Nick Gazin's Comic Book Love-In #71

Dear Comic Book Likers, this week I interviewed the greatest comic book designer alive today, Chip Kidd. We talked about his new Batman book, 'Death by Design.' I give it a solid B.

Dear Comic Book Likers,

Look at these old Batman sneakers.

Look at this.

And this.

Look at the covers of Hara Kiri Magazine. It was a French satire magazine started in 1960. The subtitle is French for "Stupid and Vicious Magazine." They changed their name to Charlie Hebdo after they got in hot water for making fun of the death of Charles De Gaulle.

Check out Centella.

Check out this cool painting of Centella.

Check out Jace Wallace.

Batman: Death by Design
Chip Kidd and Dave Taylor
DC Comics

Chip Kidd is the greatest book designer alive today. He's also a humongous Batman fan and made a few books about Batman collectibles. He's written two novels and a short Batman comic, but this is his first graphic novel and it's pretty incredible. Although it's not going to be considered one of the essential modern Batman comics like Dark Knight, Year One, or Killing Joke, it's still pretty important and he and Dave Taylor, who drew the comic, managed to do a lot of things with Batman that no one's ever done before.

The comic is set in a Gotham City that is a mixture of New York City where the old Penn Station is still around and Anton Furst's set from the 1989 Batman movie. Architecture, city planning, and corruption within construction are the the themes of this book. There's a new costumed character in the book named Exacto, who looks just like Chip Kidd. The story isn't terribly memorable but it is fun to read and everything is fun to look at. For me, this book is mostly exciting for the composition choices, splash pages, and visual design of the objects and city.

The art is all done in graphite without erasing or detailed penciling. There's some computer coloring that's used to create a glowing effect or explosions. It's very pretty. The main draw of this book is the art and design. When Dave Taylor is excited about a drawing he puts more affection and love into a panel than you've ever seen in a drawn comic page. When he's less interested it shows, and there are some stiff poses and incorrect facial structures in this book. All in all the art's amazing even when it's not because this is the work of a hyper-skilled artist who is trying to get an insurmountable amount of work done.

I would give this book a solid B. It's not the most exciting Batman book, but it's definitely one of the most beautiful. Chip Kidd, who is a very nice man considering how important he is, answered some questions about the book for me. Check it out. And check out my last interview with him here.

VICE: How long did it take you to design your own Batman logo? Is there any significance to the absence of the head? I'm aware that the logo didn't always have a Bat's head on it, but there's a V shaped divot where it would usually be.
Chip Kidd:
The logo occurred to me very quickly. It's an homage to the headless chest emblem in the very first Batman (or more accurately, Bat-Man) story, in Detective Comics #27, "The Case of the Chemical Syndicate." The V-shaped notch is our personal stamp, something that's unique to our version.

I like that the Joker looks less slick than he usually does these days. The wild hair is great. Did you specifically say that you wanted him to look like Conrad Veidt in The Man Who Laughs?
Yes, I cited Conrad Veidt of course, but Dave took it from there and really made him into a villain from a German Expressionist silent film, which delighted me. His outfit in his first scene, at the ceiling, is peerless high style, with his jodhpurs and the little belt across his mid-section. If I could get an action figure of that I could die happy.

How long did it take you to write the script? How long did it take Dave Taylor to draw the comic?
It took me about three months to write the script. Dave worked on the art for about two and a half years (he had other jobs too) and did all of the digital treatments of his pencils on his own, including the brilliant monochromatic approach to color. DC Comics was very patient with both of us, and we really appreciated it.

What made you want to start the comic with preparatory sketches? Typically those would be saved for the end if they're published at all.
Good question. When I design an entire book, no matter what it is, I design the experience for the reader from the very beginning, starting with the cover and then immediately the front endpapers and so on from there. So I try to get you right into it, right away. The sketches at the front are a sort of overture/prelude, to set the mood. A sort of visual throat-clearing, like the opening titles of a film. There are of course sketches at the end, too, and the credits.

Go buy Batman: Death by Design from Amazon now.

Here's the Moebius image of the week. It's a GIF of a comic he made.

Previously - Nick Gazin's Comic Book Love-In #70