Under contract to be published in the University Press of Mississippi’s series Critical Approaches to Comics Artists, edited by David M. Ball
More than a quarter-century after his death, Jack Kirby (1917-1994) remains one of the most talked-about creators in the annals of the American comic book. Best known as the archetypal superhero artist and visual architect of the Marvel Universe, Kirby in fact went much further, creating diverse other comic books for many publishers as well as working in animation and comic strips and on sundry projects. An imaginative dynamo, he set a standard for the whole comic book industry. By now, Kirby studies is a thriving fan phenomenon: the source of unending books, articles, and commentary across social media. Despite this, Kirby has received little academic attention. This interdisciplinary collection of essays seeks to change that, and to expand the discussion of Kirby’s work beyond the familiar pathways of biography and homage.
Recent work in comics studies has questioned what gets valued in academia, and why. Inspired by that trend, this project aims to give Kirby’s work the critical study it so richly warrants. We seek to include a diversity of voices and approaches, and to move past the contentious claims to credit or ownership and anxieties about status that have preoccupied Kirby studies to date.
We recognize Kirby as both collaborator and distinctive author: a creator who wrote as well as drew stories throughout his long career. We take it as given that he did not simply illustrate but envisioned, designed, plotted, and often scripted work for Marvel and many other publishers. Kirby’s distinctive style and concerns are manifest across his entire body of work, from his early takes on familiar genres in the 1930s, through his romance, kid gang, superhero, and other comics of the 1940s and early 1950s, to his foundational work as writer, storyteller, designer, and house stylist for Marvel in the 1960s, to the auteurism of his late comics. We invite studies of Kirby as collaborator or sole author, as influence and idea.
We seek argument-driven, historically and theoretically informed work on topics such as, though not limited to:
- Kirby and romance (one of the most popular genres in comic book history)
- Kirby’s other genres: war, westerns, science fiction, crime, humor, superheroes, etc.
- Gender and/or sexuality in Kirby’s work; Gender Studies and queer theory perspectives on Kirby
- Race and ethnicity in Kirby’s work; perspectives from ethnic studies and critical race theory
- Childhood or youth in Kirby’s work
- Kirby vis-à-vis disability studies
- Kirby vis-à-vis critical animal studies
- Teaching Kirby: pedagogical perspectives
- Other works of art in dialogue with Kirby (adaptation, homage, critique, or challenge)
- Kirby and Kirbyism on screen
- Posthumanism, transhumanism, and machine life in Kirby
- Soldiers, super-soldiers, and militarism in Kirby
- Religion or spirituality in Kirby
- Simon & Kirby: the partnership, the shop, the brand
- Collaborative processes across Kirby’s career
- Kirby in newspapers: his neglected comic strip and panel-cartoon work
- Aesthetic and formal dimensions of Kirby’s graphic storytelling
- Kirby’s way with words, i.e., prose style, narrative voice, dialogue
- Kirby as collagist
- Kirby in the art gallery or museum
- Kirby and/in cosplay or fan art
- Anti-fans of Kirby: the social, ideological, or aesthetic logics behind aversion to his work
- Kirby as meme; Kirby as character
We prefer contributions that engage with social and historical contexts and attend to visual and aesthetic as well as narrative and thematic dimensions. Proposals for work in alternate formats (beyond that of the academic essay) are welcomed. Again, we aim to include diverse voices and perspectives.
Interested authors should submit an abstract (500-1000 words) and a biography of no more than 200 words to firstname.lastname@example.org by February 11, 2022. Please note that submission of an abstract or paper does not guarantee publication. All applicants will be notified by April 8, 2022. Completed chapters of 6,000-8,000 words will be due by October 14, 2022, with the goal of publishing the volume by late 2023. The editors will pursue funding to bring contributors together for a Kirby studies symposium (virtual or in-person).