Category Archives: Talks

COMICS/POLITICS at Ryerson this weekend!

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This weekend (Thursday, July 25-Saturday, July 27) Mich and I will be traveling to Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada for COMICS/POLITICS, the 2nd Annual Conference of the Comics Studies Society. Man, I can hardly wait!

I served as Founding President of CSS from 2014 to Spring 2018, and continue to serve happily on the Society’s Executive Board. Brainstorming CSS with colleagues and helping the Society get started has been one of the most rewarding projects of my career — and now I get to go to a CSS conference and present a paper on Jack Kirby. My worlds are colliding. 🙂

This Friday, as part of Panel 7.4, War and Conflict Comics, I’ll be giving my paper, “Kirby’s Visions of War, Early and Late,” an outgrowth of my work at the Université de Lorraine symposium in 2017 and my ongoing interest in Kirby’s kid gang comics. Joining me on that panel will be fellow presenters Kaleb Knoblauch and Shawn Gilmore and moderator Martha Kuhlman—I expect to learn a lot! And ours is but one of many panels, roundtables, plenaries, and other gatherings that altogether will make up a jam-packed conference program. So many scholars, so many exciting perspectives on the art and culture of comics: a panel on indigenous comics with Tara Audibert, Camille Callison, Cole Paul, moderator Amy Dejarlais, and graphic recorder Sam Hester; a conversation with Fiona Smyth, Jillian Tamaki, and Qiana Whitted; a Canadian WW2 comics exhibition opening at the Ryerson Library, with guest speaker Hope Nicholson; a mixer at The Beguiling and Little Island Comics (just hanging out in one of the world’s greatest comics shops, no big deal); tons of papers, talks, and opportunities to interact and learn — yow, this is going to be something, a worthy continuation of the tradition begun last year in Champaign.

Plus, a pre-conference documentary film screening on Wednesday night (Drawn Together: Comics, Diversity, and Stereotypes, dir. Harleen Singh, 2018); a charitable comics drive in partnership with the Canada Comics Open Library; book signings with our plenary artists (and Michael DeForge! and Chester Brown!), thanks to exhibitors Drawn & Quarterly and Bedside Press; and, on Friday, a free and public Artists’ Alley featuring indy creators and publishers! PLUS, on Sunday, after the official close of the conference, a number of us will be making a field trip to the Art Gallery of Hamilton, Ontario, to see the acclaimed exhibition, THIS IS SERIOUS: Canadian Indie Comics!

See why CSS has become one of my yearly “mountaintop” experiences?

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If you’re curious about CSS or comics studies, and close enough to get to Toronto, remember that our first day, Thursday, July 25, is Community Day, meaning that the morning events are free and open to the public. Plus, there will be single-day passes on Friday and Saturday for non-CSS members. Come check out what we’re doing!

All credit for the great program, its creativity, richness, accessibility, and relevance, goes to this year’s Conference Organizing Committee, helmed by co-chairs Candida Rifkind, who is CSS President, and Andrew O’Malley, and including Blair Davis, Biz Nijdam (representing the CSS Graduate Student Caucus), Nhora Lucia Serrano, Matt Smith, and past President Carol Tilley—a tireless team that has blended the best of the traditional conference model with new public-facing and creative elements. Looking forward to experiencing the results of their hard work!

Listen to Mythology in Newsprint on KUNV

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News: Audio of my Kirby talk “Mythology in Newsprint,” which I gave at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, on April 26, is now up for listening online, thanks to KUNV, the Public Radio station at UNLV, and its program UNLV Speaks:

http://kunv.org/april-26-2019/

(Thanks in particular to KUNV’s Kevin Krall and Dave Nourse.)

