If you don’t know him by name, and you’re a reader of comics, novels or pop-culture reference books, you’ll know Chip Kidd by his designs.
Kidd is a long-standing graphic designer of book covers (not to mention author and musician). You’ve probably got a number of his designs sitting there, looking great, on your bookshelves. He’s created work for a plethora of publishing houses including: Knopf/Random House, Pantheon, Doubleday, Penguin and HarperCollins. You’d recognize his striking work on Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Alex Ross’ Mythology, as well as books from a list of other writers and artists including Dean Koontz, Michael Ondaatje, Bret Easton Ellis, Charles Schulz and Frank Miller.
Yep. He’s that in demand.
But Chip Kidd is, at heart, a fan of comic books – one of the reasons he continually returns to the medium. This time around, he’s given himself writing chores on a pretty interesting Batman book.
Batman: Death By Design comes to us at a strange point in time. With the current upheaval in world economics, the 99 per cent protests and the ongoing fallout of the real estate collapse in various segments of the United States of America, Kidd’s story is one underpinned by a fictional economic boom in Gotham City. And it fits right into the writer/designer’s wheelhouse.
Gotham is undergoing a construction renaissance with the most prestigious architects from around the world lending their designs to buildings throughout the city. There are cranes everywhere. (Those living in the Greater Toronto Area will, I’m sure, be able to read this story from a particularly interesting vantage point.) Bruce Wayne, as chairman of the Gotham Landmarks Commission, is a key ingredient of this new, golden age of artistic ingenuity. That said, things start to go wrong in various phases of constructions: faulty crane calculations, collapsing materials, walkways giving in, software glitches and, horribly, casualties. It’s up to Batman to solve the mystery of these devastating happenings.
From a visual design perspective, Kidd has gone on record as saying this Batman story is a Fritz Lang-directed film from the 1930s with a huge budget. That alone is enough to get me hooked. But on Batman: Death By Design, Kidd is joined by amazing British artist, Dave Taylor, whose graphite pencil work (no ink!) adds to the sense of mystery in the story. There’s a realistic noir feeling here where the artwork adds a truly stylized cinematic quality to the book.
Interestingly, DC Comics has been publishing a lot of comics over the last year and a half that deal with Gotham City itself – its history and its architecture. I don’t know if Batman: Death By Design is part of the main DC Universe canon or not, but it can only enhance the successful direction that the Dark Knight has taken recently in comics. Not to mention a great appetite whetting for the coming Dark Knight Rises film in July!
So make the run today and pick up Batman: Death By Design. Not only will it breathe new life on your bookshelf as a visual entity, but I promise it’ll be a fascinating and timely read too.
Every Wednesday, JP makes the after-work run to his local downtown comic book shop. Comics arrive on Wednesdays you see and JP, fearful that the latest issue will sell out, rushes out to purchase his copy. This regular, weekly column will highlight a particularly interesting release, written in short order, of course, because JP has to get his – before someone else does!