Thursday, October 10, 2013

True or False: Steranko Was the Most Innovative Artist of the Late Silver Age


William said...

I guess I'd have to say TRUE, as I can't think of anyone else who was really doing anything all that innovative or experimental at that time. However, Steranko did lift a lot of his style and ideas from Kirby. For example Kirby was experimenting with photo backgrounds in the Fantastic Four before Steranko did it.

Doug said...

Does anyone know who should get credit as the first artist to really break out of the grid panel lay-out? And, to even have characters and/or sound effects go beyond the bounds of the panel borders?


J.A. Morris said...

True, but Adams is a close second. Steranko is one of those artists I'll show to people who wouldn't be caught dead reading a comic book.

david_b said...


2-Parts showman, 1-part rebel, 1- part shameless self-promotion, 1-part Dali, Steranko came at the perfect time when the industry allowed artistry to achieve freedom of expression sufficiently to be noticed on it's own merits and 'mix it up' with topical pop culture.

Saying that makes me think of those late-Silver Frank Zappa ads in the comics for 'We're Only In It For The Money', but it's true..:

And he was the perfect kind of artist to stretch Stan's desire to innovate the medium. Behold the worlds first 4-page spread, while the caption's unabashingly nudging kids to buy 2 COPIES to fully appreciate this entire spread ..:

Only Steranko could have come up with these images..:

A few years earlier, his style perhaps wouldn't have been as well received, perhaps lumped into the 'learn from Kirby' bunch. Not to say he didn't, as the early pangs of his synergy would indicate, but Steranko was able to introduce more than Kirbyesque 'photographic backgrounds' to art. While his overall story-telling abilities were lacking (unlike Kirby), he pushed more into 'artistic statements' as well as dynamic action rendering..:

Much like the Fab Four, Steranko came at a very ripe time for the comics industry in general.

And he was good. Very good.

Joe S. Walker said...

Steranko was mainly impressive on the surface - flashy visuals, but no real invention of characters or concepts, and not great plotting. The Yellow Claw arc in Shield, his main Marvel work, was a revival of an old character with a total anti-climax of an ending.

Anonymous said...

His artwork looked a bit weird which probably counts as innovative. In 1975 Marvel UK were selling that amazing Hulk cover ( or rather the British variant ) as a "sew-on patch", they were always doing odd things like that.

david_b said...

Agreed totally with you Joe, especially on the Yellow Claw arc (totally lame ending..), but today's topic is on Steranko as 'artist', not his well-acknowledged shortcomings regarding scripting story arcs and character development.

Perhaps Stan was too impressed with his art, or the guy himself, to ever ask him, 'Do you know how to WRITE for comics?'

I believe there's a bit in 'Untold Stories' and Steranko's wiki page about his arrival at Marvel.

Edo Bosnar said...

Really can't decide here. I really love the splash Steranko made in comics art back in the late '60s, but I think Adams was just as important and innovative at right around the same time - and not just because of his photo-realistic art, but also because he was also experimenting with different kinds of panel layouts, page design, etc.
And I definitely agree with David about Steranko as showman and self-promoter. In that regard, he was not unlike 'The Man' himself, Stan Lee.
And Doug, I'm not sure if he was the first, but way back in the '40s Will Eisner had already broken out of the conventional grid layout in his Spirit comics, with panels of different shapes and sizes, as well as characters (or dialog bubbles) going outside of the panel borders.

Anonymous said...

Whatever you think, you should follow Steranko on Twitter. He holds court on Sunday evenings with crazy stories of his past.

MattComix said...

I think I'd have to still give it to Kirby at that point in history.

Fred W. Hill said...

I think Kirby was having characters go out of the bounds of panel borders in his earliest Captain America stories in 1941 and I'd give Kirby the nod for most innovative artist of the Silver Age as a whole, with Ditko a close runner up in the mid-60s. However, regarding the late Silver Age, from maybe 1967 to 1969 I'd give Steranko the nod, just barely over Adams (lets give him the top notch from 1970 to '73, just to draw an arbitrary line). Jim Starlin came up with the best synthesis of Kirby, Ditko & Steranko, taking aspects from previous masters and making them uniquely his own. Steranko himself took elements from Kirby, both Golden & Silver ages, as well as Will Eisner, and expanded on them in ways that certainly inspired both some of the older artists, such as Gene Colan & John Buscema, as well as many of the up and coming to try new layout, title and sound effects techniques (or if not entirely new, mostly unseen since Eisner laid the Spirit to rest circa 1950).

Ace Frehley Jr said...

Steranko is possibly the best ever, after Kirby! Be seeing him Sunday at NYCC...always the coolest cat in the room!

david_b said...

Fred, you provide a great lineage of styles from one innovator to another.

Keeping my head down from all the arrows to start whizzin' by, but I would not put Adams up next to Steranko; they're not in the same league, really.

I see Adams' awesomeness credited more to his vibrant, striking off-the-page realism of faces, body structure and shadowing, in many ways ultimately defining the majesty of our most heralded comic legends.

I feel Steranko pushed the medium's artistic envelope more towards surrealistic visuals to the flamboyant, often dynamic extremes away from what Doug referred to as 'grid panel lay-out', taking most of that influence from Kirby.., at times (as a downside) distracting readers from standard story-telling flow.

IMHO, two wholly different directions.

fantastic four fan forever said...

True. From what I read Steranko left after finding a more lucrative career with his magazine and in advertising. Comics at the time, could not pay him the kind of money that advertising could. He did a lot of Shadow and Sci Fi paperback book covers in the 1970's. I really liked his magazine, Media Scene. However the adult subject matter in the ads, prevented me from showing the magazine to friends or bringing it to work with me. It's too bad because the magazine would have been more popular.

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