Sunday, July 3, 2011

Spotlight On: Steranko


Karen: Steranko - like Cher or Elvis, he only needs one name! Jim Steranko burst on the comics scene in 1966. He worked first for Harvey, but would soon join Marvel, where he would become a very popular artist for his work on the Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. feature in Strange Tales. He would go on to work on Captain America and also X-Men and a number of other titles. He was also the first editor of Marvel's fan magazine, FOOM, and produced the now-famous club poster.

Karen: Although Steranko's overall output at Marvel was rather small, he had a huge influence on his fellow artists. His graphic artist background was extremely evident in his work, such as the way he composed his panels and pages. Composition is everything in a Steranko drawing. His work is always dramatic; he knows how to utilize lighting and shadow for great effect. He had the pulse of the pop art movement and incorporated photographs and movie poster design into his work. Like some others (namely Neal Adams) he has a cinematic sense to his storytelling. He was also very fond of double-page spreads.

Karen: What say you all? Any Steranko fans in the house? What are your favorite issues that he drew? 


HannibalCat said...

The tiny run on Captain America he did was mind blowing, but it was the Nick Fury stories that really got me: they were printed as the third story in Captain Britain weekly and, like the Captain's lead story, were in actual colour! Unprecedented for Marvel UK at the time. The Scorpio and Yellow Claw stories were incredibly ahead of their time as far as the art went; surrealist influences, pop art, and just great storytelling.

Edo Bosnar said...

That all-too-brief run on Cap is legendary, but I'd also pick the Nick Fury material as my favorite - I recently re-read his Nick Fury run in Strange Tales (love that TPB!) and was just amazed: it is so much a relic of its time, in that it often seems like a straight-up homage to the Connery Bond movies (as I recall, Connery even makes a cameo appearance), yet still fresh and enjoyable.
I also really like that gorgeously rendered romance story ("My Heart Broke in Hollywood") and the Chandler: Red Tide graphic novel. Also worth mentioning are all the covers he did for Marvel in the late 60s and much of the 70s...

Anonymous said...

Nick Fury was his magnum opus, all right. The Cap issues all fantastic, but Fury is where all the conceptual work happened. I've got quite a few of his seminal pages rotating as screen savers.

An over-looked gem is the 2-volume Steranko History of Comics from the early 70's. It was arguably the best reference source for the golden age before Gerard Jones' Men of Tomorrow. But more importantly, the writing really captured the magic of the era. Augmented by impeccable graphic design, naturally. Absolutely inspirational. Sadly, only the first two volumes of a projected series ever materialized.

Chandler and Mediascene were highlights of the 70's for me. While often low on content, Mediascene always looked great.

James Chatterton

david_b said...

Ah.. Steranko Unleashed.

My 'first comic' of lasting memory was Cap 113, and I must tell you, it was an ODD comic, style-wise, to follow for a 5yr old. I'm just collecting the old Strange Tales now, loving the beautiful cover art, but pondering just how weird his art must have seemed to readers back then.

As a reader wrote in Cap’s mag at that time, Steranko lifted Cap out Kirby’s increasingly anachronistic look, and brought a sense of contemporary vibrance and cinema artistry to each panel, greatly expanding some artistic strides being shown by Adams at the time in terms of panel layout and intensity. Suffice to say.. Steranko saved Captain America.

In re-reading Avengers 67 the other day., I noticed SO MUCH emulation with Barry Smith in all the panels and body-less heads popping up in corners. The Steranko influence was unmistakable, with an element of Kirby-esque drama and intensity.

But Steranko brought more to the equation than that.., per Anonymous’s mention of his conceptual approach. His imagery of Nick Fury’s tale in Srange Tales 168 with the b&w full page graphics wasn’t the first use of it, but complimenting what Kirby had started a few years earlier hoisted that newspaper ‘real world’ imagery to a new innovative level. And per the mention of the two-page spreads, again, he wasn’t the first, but it best presented his glorious detail and mood. Seriously, I can’t think of a gaping-mouthed Hydra soldier and not think of Steranko on that Cap spread you showed here.

…AND the best part of collecting all these Silver ST issues ~ Great quality issues are all still reasonably cheap compared to collecting mainstays like Silver Age FF and Spidey issues of similar quality.

Like everyone here, I could go much further in describing his importance, but I especially loved his initial FOOM work. His editorial work on FOOM made it a more interesting, creative product overall than just another Marvelmania or MMMS.

And yes, I still adore my beloved FOOM poster.

Favorite Steranko panels..? Jeez, I'd say Bucky being gassed and kidnapped in Cap 111. What could have been portrayed by a Kane or Buscema turned into a total psychedelic experience.

What better innovation could have sprung up from the Silver Age..??

Anonymous said...

Yeah Steranko was pretty amazing. What really jumps out at me about stunning spreads like the one you featured is that it looks like most Marvel comics would 10 years later. Steranko must be the artist who really created the look of Bronze Age Marvel that we all know and love.

Rip Jagger said...

SHIELD the comic book and my reading comics habit started about the same time. So needless to say my experience with comics was limited. SHIELD challenged my comic book grammar skills to the max. There are parts of those stories I didn't figure out for years, simply because the storytelling escaped me.

That said, Steranko pushed the boundaries of what a comic book could be, and he did it in a tiny number of comics. His stints on Cap and X-Men are miniscule, but we still talk about them.

SHIELD was the magnum opus and his run is easily in the top five storylines from Marvel all time.

His stint as cover artist a few years later was also impressive and showcased a more delicate style.

Steranko is one of those cats who is worthy of his hype. He's showing up at the Cincinnati Comix Expo later this summer and I'm eager to meet him if I can do so.

Maybe he can finally explain those first few pages of SHIELD #1 at long last.

Rip Off

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