Hand of Fire—and author CH—go to San Diego!

From small things, mama, big things one day come...

News! This very week, the tribes gather together in San Diego for the fabled madness that is Comic-Con International (CCI). I, Charles Hatfield, will be there, signing the Eisner-nominated Hand of Fire and taking part in several panels!

My schedule (make-believe wishlist version here, courtesy of CCI’s online app) looks to be jam-packed. And I’m going to be in some wonderful company! Here are the panels I’ll be taking part in, with official CCI descriptions beneath (and further down you’ll find information about Hand of Fire signings and other can’t-miss events at CCI):

Do the Gods Wear Capes? by Ben Saunders

The Future of Superhero Studies: Thursday, July 12, 3:30 to 4:30pm, Room 26AB

Superhero scholarship has exploded over the past few years. Professors Ben Saunders (CCI 2012 special guest and author of Do the Gods Wear Capes?) and Charles Hatfield (author of the Eisner Award-nominated Hand of Fire: The Comics Art of Jack Kirby) invite you to join them for a frank, free-spirited discussion of superhero studies: its history, challenges, and possibilities. What has been done in the field, what can be done, and where do we go from here?

The Auteur Theory of Comics

Comics Arts Conference Session #7: Jack Kirby and the Auteur Theory of Comics: Friday, July 13, 1:30 to 2:30pm, Room 26A

Comic book historian Arlen Schumer (author, The Silver Age of Comic Book Art) and Randolph Hoppe (The Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center) present their theory that, just like a film’s director, not its screenwriter, is considered its true author (auteur in French), so should a comic book artist be considered the auteur of any comic book work done in collaboration with a writer (or a script in any verbal form) and therefore a de facto co-creator and co-author, with the credited writer, of that work. Joining them are editor/publisher John Morrow (The Jack Kirby Collector), comics scholar Charles Hatfield (Hand of Fire), and film studies scholar Craig Fischer (Appalachian State University). [Unfortunately my friend Craig’s visage is missing in Arlen’s homage cover, above—but I’m delighted that he’s going to be joining us!]

Jack Kirby signing at Comic-Con, 1976, courtesy of The Jack Kirby Museum

The Annual Jack Kirby Tribute Panel: Sunday, July 15, 10:00 to 11:00am, Room 5AB

There might not be comic book industry were it not for Jack Kirby…and if you don’t know who that is, you really don’t belong at this convention. Each year, his friends and co-workers gather to talk about Jack and his work and to marvel (no pun intended) at the length and breadth of his influence, not just on comics but on TV, movies, and all the arts. This year, the dais will include Herb Trimpe (Incredible Hulk), Stan Goldberg (Marvel colorist), Paul Dini (Batman), and Charles Hatfield (Hand of Fire), all chatting with moderator Mark Evanier (Kirby: King of Comics).


In addition to taking part in these panels—which is a first for me, and something I’m greatly looking forward to—I’ll be signing and personalizing copies of Hand of Fire at the Kirby Museum booth, courtesy of aforementioned Museum Trustee and tireless Kirby advocate Rand Hoppe! That’s booth 5520, along the wall in the Golden and Silver Age pavilion, home of The Jack Kirby Museum and Research Center! I’ll be there at the following times (which Rand has kindly posted at the Kirby Museum site as well):

  • Thursday, 5:00-6:30pm
  • Friday, 4:00-5:00pm
  • Saturday, 3:30-4:30pm
  • Sunday 11:30am-12:30pm (immediately after the Kirby Tribute Panel)

I hope many of you will drop by and chat, and show the Museum some love and support—maybe even donate toward the Museum’s goal of establishing a brick & mortar presence. I’m proud to do anything associated with the Museum, and grateful that they’re hosting my first-ever CCI signings!

As ever, just look for the guy with the fiery red pen.

Other Can’t-Miss CCI Sessions

Besides the events I’m officially taking part in, and of course Friday night’s Eisner Awards ceremony, I’m excited about a number of other events at CCI. Of special interest to Kirby fans and scholars—and very powerful interest to me—is a panel that comes right after the Auteur Theory panel:

Kandinsky, meet Kirby (courtesy of Andrei Molotiu's Abstract Comics blog)

Comics Arts Conference Session #8:

Jack Kirby, Modernism, and Abstraction: Friday, July 13, 2:30 to 3:30pm, Room 26AB

Jack Kirby is increasingly emerging as an important 20th century American artist even beyond the realm of the comics world. His art provided pen-and-ink counterparts to the formal concerns of Abstract Expressionist painting, formalizing compositions and graphic rhythms with as much sophistication as artists such as Jackson Pollock or Franz Kline. Even “Kirby crackle” can be compared to the notion of “all-over” mark-making in abstract art as championed by Clement Greenberg. Outer space scenes especially, requiring innovative graphic forms to suggest sublime and unrepresentable space phenomena, provided occasions for some of Kirby’s most powerful abstract compositions. This panel will discuss the relationship of Kirby with abstract art, his deeply modernist artistic achievement, and his influence on art and abstract comics. Andrei Molotiu (Indiana University, Bloomington; Abstract Comics: The Anthology) will give a presentation on the topic, then will discuss the subject with artist Mark Badger (Batman: Jazz, Martian Manhunter) and other surprise guests.

