It all started when Laura Hudson rounded up comments by Top Shelf’s Leigh Walton, Andrew Wheeler and Joe McCulloch about the fact that mangaka Jiro Kuwata’s name was not on the cover of BAT-MANGA, the very well-reviewed Chip Kidd-edited selection. Yours truly and various others of the comics pundit class also called shame on Kidd.
It escalated when Kidd responded to various comics-based blogs, including Chris Mautner and Chris Butcher in the brash fashion that Kidd is noted for, chiding bloggers for not doing more to rescue Kuwata’s reputation and explaining that since it was a heavily designed and edited archival book, the credits were as they were. Butcher jumped in with his own support for Kidd:
If this were a straight-up reprint, along the lines of what Vertical is doing with Tezuka’s work or D+Q is doing with Tatsumi, yeah, the author’s name should be front and centre. But this? These comics are being given equal consideration with toy photos, costumes, magazine covers, and other various ephemera. Chip Kidd, Geoff Spear, and Saul Ferris have opted to cover the phenomenon of Batman in Japan, with the comics being given the most weight in the collection. You can argue that the focus is different than you might prefer, but on the book’s own merits I think the consideration given to all parties is fair. As is the compensation, by all accounts.
Of course, this created a weekend teapot tempest; Butcher did what looks to be some ill-advised late-night blogging, and continued the brash tone:
I call bullshit on all of this, all of this fake fanboy outrage. I’m sorry, honestly, if this is an affront to your sensibilities? But. BULL. SHIT. You know who the legal author of those comics is? DC FUCKING COMICS. Kuwata owns or is owed nothing, because That’s The Way Comics Works. Kidd went out of his way to see Kuwata credited and compensated above and beyond the call of duty. If you can’t see that, then your naivete is like a fucking cyst in your eye.
We might have some sympathy for this attitude, except that Laura Hudson, Leigh Walton, Andrew Wheeler, Joe McCulloch, Chris Mautner and John Jakala are not fanboys by any definition of the word. They’re mostly critics, journalists and publishing professionals. In short, a responsible and respectable group who have every right to question the decision. Certainly, this is not a huge, huge deal, but it is a little odd, and Butcher and Mautner certainly were the brave ones who actually followed up in reportorial fashion. Following the escalating round, Hudson comes back with a roundup of the second wave of roundups:
I remain unconvinced, particularly because sequential narratives by Kuwata happen to comprise roughly 80% of that “chronicle.” To me, that’s where it crosses the line from Chip Kidd’s Cool Book About Japanese Batman Stuff to Jiro Kuwata’s Bat-Manga, edited and compiled by Chip Kidd. There are plenty of high-end, beautifully designed collections of sequential art that include additional materials, art, interviews, etc., and the editors and designers of those collections certainly deserve credit, but not to the exclusion of the actual creators.
as does Graeme McMillan (another non-fanboy), who reaches a slightly different conclusion:
I have to admit, I disagree; for the majority of people, Chip Kidd is the draw for this book – well, that or “Hey, look, it’s funny old Batman comics from Japan”. Kuwata doesn’t have the audience or awareness in the US to be the selling point for the majority of people who’ll be picking up this book, and while it would’ve been nice to see Kuwata’s name on the front cover, the fact that he’s not only credited for his work inside but also interviewed for the book makes me think that any outcry over usurping of authorship is slightly melodramatic… which, admittedly, seems kind of fitting for a book about Batman.
In the end, people seem to have been drawn out into way overreactive hissy fits, and time was wasted that could be spent reading or making or promoting better comics. Kidd is a great designer and if he wants to
take the credit, that’s how the publishing world world works. And, as Nisha Gopalan writes, BAT-MANGA is one of the most notable books of the year:
The fact that their collection, chiefly assembled from Kidd and Ferris’ EBay vigilance, is admittedly spotty, merely lends more exoticism to the collection. Take our hero’s dalliance with the dastardly, if fabulously named, Go Go Magician. Trapped in a block of ice, Batman fires up his “safe-cracking hand torch” to melt his way out of the chamber. One glitch: The torch’s flame sucks up all the oxygen before he can burn his way out. With the next issue nowhere to be found, it simply ends there with Batman like we’ve never seen him — foolish, collapsed, facing certain death.