This talk covers Kirby’s role in the creation of the Marvel Universe, the nature of “Marvel style” comic book production in the 1960s, and the importance of cartooning as narrative drawing (as opposed to illustration). It draws passages from Hand of Fire as well as the introductory essay to the Comic Book Apocalypse exhibit catalog that Ben Saunders and I wrote together. The talk concludes with some thoughts on the self-reflexive, sometimes self-questioning tendency in Kirby’s later work, and in particular a reading of Kamandi #29 (“The Legend,” May 1975), in which Kirby reflects on superheroes as mythic figures.

The talk incorporated scores of images (mostly drawn by Jack Kirby) timed to my comments, and unfortunately those aren’t visible through this radio broadcast — but I hope that the argument is clear and my enthusiasm carries over. At one or two points you can hear me refer to opening remarks by Ben Morse (Visiting Lecturer in Social Media at UNLV, and former Editorial Director of New Media at Marvel), who kindly introduced me. The audio here lasts an hour (though it does not include the post-talk Q&A that the audience and I had together).

This talk was part of the UNLV College of Liberal Arts’ University Forum Lecture Series (and ironically happened on the official opening day of Avengers: Endgame). Thanks to Ben and all who had a part in bringing me to UNLV and hosting me so graciously — including the institutional co-sponsors, UNLV’s Departments of English and History, World Literature Seminar, Great Works Academic Certificate Program, and College of Fine Arts. Most of all, I want to thank, again, my friend and fellow Kirby-head, Jarret Keene, poet, scholar, and Assistant Professor in Residence and World Literature Coordinator for the UNLV English Department. Jarret invited me out and made this gig possible — and his own insights about Kirby are provocative and important. Check out his work, and look forward to more of his writing on Kirby in the years ahead. He’ll open your eyes.

Thanks, Jarret!

PS. As I’ve said on this blog before, I met so many good people during that lightning trip to Vegas. My thanks to them all.

CSUN Celebrates Kirby’s 100th

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Kirby lives.

This coming Monday, August 28, is Jack Kirby’s birthday—I call that Kirby Day. What’s more, this particular August the 28th would have been Kirby’s 100th birthday, his centenary. To think of what Kirby lived through, from his boyhood on New York’s Lower East Side in the 1920s, to his passing in 1994, fills me with awe, and his work continues to fill me with a sort of tongue-tied gratitude for its never-ending richness. I try to observe Kirby Day on this blog every year, but on this 100th anniversary it seems especially urgent.

Monday the 28th also happens to be the first weekday of the new (Fall 2017) semester at my school, California State University, Northridge. That these two events—one the centennial of an artist vital to comics, visual culture, and my own life, and the other the perhaps-routine but still always exciting start of a new school term—should coincide seems a bit crazy, but too wonderful an opportunity to pass up. So CSUN, and particularly the Comics@CSUN initiative that I head, will be commemorating Kirby’s 100th in two ways:

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First, I have curated an exhibit of Kirby works from the 1940s to the 1980s, called Jack Kirby @ 100. This exhibit consists mainly of comic books, photographs, and art prints, and will be up in the Oviatt Library’s Music & Media wing from August 25 (that was today) through October 1. From The Boy Commandos  and Young Love to Captain Victory and The Hunger Dogs, this show gives a small but vivid window onto Kirby’s comic book career.

Second, this Monday the 28th—Kirby Day, the centennial edition!—I will be moderating a panel discussion with two great, Kirby-inspired comics creators who have taken Kirby’s influence in their own unexpected and original directions: Mark Badger and Tony Puryear. The panel will take place in the Oviatt Library’s Jack & Florence Ferman Presentation Room from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., and will be followed by a visit to the exhibit (upstairs).

Both the exhibit and the panel discussion are FREE and open to the public—readers, please feel free to drop in! For more info, see the Comics@CSUN Events page, or just visit the CSUN homepage. And please help spread the word via social media, with the hashtags #KirbyAt100 and #ComicsAtCSUN. Thanks!

