Our post last Friday on the controversy surrounding Chip Kidd’s Bat-Manga! and the question of whether or not manga-ka Jiro Kuwata should have gotten received a lot of attention over the weekend. I think the horse has been beaten pretty heavily into the ground by this point, but I thought a final run-down of who said what in response to Kidd’s statement might be in order. Tom Spurgeon’s post was by far the most amusing response if you’re keeping score, but assuming you’re not, here’s a look at what the rest of the blogosphere had to say:
I do understand Kidd’s argument and the distinction he’s making, but to me, the issue of how to classify the book has more to do with content than intent. As a reader, I didn’t experience Bat-Manga as a book of material about Batman in Japan; Kuwata wasn’t just example C in the context of a broader theme. His work is the book, the heart and meat and soul and sun of it, and everything else is just supplementary gravy. Maybe that wasn’t Kidd’s intention, but that’s how it turned out.
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.
At any rate, I was very disappointed in this book. I look(ed) forward to owning it, in order to get the Kuwata comics and read them at length (or, more accurately, read the presentation of them), but I don’t care for Kidd’s style and I don’t like the reproduction of the comics, and I sure as hell don’t appreciate Kuwata being left off the cover, because he’s the draw, not Kidd. Put another way, Kidd released a book some years back called Batman: Collected which I decided against buying. This is because while I’ve been known to buy an action figure or twelve over the years, and would not object to a book of photos showing them all, I don’t need 8×11-sized images of the tops of Killer Croc doll heads, lit in red.
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 short, it would seem from the available evidence that the book actually did begin as a collection of Japanese Batman ephemera, and as Kidd and his collaborators discovered more comics material it began to almost spontaneously take shape as a comics collection — the first such collection that Kidd has ever edited, if I’m not mistaken. My guess would be that the book’s producers were happy to bring the comics to a new generation of superhero and manga fans, but never quite came around to realizing or acknowledging that there were added considerations (such as authorial credit) that came into play when the book’s form began to change. Or maybe they really, honestly doesn’t believe that it had changed somewhere between planning and execution. Maybe Chip Kidd and his pals are just kinda dense that way.
Let’s hope the cynicism and weariness created by this latest blogtroversy don’t make it more difficult to address creators’ rights in the future, in the way that hyperbole allowed feminist superhero fans to be dismissed as “those crazy man-hating feminists” so that their valid concerns never had to be addressed.
And, yes, Kuwata is mentioned several times inside the book and on the little wraparound banner that comes with the book. And it’s clear that everyone involved with the book has nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for Kuwata (the term that is most frequently used to describe Kuwata is “Manga Master”). But it still would have nice to have seen his name listed on the front. (And if you don’t think being mentioned on the actual cover matters, consider how bitterly credit and billing are fought over throughout all entertainment media.) Perhaps such a credit wasn’t required, but it would have been great to see it there. (And wouldn’t a cover credit or some statement to the effect of “based on manga by Jiro Kuwata” have given Kuwata even more recognition? Wouldn’t that have been a good thing?)