Batman, the Caped Architecture Critic: In Chip Kidd’s Comic Book Debut, the Buildings Are as Evil as the Bad Guys

original3 Batman, the Caped Architecture Critic: In Chip Kidd’s Comic Book Debut, the Buildings Are as Evil as the Bad Guys

I am Kimmelman… I mean Batman. (i09)

Who needs Paul Goldberger and Michael Kimmelman when you have Batman? The Observer knows where we will be on May 30, when three of our favorite things collide: Chip Kidd, Gotham City and architecture criticism.

Mr. Kidd has created a new Batman Graphic novel for DC Comics called Death By Design that he recently previewed with Gawker’s geek webside i09 (we saw it first on Curbed). It’s funny, because the famed book jacket designer and author claims a poverty of ideas on what to write when approached by DC with the offer to pen a comic book when in fact it is clear he knows exactly what he is doing and has come up with one of the best story lines since Grant Morrison’s Arkum Asylum.

I got this extraordinary opportunity where [DC Comics editor] Dan DiDio said, “Do a Batman graphic novel for us.” It became a case of the “be-careful-what-you-wish-fors.” Even though I’m a lifelong Batman fan, I didn’t have the Batman novel in my head I had been dying to write for 20 years. What I came up with first was the title, as it sounded like a story I could bring something to.

I started thinking about living and working in New York, and one of the great tragedies was the destruction of the original Pennsylvania Station in 1963, because it was a beautiful building needlessly torn down. As somebody who has to use the modern Penn Station, it’s a horrible, stifling thing, after they threw it in the basement of Madison Square Garden. And there were these Manhattan crane collapses in the spring of 2008. I thought, “How could these two things possibly be related?” Batman is very much about architecture, as he uses the buildings as transportation and defense. Great Batman stories always incorporate architecture in some way, but I hadn’t seen a story that particularly dealt with that.”There’s a cliché that Gotham is “hell opening up on Earth,” but that’s not the way I approached it. I see the architecture as much more hopeful than a zoning board gone berserk.”

Quite delightfully, he goes on to say: “There’s a cliché that Gotham is “hell opening up on Earth,” but that’s not the way I approached it. I see the architecture as much more hopeful than a zoning board gone berserk.”

Really does sound like New York.

It’s true that no comic book character is more architectural than Batman (with the possible exception of personal favorite Transmetropolitan). Superman may be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but he does not rely on “the buildings for transportation and defense,” as Mr. Kidd points out Batman does.

Indeed, The Observer was recently taken with the backwards bridges Christopher Nolan blew up in his final installment of the Dark Knight series, a disguise that would be unnecessary in almost any other movie. Aliens and monsters invade New York all the time. To play the part of Gotham, it takes three cities or more.

Nowhere does architecture play quite the role of sidekick as in a good Batman story.

mchaban [at] observer.com | @MC_NYC