It’s been a challenge to do these things while also preparing new courses for a new semester—but there’s no way I could let this centennial pass without officially observing it at CSUN! Thanks to the University and all my colleagues and sponsors who helped make this happen, and to the Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center for their unstinting support! (Check out the Museum’s own schedule of Kirby centennial events this weekend, at its popup museum in NYC’s One Art Space.)

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PS. Don’t forget to support Jillian Kirby’s annual charity drive, Kirby 4 Heroes, which raises funds for the Hero Initiative, a nonprofit that supports veteran comics creators in need! Each year the drive has been raising more and more money—let’s make Kirby’s centenary a record-breaking year! This is a project Jack Kirby would have been behind 100 percent.

Kirby lives.

Kirby Panel Discussion This Saturday, Sept. 26, plus other news

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This is a busy time for comics and Kirby studies here at my school, CSU Northridge!

Last night I joined Prof. Jon Stahl, Chair of the Department of Cinema and Television Arts, for an on-stage conversation with Jeph Loeb, Head of Marvel Television and longtime screenwriter, producer, and comic book writer. This lively, well-attended event kicked off the annual Commerce of Creativity series at CSUN.

Tomorrow, Saturday, Sept. 26, at 1:00 p.m., I join panelists Scott Bukatman, Doug Harvey, Adam McGovern, Andrei Molotiu, Steve Roden, and Ben Saunders for an intense discussion of the art of Jack Kirby, tied to the Comic Book Apocalypse exhibition. We’ll talk at the Noski Auditorium, right across the street from the Gallery, then troop over to the Gallery afterward to visit (or revisit) the exhibition itself! Many catalog contributors will be on hand for this, the last big public event tied to the show. Hope you can make it! More information is available at the brand-new Comics@CSUN website, here:

http://www.csun.edu/humanities/comics/events/panel-discussion-comic-book-apocalypse-graphic-world-jack-kirby

Finally, this coming Monday, Sept. 28, Comics@CSUN launches its Comics on Screen film series with a screening and discussion of Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010), adapted from Bryan Lee O’Malley’s generation-defining graphic novel series. More details here:

http://www.csun.edu/humanities/comics/events/scott-pilgrim-vs-world-launches-comics-screen-film-series

All of these events are FREE and open to the public. Again, hope you can join us!

Talking Kirby at Rose City!

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I’m delighted to announce that tomorrow, Sept. 19, I’ll be talking Kirby at the Rose City Comic Con! That means I’ll be joining the thousands thronging at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland this weekend.

Thanks to my friend and colleague (and Comic Book Apocalypse catalog co-editor) Ben Saunders, of the University of Oregon, I’ll be taking part in a jam-packed panel on Kirby, as follows:

Jack Kirby’s Greatest Comics: An All-Star Tribute to The King

Room: Panel Room 7
Time: 3:00PM – 3:50PM

Captain America. The Fantastic Four. The Incredible Hulk. The Mighty Thor. The Avengers. The Silver Surfer. The Inhumans. Mr. Miracle. The New Gods. The Eternals. All these iconic creations and titles — and many more besides — were first brought to life on the comic book page by Jack Kirby. But although he is without doubt one of the greatest American comic book artists in the history of the medium, the full range of Kirby’s achievement is less than fully understood by many fans today. In a forty-year career, he drew every genre of comics — Romance, Western, War, Horror, and Crime titles as well as superheroes — and his powerful, kinetic style would pass through three distinct phases, from the 1940s through the Silver Age and into the 1970s. Join a panel of creators and academic experts for a gallop through some career highlights from this master of the form, and find out why Kirby is still the King!

Among the stars gathered for this panel (besides moderator Ben) are Mike Allred, Kurt Busiek, Glen David Gold, Joe Keatinge, Gary Phillips, and Diana Schutz—good company! (Ben, Glen, Diana, and I all contributed essays to the soon-to-be-released CBA catalog.)

Rose Citygoers, I hope you can make it! Talking Kirby with a room full of smart and creative people is my favorite kind of gig.