Last Friday I had an oh-so-brief but fantastic visit to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where I gave my talk “Mythology in Newsprint,” interacted (and talked Kirby!) with some wonderful people, and signed and sold copies of Hand of Fire. The talk happened at the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art (which is great—check out the current exhibition, Sorry for the Mess), as part of the UNLV College of Liberal Arts’ University Forum Lecture Series. We drew a full house on a Friday night—not too shabby for a university lecture! (Of course there were jokes about choosing between a lecture and Avengers: Endgame.)
I spoke at length—man, what a patient crowd—about Kirby’s co-authorship of the Marvel Universe in the 1960s, the primacy of narrative drawing in the Marvel production process, how Kirby changed the superhero genre, and finally, how his later work, starting in the 1970s, became increasingly self-reflexive, as Kirby ironically commented on his work, his field, and his fans—a point borne out by a brief reading of Kamandi #29 (1975), “The Legend.”
The UNLV crowd was gracious, engaged, and delightful. Q&A was robust, the conversation in the lobby afterward was warm and welcoming, and the kind remarks and thought-provoking follow-up I received from so many people were profoundly encouraging. Thank you all!
Particular thanks are due, once again, to organizer Jarret Keene, my fellow Kirby scholar and friend and a great writer:
It was a delight to spend time with Jarret, after a gap of too many years, and to meet his partner Dr. Jennifer Keene, Interim Dean of Liberal Arts at UNLV, as well as their boys Dylan and Devon. Likewise, it was lovely to meet and talk to Jarret’s colleagues, among them Dr. John Hay (of the English Department, author of Postapocalyptic Fantasies in Antebellum American Literature) and Ben Morse (Visiting Lecturer in Social Media, and former Editorial Director of New Media at Marvel Entertainment), who kindly introduced my talk. Also, I got to meet and talk to creators Ariel Sparx and Edward Tyndall; members of the Barrick Museum team, including Deanne (D.K.) Sole and LeiAnn Huddleston, who helped me out a lot; and members of the UNLV English graduate student community, including Carly Hunter, Jenessa Kenway, and Gary Lindeburg—all of whom are doing mind-expanding research.
Finally, I have to say, it was a thrill to meet artist and author J.H. Williams III, whose conversation is as wide-ranging, joyful, and energetic as his work is brilliant, and the delightful team of Ralph Mathieu and his wife Katherine Keller, of Alternate Reality Comics—a great shop that, thanks to Jarret, I got to visit on Saturday before flying out. I regret that I didn’t get very many pictures of these fine people and spaces, but here’s one:
What a pleasure. I lead a charmed life. If my wife Michele could have joined me in Vegas, the experience would have been perfect! I look forward to visiting again—and to collaborating with Jarret Keene on other things Kirby-related (regarding which, watch this space for future announcements).
PS. I believe that KUNV (the Public Radio station at UNLV) will post audio of my talk in the coming weeks. I’ll link to that when it happens!