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Hand of Fire: The Comics Art of Jack Kirby (Great Comics Artists) Paperback – December 12, 2011


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Hand of Fire: The Comics Art of Jack Kirby (Great Comics Artists) + Kirby: King of Comics + Kirby Five-Oh!: Celebrating 50 Years Of The "King" Of Comics
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Product Details

  • Series: Great Comics Artists
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Mississippi (December 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 161703178X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1617031786
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.9 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #919,759 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

The first critical exploration of the work of a great comics creator

About the Author

Charles Hatfield, Northridge, California, is associate professor of English at California State University, Northridge. He is the author of Alternative Comics: An Emerging Literature. Follow his blog at http://handoffire.wordpress.com/.

More About the Author

Charles Hatfield is a comics scholar and professor who lives in greater Los Angeles. He teaches at California State University, Northridge, specializing in comics, popular culture, and children's literature; he has published on comics in academia, in The Comics Journal and other trade journals, and online. It all began with Jack Kirby's "Kamandi" in 1975... no, wait, it began with "All in Color for a Dime"...no, wait, it began with his brother's homemade comic books...no, wait...

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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See all 10 customer reviews
It is one of the best books I have read on comics period.
Ian Gordon
Later on, Hatfield contends that "Kirby warrants recognition as Marvel's signature artist and founding conceptualist... Kirby stands as Marvel's co-founder."
Elvin Ortiz
This book gives a serious and scholarly look at Kirby's work .
Reed Richards

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Pedoto on February 11, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Unlike some other reviewers I'm opting to review the text of the book, not the selection of cover art.

Inside there are numerous examples of Jack Kirby's work (including a center color section) chosen specifically to illustrate the points raised by the author. If you want Kirby artwork, there are plenty of options here on Amazon; this is an analysis of his prodigious output, not a collection.

Two small quibbles: Hatfield has not been well served by his editor(s). A surer hand would have guided him away from such sentence-stoppers as "conflictual." And references could have been simplified by standard numerical superscript instead of clogging the narrative with titles and page numbers. (Also, the book itself is printed on paper and will burn if placed in proximity of fire).

The two great ideas Hatfield contributes to Kirby scholarship are, in my view, the concepts of "narrative drawing" and what he calls Kirby's "technological sublime." I can't imagine any new writing on Kirby's work that does not process and include the insights that Hatfield discusses here. Chapter 6, Kirby at Apogee is a deep exploration of two classic New Gods stories, "The Pact" and "Himon."

This chapter alone is worth the price of the book, in my opinion. And you can believe me, because I'm not a fictitious shill for the author. I'm just a lonely, aging comic book fan who was bribed with candy and temporary tattoos (Thanks, Chuck!).

If you want serious, challenging scholarship about one of the defining figures of comic art in the 20th Century, you will appreciate this book. It's deep. It's thought-provoking. It should be rapturously reviewed in a future issue of The Comics Journal, if there's any justice.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Ian Gordon on December 21, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is the best book on comic books I have read in a long time. Hatfield argues for the importance of Kirby by showing us what he did and why it mattered. He does not shy away from some of Kirby's lesser moments but helps us understand how and why these occurred. I read this book with a growing awe for Hatfield's scholarship and as someone who also writes on comics I was humbled by this work. Buy it, Buy it now even if you do not like Kirby. If Hatfield does not change your mind (he did mine) then I think you will at least garner a respect for Kirby.

In addition to situating the work of Jack Kirby in a broad context of the history of comics and carefully dissecting his lasting impact Hatfield discusses a range of issues, from the formal properties of comics to the mythological dimensions of superheroes, with authority. Hand of Fire is the single most important scholarly book on superhero comics hands down. It is one of the best books I have read on comics period. It surpasses his Alternative Comics, which is no mean feat.

This is a scholarly work but accessible to all.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By RS on March 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Charles Hatfield is one of the best comics' historians out there so I encourage you all to pick up a copy of Hand of Fire. There are several books out there giving a chronological history of Jack's life, and there have been many magazine and fanzine articles written about Jack's life and work, but it's about time someone put out an entire book approaching Jack's work from an academic perspective. I've seen many comics fans dismiss Jack's work as nothing more than "men in tights colliding," so my hat is off to Charles for giving Jack's work the more serious and scholarly approach it deserves.

If published comics scholarship is ever going to have any really serious relevance at the university or cultural level, I think this book will be a first step in that direction. Kirby was such a pivotal figure in the comics industry, there has to be a book like this on the book shelves; imagine a literary theorist studying the history of literature with no books on the writings of William Shakespeare in their library? Thanks to Charles, I think now comics historians have a book with some serious analysis of Kirby's work that they can use as a first step if they want to simply reflect on Jack's work for themselves, or Charles's book can help springboard future comics scholars into their own analysis of Jack's work.

I'm not sure what the future of comics scholarship is going to be, but I do think that if, say, 100 years from now you have students writing about Jack Kirby and his work, Charles' book is going to have to be a part of their bibliography. If you are a Kirby fan, this book must be a part of your collection; if you are a comics fan or new to the comics medium, prepare to learn a lot about arguably the most important comics artist of all time.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By wilco29 on March 3, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the best book I've read on Kirby and the best critical study of a comic book creator or super heroes, bar none. Like many comic fans, it took a while for me to warm up to Kirby and even now I read Kirby not for the story but for the experience of reading Kirby. I agree with the reviewers above, the chapter on the technological sublime and the close readings of the fourth world stories, "the Pact" and "Himon" are worth price alone. The entire book is fascinating and is an absolute delight to read. This is more than a fitting tribute it raises the bar on Kirby criticism. I can't recommend this highly enough. Hopefully, the (Great Comics Artists) tackles Ditko next.
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