Monday, November 03, 2008

Manga Monday: Bat-Manga!

Bat-Manga! The Secret History of Batman in Japan SC
Chip Kidd, Geoff Spear & Saul Ferris
I've been anticipating this book's release for awhile now. I went to the Bat-Manga! panel at Comic-Con and heard Chip Kidd talk about putting this book together and it sounded just fascinating. And the final product is really quite beautiful. The book is mostly a collection of comics by Jiro Kuwata, which are some really fun comics. They were made after the campy Batman television show had debuted in America and are kind of in the same vain - a bit cheesy and over-the-top, but they are very good and exciting as well. Batman and Robin fight villains we've heard of such as Clayface, but also some weird guys like Lord Death Man, who has the uncanny ability to keep rising from his grave. And this version of Batman isn't shy about using guns either. It's just too bad that some of these rare strips aren't completed in this volume, as the editors were unable to track a surviving copy down. So we get the second part of a story without the opening, or the concluding chapter is missing. It's kind of a bummer, but I guess I should be thankful that I get to experience any of these cool comics at all. The art is pretty damn good, a little Tezuka-ish, but it really works for the tone of the book. Aside form the comics included in this book, we get a lot of photographs of merchandise, like the Bat Tank and Batman Watering Can. Crazy stuff that would never have appeared state-side, but thankfully were dreamed up by the Japanese during this brief period. My only complaint aside from the missing comics is that I would have liked a little more perspective on the comics and merchandise and on Batman's perception in Japan overall. There's a brief introduction by Chip Kidd and a two-page interview with Jiro Kuwata, but that's pretty much all we get. I know a little bit more merely because I sat in on the panel at Comic-Con, but I think that people who purchased a book like this would really be interested to know more about this subject. But those gripes aside, this is a great book to have on the bookshelf at home, one I'm sure to take down and flip through over and over again.

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