Batman Black and White: The Sketch Covers
Kidd is unquestionably a Batmaniac. When he was commissioned by DC Comics in 2012 to write a Batman story for its Batman Black and White series, Kidd was inspired to invite some of the world’s greatest illustrators to sketch black-and-white covers. Rob Pistella, a curator with the Society of Illustrators in New York City, where part of this exhibit originated, said, “Kidd has a profound understanding of the Batman character and likes having people who wouldn’t usually draw comics do covers for him that bring another richness to this collection. The result has been a magnificent exhibition of design creativity.”
“I was born in 1964 and two years later the Batman TV show came out,” Kidd said. “That was my gateway drug, which led quickly to the comic books. All the different elements about it really appealed to me visually. I was a kid watching escapist fantasy and it was exciting. And the way all of these fantastic creators over the years have contributed to the story—it’s incredible.
It is this curiosity to see how others might portray Gotham’s vigilante that has resulted in the almost 165 Batman Black and White covers that will be on exhibition at artspace in downtown Shreveport. Roz Chast, beloved cartoonist for the New Yorker, put Batman and Robin arguing on a couch. Sutton Impact’s cartoonist Ward Sutton sketched “MadBatmen,” a spoof on the television series Mad Men, with a reference to the Joker stealing the Lucky Strike account. New York socialite Gloria Vanderbilt did a cover that portrayed Batwoman with lush red lips and a sequined cat eyes mask. Shreveport’s former Moonbot Studios artist Vanesa Del Rey also opted for the feminine side, her cover showing Batwoman with long, bright red hair. Hundreds of others jumped at the opportunity to pen their version of the caped crusaders, including Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk, Pulitzer winner Art Spiegelman, Shreveport’s Academy Award–winning illustrator William Joyce, and Joyce’s son Jack.
Kidd mused that it might have been his obsession with the design of the Batman comics that led him to a design career. His first major credit as an author and designer was for Batman Collected (1996), a photographic timeline of Batman collectibles and memorabilia. He’s also the person chiefly responsible for bringing Jiro Kuwata’s fantastic Batmanga from Japan to the United States. Kidd worked with fellow Batman collector Saul Ferris on Bat-Manga!: The Secret History of Batman in Japan. His passion for comic books has endured through the years, and today he is considered one of the world’s leading experts on Batman. He is fascinated with where creativity can take you—and how many ways Bruce Wayne can be portrayed.
Kidd will tell you straight-up that he is not an illustrator. He is America’s most in-demand book jacket designer, best known for the thousands of book covers he has drawn over the last thirty-six years as a graphic designer and associate art director for Alfred A. Knopf Publishing House. He is routinely referred to as “the world’s greatest book jacket designer,” and has also been described as “the closest thing to a rock star in graphic design today.” William Joyce says, “Chip Kidd is the most consistently innovative cover designer of our time and maybe of all time.” His covers include Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84, Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men, and Augusten Burroughs’s Possible Side Effects.
But Kidd’s creative credits don’t just include “designer.” In 2007, he won the National Design Award for Communications, and he was awarded the International Center of Photography’s Infinity Award for Use of Photography in Design in 1997. In 2014, he received the American Institute of Graphic Arts’ most distinguished honor, the AIGA medal. He has also authored a number of books, including The Cheese Monkeys, his debut novel about a struggling college art major; The Learners, a sequel to The Cheese Monkeys; and Go, his graphic-design guide for kids.
Go will be featured in artspace’s upstairs Coolspace exhibition, taking visitors deeper into a world made for curious kids who love to express themselves through making posters for school, choosing what to hang in their rooms, designing their own websites, and creating their own videos. Kids aged ten and up can learn skills to make design dynamic and interesting. Go even includes ten design projects for beginners to try for themselves.
So to the Batcave! Not in Gotham City, but in artspace at 708 Texas Street in downtown Shreveport, on Friday, June 24, 2022, for the unmasking of Batman Black and White: The Sketch Covers. And then “batarang” back to the same gallery to hear Kidd talk about both the Mainspace and Coolspace exhibitions on Saturday, June 25. It’s all happening just in time for Shreveport’s Geek’d Con on August 19 and 20 and will remain on view until August 27.