Chip Kidd Presents ‘Batman: Death by Design’ to Designers [Art]
It turns out we’re not the only ones with more than a passing interest in the architecture-based approach to Batman: Death by Design. The book’s writer, award-winning graphic designer Chip Kidd, presented the project to a fascinated crowd of fellow graphic artists at PIVOT: AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) Design Conference this past October. Expanding on what we already know about the Dave Taylor-illustrated book and offering many new details and artwork besides, Kidd took his audience through the book’s first 20 pages.Kidd began his presentation with childhood photos that demonstrated his lifelong obsession with Batman and detailed how he came to write his first graphic novel, which he came to with the title first.
He explained that the story of Death by Design took inspiration from two sources: the demolition of New York City’s original Penn Station in 1963 — described by Kidd as “one of the great architectural crimes of the 20th century” — and the New York City construction crane collapses of 2008 whereby, according to Kidd, “somebody took a bribe” that resulted in two horrible incidents in which people were killed. Because the rigger was found not guilty, it occurred to Kidd that “this was a job for Batman.” Kidd imagined a scenario where the demolition of Penn Station and the crane collapses were linked, and had the foundation for an architecturally based Batman story.
In Death by Design, Wayne Central Station, created by the late Thomas Wayne, has fallen into disrepair and the community is calling for it to be destroyed. A new character called Cyndia Cyrl — described by Kidd as a mix of Grace Kelly and Jackie Onasis — endeavors to preserve the building as part of Gotham’s history. Another new character is called X-acto (or possibly Exacto) after that most important designer’s tool, and is based on Kidd himself. “He’s a Batman villain as architectural critic,” Kidd laughed.
Interestingly but not altogether surprisingly, Kidd created the script for Death by Design with the Quark design software. Kidd said that he also included sketches but that Taylor rightfully asked him to stop, and that Taylor’s deviations from the script actually enhanced the final product.
The design and forethought of each displayed image from Death by Design is extremely impressive, but none more so than the double-page spread that introduces Ceiling, “the ultimate night club” in Gotham. The glass-floored party space creates the illusion of floating in mid air, and is set at an intersection between four skyscrapers. Kidd said that Old Hollywood filmmaker Bubsy Berkeley had wanted to film such a setting, and it is from that which Kidd and Taylor took their inspiration for Ceiling.
The 20-minute video is filled with other insights into the process and inspiration behind Batman: Death by Design, which is high on the list of new comics I’m most looking forward to in this new year. You can watch the entire presentation at AIGA.
Note: Kidd said the following pages are in various stages of completion, and they are screenshots from a streaming video. The final images will be of a much higher fidelity
[Via CA reader Colin)