David Mazzucchelli Gives New Batman Year One Thumb Down
DC Comics is getting set to release a new edition of the critically acclaimed Batman Year One, written by Frank Miller and drawn by David Mazzucchelli, later this month. This collection (the first new edition of this work to be released since 2005) features a new cover (with new coloring) and a different paper stock. I haven’t seen any numbers, but I’d guess that a decent share of people have ordered this book and are looking forward to it. One person, though, who will not be standing in line come Wednesday is David Mazzucchelli himself.
Mazzucchelli recently gave an interview to The Comics Journal’s Dan Nadel, and it seems that Mazzucchelli is unhappy with two elements of the decision to release this new version of that groundbreaking work. One is that the book is being released, period, and the other is that, deciding to go forward with it, they didn’t contact him first (or at all) to get his input or help with the project. The first issue is obviously more creative, the second more professional.
I myself own two copies of Batman Year One (three, if you count the original issues). The first is a softcover copy that I picked up at San Diego Comic Con about ten years ago, and the second is the 2005 edition that Mazzucchelli is referring to, overseen by him, Dale Crain, and acclaimed graphic designer Chip Kidd. The first, softcover version is fine; the issues are all collected, the reproduction is decent. Fine. The second though, the hardcover deluxe edition, is something special. It’s got extras of course: an introduction by Frank Miller, an afterword by Mazzucchelli, some fun production pieces in the back. What stands out even more than that to me, though, is the quality of the reprint.
I was lucky enough to have Mazzucchelli as a teacher a few years back, and one of the things he liked to stress about comics was buying as close to the original material as possible. (First look for the originals, then next old reprints, then more recent… etc, etc.) The Batman Year One Deluxe Edition not only holds up incredibly well, but also surpasses the original issues in this case. The coloring was completely redone, by original series colorist Richmond Lewis, using separate hand-painted sheets. The acclaimed Chip Kidd then helped design and present the whole work.
You can see then how most people could come away as baffled as Mazzucchelli seems in his interview earlier in the week with The Comics Journal. It seems to me he has every right to be. As he tells Nadel:
I didn’t even know they were making it, and I don’t understand why they thought it was necessary — several years ago, DC asked me if I’d help put together a deluxe edition ofBatman: Year One, and Dale Crain and I worked for months to try to make a definitive version. Now whoever’s in charge has thrown all that work in the garbage.
It seems to me (and Mazzucchelli, based on the interview) that DC is trying to aesthetically bring Year One more in line with the DVD cartoon (based on that material) that was released last year. It’s a classic case of the tail wagging the dog, and it’s saddening to see the care and attention given to what should have been the final word on Year One trodden over in favor of a glorified movie tie-in. I’d go on, but instead let’s let Mazzucchelli have the last line.
“Anybody who’s already paid for this should send it back to DC and demand a refund.”