Bat-Manga!: The Secret History of Batman in Japan

Such is the latest title by Chip Kidd.

A recent review in the AP notes: “Kidd, a veteran of graphic Batman books, offers his usual dead-on collage sensibility. He builds a book that combines actual comics written and drawn by manga artist Jiro Kuwata with images of marketing, licensed character products and ephemera. The book is translated for the first time, and there are illustrations in enough abundance to get a wonderful sense of how the stories unfold. The resulting package conveys not only a feel of how the Japanese Batman stories were told but what it was actually like to be a kid in Japan reading them in the 1960s.”

Yet the reviewer also notes:

“Granted, $60 is a high price for a glorified comic book, particularly in the current economy. But as with all of Kidd’s work, this is as much a cultural document as a showpiece, and its boundaries reach far beyond the worlds of manga and comic-book fandom. Not that those worlds aren’t worthwhile in themselves.”

Published by Pantheon, the product description states:

“The two hottest genres in comics gleefully collide head-on, as the most beloved American superhero gets the coolest Japanese manga makeover ever.

In 1966, during the height of the first Batman craze, a weekly Japanese manga anthology for boys, Shonen King, licensed the rights to commission its own Batman and Robin stories. A year later, the stories stopped. They were never collected in Japan, and never translated into English. Now, in this gorgeously produced book, hundreds of pages of Batman-manga comics more than four decades old are translated for the first time, appearing alongside stunning photographs of the world’s most comprehensive collection of vintage Japanese Batman toys.

This is The Dynamic Duo as you’ve never seen them: with a distinctly Japanese, atomic-age twist as they battle aliens, mutated dinosaurs, and villains who won’t stay dead. And as a bonus: Jiro Kuwata, the manga master who originally wrote and drew this material, has given an exclusive interview for our book.

The deluxe, expanded, and limited hardcover edition has a distinctly different cover, full-color printed endpapers, and an amazing extra adventure written by Jiro Kuwata (not included in the paperback), about a band of rogue alien robot art thieves at large in Gotham City. Guess who gets called in to save the day….

More than just a dazzling novelty, Bat-Manga! is an invaluable, long-lost chapter in the history of one of the most beloved and timeless figures in comics.”

Read the AP review here. 384 pages.