This, I predict, is going to be a great panel. Andrei Molotiu has been doing extraordinary work as artist, editor, critic, and teacher, and his take on abstraction in comics has already proven influential and, more importantly, eye-opening. Anyone who has followed Andrei’s work at the Abstract Comics blog has some inkling of what I’m talking about. In fact I believe he is doing some of the most important art-historical work on comics right now. The teaming of Andrei and the excellent, sorely underrated comics artist Mark Badger (whose blog has fascinating things to say about Kirby) promises a watershed event. Check it out!

There are many other CCI events that I want to check out—sadly, some of them cross-scheduled against my obligations—but following are a very few that made me holler when I read the schedule:

Comics Arts Conference Session #11: Pioneers of Comics Scholarship: Saturday, July 14, 1:00 to 2:00pm, Room 26AB

Randy Duncan (The Power of Comics) leads a discussion with some of the scholars who laid the foundations for the field of comics studies: Paul Gravett (Graphic Novels: Stories to Change Your Life), David Kunzle (History of the Comic Strip), John Lent (Cartooning in Africa; Cartooning in Latin America), and Joseph Witek (Comic Books as History). The Pioneers discuss how they began researching comics, the contribution they feel they have made to the field, and how comics studies should continue to develop as a field or discipline.

This sounds like an incredible panel. Every one of the scholars featured has meant a great deal to me in my life as a comics scholar, writer, and teacher—indeed I doubt I’d be in the game if not for them. John Lent, publisher and editor of The International Journal of Comic Art, has in effect mentored the entire field of comics studies. He has insisted on a larger, international frame of reference, and has forged connections with scholars and creators in every part of the world. Kunzle has extended and deepened the history of the comic strip, giving us the fullest, most insightful account of the medium’s origins in the West. His History of the Comic Strip and more recent volumes on Rodolphe Töpffer are landmarks in the field. Paul Gravett’s myriad groundbreaking activities as historian, publisher, editor, and curator have made him one of the most important (and least predictable!) figures in comics study. You will never hear a better-connected and more passionate speaker about comics. And Rusty Witek’s rigorous scholarship, teaching, and independence of mind have made him an inspiration to me and so many others working to make comics studies a recognized and mature academic field. Rusty was the pioneer I reached out to when I was trying to figure out if I could do this kind of work for a living. So, wow, to say I’m looking forward to this one… what an understatement.

30th Anniversary of Love and Rockets: Saturday, July 14, 1:30 to 3:00pm, Room 24ABC

For 30 years Los Bros Hernandez have entranced comics readers around the world with their adventures of Maggie, Hopey, Luba, and the entire Love and Rockets cast of characters. Comic-Con special guests Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez, and Mario Hernandez join with Fantagraphics Books co-publisher Gary Groth to talk about this award-winning series of comics and its decades-spanning durability.

It pains me that this L&R anniversary tribute is scheduled against “Pioneers of Comics Scholarship” (I expect to be skipping from Room 26AB to Room 24ABC at about 2:00pm!). Love & Rockets means the world to me: I’d name a handful of L&R stories as among my favorite comics ever. Having recently taught a whole graduate seminar (perhaps the first ever?) on Los Bros Hernandez, and therefore having hosted Gilbert, Jaime, and Mario Hernandez for a special appearance on my campus, I feel closer to their assembled work than ever. Plus they’re stilling going great guns! This is going to be a well-deserved lovefest.

Comics Arts Conference Session #13: Super-Bodies: Overcoming Disability Through Superheroism: Sunday, July 15, 10:30am to 12:00pm, Room 26AB

Another unhappy scheduling conflict. My friend and much admired colleague José Alaniz (University of Washington, Seattle), author of Komiks: Comic Art in Russia (2010) and one of the most eclectic and cosmopolitan comics scholars anywhere, will be among three presenters here. He’ll be furthering his work on superhero comics and disability, one of the several areas in which he is doing important work like no-one else. It seems that I’m not going to be able to make this panel, which makes me sad.

Comics Arts Conference Session #14: Character Generation: Cultural, Economic, and Identity Politics: Sunday, July 15, 12:00 to 1:00pm, Room 26AB

Another CAC panel that, sigh, I’m probably going to have to miss. Colleagues Stanford Carpenter and John Jennings will be joining forces here to lead what I expect will be a super-smart, cutting-edge discussion of diversity and cultural representation.

Comics Arts Conference Session #15: Politics, Economics, and Ideology: Sunday, July 15, 1:00 to 2:30pm, Room 26AB

The CAC strikes again! My colleague Marc Singer (Grant Morrison: Combining the Worlds of Contemporary Comics, 2011) will be furthering his work on Grant Morrison, this time with emphasis on Morrison’s depictions of corporations and branding, which means we’re in for a smart, challenging talk. Colleague Jason Tondro (Superheroes of the Round Table, 2011) will be talking Morrison as well, with focus on the politics of the current Action Comics run. There should be some sparks flying here!

There are so many potentially good things happening at CCI—I can’t wait. See you there!

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