Bat-Manga Follow Up – Sunday at 4:30am edition

Here’s a question: How many of you even knew Kuwata’s name before this book was released? Dave Merrill might have… But before this controversy? This book that prominently credits Kuwata (though not on the front cover), that is dedicated to Kuwata, that has his name on the back cover, inside flap, has an interview with him, has all the proceeds donated to him?

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.

When was the last time you got upset about the shitty work for hire system? When was the last time you let THAT influence your buying decisions? That Chip Kidd wrote and presented a history-book about these works, alongside a couple of other folks, and didn’t include Kuwata in the subtitle to assauge white liberal guilt? Bullshit. If you’re going to be indignant, pick a real target, take a real stand. This isn’t even shitty, in comparisson to Standard Operating Procedure. Complain on behalf of Chuck Dixon, or Peter David, or any of those poor schmoes getting kicked off of their shitty work-for-hire gigs that they’ve invested too much of their personal lives into. Go to bat for the poor dumb bastards who signed contracts with Tokyopop, or Platinum, or any number of shitty companies. The “I’ll get your idea into hollywood” fly-by-night “companies” that just want a creators IP and won’t even wake them up as they slip out the door the next morning. Turn all of your indignant rage somewhere worthwhile, for a few minutes instead of piling on an easy target, regardless of your lack of accuracy.

To go after a designer who’s put his time and money on the line to bring new attention to an entirely unknown artist? Who went the extra mile to ensure that artist was happy and compensated–when that was neither necessary or even desirable–with every step of the work? Who’s planning another work in future, to bring more people in?

Your outrage is meaningless, your arguments are worthless, your complaints invalid.

Not to mince words here, but bullshit.

– Christopher

18 thoughts on “Bat-Manga Follow Up – Sunday at 4:30am edition”

  1. Well, I did know who Kuwata was, but that’s because I’m a nerd. What Kidd said was totally 100% spot on – this is fake outrage from axe-grinders; gift-horse-mouth visual inspection.

    I find it really hard to be pissed about a Batman comic that doesn’t properly credit the creative team. This was their standard operating procedure for what, twenty five years? The Bat-outrage bus left a long time ago.

    This is something Kidd had to dig up and fight for, that the Japanese publishers still don’t care about, that DC blithely ignored for forty years. Chip Kidd deserves our praise, not our outrage.

  2. I totally agree with you, but damn if these silly comic book industry brushfires don’t come up so frequently that it’s totally and completely absurd. It’s the sort of thing that makes you embarrassed to be a comics fan.

  3. FWIW (and I say this as someone who considers Kidd a bit overpraised, so I don’t rush to his defense out of a knee-jerk reflex or anything), I was at Borders this afternoon and noticed the book (recognizing it from this blog) up near the front.

    As I recall, there was a kind of, what do you call ’em, belly band(?) wrapped around it. I believe Kuwata’s name was on that thing.

    And, assuming I’m not making this up (I admit that I didn’t inspect the item closely), that’s way more exterior credit than countless creators have gotten on countless comic books over the decades.


  4. I’m glad that Kidd compensated Kuwata.


    Just because this situation pales in comparison to “the Way Comics Works” or “Standard Operating Procedure” doesn’t make it clean and pretty.

    Furthermore, I do find Kidd comparing the BatManga/Kuwata relationship to Ken Burns/General Lee (or Lincoln, et al.) to be unsatisfying. A reprint of an author’s work within the same medium as opposed to a film about public events and the people who participated in those events? An apples and oranges argument.

    I have always enjoyed Kidd’s work, but an attribution to Kuwata on the cover would have been nice.

  5. Actually, apples and oranges are both round, eatable produce of a similar size that fit in the same general region of the color spectrum. Very easy to compare. I seem to remember that on the back of the jacket they mention the manga author and go into a little bit of detail about him. Is that not part of the cover?

