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In which another tempest in a teapot is explained to an audience that does not drink tea - A Journal of Zarjaz Things
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hipsterdad
hipsterdad
The Hipster Dad
Sat, Nov. 8th, 2008 05:28 am
In which another tempest in a teapot is explained to an audience that does not drink tea

You may recall that, on a couple of occasions early this year (January and February), 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, however.

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 Walton
Laura Hudson
Heidi McDonald
Johanna Draper Carlson
Chris Mautner
Chris 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.

Tags: ,
Current Mood: disappointed disappointed
Current Music: R.E.M.: Document

12CommentReplyShare

animejump
animejump
Mike Toole
Sat, Nov. 8th, 2008 02:14 pm (UTC)

That's disappointing and a bit hilarious. IMO some responsibility for the end product should be tacked on to whoever was supervising Kidd for DC Comics; I don't think he was assembling the book in a vacuum. I also have to wonder, being an actual fan of Jiro Kuwata's comics, how many Ultra Seven and Eight Man comics Kidd owns? Meh, nevermind, I don't want to be petty. I'll buy your copy when you're done with it.


ReplyThread
hipsterdad
hipsterdad
The Hipster Dad
Sat, Nov. 8th, 2008 03:02 pm (UTC)

SOLD. Thanks, Mike! I appreciate it!


ReplyThread Parent
davemerrill
davemerrill
Dave Merrill
Sat, Nov. 8th, 2008 07:15 pm (UTC)

A: a Batman comic WITHOUT PROPER CREDIT GIVEN TO THE ARTIST AND WRITER? Stop the presses.

or, if you like, B: a Batman comic WITHOUT THE "BY BOB KANE" LOGO EVEN THOUGH BOB KANE NEVER CAME WITHIN A MILLION MILES OF IT? Alert the media.


ReplyThread
hipsterdad
hipsterdad
The Hipster Dad
Sat, Nov. 8th, 2008 09:31 pm (UTC)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CHIP KIDD'S NEW "BATMAN" BOOK CONTINUES PROUD "KANE" TRADITION OF SHAFTING ACTUAL WRITERS, ARTISTS


ReplyThread Parent
spook_town
spook_town
devlin thompson
Sun, Nov. 9th, 2008 04:58 am (UTC)

I was certainly annoyed by the credit issue, but the visual presentation doesn't bother me at all, certainly as compared to a lot of Marvel and DC (AND Rebellion)'s crappy attempts to reprocess work from printed originals back to camera-ready line art. With current technology,photographing the original page generally gives better results. Which do you prefer; I WILL DESTROY ALL CIVILIZED PLANETS, or pretty much any volume of DC's Archive volumes? Not that this route can't end badly in the wrong hands, whether through ham-fisted color "enhancement" like Danzig's BLUE BOLT reprint or the Dark Horse DR. SOLAR (or the horrific "facsimile edition" of FANTASTIC FOUR #52 that had every page darkened with a transparent layer of BROWN photoshopped on top of every page for no good reason), but with iffy source material, I'd say that it's generally best at this point to present it with minimal fiddling about. Which in no way is meant to suggest that Chip Kidd isn't at times a monumental dick.


ReplyThread
hipsterdad
hipsterdad
The Hipster Dad
Sun, Nov. 9th, 2008 08:26 am (UTC)

Well, I'll agree with you that it could have ended badly. And that Kidd is at times a monumental dick. And that I Will Destroy All the Civilized Planets is darn close to an argument winner. Funny, though, how Karasik subtitled his book "The Comics of Fletcher Hanks," and had Kidd done the same, this tempest in the teapot never would have happened.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Sun, Nov. 9th, 2008 09:18 am (UTC)
Yeah, but,

"The selling point was JIRO KUWATA BATMAN COMICS."

Here's a question: Did you even know Kuwata's name before this book was released? Dave Merril might have... But before this controversy? This book that prominently credits Kuwata (though not on the front cover), that is dedicated to Kuwata, that has his name on the front cover, inside flap, has an interview with him, has all the proceeds donated to him?

I call bullshit on all of this, all of this fake fanboy outrage. I'm sorry, honestly, if this is an affront to your sensibilities? But. BULL. SHIT. You know who the legal author of those comics is? DC FUCKING COMICS. When was the last time you got upset about the shitty work for hire system? When was the last time you let THAT influence your buying decisions?

We've met, you're a nice guy, it's nothing personal here, but this? This is a non-issue. This is bullshit. If you're going to be indignant, pick a real target, take a real stand. This isn't even shitty, in comparisson to Standard Operating Procedure.

