THE CHIP KIDD INTERVIEWS continue with a brief look at a Golden Age classic.
For the unitiated — though I can’t imagine there’s anyone reading this who doesn’t already know — Chip is probably the Western world’s best-known book designer and a Batman fan of the first order. He’s written or worked on many Bat-projects, such as Bat-Manga, Batman Collected and redesigns of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns books, to name a few.
In the fall, he presented Batman: Black and White, an exhibition at Manhattan’s Society of Illustrators that featured dozens of specially commissioned covers by some of the world’s most brilliant artists. (The exhibit’s over but you can catch my favorite 13 COVERS here.)
In Part 1, we checked out Chip’s astonishing private collection of Batmemorabilia. (Click here.)
Now, in Part 2, we go back briefly to the Golden Age by way of the Bronze Age DC tabloid treasuries: “Love those tabloid books. LOVE those tabloid books!” Chip cried in excitement at one point. “I still have my copies!”
In later, longer segments, we’ll discuss Batman history from a variety of perspectives.
Dan Greenfield: So you were reading the Famous First Editions and…
Chip Kidd: Total revelation! And I loved and continue to love—and the same with Peanuts—I love to see things start. Like, that’s how it started and then it evolves. Whether for better or worse, things evolve. But I love to see how it originally started out. Same with The Simpsons. Like, I remember watching the shorts on The Tracy Ullman Show and I think that has something to so with the creative process and being interested in that.
But those first handful of Batman stories before Batman #1 and before the introduction of Robin—they are the best! They’re strange and clumsy, Batman’s ears are huge, he has a gun, he’s mean, he dispatches the villains as he sees fit, the Joker’s scary and the whole thing of announcing on the radio what he’s gonna do and it’s brilliantly creepy! I loved all that stuff.
Dan: (Today) we have a tendency to read comics, as series, like Dark Knight Returns, or there are arcs… In terms of single issues, Batman #1 still today holds up as a great issue of storytelling. You’ve got two Joker stories, you’ve got the first Catwoman. I think there were like four stories in the issue that are Batman. There’s also the one where he’s fighting Hugo Strange’s monsters.
Chip: Oh, my God!
Dan: It’s like a riff on King Kong.
Chip: And the Bat-Gyro! When he’s shooting through the air!
And also the fact that Hugo Strange was making them out of mentally ill people, I thought was SO scary and creepy and sad and…compelling. There’s this one panel where Hugo Strange’s henchmen is rounding up these people and says, “Come on, nuts!” (Dan laughs) But that’s so NOT funny to me! It’s just…
Dan: Right, but you have to look at it with perspective. Same thing like seeing cigarette ads.
Chip: But even as a kid I remember thinking that is so sad to treat those people that way. I don’t know.