Saturday, December 27, 2008

Nine things I liked about Bat-Manga!

Bat-Manga!  The Secret History of Batman in Japan
By Jiro Kuwata
Edited, created, and taken credit for by Chip Kidd

-The cool old cars:

Being from the 60s, the cars are all in the long-and-wide style of the day, and it's cool to see bad guys like Lord Death Man cruising around getting in car chases in them.

-Batman swinging from things on Bat-ropes:

He sure seems to do a lot of swinging; that page follows a panel in which he instructs Robin to "speed up and drive in circles, creating a centrifugal force."  And then he swings around behind the car, kicking a bunch of goons.  Sweet.  This scene is another good one:

And a wrecking ball is the best rope swing of all:

-Gotham city's Mount Rushmore-style monument to its hero:

-Inspector Gordon's awesome moustache:

-The moral debate involving human evolution:

That's from a story called "The Man who Quit Being Human", and it's about a man who mutates into a new life form.  It's like something out of X-Men comics.  The story ends up being kind of silly, but I did appreciate the philosophical debate.

-Batman wrestling with a gorilla in a mask and cape:

That one's another cool story, about a gorilla who gained human intelligence and then sets out to destroy human civilization.  As the story progresses, he ends up capturing Batman and leeching Batman's intelligence, while also giving Batman his gorilla strength, which leads to a big, awesome fight.  That's one of the best things about this volume; the stories are pretty simplistic, but they are constantly moving, delivering fun, exciting moments.

-The Batmobile being chased by a tornado:

-Jiro Kuwata appearing in the comic Tezuka-style to introduce a story:

-Speed lines, speed lines, speed lines:

Combining Western superhero stories with manga storytelling makes for an incredibly dynamic mix.  I love the sense of motion that you get from panels like those, and the placement of moving objects in the foreground really adds to the movement and excitement.

Overall, the book is very entertaining, even if it's pretty slight.  There's nothing of any depth here, but as mentioned, the stories move.  I don't know if I need to read anymore of this sort of thing, but one volume is a pretty good length.  For fans of older comics, especially those from Japan, it's a nice experience.  Check it out if you get the chance.

I can't really mention this book without commenting on the online controversy that spun out of Chip Kidd basically crediting himself as the author, but I don't have anything to add that hasn't already been said several times over.  So, I'll point anybody interested in commentary on the issue to J. Caleb Mozzocco and Tom Spurgeon for the best and funniest analysis, respectively.  Enjoy.