Category Archives: The Comics World

DENVER CON THIS WEEKEND!

Denver Comic Con logo

NEWS! This weekend, from Friday through Sunday, June 13-15, I (Charles Hatfield) will be attending Denver Comic Con, now in its third year and already one of the largest comic cons in North America.

In particular, I’ll be a special guest at ROMOCOCO, the Rocky Mountain Conference on Comics and Graphic Novels, where I’ll be giving a plenary talk on Friday from 4:30 to 6:00 pm and taking part in a professional development workshop designed for graduate students on Saturday from 12:50 to 2:20pm. I’ll be in the company of such comics scholars as Chris Angel, RC Harvey, Jason Tondro, Jim Vacca, Rob Weiner, and Dan Yezbick, and my fellow keynote speakers Barbara Postema, Bart Beaty, and ROMOCOCO organizer William Kuskin.

I attended ROMOCOCO and DCC during their inaugural year, 2012, and I’ve been eager to get back there since! Glad to be making it this year.

Thanks to DCC, its sponsoring organization Comic Book Classroom, convention director Chris Angel and her team, and especially William Kuskin for making this visit possible!

ROMOCOCO logo

RIP Dick Ayers (1924-2014)

Ayers Cartoonist Profile

I’m sorry to report the passing of Dick Ayers, the Eisner Hall of Fame cartoonist, who is best known as a longtime Marvel artist and prolific Jack Kirby inker but did quite a bit of other work as well—in penciling, inking, lettering, coloring, basically in just about every aspect of comics production. He did all this not just for Marvel, but for many other publishers too. His historic career in comic books and comic strips made him, for fans, a living link to the fondly remembered roots of the business.

Ghost Rider #6 (1951)

Ghost Rider #6 (Magazine Enterprises, 1951)

Ayers’ full-time comics career spanned from about 1947-48 to the mid-80s, tapering off after that, but he continued to cartoon into the 2000s. From his early work for Magazine Enterprises, for which he co-created the horror-tinged Western character Ghost Rider, to his late-career work for DC, Archie, and Bill Black’s AC, Ayers was a jack-of-all-trades comics artist who put his hand to many different genres and trends. He had a particular yen for Western and war comics.

Avengers #1 (1963)

The Avengers #1 (Marvel, 1963), cover by Kirby, Ayers, and letterer Artie Simek

It is Ayers’ Silver Age work for Marvel that fans are most likely to remember today: he penciled Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos (co-created by Kirby) for a heroic ten-year run (1964-1974), and inked Kirby on scads of comics, including Westerns, monster tales, and, most famously, seminal superhero comics such as The Fantastic Four, “The Human Torch” (in Strange Tales), and The Avengers. Whenever I think of Ayers, I see comic books like The Avengers #1 and Fantastic Four Annual #1 (both 1963) in my mind’s eye.

By all accounts, Ayers loved being a comics artist. He was said to be an easygoing and generous man, and took great pride in revisiting his accomplishments and recalling old times (an interview between Ayers and Roy Thomas in Alter Ego #10, from 2001, gives a glimpse into his very early days). In recent years he had been an enthusiastic comics convention-goer as well as commission artist, often recreating iconic covers from his comic book heyday.

My condolences to Mr. Ayers’ family, friends, and fans. I am sorry to know that he is gone.

Links: I recommend my readers visit comics historian Blake Bell’s blog for a touching reminiscence of visiting Ayers at his home back in 2001-2002 (the photo at the bottom of this post comes from there).

Tense Suspense #2 (1959)

Tense Suspense #2 (Fago Magazines, 1959)

Sgt Fury #38 (1967)

Sgt Fury #38 (Marvel, 1967)

Mighty Marvel Western #11 (1970)

Mighty Marvel Western #11 (Marvel, 1970)

Fantastic Four #10 (1963)

Original page by Kirby, Ayers, and letterer Artie Simek for Fantastic Four #10 (Marvel, 1963)

Strange Tales #89 (1961)

Original page by Kirby, Ayers, and letterer Artie Simek [?] for “Fin Fang Foom” (Strange Tales #89, Marvel, 1961)

Fantastic Four Annual #1 (1963)

Splash from Fantastic Four Annual #1 (Marvel, 1963), by Kirby, Ayers, and Simek

Ayers in his studio, by Blake Bell

Dick Ayers at home in his studio, photographed by Blake Bell c. 2001

Making History Graphic @ the Los Angeles Central Library

ALOUD

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.

PBS Superheroes Documentary Neglects Kirby

Of all the things that bother me about Michael Kantor et al.’s PBS documentary Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle, which aired last night, the most disheartening is the show’s one-dimensional take on the rise of Marvel Comics in the 1960s and its almost entire neglect of the crucial role played by Jack Kirby in that rise.

Kirby’s singular contribution to the look and substance of Marvel—the fact that he provided characters, premises, stories, and the overarching visual aesthetic of the company—is never forthrightly addressed. The show simply reinforces the familiar corporate mythology about Stan Lee creating properties and writing stories that were then illustrated by Kirby, Steve Ditko, and other artists—a shallow view that fundamentally misunderstands the role of the cartoonist in the Marvel style of production. The result is all fog and strobe lights, not history.

My full take on the documentary can be found at The Superhero Reader website, here.

A Birthday Bonanza!

A moment of joy and optimism, from Captain America's Bicentennial Battles (1976)

Today is the 96th birthday of the great Jack Kirby, and it’s wonderful to see the online outpouring of interest, affection, and commentary that this event has inspired!

There’s so much about Kirby on the Web today that knowing where to go could be a right challenge. Me, I recommend:

Or you could just turn off your computer, pick up and read a vintage Kirby comic, and get your mind blown all over again. 🙂

Hail Kirby!!!