- Christopher


ReplyThread
hipsterdad
hipsterdad
The Hipster Dad
Sun, Nov. 9th, 2008 02:59 pm (UTC)
Re: Yeah, but,

I think this is a justifiable target for my own wallet, and yes, I have some history in declining to purchase any more books from comics industry people after they've acted poorly online. I decided some time back against buying anything new from Jamie S. Rich or Scott Shaw(!) after certain internet outbursts from them.

To reiterate: I raised an eyebrow over the cover credit, but it was not until I saw the book and realized that I did not like the dang thing that I formed an actual negative opinion about it (see points 3 and 4 above). This is fair, I've certainly ended up owning books that, when they arrived, failed to meet my expectations. I did not really like Paul Gravett's Great British Comics, for example, which I also ordered sight-unseen.

Perhaps I was not clear, but I was very excited by the announcement of what I thought were reprints (see here), only to find an incomplete "curation" of reprints, presented badly, and with far too much space devoted to Kidd's stereotype high-contrast closeup photos. This may be down to my misunderstanding of the project, or perhaps willful ignorance mixed with silent prayers of "please please please don't let this suck as bad as his Peanuts book." This is not so much "fake fanboy outrage" as it is "personal disappointment."

Then we come to Kidd's reply, which I read as remarkably unprofessional, and here I could go on at length. Certainly emotions allow us some level of hypocrisy - Ian Gibson is my favorite comic artist, and so I can allow him the occasional bout of being an unprofessional prima donna, like when he dumped one of his commitments in a fit of pique last year, and still support him, because I love Gibson's work and I love his projects.

But I do not like Kidd's work, and I do not like Bat-Manga!, and I do not feel the need to support him, particularly when he acts like an uppity child online. A "mea culpa" wouldn't have made me like Bat-Manga!, but it wouldn't have made me want to dispose of the thing. Does this answer your questions?

(edited to add link in the 3rd paragraph)

Edited at 2008-11-09 03:03 pm (UTC)


ReplyThread Parent
davemerrill
davemerrill
Dave Merrill
Tue, Nov. 11th, 2008 12:01 am (UTC)
Re: Yeah, but,

See, I loved Kidd's Peanuts book. I actually bought it when I wasn't intending to, simply from flipping through it in the bookstore and deciding I MUST HAVE THIS based solely upon, well, Kidd's design and Kidd's photos of "all the stuff".

Had this been just a reprinting of Japanese Batman comics, I'd be much less likely to consider purchasing it. I love the idea of it being photos of yellowing weeklies and obscure beat-up toys. Of course, I am actually going to wait until it's in my hand before making the final purchase decision.


ReplyThread Parent
hipsterdad
hipsterdad
The Hipster Dad
Tue, Nov. 11th, 2008 12:10 am (UTC)
Re: Yeah, but,

Well, I hope you like it, but of course it will probably fit your sensibilities of found objects more than it does mine. Here's an occasion where your more sensible approach of not doing pull lists will work out better for you than it does me! I'm clearly going to have to do better in the future at making these rash "yes-I'm-going-to-want-that" judgements, particularly when I'm too thick to look at the dang price tag before I tell Devlin to order something.


ReplyThread Parent
animejump
animejump
Mike Toole
Tue, Nov. 11th, 2008 04:56 pm (UTC)
Re: Yeah, but,

The presentation is intriguing, and for my money pretty much the only justification for the hilariously high price tag. I would absolutely LOVE straight reprints of Batman manga by Jiro Kuwata, but not for more than around $20 per book, tops. There's a limit to how much I'll crack open the wallet for special, collectors-edition foofah.

My peception of the 'uproar' surrounding this book is that, despite Kidd's claims, Batmanga is not a book that just happens to feature Kuwata's comics; it is 80% Kuwata's comics. FOUR-FIFTHS of the content is comics. At that point, it's not an asian memorabilia photobook featuring comics, it's COMICS featuring an asian memorabilia photo-essasy. In light of that, I find the omission of Kuwata's name from the front a little onerous, but at the same time I must admit that I'm part of the tiny, tiny minority that saw "Batman" and "manga" and yawned, and only got excited when Kuwata's name came up.

If Kidd really loves this artist's work, he needs to deliver deluxe hardcover 8 Man comics next year. And bring them to my house. And make me a sandwich, while he's at it. So if you're reading, Mr Kidd, hurry up, dammit, I'm getting hungry over here!


ReplyThread Parent
mpceccato
mpceccato
Matt Ceccato
Tue, Nov. 11th, 2008 07:22 pm (UTC)

I saw the book at Borders (John's Creek, which is also deserving of your business) during lunch today and was rather unimpressed. I also noticed the book's price and immediately put it down soon after. Like you said, the material in this book would have made a great book. But I thought the layout of the comics were really shoddy.


ReplyThread