzles consist of a base layer with water and land, a second layer of a foam puzzle of a map of the city… and then you’re supposed to put the plastic skyscrapers [onto the map] in chronological order so you can see how the skyline builds over the last 100 years.”
McBain found some cardboard foam sheets for the islands, which he painted to look like concrete, and went to work. The New York and Toronto sets make up most of the set. The Chicago set ended up in the trash at some point, so McBain worked with the New York City and Toronto ones, though he’s since said that he plans to pick up the Chicago one to fill out the third island.
The many versions of Gotham City
The draw for McBain to pull Chicago in isn’t just nostalgia for an old puzzle set he enjoyed building, but to capture the look of the movies. The map is based on the one seen in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. The trilogy used shots of Manhattan and shots of Chicago in different films, and pulled in images reminiscent of places like Baltimore and the legendary Kowloon Walled City that once existed in Hong Kong, which is said to have inspired the Narrows in Batman Begins. McBain explained that bringing these models together helps bring Gotham out into the real world. Using both the Chicago and New York puzzles shows how you could see such different-looking places in the same city.
McBain tried his best to find buildings that fit Gotham’s landmarks, such as using the New York city hall for Gotham City Hall and an old World Trade Center design for Wayne Tower.
We’ve seen a bunch of different takes on Gotham over the years. Tim Burton gave us the ultra-gothic Gotham of legend in Batman and Batman Returns. Batman: The Animated Series was a dark but timeless Art Deco version. Nolan’s Gotham was a more grounded place, and McBain’s map kind of bears that out. It’s a sprawling city filled with too many buildings to count; a place you could get lost in.
It’s also noteworthy that few other places in comic books are deserving of this kind of treatment. Marvel’s Manhattan is just Manhattan with some different buildings. Places like Metropolis and Central City aren’t nearly as well-fleshed out as Gotham; they wouldn’t be identifiable just from a map. It isn’t hard, though, to imagine taking a look at this map and knowing right away that it’s home to the Dark Knight.