Saturday, March 12, 2011

Watch as Chip Kidd accurately points out that the cover to All-Star Superman #1 is terrible

Here's a 90 minute lecture by Chip Kidd from 2009 about several projects he had recently completed.

He starts by taking a shot at Celine Dion and Vegas:

And establishing his bonafides as a Batman geek (that's him as Robin in a costume made by his mom):

The first project he describes is designing the logos for All-Star Superman and All-Star Batman and Robin - - he got the job because Frank Miller demanded DC hire him.

The Superman logo represents Superman flying away at great speed:

While the Batman and Robin logo looks like the duo crashing through a skylight (emphasizing Robin, his favorite):

After that, the speech takes a surprising turn as he mocks the DC staff:

The thing that you need to know about the staff at DC Comics . . . is that they are all to one, overgrown 15-year-olds, mostly men, who breathe through their mouths, and are crazy, and have no taste.
The insults are tacky, but I entirely agree with his next point - - the covers to All-Star Superman #1 and All-Star Batman and Robin #1 were horrendous.

Jim Lee's cover for Batman and Robin is hopelessly busy and features the duo hanging from something that's bizarrely high. And Robin seems to be kicking Batman in the groin:

The Superman cover is at least a better illustration, but is tremendously boring. I suspect that the people who liked it were preprogrammed to do so by the many interviews Grant Morrison gave in which he described meeting a Superman cosplayer who became his muse. For example:
I’ve told this story in more detail elsewhere but basically, we were trying to figure out how to “reboot” Superman without splitting up his marriage to Lois, which seemed like a cop–out. It was the beginning of the conversations which ultimately led to Superman Now, with Dan and I restlessly pacing around trying to figure out a new way into the character of Superman and coming up short...

Until we looked up to see a guy dressed as Superman crossing the train tracks. Not just any skinny convention guy in an ill–fitting suit, this guy actually looked like Superman. It was too good a moment to let pass, so I ran over to him, told him what we’d been trying to do and asked if he wouldn’t mind indulging us by answering some questions about Superman, which he the persona and voice of Superman!

We talked for an hour and a half and he walked off into the night with his friend (no, it wasn’t Jimmy Olsen, sadly). I sat up the rest of the night, scribbling page after page of Superman notes as the sun came up over the naval yards.

My entire approach to Superman had come from the way that guy had been sitting; so easy, so confident, as if, invulnerable to all physical harm, he could relax completely and be spontaneous and warm. That pose, sitting hunched on the bollard, with one knee up, the cape just hanging there, talking to us seemed to me to be the opposite of the clenched, muscle-bound look the character sometimes sports and that was the key to Superman for me.
Now if you had read one of those interviews, then you would have understood the story that's being told on the cover:

But if, like Chip Kidd, you hadn't, then the cover says nothing at all. If anything, as Kidd points out, it features a Superman sitting in a fairly unmasculine pose, and who seems disinterested in his city. Compare it to some of the other covers in the series:

Now those covers tell a story. All in all, the lecture is a fascinating look at how Kidd goes about his work. You can buy a wonderful collection of Chip Kidd's book covers, at Amazon. Via.


  1. He probably hated the All Star covers because, unlike Bat-Manga!, the actual creators' names are on it instead of his.

  2. I agree with him re: All-Star Batman & Robin, but I have to say I don't mind the All-Star Superman cover. It's an atypical look at the character, without being completely inappropriate...which is what I also felt about the series. I wouldn't want Superman to be like this all the time, but for this series it worked. Nice logos, though.

  3. So he took a typeface, distorted it in Photoshop, slapped it on the cover and for this he gets paid? I really don't get why this guy is so revered. His ideas of how type should relate to illustration is disturbing to say the least.

  4. I agree with Marco, I have several of this guy's books and he uses the same tired design on every one. I guess creating the Jurassic Park logo and nothing else gives him license to speak this way.

  5. Man, the All Star Superman #1 was brilliant. When everything on the shelves is showing dudes in tights punching their allies for no reasons and most Superman writers are trying to find some way for a friend to betray him so he can "lose it" and "cross the line" and flip on his heat vision eyes just to look tough, Morrison and Quitely's cover breaks all that nonsense with an engaging swerve. Not for nothing, but it's the same reason my most well-known drawing is of Supergirl serenly floating backwards in the sky with her eyes closed. When everything is loud, a whisper breaks through.

  6. Well I can understand where he’s coming from, but… I saw this as a wink to the well-known Superman pose used by George Reeves — where Superman would look at the audience, through the Fourth Wall, and smile. He acknowledged our presence and warmly welcomed us into his secret world.

  7. Chip Kidd is one of the worst things to hit comics in the last 20 years.

    Boring fonts, close-up dramatically lit photos of beat-up Batman figures and an attitude as big as all outdoors.

    He should just go away now, and maybe "design" some Brad Thor dustjackets, as the universe intended for him.

    Your pal,

  8. Chip Kidd's is such a one-trick pony. What he said about DC's staff is unforgivable. They should never again give this dick the time of day. When his extreme close-up photos and boring ass typography is dust, the Superman logo and Quitely's cover will STILL be considered classics. Kidd, take some time off, watch the box sets of Sex and the City, and stay away from my damn heroes.