Hey all, Daniel Kalban here with the first ever column of “THE NERDY TRAVELER.” And your first stop is none other than my hometown, New York City! As befitting the center of the 28 known galaxies, NYC has been featured in numerous films, television shows, comics, video games and all other forms of media. This is a big town, but we’ll be focusing our attention on its two most famous boroughs: Manhattan and Brooklyn (I’ll make some notes about Queens towards the end). And since this is too big for a top 10 list, I’ll take you through as many popular spots as I can and/or the editors allowed. And no, Spiderman Turn Off The Dark will NOT be featured on this tour. Remember, we’ll not be taking taxis, so keep your Metrocards full and your sneakers tightly fastened.
GRAND CENTRAL STATION/NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY
In all the chaos and confusion in The Avengers, one might miss a famous NYC landmark: Grand Central Station. Technically Grand Central Terminal, this famous train station was spotted numerous times in the film; from Iron Man flying past it to Stark Tower to being surrounded by Chitauri invaders, to having one of its windows broken by a defeated alien. This station also served as Metropolis’ Grand Central, and Lex Luthor’s hidden apartment, in Superman The Movie; the famous octagonal kiosk and star painted ceiling can be seen as the police start following Otis down to the tracks for an ill fated search.
Just a block west of Grand Central is the famous main building of the New York Public Library. Most famous for its scene in Ghostbusters; the New York Public Library houses exhibits on famous authors throughout the year, as well as having plenty of books to read in its famous reading room.
The NYPL’s main building has become so tied to Ghostbusters that it seems you can turn and knock an EKG meter out of someone’s hand. The NYPL’s reading room also become the setting for a viral video of ghosts and ghostbusters from an NYC improve group as the famous song played (with the ghost librarian‘s permission of course). And if you want to keep busting ghosts; Donna’s apartment is a few blocks uptown at 55 Central Park West and Ghostbusters HQ is downtown at 14 N Moore Street.
In NYC, we’re home to numerous heroes; the first responders of 9/11, soldiers in several wars, Spider-Man…..
NYC is so connected to the Marvel Universe that almost EVERYTHING happens here. From major events to great tragedies to wonderful triumphs, New York has been at the center of it all. And Midtown Manhattan is where a ton of the action takes place, especially in the movies. While Hulk destroyed a hefty portion of Harlem in The Incredible Hulk (filmed actually in Toronto); it was a reawakened Steve Rodgers who found himself stunned in 21st Century Times Square. And plenty of superhero action is here in Midtown from both Marvel and DC. The aforementioned final battle in The Avengers took place on Park Avenue. Daredevil’s stomping grounds of Hell’s Kitchen is a couple blocks west of Times Square proper. But do not expect dirt, grime, and plenty of crime; today Hell’s Kitchen serves as Restaurant Row for locals and tourists who want a bite to eat before seeing a show without resorting to the tourist traps (like Guy Fieri’s excuse for a restaurant). A bit further up Broadway towards Columbus Circle are the (fictional) locations for the Baxter Building (Madison Ave and 42nd Street), Stark Tower (Columbus Circle) and Avengers HQ (890 5th Avenue).
COMIC BOOK CITY
DC is no stranger here either. The New York Daily News served as the home of The Daily Planet in Superman The Movie, and several other New York landmarks appear in the movie’s famous “Can You Read My Mind” sequence. The Dark Knight Rises had several scenes done in downtown Manhattan by the New York Stock Exchange for the climactic final sequence. However, this town is very tied to Marvel, with Dr. Strange’s house in Greenwich Village (177 Bleecker Street), The Daily Bugle (aka the Flatiron Building, 1 W. 23rd Street) and other various sites.
To round up Manhattan a bit before we hit Brooklyn, we shouldn’t forget Lady Liberty. The Statue of Liberty (Liberty Island, take the ferry from Castle Clinton in downtown Manhattan), is a famous landmark and an icon of the city. She’s also “guest starred” in many a nerdy film. In Ghostbusters 2, she got down with her bad self (with the help of ectoplasm) as the Ghostbusters hitched a ride to help save the day. In X-Men, Magneto used her torch as a platform for his “mutation device,” exploding Liberty’s lamp in the process. Recently, in Doctor Who, she revealed her true nature as a Weeping Angel set on ruining the Doctor’s happiness by taking away his then-companions, Rory and Amy. In a rare departure from Doctor Who, they filmed on location in NYC at the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, and Brooklyn’s Brooklyn Bridge Park (Yours truly wasn’t at home when they were shooting, shoot.)
And speaking of Brooklyn….
