Well How Else Would He Do It?

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:




27 thoughts on “Well How Else Would He Do It?

  1. I also like how one aspect of Kidd’s ‘defense’ vis a vis Kuwata’s cover treatment(or lack thereof) was all, “Well, what did YOU do to promote Kuwata’s work? It’s okay to leave his name off because I actually did something.”

    Well, Chip, I’m pretty sure I was busy Not Speaking Any Japanese and Having No Idea This Stuff Existed.

    Exhausting activities, let me assure you.

  2. All I’ve ever been able to accomplish with the Strength of Righteousness is to start the coffee machine before taking a shower in the morning.

    But hey — he’s Batman.

  3. From what I’ve read of Kuwata, I don’t think he’d care about all this. He converted to Buddhism and hasn’t actually done any work since 1992, and that was after he’d been forced to abandon 8-Man because of his arrest on gun possesion charges (legend has it he was planning suicide.) I haven’t checked for his reaction, but I doubt getting credit for his work of 40 years ago is foremost on his mind. Still, serious dick move on Kipp’s part.

  4. Correction, Kuwata has done Buddhist themed artwork for several books since his departure from Manga. Anyone know if he made any kind of statement about the Bat-Manga collection?

  5. My review. Judging by the picture you provide, you must have gotten the hardcover, because that’s how you roll. Some of the stories seemed familiar, especially Go-Go and Professor Gorilla (I kept expecting him to strap a bomb to himself), but “The Man Who Stopped Being Human!” is very Japanese.

  6. Judging by the picture you provide, you must have gotten the hardcover, because that’s how you roll.

    I did. The hardcover was solicited as having more pages, and I was too curious about what they’d be to miss out.

  7. So..I was talking to a friend of mine in my LCS and we decided that if there is to ever be a third Batman book besides “Batman” and “Detective Comics” it should just be titled… “Because it’s Fucking Awesome, that’s why”.


  8. Evil yoga does score over the Strength of Righteousness in one important respect: evil yoga class. There’s like 20 hot, evil chicks for every dude! And evil chicks totally do it!

  9. I flipped through this at the book store and could feel the awesomeness radiating off it in waves. I’m not sure why I didn’t buy it right then. Possibly I just suck. I may have to right my error very soon though…

  10. I, for one, greatly anticipate Lord Death Man’s future insertion into official DC Universe canon.

  11. Another problem was Kidd’s argument that “the Co-Creator of 8 Man” was somehow languishing in obscurity in Japan. Really?

  12. Technically, the Lord Death Man story is an adaptation of an American Batman story featuring a guy named simply Death Man. So I guess he kinda is in official DC Universe canon.

  13. To me, it’s like I compiled a bunch of Beetle Bailey strips into book format, then gave myself top billing/author credit on the front cover, despite the fact that Mort Walker and Dik Brown bled,sweated, and teared up over the goodness inside. But I did the compilation, so that trumps any sort of real artistic talent.

    And the fact that Chippo came off so dickish in his defense actually turned more than a few folks off.

  14. I was actually kind of hoping for about 25% more pictures of weird Japanese Batman toys and ephemera. Or perhaps more about what other American concepts found their way into manga (there’s a tantalizing glimpse or two on covers that suggests there were also Japanese ELONGATED MAN stories, for instance!)

    The manga themselves are interesting, but not all *that* interesting to me compared to the sometimes (even more) bizarre off-model toy depictions.

  15. Others that have revived themselves through the power of righteousness:

    Death’s Head
    Optimus Prime (for one last uppercut)
    Perseus (with claymation help)

    And…dare I say it…Wonder Man?

  16. I’m going to sequester myself in the Himalayas until I write a Batman/Kamen Rider team-up script where they fight Lord Death Man and a giant fly with a TV for a head that shoots lasers.

    Also possibly the Stylist.

  17. The great thing about Batman is that you don’t have to change a damn thing about him to cross the cultural gap between here and Japan. The Japanese get Batman, and we get to see Batman doing crazy shit we’d never think of. Win-freaking-win, baby.

  18. Wow. I want to read that book so badly.

    Though I wonder if it can beat, for sheer Japanese cheesiness and ‘so bad it’s good’ factors, the amazing spectacle of Live Action Sailor Moon?
    There’s nothing like watching a show about a group of japanese teenage girls in sailor suits fighting men in latex monster suits by pirouetting and shooting bad CG effects. Oh, or one time, they beat a monster with the power of synchronised karaoke fighting.

    …Man, I love Japan.

  19. How about a Morisson Lord Death Man story where Lord Death Man is drawn to resemble Jim Morisson?

  20. Hmmm… back to the issue of attribution.

    I think it would have satisfied all sides if there was an additional piece of text on the cover that said, “featuring the work of whazisface Kurata.”

    But really, considering that the introduction and the interview with Kurata are placed immediately before any actual comics, and considering that there are reproductions of covers & ephemera not by Kurata as well as gorgeous photos of merchandise, I don’t think that Kidd is really in the wrong.

  21. “Some of the stories seemed familiar, especially Go-Go and Professor Gorilla (I kept expecting him to strap a bomb to himself), but “The Man Who Stopped Being Human!” is very Japanese.”

    okay, so old post of yours but here’s a tidbit… i read Bat-Manga recently and enjoyed how much actually was inspired by the craziness of the Batman of yesteryear: specifically, “The Man Who Quit the Human Race” http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_JUAN7NLPNkM/Sl0goXUe49I/AAAAAAAAAb0/8xtRllhBf1w/s1600-h/Batman165-1200-00.jpg … Almost the exact story, but i like Kurata’s version more…. perhaps…