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Jim Steranko

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Author Topic: Jim Steranko  (Read 368 times)
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« on: July 27, 2007, 11:43:48 pm »

Silver Age Steranko

The 12-page "Fury" strip was initially by Lee and Jack Kirby, with the latter supplying such inventive and enduring gadgets and hardware as the Helicarrier — an airborne aircraft carrier — as well as LMDs (Life Model Decoys) and even automobile airbags. Marvel's all-purpose terrorist organization HYDRA was introduced here as well.

Steranko began his stint on the feature by penciling and inking "finishes" over Kirby layouts in Strange Tales #151 (Dec. 1966), just as fellow new Marvel artist John Buscema had done on the feature previously. Steranko began drawing the every-other-issue "Nick Fury" cover art two issues later, and, in a rarity for comics artists, took over the series' writing with #155. He additionally became the uncredited colorist along the way.

"Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D." soon became one of the creative zeniths of the Silver Age, and one of comics' most groundbreaking, innovative and acclaimed features. Ron Goulart, in his Comix: A History of Comic Books in America, wrote, "[E]ven the dullest of readers could sense that something new was happening. ... Which each passing issue Steranko's efforts became more and more innovative. Entire pages would be devoted to photocollages of drawings [that] ignored panel boundaries and instead worked together on planes of depth. The first pages ... became incredible production numbers similar in design to the San Francisco rock concert poster of the period".[11]

Steranko introduced or popularized in comics such art movements of the day as psychedelia and op art; built on Kirby's longstanding work in photomontage; and in Strange Tales #167 (Jan. 1968), created comics' first four-page spread — again inspired by Kirby, who in the Golden Age had pioneered the first full-page and double-page spreads. All the while, Steranko spun outlandishly action-filled plots of intrigue, barely sublimated sensuality, and a cool-jazz hi-fi hipness. And he created his own version of Bond girls, pushing what was allowable under the Comics Code at the time.[12]

Steranko "combined the figurative dynamism of Jack Kirby with modern design concepts", wrote Larry Hama. When Steranko took over the series, he recostumed Fury from suits and ties to "a form-fitting bodysuit with numerous zippers and pockets, like a Wally Wood spacesuit revamped by Pierre Cardin. The women were clad in form-fitting black leather a la Emma Peel in the Avengers TV show. The graphic influences of Peter Max, Op Art and Andy Warhol were embedded into the design of the pages — and the pages were designed as a whole, not just as a series of panels. All this, executed in a crisp, hard-edged style, seething with drama and anatomical tension".

Fury's adventures continued in his own series, for which Steranko contributed four much-reprinted 20-page stories: "Who is Scorpio?" (issue #1); "So Shall Ye Reap...Death" (#2), inspired by Shakespeare's The Tempest; "Dark Moon Rise, Hell Hound Kill" (#3), a Hound of the Baskervilles homage, replete with a Peter Cushing manquι; and the spy-fi sequel "What Ever Happened to Scorpio?" (#5). Yet after deadline pressures forced a fill-in "origin" story by another team in issue #4, Steranko did a handful of additional covers only, then dropped the book. Decades afterward, however, their images are among comics' best known, and homages to his art have abounded — from updates of classic covers with different heroes in place of Fury, to recreations of famous pages and layouts. (See "Homages", below.)

Steranko also had short runs on Captain America (three issues out of four, missing a deadline that required Kirby to draw an issue over a weekend) and X-Men, for which he designed a new cover logo. Steranko also dabbled with a romance story, as well as a horror story — "At the Stroke of Midnight", published in Tower of Shadows #1 (Sept. 1969) — that precipitated a breakup with Marvel. Though that seven-page story would go on to win a 1969 Alley Award, editor Lee, who had already rejected Steranko's cover for that issue, clashed with Steranko over panel design, dialog, and the story title, initially "The Lurking Fear at Shadow House". According to Steranko at a 2006 panel[14] and elsewhere, Lee disliked or did not understand the homage to horror author H.P. Lovecraft, and devised his own title for the story. After much conflict, Steranko either quit or was fired. Lee phoned him about a month later, after the two had cooled down, and Steranko would return as a cover artist for Marvel from 1972-73 and also created a new fan club magazine (FOOM) for Marvel which he produced in its first year.

Steranko gradually withdrew from comics between 1969 and 1974. Projects such as the history of comics and his own publishing efforts took up more and more of his time.

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