Monday, 8 October 2012

Batman: Death by Design

Rebuilding Gotham City's Wayne Central Station, commissioned by the Caped Crusader's dad but now crumbling, was never going to be straightforward, what with crooked union bosses, a femme fatale conservationist set on putting a stop to the demolition, and the disillusioned son of the original architect who is not all he seems - not to mention Kem Roomhaus, a Dutch celebrity architect 'frightened of his own genius'.

Oddly overlooked by the book review pages of the architectural press, this recent graphic novel from DC Comics is a lot of fun.  It is dedicated to Hugh Ferriss, and the look of a lovingly realised Gotham is very much that of 1930s New York - an obvious but successful choice - it's much less easy to imagine Batman swooping around in, for example,  the glassy, 1960s fantasy architecture of Tati's Play Time.   And if you are to stand a chance of making a story involving architects into a page-turner, best not to set it in a multi-disciplinary consultancy, or a Mad Men style corporate environment - the architects in this story are characters more at home in the world of superheroes - lone Nietzschean geniuses in the mould of Ayn Rand's Howard Roark.  Nevertheless, there is room for the odd bit of throwaway professional practice dialogue such as 'the stresses on the structure were improperly calculated' - Paul Newman, as the architect in Towering Inferno, got to deliver comparable lines.

All of which gets one to wondering whether the world isn't ready for a graphic reimagining of The Honeywood File  - surely a Hollywood blockbuster in waiting.

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