Professor and comics scholar Jason Tondro, author of the recently published Superheroes of the Round Table: Comics Connections to Medieval and Renaissance Literature—which itself has much to say about Kirby, along with Arthurian legend, Shakespeare, Grant Morrison, and many other topics—has posted a first response to Hand of Fire on his blog. Some highlights:
Hand of Fire is a big sloppy wet kiss to all of us who think that the author is still relevant. One of Charles’s arguments—and there are several—is that Kirby’s life experience, the shape of his career and the conditions under which he worked, had a huge influence over the art and stories he produced. Charles spends plenty of time doing textual analysis of Kirby’s pages, looking at how they work and what they say, but he always does it in the context of the argument that these pages are expressions of Kirby’s values, values shaped by very real forces which can be traced and outlined. I’m a historicist by training and this kind of argument goes a very long way with me.
Big sloppy wet kiss? Ha. I like that!
Charles shows a keen awareness of his reading audience when he walks us through semiotic theory, and an awareness of the audience is no less refreshing in a scholar’s second book than it is in a freshman essay. Most of my academic life is spent teaching, and when Charles walks us through some of his classroom experiments teaching semiotics to his students, this is nourishing food to a starving man. It makes the book useful beyond its title. If Charles had “only” written an informed, articulate, and thorough examination of Kirby’s art, that would still have been damn impressive. But it is also a practical handbook on how to teach semiotics theory in the classroom and how to put it into practice on the page.
I’m delighted to know that the book’s treatment of semiotics is proving so useful, and that Jason finds its practical emphasis on application helpful. The theory-speak in Chapter 1 presented a real challenge rhetorically, so these comments cut right to something that concerned me greatly. Good to know!