Category Archives: Press

Will 2016 be a turning point for Kirby studies?

Happy New Year to all my readers, with thanks for your continued interest and support! I have the feeling that 2016 may be a banner year for the study of Jack Kirby. In that spirit, here are three items of Kirby-related news, one truly new, the other two somewhat-egotistical reminders:

  
1. The latest (Jan. 2016) issue of Art in America, the venerable art-critical magazine, has a comics theme, with several articles related to the medium. To me, the one that leaps out (besides of course another smart article by the great Ryan Holmberg) is Alexi Worth’s on Kirby, titled “Genius in a Box,” a welcome and indeed long-overdue appraisal of Kirby from a fine arts perspective. From my vantagepoint, this is an insightful piece of work, sharp, forcefully expressed, and only occasionally marked by the inevitable boundary issues (comics world vs. arts world). While the essay says a few things I would dispute, in the main I found it thoughtful, invigorating reading, and I’m grateful for it. I’m also grateful to have been cited in it: the Comic Book Apocalypse exhibition figures in the article, along with Dan Nadel’s important curatorial work. (My one complaint would be that Ben Saunders, co-editor of the Apocalypse catalog, should also be cited.)

Worth of course compares Kirby to a number of fine art masters, but also acknowledges that such comparisons don’t quite work, because

[Kirby’s] pictures were conceived as sequences. Continuity was their aim. And that continuity was built around the panel architecture of each page. When a furious Thor swings back his hammer, preparing to destroy a wall, he seems to be aiming his blow at the narrow white border that contains him—the very same border that, in the adjacent panel, frames the satisfying impact of his blow. When the Human Torch flies across the skies of Europe, zooming left, then right, then looping playfully around a quartet of missiles, his progress models the reader’s own zigzagging progress through the page’s quadrants. These are exhilarating sequences, not overpowering single images. That’s their point. For better or worse, much of the beauty of Kirby’s art is bodiless, suspended in the eager forward motion of the reader’s experience: a flight path, not an icon. 

Exactly right, I think — and with that Worth has put his finger on what was so challenging about arranging a Kirby gallery exhibition.

Responses to Worth’s essay have begun to crop up online. Over at The Comics Journal, Nadel has posted a response praising it. Kirby biographer Mark Evanier has also weighed in, on his blog. Nadel has responded to Evanier, in turn. I’ll be interested to see further responses spin out, over time.

Make no mistake: the Art in America article signals an important shift in the way art critics can talk about Kirby. A turning point?

  
2. The Comic Book Apocalypse catalog makes it to comic book shops this month, on Wednesday, Jan. 27. I hope your local shop will stock it! For more about this, see my post of October 30.

3. The Apocalypse catalog can also be ordered online, via the CSU Northridge Art Galleries website. For those whose local shop cannot get the book, that may be your best option. Further info can be found in my post of December 5.

I’m delighted to be part of what seems to be a groundswell in Kirby criticism and appreciation within academia and the art world. In the spirit of the New Year, let’s resolve and hope for more! I’m planning on it…

Five More Days of Apocalypse; plus, Book News

Saturday, Sept. 26, in the Gallery (catalog signing day). Why, yes, that is Diana Schutz, foreground right!

Saturday, Sept. 26, in the Gallery (catalog signing day). Why, yes, that is Diana Schutz, foreground right!

The Apocalypse has reached its final week!

The exhibition Comic Book Apocalypse: The Graphic World of Jack Kirby will be up for just FIVE more days, through Saturday, Oct. 10, at the CSU Northridge Art Galleries. This is the largest-ever US exhibit of Kirby’s work, and the fulfillment of a dream decades in the making. If you’re a Kirby fan or comics history buff anywhere within range of Los Angeles, I hope you can come see it!

Check out this terrific writeup on the exhibition by artist, curator, and critic Doug Harvey, at The Comics Journal.

And now some news about the exhibition catalog:

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Thanks to all of you who have contacted me or the CSUN Art Galleries asking about the catalog. It is an unusual, and beautiful, full-color book, designed by Randy Dahlk, edited by Ben Saunders and me, and co-published by IDW Publishing and CSUN. It runs 168 pages in roughly 8 x 11 inch softcover form, and lists for $39.99. Further details about the book can be found at the bottom of this post.

Q: Where is the catalog???

A: Coming soon! Thanks, everyone, for your patience as we work to make this long-promised book available! The Gallery has seen a huge show of interest in the catalog; since the exhibition opened in August, we have taken down hundreds of names from visitors interesting in buying it. We received an initial shipment of 150 copies by express freight in time for our panel and signing on Sept. 26, but that supply ran out almost immediately. We await a corrected second printing from the printer, which should arrive in late October or early November (a misprint in the first printing did not deter sales!). Please accept our apologies for the further delay of the book—we are waiting breathlessly for that second shipment.

Those of you who have already contacted the Gallery about buying the book, you do not need to do anything else at this point. Once we receive our shipment, you’ll be getting an email from us with a link to purchase the book, which will include a place for you to add your full shipping address. Once payment has been received we will ship the book to you ASAP.

For those who have not contacted the Gallery about the book, rest assured, there will be a page on the CSUN Art Galleries site where the book can be purchased (and I’ll be making announcements here and on social media). Also, IDW expects to make the book available to comic book shops via Diamond Comic Distributors in January—which means that Diamond should be soliciting orders for the book in the next month or so (ask your local shop if the catalog is listed in the November Previews).

