Monday’s Wall Street Journal shout-out to the typographical albatross that is Comic Sans (audience shudders) sent us straight to the UnBeige office copy of Chip Kidd‘s latest book, Bat-Manga!: The Secret History of Batman in Japan (Pantheon), in which our intrepid graphic designing hero—with trusty sidekicks Geoff Spear and Saul Ferris—rescues original Japanese Batman comics from the jaws of obscurity. Assembling the book posed a number of challenges, not the least of which was rounding up as many of the elusive Jiro Kuwata-drawn comics as humanly possible and having them translated to English. Then came designing it. Kidd preserved the original right-to-left orientation, so one begins reading at the back, which is really the front. But how to handle the lettering of the speech balloons? “As a fan I have an extreme aversion to computer fonts that mimic comics’ hand lettering,” writes Kidd in the book’s production notes. “To me they are merely the typographical equivalent of bad toupees.”
And so Kidd brazenly chose baldness, going “as unapologetically typeset as possible” with a certain utilitarian sans-serif machine font that hits Batman where he lives. That’s right: Gotham. “I think it provides an effectively sober contrast to the often chaotic goings-on,” notes Kidd. Meanwhile, all of the sound effects were kept in hand-lettered Japanese, after an early experiment in translating them made the panels look too busy. “If you think it says ‘POW’ or ‘CRASH’ or ‘BOOM,’ then trust us, it does.” Click “continued” for a few more images from the book.
Previously on UnBeige: