Category Archives: Lectures

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.

Mythology in Newsprint: PS

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The crowd awaits (John Hay and Jenessa Kenway in the foreground).

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.”

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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!

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Getting started. Looping a couple of splash pages from THE NEW GODS just before the talk was a last-minute choice.

Particular thanks are due, once again, to organizer Jarret Keene, my fellow Kirby scholar and friend and a great writer:

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Jarret (Monster Fashion) Keene, without whom…

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:

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Jarret Keene (left) and Ralph Mathieu in the middle of Ralph’s eye-boggling super-shop, Alternate Reality.

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!

Mythology in Newsprint at UNLV!

Newsflash! Tomorrow, Friday, April 26, 2019, I’ll be at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, giving a talk titled “Mythology in Newsprint: Jack Kirby on Heroes, Demigods, and Comic Book Fandom,” as part of the UNLV College of Liberal Arts’ University Forum Lecture Series.

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This talk will take place from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. at the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art / Harry Reid Center, Room 135. It will focus on Kirby’s role in the revival and transformation of Marvel Comics in the 1960s, his mature turn toward myth fiction and epic fantasy, and, as I near the end, the self-reflexive questioning that marks his late work. Expect a ton of images, much talk about narrative drawing, and several minutes on Kamandi! Books will be sold and signed afterward.

I promise that this image will be involved (click for a better look):

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I owe this opportunity to the co-sponsorship of UNLV’s Departments of English and History, World Literature Second-Year Seminar, Great Works Academic Certificate Program, and College of Fine Arts — and to the generosity of my friend and fellow Kirby scholar, Jarret Keene, Assistant Professor in Residence and World Literature Coordinator for the UNLV English Department.

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Jarret is a widely published poet, a musician, a journalist, the author of Monster Fashion (2002), A Boy’s Guide to Arson (2009), and the rock band bio The Killers: Destiny Is Calling Me (2006), editor or co-editor of several Vegas-themed anthologies, and a fiercely original soul who is writing his own book about Kirby (I can’t wait!). Our friendship dates back to, I think, 1998, and he was one of the editorial voices who helped Hand of Fire become a better, more focused book, for which I can’t thank him enough.

Vegas, here I come!

Talking Kirby at ZAPPCON!

Her name is Zapp!

This weekend I’m in Fresno, CA, presenting and signing books at ZAPPCON Year One: the first go-round for what promises to be an annual Central Valley comics/gaming/cosplay/fan culture convention. Thanks to my brother Scott Hatfield, who brought me on board, my wife Michele Hatfield, who makes everything better, my collaborator Alison Mandaville of Fresno State, who will be joining me at the podium tomorrow, and ZAPPCON’s David Holland, who scheduled my appearances and made it possible for Scott and I to arrange our exhibitors’ table!

ZAPPCON is happening at the Convention Center’s Valdez Hall. Tomorrow, Sunday, Oct. 19, I’ll be signing at our “Educators’ Corner” table on the exhibitors’ floor between 10am and 4pm, except when I’m doing these panels:

10:30-11:30am: The Superhero Reborn—or, How Jack Kirby Co-Authored the Marvel Universe (and More) from His Drawing Board (Sanger Room)

1:30-2:45pm: Comics in the Creative Classroom: Students and Teachers Doing Things with Comics (Sanger Room)—a roundtable with Alison Mandaville (CSU Fresno), John Beynon (CSU Fresno), Jennifer Crow (Arne Nixon Center for the Study of Children’s Literature), Josh Walker (Coalinga Middle School), and me.

If you’re at ZAPPCON, why not take in these events, and/or drop by our table to talk comics, Kirby, education, the works? Today, Saturday, was a blast, and tomorrow promises to be even more so!

Making History Graphic @ the Los Angeles Central Library

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Non-Kirby (but comics-centric) newsflash!

Next Tuesday, the Library Foundation of Los Angeles, as part of its lively, ever-ongoing event series ALOUD, will be hosting an event of special appeal to comics readers—as well as anyone interested in the challenges of turning history into story and art:

MAKING HISTORY GRAPHIC
Joe Sacco and Gene Luen Yang

Sacco, as drawn by Sacco Yang, as seen by Yang

Tuesday, November 12, 2013,
7:15 to c. 8:30 p.m.
Mark Taper Auditorium-Central Library
(The talk will be followed by a book signing in the auditorium lobby. See the bottom of this post for practical details!)
Join these two daring writers for a conversation on how the graphic novel and graphic nonfiction—rising from the frontlines of popular culture—can serve our understanding of history.

I have the honor of serving as interviewer and moderator for this event!

Angelenos, this is a great opportunity to hear firsthand two of the most acclaimed comics creators of our time—as they discuss projects of tremendous ambition and daring!

Sacco has just published The Great War: July 1, 1916: The First Day of the Battle of the Somme, a panoramic accordion book depicting that wrenching, transitional moment in the history of warfare.

Sacco's The Great War, unfolded

Detail from Sacco's The Great War

Yang has just published Boxers & Saints: two graphic stories, each in its own book, that tell two different sides of China’s Boxer Rebellion, together adding up a compelling dialectical tug-of-war but also a complete, and complex, novel.

Yang's Boxers & Saints, as a boxed set

Bao sees Vibiana (from Yang's Boxers & Saints)

Making History Graphic is happening at L.A.’s Central Library, 630 W. 5th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90071. Follow the link for directions to and detailed information about the venue. Here’s what the ALOUD website says about tickets and availability:

Reservation Policy for Free Programs:
As most [ALOUD] at Central Library programs are free of charge, it is our policy to overbook. In the case of a FULL program your free reservation may not guarantee admission. We recommend arriving early. Space permitting, unclaimed reservations will be released to standby patrons at 7 PM.