You may recall that, on a couple of occasions early this year (January
), I mentioned that a new book of old Japanese Batman comics, cashing in on the '60s Adam West show, was due out. So the paperback edition of this book is out now - the hardback, which apparently has the cover used in those entries, and which contains additional material, has not yet been released - and, with it, there has come a stink.
It's interesting to note the words that I chose when I mentioned this book at the time: a book of "...crazy 60s Japanese Batman comics by Jiro Kuwata
" and, after I read a subsequent interview with Chip Kidd, the book's designer and primary credited author, and his collaborator, Saul Ferris, "...a collection of Jiro Kuwata's weekly Batman comics, in the context of 'lookit all these weird Japanese Batman toys' was in the planning stages...
Because, if I may go back and explain my thoughts, somehow I was given the impression that this book was to function as a reprint of Kuwata's comics. So I was bothered at the time that the book's cover said CHIP KIDD in large, friendly letters, but not JIRO KUWATA, but I figured that: the cover image provided was a placeholder, that I would need to see the book before making rash judgements, and that getting testy over the contents of material not yet seen would make me look like a regular poster over at Outpost Gallifrey.
Well, while I do not yet own Bat-Manga (as the hardback which Bizarro Wuxtry ordered for me has not yet been released), I did sit down for a few minutes with the paperback last weekend at Borders. (That's BORDERS BOOKS & MUSIC, in KENNESAW GEORGIA, which needs ALL YOUR CHRISTMAS MONEY, before the DAMN CHAIN GOES OUT OF BUSINESS. Thank you.) My preliminary thoughts were:
1. These comics are completely terrific. If you like Adam West's Batman, and if you like 60s Japanese design and/or comics, you are going to love these comics.
2. The book is fancy as all get out, and is printed on extraordinarily nice paper.
3. The reproduction of the comics themselves, however, is on a whole 'nuther plain from ideal. The decision was made to reprint them as artifacts, and compile them through the mindset of authorial distance. It would appear that all of the comics included - it is not a complete reprint - were photographed from faded, beat-up editions of those phone-book thick weekly volumes in which Japanese comics originally appear. You know how, in the absence of the original artwork, Titan scans old issues of Battle
and cleans up the art
before printing another volume of Charley's War
? Or how, as I linked recently, Fantagraphics has done an amazing, laborious job restoring Humbug
? That's not what was done here. So what you have here is astonishingly nice reproduction, not of the comics, but of horribly beat-up copies of the comics.
4. In January, I wondered "No word on whether designer Chip Kidd will have found a Japanese Batman Pez dispenser to photograph in extreme closeup with the contrast cranked all the way up for the book's frontspiece
." No fears there. He found all sorts of goofy old shit, and photographed it in extreme closeup, and cranked the contrast all the way up. That I've been dismissing Kidd with this sort of criticism for as long as I have, after he's filled so many volumes of books with so many similar sorts of photos, might indicate that his style has become something of a stereotype.
5. Jiro Kuwata's name, I noticed, was not on the cover, despite the overwhelming
bulk of the book being COMICS BY JIRO KUWATA. His name's on the inside front flap
And the last of my preliminary observations was something unkind about Chip Kidd, but I digress. We'll have to come back to point five in a bit.
At any rate, I was very disappointed in this book. I look(ed) forward to owning it, in order to get the Kuwata comics and read them at length (or, more accurately, read the presentation of them
), but I don't care for Kidd's style and I don't like the reproduction of the comics, and I sure as hell don't appreciate Kuwata being left off the cover, because he's the draw, not Kidd. Put another way, Kidd released a book some years back called Batman: Collected
which I decided against buying. This is because while I've been known to buy an action figure or twelve over the years, and would not object to a book of photos showing them all, I don't need 8x11-sized images of the tops of Killer Croc doll heads, lit in red.
Okay, so I mentioned a tempest. And the first wave came last Friday and seems to have continued at the following places. This is in roughly chronological order, and some of these were subsequently updated to reflect information in blogs posted later.Andrew Wheeler
- holy shit
, I thought the hardcover was $40, not $60!!! $#%^#%!!Jog the Blog
- note my inaccurate comment; I'd forgotten that I also bought Batman: Animated
, the book chiefly responsible for my dislike of Kidd's style. The book is shelved, unloved, downstairs.Leigh WaltonLaura HudsonHeidi McDonaldJohanna Draper CarlsonChris MautnerChris Butcher
If you'd rather not follow along, a summary could be: "Hey, Jiro Kuwata's name should be on the front of this book / yes, it really should / hey, what's the deal here / I asked Kidd and OH NO HE DINT"
(You can tell I'm dying of jealousy, can't you? If only I'd have said "Hey, why the hell's Jiro Kuwata's name not on the front of this book full of Jiro Kuwata comics" back in February, I could claim Original Outrage and win ten million Internet Dollars or something.)
If I may take a moment to respond to Kidd, who writes "I am heartened that you all have such concern for Mr. Kuwata’s welfare. So here’s a question: where were YOU for the last thirty years, while he was languishing in obscurity both here and in his own country?
" before explaining that this is not a collection of Kuwata's comics, it is, rather, a collection of Chip Kidd's photographs of Kuwata's comics. (See point five above; Kidd would perhaps disagree with me when I claim "the overwhelming
bulk of the book [is] COMICS BY JIRO KUWATA" as, in his eyes, the overwhelming
bulk of the book is PHOTOGRAPHS BY CHIP KIDD.)
Kidd's wrong. The selling point of this book, to this
buyer, was never Japanese Batman Halloween costumes. If I wanted to spend money on that, I'd have friended batfatty
years ago. (He's not updated in ages; don't tell me he finally ran out of weird stuff.) That's not to say there's not a lot of amusing, crazy, funny stuff to be found in the wild world of licensed and unlicensed merchandise and tat, but my interest in it is low enough to not need it on my LJ Friends Page, and I don't like the way Kidd frames it. The selling point was JIRO KUWATA BATMAN COMICS.
But to see the shoddy way the comics are presented, to know that a properly restored reprint would have been a million times more preferable, to see bloggers I respect raise a reasonable eyebrow over the issue of credit, and to see the "artist" respond by being such a complete and utter heel in his e-mail to Mautner... well, I have an obligation to my local comic shop to actually pay for the material that I requested he order, but that's not a mistake I'm going to make with Chip Kidd again. And if anybody would like to buy this book from me once it arrives, well, I am fortunate enough to at least receive a generous discount from the comic shop, and would happily pass that discount along to you.