Thursday, January 30, 2014

Jim Steranko's Nick Fury Agent of S.H.E.I.L.D.

Jim Steranko was a phenomenon. He exploded onto the comics scene in the mid 60's doing the triple threat of writer, penciler AND inker and all better than anyone. In the few years that he worked in the field he revolutionized the industry.
Strange Tales #167, April 1968 is a great example of one of the many stunning covers that Steranko produced in his brief time spent in the comic book industry.

Strange Tales #155 (Apr. 1967) was Steranko's 5th issue working for Marvel and already he was penciling, inking and writing Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Back-up feature in Strange Tales!
Like most pros at Marvel, he assimilated much of Jack King Kirby’s style into his own but he didn’t stop there. He then went on to assimilate much of the popular art movement of the time like OP Art and Psychedelic art.
Psychedelic art often used optical effects in it as seen in these examples by San Fransisco psychedelic poster artist Victor Moscoso.

Not only was he a master of comic art, he also master the writing side. His comics are as action packed as any in all of popular culture. It’s been said that even the James Bond movie people were picking up things from him.

His work on Strange Tales is one of those great documents of artistic development that happens from time to time where we get to see a great artist develop before our very eyes. In 2 and a half years (Dec. 1966 to May 1968) he went from inking Kirby’s pencils to finishing Kirby’s layouts to full fledged penciler inker and finally writer as well. At the height of his powers he was doing all of these better than anyone in the industry.

This is his contribution to Strange Tales #167, just one issue shy of finishing his stellar run on Strange Tales.

Not to be outdone by anyone, Steranko didn't just make a double page spread, he did a quadruple page spread!
In the bottom panel you can see some of the Op Art influence on Steranko's work with the optical effect between Fury and the Yellow Claw.

Unfortunately his time in comics was all too short. He spent 2 and a half years honing his skills on Strange Tales and then as he reached his zenith, he whipped out a number of classic works like 4 full issues of Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., 3 full issues of the X-Men and 3 full issues of Captain America all written drawn, inked and colored, all the best work of it’s kind and all within a year. After this he did a few more little works and then was finished with comics.

He was a star that came in fast, burned brighter than anyone and faded away into history but a star that will be remembered.

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