Shazam! Book Cover Designer and Author Chip Kidd Talks Comic Books

Chip Kidd is probably the coolest cat whose name you don't know. Both author and graphic designer, Kidd takes turns using words and images to create unforgettable landscapes. As a book cover designer, he designs the covers for the works of David Sedaris, Raymond Chandler, Gore Vidal, and Michael Crichton. Kidd's keen eye is also responsible for the cover of William Shatner's Star Trek Memories, and some of his best work can be seen on the covers of Batman and Superman special issues. 

Apart from designing the most memorable covers in publishing, Kidd also writes. His first book The Cheese Monkeys: A Novel in Two Semesters, an academic satire perpetrated through the eyes of a disillusioned art school student, went on to become a bestseller. He followed that up with a sequel, The Learners, a look at life after art school. 

He has now assembled a collection of Captain Marvel collectibles in one giant Technicolor extravaganza. His new book, Shazam!: The Golden Age of the World's Mightiest Mortal, recounts the history of Captain Marvel and friends via trivia tidbits interspersed throughout hundreds of photos. Shazam! is a must have for any fan boy or girl.

New Times: You're obviously a big comic book fan, having designed several comic book covers and putting together the book Batman Collected as well as your new book, Shazam. Do you have a favorite superhero/comic book character? 

Chip Kidd: I'd say Batman would win that prize, but I definitely am a Captain Marvel fan too. There'd be no way I'd put the amount of time and effort it took for the Shazam book if I wasn't.


Why do you think that Captain Marvel isn't that prominent a character today when his books used to outsell Superman's by the millions? 

That's a very good question, and if you ask ten different comics professionals you'll probably get ten different answers. One reason I think is that he's a very difficult character to update and adapt to the now in an effective and interesting way. Lord knows plenty of artists and writers have tried, with mixed success, but at this point it would probably take a very well-conceived and executed film or cartoon series to bring him back to the kind of popularity he used to have. One reason I kept my book in the Golden Age was that to me was when he and the Marvel Family were in their prime. 

Why did you decide to put together a book showcasing Shazam! collectibles? 

Because all the necessary circumstances were there, namely: a) I'm a big fan, b) it had never been done before, c) I had access to the largest Captain Marvel collection in the country (which means the world, too), and d) Both DC Comics and Abrams Comic Arts were keen for me to do it. 

I've been a fan of Batman since I was a kid. What's your take on Batman versus Bruce Wayne? 

My take on it is that they totally need each other in order to function properly. As you may or may not know, I've written the script for a long form Batman graphic novel for DC that is currently being drawn (it's not scheduled yet, but it's happening). And one of the aspects of the story is that there are certain things that Batman can do that Bruce can't (obviously), but that it's also very important to show the opposite, that Bruce can get certain things accomplished in Gotham City that a vigilante could not. Grant Morrison is very much playing up this concept in his new Batman Inc. comic book series. 

What about Tim Burton's Batman versus Christopher Nolan's Batman? Which films do you enjoy more? 

Of the two, I of course prefer Nolan's, because it's the more engaging and effective. For one thing, in the movies you're not really casting Batman, you're casting Bruce Wayne, and Christian Bale is perfect. I do take issue though, in both cases, with the costume. It's too commando and scarcely recognizable as Batman. I'm a purist and I want it to look like the two-tone/white eyes version of the classic comics. 

How did the transition from designer to author happen? 

Slowly. But it seemed like a natural evolution to me. I think a lot of designers of my generation are moving to authorship in one way or another as a means of growing creatively. I heartily recommend it--I think learning to write has made me a better designer and vice versa.

Join Chip Kidd and Brad Meltzer as they speak about The Golden Age of the World's Mightiest Mortal on Saturday at 3:00 p.m. at Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus (300 NE Second St., Miami) Centre Gallery, Building 1, Third Floor, Room 1365. The event is free. Check out other Miami Book Fair International events here.