Dr. Smith’s mighty tribute to Jack Kirby

Hero Complex-Los Angeles Times
Hero Complex-Los Angeles Times

By Hailey Wilt

Dr. Matthew Smith, the School of Communication director, recently held a presentation titled “Jack Kirby and the Technology of Imagination” at the New River Community College Comic-Con.

The presentation was held in honor of Jack Kirby’s centennial. Smith’s interest in Jack Kirby’s triumphs throughout graphic storytelling dates way back and he has even authored books on the subject matter.

In 2009, Smith co-wrote “The Power of Comics: History, Form, and Culture” with Dr. Randy Duncan of Henderson State University.

During the NRCC Comic-Con, Smith had an interactive presentation where he got crowd involvement to see who knew what about Jack Kirby and his characters.

“Kirby co-created most of the characters in the Marvel Universe and, more importantly, defined Western aesthetics for the comic book medium that are still practiced today,” Smith said, adding that, “I think comics are a legitimate means for the expression of communication.”

According to Smith, he aptly titled the presentation ‘the technology of imagination’ to openly express how futuristic Kirby was in his creations. Kirby saw and envisioned the way of the future before anyone else, which separated him from other creators.

“Jack saw technology as a means to talk about the human condition, part of the process is to look to the future, to confront technology,” Smith said.

When asked about his favorite creation of Jack Kirby’s, Smith said, “The Fantastic Four, they are not as beloved but they defined the Marvel Universe from the get-go. Had it not been a hit, it wouldn't have happened.”

Smith also discussed the whole Jack Kirby vs. Stan Lee debacle, stating that, “past the surface and the PR you begin to realize that a lot of what is going on in comics, is because of Jack Kirby and he needs his recognition.”

Beyond presentations such as the one at NRCC, Smith has translated his love for comics into a class called “Graphic Storytelling” which debuted last fall. He also offers a study away trip for Comic-Con in San Diego. The next trip is slated for July 17-23, 2018. 

Nov 13, 2017
School of Communication