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Q: What exactly is this catalog like?

A: Here are the specs: again, the catalog is a 168-page color softcover, at 8 x 11 inches. It lists at $39.99. However, when ordering it from CSUN you must add $5.00 for shipping. California residents must also add an in-state tax of 9%.

The catalog contains over 120 images, including more than seventy shot from Kirby’s original art as well as several previously unpublished photos of Jack at work in his studio (taken by David Folkman in the 1970s). It also includes the complete exhibition checklist and some twenty essays, short and long, totaling about 40K words, written by nineteen different creators, storytellers, and scholars:

  • Mark Badger
  • Scott Bukatman
  • Howard Chaykin
  • Brian Cremins
  • Ramzi Fawaz
  • Craig Fischer
  • Glen David Gold
  • Doug Harvey
  • Charles Hatfield
  • Adam McGovern
  • Carla Speed McNeil
  • Andrei Molotiu
  • Dan Nadel
  • Adilifu Nama
  • Ann Nocenti
  • Tony Puryear
  • James Romberger
  • Ben Saunders
  • Diana Schutz

Topics run the gamut, from superheroes, romance, and SF comics, to The Fantastic Four, The Fourth World, and Kamandi, to Kirby’s collages, the power of his visual storytelling, and the impact of his war experiences. Whether your interest is “Toxl the World Killer” or “Big Barda and Her Female Furies” or simply how and why Jack drew so many double-page spreads, this book has something for you.

I’ll let you know when it’s available!

Apocalypse in the Media!

Splash from Silver Surfer #18 (Kirby/Trimpe), adapted by Louis Solis

Reminder: Comic Book Apocalypse: The Graphic World of Jack Kirby runs until Saturday, Oct. 10, at the CSU Northridge Art Galleries! Come see if you can!

NEWS! The show has been getting some terrific coverage. On Sept. 1, Tom Kraft and Rand Hoppe of the Jack Kirby Museum and Research Center filmed a video walk-through of the exhibition with me: a half-hour curator’s talk, or ramble, through the Gallery. You can see this walk-through at the Museum’s online journal, The Kirby Effect, right here. Thanks, Tom and Rand! This is the best way to experience the show if you cannot visit in person.

Also, back on Aug. 25, Gabriel Valentin and Dan Brozo of the Digital Lizards of Doom webcast (sponsored by Meltdown Comics) interviewed me in the Gallery. Watch it right here, or via Meltdown’s site. Our conversation starts about six minutes into the webcast and lasts about an hour. Thanks for a great experience, Gabriel and Dan!

AND: This past Monday, Sept. 7, Labor Day, Ted Coe of radio station KCSB at UC Santa Barbara (91.9 FM, kcsb,org) interviewed me about Kirby and the exhibit for a marvelous edition of his show The Freak Power Ticket. An edited podcast of that live interview is now available for streaming or download through the KCSB website, right here. Our conversation starts about 11 minutes in, and goes for about an hour and a half. Ted, thanks for a delightful talk, and for the chance to reconnect with my alma mater, UCSB!

Finally, thanks to Artillery magazine for the nice shout-out. 🙂

Come to our panel discussion on Saturday, Sept. 26, at 1pm! It’s going to be a doozy. Details TBA!

Labor Day Apocalypse

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Tomorrow, Labor Day, I’ll be on the radio, talking about Jack Kirby and Comic Book Apocalypse. Specifically, I’ll be on UC Santa Barbara’s station, KCSB, doing an interview on Ted Coe’s show, The Freak Power Ticket, between 11:00am and 1:00pm PCT. I can’t wait!

The Freak Power Ticket is an wide-ranging and phantasmagorical show described by producer/host Ted as a “wondrous boatride” among rock’n’roll and other music, movies, pop culture, counterculture, and various esoteric but vital forms of art and expression. Ted interweaves interviews and tributes with eclectic music and audio tidbits from movies and obscure recordings. Most episodes are curated around particular themes or guests. Tomorrow the theme is Kirby!

All this takes me back a bit. Years ago—say about thirty—I myself went to UC Santa Barbara, and got my BA in English there. Heady days. I lived for a couple of years in Isla Vista, that curious unincorporated community attached to the UCSB campus, and fell in with a loose circle of esoteric music buffs, comics fans, nerds, neopagans, creatives, and Ren Faire anachronists—my peeps. One of the things I most enjoyed doing in those days was tagging along when my friend Dio Sanchez (RIP) did his late-night prog rock radio show, Willow Farm, on the campus station, KCSB. I too got an FCC license, and did some subbing for Dio. I also ran, briefly, my own wannabe prog show on the station’s closed-circuit AM feed (which only reached the dorms). Naturally I spent a good deal of time listening to other KCSB programs, including a late-night ambient show called Sonic Gallery and Pat Cardenas’s wonderful folk show The Black Nag, which is still going strong after all these years. I can’t claim to know much about KCSB or the station’s history, but I’ll always fondly remember my brief time there.

So I’m delighted to be joining Ted Coe (Ted C.) tomorrow for a show that is clearly a labor of love. We’ll talk about Kirby, comic book labor, and art, Kirby’s relationship to the Marvel Universe, and of course the exhibition. Ted has a cornucopia of music and sound bites prepared, all of it related to Kirby or comic books. That’s The Freak Power Ticket, from 11:00am and 1:00pm Pacific Time, tomorrow. I hope you can tune in—and support independent radio!

Here’s KCSB’s official announcement about tomorrow’s show.