Art For Art’s Sake # 114: Steranko, Steranko, Steranko

by Richard Bruton

Art For Art’s Sake, your weekly look through some of the best comic art on the Internet. Or just stuff I saw and liked… but either way, it’s all so lovely to see. This week – it’s ALL Steranko

Ok, I don’t do all one artist very often, but finding some Jim Steranko art that I’d never seen before set me off down a look at loads of his artwork, and in the end I just had to do a whole A4AS on this genius artist.

HOWEVER, with Steranko we’re again in the murky waters of what to do when the art is wonderful but the artist is, let’s be honest about it, a bit of a dick. Yes, Steranko is one of those artists who really can’t resist opening his mouth and spouting ridiculous and incendiary, and dickish views. But it’s the whole idea of the disconnect between the art and the artist, and as much as I hate the views of people like Steranko, I still look at his artwork and go wow.

With that proviso… the art…

Opening with something of a rare curiosity… the something I’d never seen before… Jim Steranko and Phil Seuling‘s The Conventioneers – A four-page thing from the 1968 New York Comic Convention Progress Report, starring Nick Fury and Dick Tracy…

Thanks to Paul Gravett for the heads-up on this one – who found it thanks to David Clayton, who then points out that Mike Lynch has more on it…

And here’s more from Mike Lynch’s post, describing the actual thing as the 1968 International Convention of Comic Art Progress Report for “all members, and only to members of the International Convention of Comic Art, which will be held at the Statler Hilton Hotel, Thirty-third street and Eighth Avenue, New York City from July 4th through July 7th, 1968, under the auspices of the Society for Comic Art Research and Preservation, Incorporated.”

Only page 2 of the Steranko/Seuling pages made it into the Progress Report #2, with the first appearing in Progress Report #1 and the third and fourth pages meant to be in the con booklet/program, but a last-minute cock-up ended with it printed loose and inserted into the program booklets.

Jim Steranko just burned so bright for too short a time, starting drawing comics in 1965 (he’d been an illusionist, magician and escape artist with several American circuses, carnivals and nightclubs and a musician prior to that).

Hired by Harvey Publications to create Spyman, Magicmaster and The Gladiator for the short-lived ‘Harvey Thriller’ line in 1966, his career exploded when Stan Lee came calling for Marvel Comics.

Hired as the penciller for the Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. back-up strip in Strange Tales, Steranko’s first job was filling in Kirby’s layouts, but within a couple of issues he’d taken over all the artwork, eventually writing, drawing, and colouring the Nick Fury strips.

The two and a half years on Strange Tales were followed by four issues of Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., three issues of the X-Men and three issues of  i- with Steranko often writing, pencilling, inking and colouring the lot. He continued to contribute covers to Marvel until 1970, but his last full story was a single issue of ‘Our Love Story’, published in 1970.

After that, Steranko pretty much left comics to concentrate on painting and book cover illustrations with just the occasional foray back in the sequential arts – ‘Frogs’ in Comixscene (1973), the illustrated novel Chandler: Red Tide (Pyramid, 1976), adaptations of the sci-fi short story ‘Repent Harlequin, Said the Ticktockman’ (Baronet, 1978) and the sci-fi thriller ‘Outland’ (Heavy Metal, 1981), and ‘The Exile at the Edge of Eternity’ in Superman #400 (DC, 1984).

The thing is, there’s plenty “wrong” with Steranko, his storytelling isn’t always the best, his figures can come across as stiff, even his anatomy feels a little off at times. But that just doesn’t matter, because Steranko pushed things, always going further and further, expanding what you could do in the visual language of comics, incorporating elements of psychedelic art, Op Art, surrealism, all to make comics that simply popped with energy and style.

So… a LOT of Steranko artwork to enjoy for you – and it’s all just sublime…

Strange Tales #155 (1967) – Just Steranko’s fifth issue at Marvel – and he’s writing, pencilling, and inking the Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Back-up strip.

Strange Tales #167 (1968) –

The quadruple page spread for ST #167 –

Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #5 (1968)

And more, more, more Nick Fury…


Captain America #111 (1968) – just a staggering use of colour and imagery for these credits…

More Cap pages…

Steranko History Of Comics – 1970

Steranko’s only romance story ‘My Heart Broke in Hollywood!’ – originally published in Our Love Story #5 (June 1970)

Frogs – originally published in Comixscene #3 (April 1973), a hugely experimental thing – with Steranko setting out 48 identically-sized panels that tell the story anyway you (the reader) want to read it.

The illustrated novel Chandler: Red Tide (Pyramid, 1976)

Adaptation of Harlan Ellison’s ‘Repent Harlequin, Said the Ticktockman’ (Baronet, 1978)

The graphic adaptation of the Sean Connery film Outland – from Heavy Metal (1981-1982)

Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 Reprint with a new Steranko cover… (1983)

‘The Exile at the Edge of Eternity’ in Superman #400 (DC, 1984)

Nick Fury Vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. (1988)

S.H.I.E.L.D. complete collection cover…

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