  6. I do find it heartening that, outside of comics circles where this is being discussed, the response is “Are you serious? People are complaining about this?”

  7. I second what Chip says — y’all is crazee. This is the type of online-only comics fracas that has the uncanny power to instantly polarize people into taking uncharacteristic sides. I mean, I’m still trying to comprehend how someone who has been a die-hard booster of manga and fierce defender of creator rights, could type this:

    “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.”

    Really? Kuwata is owed nothing? Chris my friend, you should look into a position in DC’s legal dept. Listen, I like/love Kidd’s work and have also had the pleasure of his company on several occasions (very entertaining, charming fella) but that doesn’t mean he’s incapable of making a bad call. And even if he did (i have not opened this book yet) it likely wouldn’t impact on my enjoyment of the book. Especially with news that Kuwata is pleased with the book.

    I dunno – as usual, i’m just puzzled about all the vitriol. Tho credit due to Chris for the acrobatics vis-a-vis “Naivete being like a cyst in your eye,” an image that I will have a tough time getting out of my head for the rest of the day.

  8. I find a serious problem with another aspect of Bat Manga, the manga reprints. The pages have all been shifted. It is true that they have not been “flipped” and they do read in the original right to left format, but they have been shifted! The first page that you see in the Manga section of this book should NOT have another page across from it. The fore-edge of the original comics has been reprinted in the fold of the book. Basically the pacing of all of the comics in this book has been altered! Take a look; the page numbers are close to the fold of the book when they should be closer to the edge of the page. In the first story you can see the fold of the original comic printed on the edge of the page! Why did they do this?

    This presents a huge problem. Many comics rely on the pacing that is created when a reader turns the page. In many cases there is a build up of suspense that is timed to be revealed once the page is turned. Having the pages out of order completely alters this work! I can’t come up with a perfect analogy, but try and imagine watching a movie with the soundtrack timed 30 seconds faster than the film, yes you could probably understand the plot of the story, but every twist or change in the plot would be given away a moment before you were actually meant to see it.

    I enjoy the images in Bat Manga, but the book completely fails at maintaining the integrity of Jiro Kuwata’s comics.

  9. If you want to say that most of the outrage is phony, a product of a blog system that rewards the most outrageous comments…okay, I’ll give you that.

    If you want to say that without Chip Kidd that Bat-Manga (which is an excellent book and deserves much praise) wouldn’t exist, I’ll fully agree with that.

    But to say that, since it’s work for hire, Kuwata (who is responsible for at least 80% of the content of the book) doesn’t deserve an author’s credit…well, you lose me there.

    I haven’t seen a significant work-for-hire comic from DC that lacked author credits in many years. Unless someone can point to some concrete examples where DC has put out an uncredited comic (in a situation where the author WANTS to be credited- no Alan Smithee, please), it’s common practice for DC to recognize who created the comic. So the DC argument you put forth doesn’t hold up.

    Similarly, Chip’s “Civil War” argument is laughable, even though the time and effort he put into the work is commendable. Bat-Manga is not a history like Burns’s Civil War- it’s a presentation of manga with some history added.

    What bothers me is the refusal of any party to admit the truth- Kuwata was not named an author because it benefited no one to do so. The book’s primary selling point to American audiences is Chip Kidd’s slavish devotion to Batman and design. Kuwata’s work makes up the bulk of the pages, but if Kidd wasn’t attached to the project, this work probably would have come out in a marginal direct-market project, if at all. After all, Levitz didn’t even know the material existed!

    Kidd’s not some credit-stealing demon here, but neither is he right in his statement. Certainly, he did right by Kuwata, who’s getting compensated for work that without Kidd would have languished in obscurity. But Kuwata is deserving of an author credit on this book.

    The situation isn’t one that deserves rage, but more of a cynical sigh.

  10. The most ignorant possible reading of my statement is that Kuwata doesn’t deserve credit for the work. So, yeah, thanks for giving me even a little bit of credit, detractors. You’re off the Christmas card list.

