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Chip Kidd on Death by Design

Over the weekend, Dan Didio announced that the long waited Chip Kidd project that was first announced in October of 2009 will be hitting stores next summer. Comic Book Resources was able to talk with Kidd about his graphic novel titled Batman: Death by Design.


Batman: Death by DesignCBR: What was your draw into Batman in terms of this project? I've heard artists over the years talk about their love of the design element of the character — how he's essentially composed of triangles rather than rounded shapes. Is that what you tap into on a primary level, or does it start with the character's story for you?


Chip Kidd: Even though I would say I very much art directed the project, I'm not the artist. So this became an issue of working with somebody who had a like-minded vision of what I wanted to do and could really devote what turned out to be two-plus years of his time to it. I had a sensibility in mind, and I had a kind of milieu in mind. Then I started thinking about a plot and a beginning, middle and end and taking it from there. The artist on the book is a gentleman named Dave Taylor.


CBR: The other side of the Batman equation is his great rogue's gallery. How did you approach who or what to use in terms of threats to Gotham?


Chip Kidd: It was funny. I really made this up as I went along since I'd never done anything with this kind of scope even though I've written two novels. So I wrote up an outline and some character sketches. I created some characters. I created a villain. And so I presented all of this to my editor, Mark Chiarello, and we went out to lunch to talk about it, and he said, "I like this, and I think it can work, but I'll just throw this out there: don't you want any of the classic villains?" And I said, "Well, I don't know what I'm allowed to do or not do!" [Laughs] Maybe this isn't very obvious, but the whole project is very much out of continuity. And as it turns out, thank God! Because at the time we started, the New 52 wasn't really on the timeline at all. So after Mark said that, I went, "Can I have the Joker?" and they said sure. So I threw him into the mix, which turned out to work very well. It added to the story, and I got to do my version of it, or rather, our version of it.


CBR: Now that you're personally at the end of the scripting process, what have you learned that even after knowing so much about the comics you didn't expect going in? Did you feel in over your head at points as you went, or did it come naturally?


Chip Kidd: I think with something like this that if you don't feel in over you're head, you're probably not trying hard enough. I think it is good to try and do something outside your comfort zone — not just for the sake of it but to challenge yourself. I think the big challenge for me was that the page count was finite, and I found myself wanting to squeeze in more stuff than I had room for. There were certain subplots that I wanted to work in that I simply wasn't able to as it was breaking down. That was kind of a drag and hard to work around, although I think we did it well in the end. We've still got to do lettering and sound effects yet, but it is all drawn.


The pleasant surprises for me were when Dave would frankly not do what I was telling him to do and break it down a little differently. The one thing I did that he said he really liked was that — and I don't know how else to do it — I didn't do a script that looked like any normal comic book script I know of. In other words, it doesn't look like a movie screenplay. I diagram all the pages out. It's very specific with me showing "This is how big this panel is, and this is what's happening in the panel, and this is the dialogue." Dave said he liked that because it did a lot of his work for him, and that was the idea — to put as little guesswork in as possible. But where he pleasantly surprised me was where he would deviate from that. There's actually one big huge deviation at the beginning of the book that just shocked me, and it didn't make me angry, but I had to go "Hmm. Wow." I can go into more detail about it once the book comes out, but he did some really amazing things.


His characters look great. There's a new female character who's not exactly a femme fatale, but she's kind of a romantic foil for Bruce Wayne named Cyndia Sill, and she's absolutely amazing. She's sort of a cross between Jacqueline Kennedy and Grace Kelly. She's really fantastic. It all looks great, and is colored minimally. It's all pencil with no ink, so it has a really distinctive look.


For the entire interview, including how Kidd used his past design skills for his new project, head over to Comic Book Resources. Batman: Death by Design is set for a summer 2012 release.


Posted by Dustin Fritschel

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