For his first graphic novel about the Caped Crusader, author and designer Chip Kidd (who worked on Bat-Manga! and oodles of famous book covers) teamed up with illustrator Dave Taylor (2000 AD) for the upcoming Batman: Death By Design.
In this love letter to the concrete canyons of Gotham City, suspicious building accidents place Batman at odds with both The Joker and a mystery man named Exacto. Check out an exclusive first look at some pages from Death By Design and our interview with Kidd about this project.
Here's an all-new, three-page sequence from the book, which hits comic shops May 30. The synopsis:
Gotham City is undergoing one of the most expansive construction booms in its history. The most prestigious architects from across the globe have buildings in various phases of completion all over town. As chairman of the Gotham Landmarks Commission, Bruce Wayne has been a key part of this boom, which signals a golden age of architectural ingenuity for the city. And then, the explosions begin. All manner of design-related malfunctions–faulty crane calculations, sturdy materials suddently collapsing, software glitches, walkways giving way and much more–cause casualties across the city. This bizarre string of seemingly random, unconnected catastrophes threaten to bring the whole construction industry down. Fingers are pointed as Batman must somehow solve the problem and find whoever is behind it all.
How did this project come about?
Chip Kidd: I got this extraordinary opportunity where [DC Comics editor] Dan DiDio said, "Do a Batman graphic novel for us." It became a case of the "be-careful-what-you-wish-fors." Even though I'm a lifelong Batman fan, I didn't have the Batman novel in my head I had been dying to write for 20 years. What I came up with first was the title, as it sounded like a story I could bring something to.
I started thinking about living and working in New York, and one of the great tragedies was the destruction of the original Pennsylvania Station in 1963, because it was a beautiful building needlessly torn down. As somebody who has to use the modern Penn Station, it's a horrible, stifling thing, after they threw it in the basement of Madison Square Garden. And there were these Manhattan crane collapses in the spring of 2008. I thought, "How could these two things possibly be related?" Batman is very much about architecture, as he uses the buildings as transportation and defense. Great Batman stories always incorporate architecture in some way, but I hadn't seen a story that particularly dealt with that.
Gotham City has had so many depictions over the year, from modern metropolis to cramped Dickensian hellhole. What architectural cues did you and Dave Taylor give Gotham?
The visual direction is very much based on Metropolis by Fritz Lang and this architect named Hugh Ferriss, who was this visionary 1920s-1930s architectural renderer of these great black-and-white monolithic buildings that are shown at night lit up from the street. That for me has always been quintessential Gotham City. This project is very much a love letter to pencil on paper. There's a cliché that Gotham is "hell opening up on Earth," but that's not the way I approached it. I see the architecture as much more hopeful than a zoning board gone berserk.
Are you and Dave placing your own mark on certain Gotham landmarks like Arkham Asylum or Wayne Manor?
I didn't do Arkham. Wayne Manor and the Batcave are there, but we don't really go into it. Wayne Central Station is the driving engine of the plot. When working on a Batman comic, it's important to implore limitations on yourself. Commissioner Gordon is one of my favorite characters, but I couldn't find a compelling reason to put him in the story. He's mentioned offhand, but that's it.
There's no place for Robin in this story either. When I handed the first draft into my editor, he said, "You do realize you're not using the classic Batman villains." I said, "Am I allowed to?" And he responded, "Certainly." So how could I not write The Joker? He works well to add chaos into the proceedings.
Can you tell us a little more about Exacto, the architecturally themed character who debuts in Death By Design?
When we first meet him, he's an architectural critic as Batman villain. He warns citizens, "This building is architecturally unsound and will soon collapse," the buildings falls over, and then he just vanishes. Is he making this happen or just warning us about faulty construction? We soon see that he's a vigilante with his own agenda, exposing the rotten stuff of the Gotham City building trade.