BEAUTIFUL BROOKLYN (WITH A SIDE OF QUEENS)
Brooklyn may be more famous for its connections than its locales in nerd culture. Sure in the Marvel Movie Universe we call Captain America our own and we’re the birthplace of Mario and Luigi (coincidentally there was a restaurant with that name for many years in the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood in Brooklyn). But locations, not so much.
Or are we?
If you watch Law and Order, Boardwalk Empire, and various other shows, you might see houses similar to the ones on the left. That’s actually the neighborhood of yours truly. The area known as “Victorian Flatbush” (comprised of parts of Midwood, parts of Flatbush, and the neighborhoods of Ditmas Park and Midwood Park/Fiske Terrace) is an area often filmed for television and movies. In fact, the first film studio was founded here and was the home for the first studio of United Artists; back when New York was the film capital. Coney Island is famous for being the home of The Warriors. Park Slope is home to a literal Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store, a store for budding superheroes that also serves as a writing center for students. We also have Barcade, which is exactly as awesome as it sounds.
Brooklyn’s Park Slope is also home to numerous actors who have worked in nerdy films: John Tutorro (Transformers), the late Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight), Rachael Weisz (The Mummy), and Maggie Gyllenhal (The Dark Knight). A recent newcomer to Park Slope is Sir Patrick Stewart, whose recent production of MacBeth had its NYC premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. He constantly posts Twitter pics of his ramblings in Park Slope (including the serendipitous encounter on the right) and jokingly describes how he’s getting used to becoming a Brooklynite. And in Marvel-related information, Aunt May’s house in The Amazing Spiderman is in the neighboring neighborhood of Windsor Terrace, not in Queens.
While you can see the house used in Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy in Forest Hills in Queens, while you’re in that borough, check out the remains of the New York World’s Fair. These ruins have been referenced, in their heyday, in such films as Captian America: The First Avenger and as the fictional Gotham World’s Fair in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. You can also see the UFO shaped towers which was the site of the final showdown in Men In Black.
Museums: Three come to mind. Two of course are The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History. Both have played roles in nerd culture; the latter most famously in Night At The Museum. The AMNH also is great for kids, and those who never quite grown up, with plenty of hands on exhibits, dinosaur fossils, dioramas, and the Rose Center for Space. The third museum I recommend is the Brooklyn Museum of Art; NYC’s second largest art museum. While it doesn’t have the nerdy cachet of the others, it’s cheaper and is famous for its own Egyptian Collection. An honorable mention goes to The Jewish Museum, which hosted an exhibit of Jewish comic book artists a few years back, and the 9/11 Memorial Site.
Attractions: The Discovery Center, near Times Square. The Discovery Center has a series of rotating exhibits, which in the past have included Pompeii, King Tut, CSI, and Harry Potter. The exhibits promote an interest in science or history and many of the exhibits contain hands on activities. Skip Ripley’s Believe It Or Not and walk a couple blocks over. (Check for current exhibits.)
Outdoors: Manhattan’s Central Park and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park (Trivia: The same designers made both parks, but they preferred Prospect Park) are of course obvious choices. Something less obvious is NYC’s first public park, Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn. History buffs walking amongst the graves will find the final resting places of Boss Tweed, Currier AND Ives, Frank Morgan (the actor who played The Wizard of Oz in the classic film), and the shared grave of Theodore Roosevelt’s mother and wife, who died on the same day.
Shopping: I recommend two comic stores: Bergen Street Comics in Brooklyn and the Times Square Branch of Midtown Comics. Bergen Street Comics is a small comic shop that’s family owned and is regularly stocked. With its wood paneled walls and cozy feel, it’s a change from the classic comic book store. Kid friendly comics are at the counter at the perfect height for kids. Midtown Comics is the most famous comic store in NYC with branches in Times Square, by Grand Central, Downtown, and a kiosk at famous toy store FAO Schwartz (also recommended). Not only is it filled to the brim with back issues, trade paperbacks, toys, games, and the like, it also regularly has guest signings and meetings with fan favorite writers and artists. It’s also one of the few stores that sells passes to New York Comic Con. Honorable Mentions go to Forbidden Planet and the Strand, both on the same block near Union Square. Forbidden Planet is one of the most popular comic and gaming stores in the city, with knowledgable staff and plenty of items for sale. The Strand is the world’s biggest bookstore, with literally miles of new, old, and used books.
That’s your quick guide to Nerdy NYC. For more information, go to NYCgo.com for more information. Another tool is this map of nerdy places throughout the Five Boroughs. I hope you’ll enjoy your stay…WHAT DID I SAY ABOUT THAT MUSICAL?! Yeesh, go to Phantom of the Opera or Pippin for crying out loud….