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Steranko, James

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Artist, Author, Comics.

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(1938-    ) US Comic-book illustrator, writer and one-time stage magician and escapologist; Jack Kirby based his comic-book character Mr Miracle – Super Escape Artist (1971) on Steranko. His byline is most often Jim Steranko, but sometimes just Steranko. Influenced early in his career by Kirby, Steranko rapidly developed a reputation for originality, especially with his work for Marvel Comics on the sf comic-book character Nick Fury, first for Strange Tales 1966-1968 (no connection with the weird-fiction magazine Strange Tales) and then for Nick Fury, Agent of Shield June 1968-March 1971, and also for his work on X-Men and Captain America. Some of his Nick Fury covers – he painted the first seven covers and drew the stories of #1-#3 and #5 – were revolutionary for comic books of that time in their bold design and utilization of Surrealist themes. Steranko was not so much an innovator per se as an artist who took a number of techniques hitherto seldom (and haphazardly) used and welded them into a new style in which the design unit became the double-page, not just the single frame. Like Kirby's, Steranko's narrative technique is strongly cinematic, but his work is more stylized and baroque, and less straightforwardly representational. Considering the height of his reputation, he has done remarkably few comics, but he has been much imitated, by Philippe Druillet among others. Steranko worked occasionally in the sf Illustration field, producing one cover for Amazing, some work for Infinity, and also paperback covers for Pyramid Books's reprints of The Shadow (see The Shadow).

In 1970 Steranko left Marvel to found Supergraphics in order to publish his projected six-volume history of Pulp magazines and comics. Of this only the first two volumes have appeared: The Steranko History of the Comics (1970) and The Steranko History of the Comics Volume 2 (1972). He has published and edited a bimonthly tabloid magazine/newspaper called Comixscene 1974-1975 and then Mediascene 1974-1980; with #41 in 1980 it became a slick movie magazine called Prevue. A planned Sword-and-Sorcery comic-book project, «Talen», never materialized, although previews and sketches were published in 1968. He wrote and drew: a remarkable Graphic Novel, Chandler: Red Tide (graph 1976), which can only be described as Chandleresque; an adaptation of the film Outland (1981) as Outland (June 1981-January 1982 Heavy Metal), collected in Graphic Novel form in France, Italy and Spain though not in English; and a 10pp strip celebrating Superman in DC Comics's special #400 of that title (1984). He created a unique series of 3D illustrations (requiring 3D spectacles) for Harlan Ellison's "'Repent, Harlequin,' Said the Ticktockman" (December 1965 Galaxy) in The Illustrated Harlan Ellison (graph coll 1978). He contributed concept art to Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) (see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) and Dracula (1992; vt Bram Stoker's Dracula). Among his many Awards are the 1970 Best Illustrator of the Year Award and the 2006 Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame. [PN/JG/RT/JP]

James Steranko

born Reading, Pennsylvania: 5 November 1938



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