Originally, my plan for tonight was to do a bit of a longer post, but I got caught up in reading my new copy of Bat-Manga!, and brother, that thing’ll eat a couple of hours like nobody’s business.
I mentioned this thing back when it was solicited, but for those of you who missed it, Bat-Manga! is Chip Kidd’s big book of Japanese Batman stuff from the sixties, based in large part around Jiro Kuwata’s manga. And needless to say, given that it manages to combine the craziness of ’60s Batman with the insanity of manga, this thing is flat-out awesome, despite the controversy that arose from the fact that Kidd didn’t credit Kuwata–whose work as a writer and artist makes up somewhere around 90% of the book–on the cover.
To be fair, I can’t imagine there’s any malice behind it: There’s never an attempt made to hide the fact that these are Kuwata’s stories, as he gets a shout-out in Kidd’s dedication (which calls him “the master”) and on the back flap. But, and this is a “but” so big that Sir Mix-a-Lot could write a song about it, his name’s not on the cover or the title page, which, considering that it lists the guy who arranged the pages, the guy who photographed the pages, and the people who translated them, makes a pretty big omission in not mentioning the guy who wrote and drew them in the first place. And again, this is Chip Kidd. He designs books for a living. It’s not like he doesn’t know how important a mention on the cover is.
To make matters worse, when he was called out on it by Comic Foundry‘s Laura Hudson, his reaction got pretty defensive–or at least, that’s how it seemed to me–and featured him railing against the “culture of blogger snark,” as well as bunch of defenders on that bastion of class, Newsarama, including one hilarious guy who claimed that book designer Chip Kidd was a bigger draw than, you know, Batman.
Long story short (too late!): Kidd claimed that Kuwata’s name being left off wasn’t a slight, but just a reflection of the fact that the manga was only one part of a larger work that included all kinds of Batman-related pop culture ephemera. But, considering that the manga’s a big enough part of it that the title of the book is Bat-MANGA, the promise of a reprint of Kuwata’s work was the major selling point of the solicitation, and that Internet luminaries like Chris Sims think that the pictures of weird old Japanese toys are just another obstacle to flip past on your way to the next page of Batman’s fight with Lord Death Man, his argument doesn’t hold a lot of water.
Credits aside, though, the book is great. I could go on about how the stories–reproduced from photographs of the original yellowed pages with blocky, sans-serif lettering to give it a retro feel that works really well–are exactly the kind of madness that you want from sixties Japanese Batman stories. But really, all you need to see is this: