This is the 30th anniversary of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and we’ll be marking the milestone with a free screening on Sept. 12 followed by a live on-stage Q&A with Steven Spielberg. At that event a member of the audience will go home with a special artifact — artist Matt Busch’s limited-edition Indiana Jones World Map, a meticulously rendered record of all 36 archaeological discoveries made by the fedora-wearing hero who has swung across pop culture in feature films, novels, comic books, television, video games and theme park rides. The map was authorized by Lucasfilm and there were only 255 prints made (all signed and numbered, 24 inches by 36 inches) and all proceeds go to Disabled American Veterans. Our Geoff Boucher will be handing one of those prints to a fan at our “Raiders” screening and he recently caught up with Busch to talk about the passion project.
GB: How long did you work on the map and what was the biggest challenge for you while putting it together?
MB: From the initial idea to the final printed map took over three years. The bulk of time spent was research, but the biggest challenge was finding a way to get all of the artifacts to fit on the map without trampling all over one another. There are certain places in Indiana Jones lore where many artifacts have been discovered in relative close proximity. So being able to include all of these visually, accurately, and still having it look like a recognizable world map was definitely the hard part.
GB: And as far as those featured artifacts, you go well beyond the films…
MB: Yeah, at first the idea was just to cover the movies, and that was what I first presented to Lucasfilm. They loved it, but then I was the one who started second guessing what fans would really like. I knew I would have serious homework to include the novels, comic books, video games, Young Indy TV shows, and even the Disney theme park rides, but as a fan myself, I wanted it to be the ultimate Indy world map.
GB: Maps are such a key visual element of the Indy films, whether they are in the hands of characters or part of the storytelling as actual screen visuals. What key decisions did you make after going back and checking out the maps presented in the films?
MB: One of the hardest decisions was the look and year the world map should be from. What I really wanted was to have a more vintage-looking map of the 1930s, which is what most of us would associate Indiana Jones with. However, since the map covers his discoveries throughout his lifetime, it wouldn’t make sense to keep the map that old, when he has continued his archaeological adventures for many decades following. The oldest documentation of Indy’s life is the elder eye-patched Indy as seen in “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles,” which were meant to take place present day [in the ’90s, when the TV shows first aired]. Countries and borders have changed quite a bit in the last 100 years, so I figured a more present day map would make the most sense. That said, I still tried to add some visuals, like the vintage-looking compass and the four corner motifs, to try and keep it somewhat old school and classic Indy.
GB : What are some of the artifacts on the map that you’re especially pleased with as far as visual presentation?
MB: I enjoyed illustrating all of them. The movie artifacts were fun because everyone knows and loves them, but the expanded artifacts from the video games and comic books were cool too, because fans would get to see these painted among the rest of the biggies. What I really dig is the ones that people have not seen before at all. For example, many fans weren’t aware that Jones discovered a crystal skull well before the fourth Indy movie. The Crystal Skull of Cozan is from one of the novels, and this map is the first visual representation of it. So I was really stoked about that.
GB: Did Lucasfilm ask for any changes?
MB: There was one change in the initial proposal sketch that I submitted three years ago, when it was only the artifacts from the movies. I made the mistake of including the first stone Grail tablet marker, which was unearthed by Walter Donovan, not Indiana Jones. I felt really silly about that, which was part of why I decided to really do the research and make this right. When all was complete, no changes from Lucasfilm at all. To an illustrator, no changes is what we call “fortune and glory.”
— Geoff Boucher
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