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About Charles Hatfield
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Despite their commercial appeal and cross-media reach, superheroes are only recently starting to attract sustained scholarly attention. This groundbreaking collection brings together essays and book excerpts by major writers on comics and popular culture.While superhero comics are a distinct and sometimes disdained branch of comics creation, they are integral to the development of the North American comic book and the history of the medium. For the past half-century they have also been the one overwhelmingly dominant market genre. The sheer volume of superhero comics that have been published over the years is staggering. Major superhero universes constitute one of the most expansive storytelling canvases ever fashioned. Moreover, characters inhabiting these fictional universes are immensely influential, having achieved iconic recognition around the globe. Their images and adventures have shaped many other media, such as film, videogames, and even prose fiction.The primary aim of this reader is twofold: first, to collect in a single volume a sampling of the most sophisticated commentary on superheroes, and second, to bring into sharper focus the ways in which superheroes connect with larger social, cultural, literary, aesthetic, and historical themes that are of interest to a great many readers both in the academy and beyond.
In the 1980s, a sea change occurred in comics. Fueled by Art Spiegel- man and Françoise Mouly's avant-garde anthology Raw and the launch of the Love & Rockets series by Gilbert, Jaime, and Mario Hernandez, the decade saw a deluge of comics that were more autobiographical, emotionally realistic, and experimental than anything seen before. These alternative comics were not the scatological satires of the 1960s underground, nor were they brightly colored newspaper strips or superhero comic books.
In Alternative Comics: An Emerging Literature, Charles Hatfield establishes the parameters of alternative comics by closely examining long-form comics, in particular the graphic novel. He argues that these are fundamentally a literary form and offers an extensive critical study of them both as a literary genre and as a cultural phenomenon. Combining sharp-eyed readings and illustrations from particular texts with a larger understanding of the comics as an art form, this book discusses the development of specific genres, such as autobiography and history.
Alternative Comics analyzes such seminal works as Spiegelman's Maus, Gilbert Hernandez's Palomar: The Heartbreak Soup Stories, and Justin Green's Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary. Hatfield explores how issues outside of cartooning-the marketplace, production demands, work schedules-can affect the final work. Using Hernandez's Palomar as an example, he shows how serialization may determine the way a cartoonist structures a narrative. In a close look at Maus, Binky Brown, and Harvey Pekar's American Splendor, Hatfield teases out the complications of creating biography and autobiography in a substantially visual medium, and shows how creators approach these issues in radically different ways.
Jack Kirby (1917-1994) is one of the most influential and popular artists in comics history. With Stan Lee, he created the Fantastic Four and defined the drawing and narrative style of Marvel Comics from the 1960s to the present day. Kirby is credited with creating or cocreating a number of Marvel's mainstay properties, among them the X-Men, the Hulk, Thor, and the Silver Surfer. His earlier work with Joe Simon led to the creation of Captain America, the popular kid gang and romance comic genres, and one of the most successful comics studios of the 1940s and 1950s. Kirby's distinctive narrative drawing, use of bold abstraction, and creation of angst-ridden and morally flawed heroes mark him as one of the most influential mainstream creators in comics.
In this book, Charles Hatfield examines the artistic legacy of one of America's true comic book giants. He analyzes the development of Kirby's cartooning technique, his use of dynamic composition, the recurring themes and moral ambiguities in his work, his eventual split from Lee, and his later work as a solo artist. Against the backdrop of Kirby's earlier work in various genres, Hand of Fire examines the peak of Kirby's career, when he introduced a new sense of scope and sublimity to comic book fantasy.