    To clarify, for future generations or whatever, the contemporary comics industry is built on work for hire contracts that have the creator of the work give up all authorial rights to that work in exchange for their paycheck or whatever. The legal author of the work becomes the publisher–or the owner of the contract if it’s not the publisher. In this case, Kuwata is not the legal author of the work and is not legally entitled to any credit in the book, anywhere.

    In fact, in many contemporary reprints there is no cover credit given at all to the authors of the work. For example:

    None of DC’s Showcase volumes offer creator credits. The Archive editions do, but it’s worth noting that the Showcase volumes are a later series of reprint editions, which it is rumoured will be discontinued in the next year or two. Ditto for Marvel’s Essentials, and several of Dark Horse Comics’ Archive Editions (HERBIE, CREEPY, EERIE). Just with 2 minutes of google searching.

    So, you know, it’s not unprecedented for an artist not to get a cover credit on a reprint volume. Because, say it with me here, these creators are not the legal authors of the work in work-for-hire cases, and are not owed anything. Hell, in most cases, they aren’t even owed a reprint fee. Kuwata certainly wasn’t.

    Now, do I think it would have been nice if Kuwata had gotten a credit? As I actually already said, if my detractors had correctly read: Yeah, sure, of course it would have. But Kuwata wasn’t owed a credit anywhere in the book, let alone the 5-10 times he was credited with creating the material. And he was compensated. And he is happy with the book, and his ‘treatment’ by Pantheon. So, you know? When I said that certain complaints and grievances were worthless? I stick by that.

    It woulda been nice, if they want to add it in on another printing why not, but any criticism on that front is ridiculous, baseless, and I’m done talking about it or giving anyone else a platform for their wrong-headed notions.

  11. Not to be a dick, but do the majority of the Showcase Presents volumes have a primary author or creative team? I’ve read about a dozen, and a few of them do, and could have probably had a “Bob Haney, Ramona Fradon and Friends” cover credit, but some of them have, like, 30 different creators in them, don’t they?

    Also, regarding the “only in comics” and “this isn’t a big deal outside of comics” arguments, I believe that may be in large part because of the American comics industry’s history of screwing creators over and not giving credit where credit is due. Today’s readers are hyper-sensitive about that, in a way that folks who didn’t grow up hearing about the folks who built theirindustry had been swindled, robbed, cheated and otherwise taken advantage of might not.

    Also, are they really doing away with Showcases and/or Essentials? Because they are among my favorite things in the whole world.

  12. Thank you for holding up a large mirror and shining the sun in our eyes.
    Chip Kidd is a fantastic mainstream advocate for comicbooks. (He interviewed Neil Gaiman at the 92nd Street Y in NYC last Sunday.) Every single photo book he does gets prominent display in bookstores, elevating the medium.
    Yes, he may have erred with the cover design. (Perhaps a mention in the subtitle?) Considering that Mr. Kidd is noted for his cover designs, that’s somewhat embarrassing.
    The internet is noted for making mountains out of anthills, which all soon wash away. (Rarely, someone constructs a termite mound of lasting import.)
    Curiously, no one has mentioned Dave Gibbon’s Watching The Watchmen book, which Mr. Kidd designed. A wonderful look back, the perfect companion to the Absolute edition.

  13. Above and beyond the cover credit flap, has anyone bothered asking who gets any rotalties from the book? (If there are any that is.) That might be a more relevant question to ask when trying to determine if Kuwata is getting his due.

    Also, the other thing to consider is the selling power of a recognizable name. It’s my understanding that many retailers will order a book sight unseen based on the name that is listed on it (Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Lynn Johnston). That may have been a factor for the uppity-ups at Pantheon when it came to Bat-Manga, a la ‘Sure – we’ll publish this unlikely and improbable book about obscure Japanese Batman comics Kidd, as long as your name is on the cover.’ Food for thought?

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