• Michael Dooley

The New York Times vs. Batman… and All Other Comics

The New York Times got it wrong about the highly hyped Batman #50 with its description of the caped crusader’s nuptials to Catwoman. Hordes of fanboys went batshit crazy, seriously shocked and outraged that the surprise dénouement to a storyline that they’d been following for 49 issues was revealed three full days before the comic book’s official release. The writer, George Gene Gustines, later apologized, admitting that “We should have given more thought…” about whether to include the reveal in the headline, regardless of the fact that his feature had been cheekily tucked in the “Style” section’s Vows column. But then, the Gray Lady hasn’t really given much thought, much less respect, to the medium – which it regularly, dismissively, and, well, incorrectly refers to as a “genre” – since comics’ inception well over a century ago.

Ty Templeton and Keiren Smith

And so it goes. Last year, the Times scrapped its weekly Graphic Novel Bestseller list, begun in 2009, to the dismay of countless readers, publishers, librarians, and others. In response, NYTBR editor Pamela Paul claimed it would be “expanding on coverage in ways that reach more readers than the lists did.” A year later, the paper had completely failed to fulfill its, uh, vow. So more than 400 members of the industry – including Art Spiegelman, Françoise Mouly, Chip Kidd, Denis Kitchen, and Susie Cagle – sent it an open letter of protest to publisher A.G. Sulzberger, noting they’ve “watched their readership decline” since the change.

So now the venerable paper of record’s Book Review section has added two – count ’em, two — official “comics and graphic novels columnists” who critique three graphic novels on once-a-month rotation. And its publishing arm just announced its History of Comic Books, a $90, 160-page coffee-table anthology of reproduced Times pages which contain stories spanning from coverage of a Superman float in Macy’s 1940 Thanksgiving Day Parade to a feature on “Ta-Nehisi Coates and the Black Panther.” The intro is by the Times’s now more circumspect George Gustines. These nods ain’t much, you might say, but it’s a start. Well, maybe. With any luck, the paper will be completely headline-spoiler-free by the time it covers the Batman saga’s ultimate conclusion in issue 100.

Mikel Janín

The extent of the Times’s artist recognition was that it was drawn by Mikel Janín, with June Chung coloring and Clayton Cowles lettering, and that the bride’s wedding gown was designed by Joëlle Jones. Meanwhile, we here at Print see fit to – digitally – print what’s really important about that issue, for graphic designers, anyway: that the comic itself, written by Tom King, indulges in some striking graphic experimentation by around two dozen artists. Among them are Frank Miller, Neal Adams, Ty Templeton, Becky Cloonan, and Jordie Bellaire, who punctuate Janín’s straightforward presentation with pinup-poster style pages that integrate the texts of correspondences between Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle, and that cleverly enhance the overall narrative.

Enjoy. Then, to put these images in proper context, pick up the whole comic for yourself.

Mikel Janín (click to enlarge)

Mikel Janín

Rafael Albuquerque

Frank Miller and Alex Sinclair

Joëlle Jones and Jordie Bellaire

Lee Bermejo

José Luis García-López and Trish Mulvihill

Tony S. Daniel and Tomeu Morey

Jim Lee, Scott Williams, and Alex Sinclair

Becky Cloonan

Neal Adams and Hi-Fi

Greg Capullo and FCO Plascencia

Lee Weeks

promo for Catwoman #1, art by Joëlle Jones

Batman #44 cover by Joëlle Jones

#bookreview #FrançoiseMouly #graphicdesigners #comicbooks #art #BruceWayne #superhero #NealAdams #history #comics #print #SusieCagle #DenisKitchen #graphicnovel #BeckyCloonan #marriage #Batman #BlackPanther #illustration #JordieBellaire #MikelJanín #ChipKidd #SelinaKyle #JoelleJones #artspiegelman #Catwoman #TyTempleton #FrankMiller #NewYorkTimes #inspiration

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About Michael Dooley

Michael Dooley is the creative director of Michael Dooley Design and teaches History of Design, Comics, and Animation at Art Center College of Design and Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He is also a Print contributing editor and author.

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