Steranko, Jim 1938–
Steranko, Jim 1938–
PERSONAL: Born November 5, 1938, in Reading, PA.
ADDRESSES: Office—Supergraphics, P.O. Box 4489, Reading, PA 19606. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Graphic artist, illustrator, and lecturer. Worked variously as a magician and escape artist, photographer, male model, typographer, standup comic, musician, newspaper artist, and art director with an advertising firm; founder of Supergraphics, Reading, PA, and Mediascene (periodicals; retitled Prevue in 1980). Exhibitions: Work widely exhibited in the United States and abroad.
The Steranko History of Comics, two volumes, Supergraphics (Reading, PA), 1970–72.
(Self-illustrated) Chandler: Red Tide, Supergraphics (Reading, PA), 1976.
(Illustrator) Nick Fury: Scorpio, Marvel (New York, NY), 2001.
(Illustrator, with Roy Thomas, Stan Lee, and Jack Kirby) Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Marvel (New York, NY), 2001.
(Illustrator, with Jack Kirby) Stan Lee, Essential Captain America, Marvel (New York, NY), 2002.
(Illustrator) Stan Lee, Arnold Drake, Marvel Visionaries, Marvel (New York, NY), 2003.
Author of books on magic; contributor of illustrations to comic-book series Spyman, Magicmaster, and Gladiator, for Harvey Publications, and to Nick Fury, Captain America, and X-Men for Marvel.
ADAPTATIONS: Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. was adapted for film.
SIDELIGHTS: Jim Steranko's considerable reputation in the world of comics is based on fewer than thirty issues, and primarily for his illustration work on the Nick Fury comic-book series. He also contributed to issues of the Captain America and X-Men series. Michelle Nolan wrote in a biography of Steranko for Bud Plant Comic Art online that he "is one of the most colorful and accomplished of all artists who have ever worked in comic books. He is also one of the most versatile people ever to labor in the field."
Steranko designed comic-book covers for Marvel until 1973, and has created covers, posters, prints, and other graphic designs through his company, Supergraphics, which he founded in 1969. Steranko drew one romance comic for Marvel in 1970, and Our Love Story, number five, is now a very collectible issue. During the 1970s, he produced his own graphic novel, Chandler: Red Tide. Steranko has also contributed his design talents to films, including, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Bram Stoker's Dracula, and he founded the magazine Mediascene, the name of which he changed to Prevue in 1980.
Steranko was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, which is also the location of Supergraphics. He was an outstanding high-school athlete in gymnastics, boxing, and fencing. At an early age, Steranko went on the road; Jack Kirby's strip "Mr. Magician" is based on Steranko's time as a teen traveling with carnivals and circuses, performing magic and as an escape artist who cast off straitjackets and handcuffs and emerged from vaults, underground graves, locked prison cells, packing crates that had been nailed shut, and from containers that had been dropped into rivers. The young Steranko also appeared as a fire eater and on a Hindu bed of nails. He then changed his act, using cards and coins and sleightof-hand to entertain audiences. He also wrote several books on his techniques—all this before he was twenty-one years old.
At age twenty-one, Steranko stopped performing magic and turned his attention to becoming a professional musician. He played at night, and during the day, he held a variety of art and printing-related jobs, eventually working his way up to become art director of an advertising agency. Steranko, who played a number of instruments, formed his own bands during the dawn of rock and roll, and at one point, he played with Bill Haley of Bill Haley and the Comets. Another of his accomplishments is that he was the first to put go-go girls on display.
In 1965, Joe Simon, creator of the Captain America series, provided the inspiration that changed Steranko's career. Steranko briefly worked for Harvey, on three short-lived comics, but his work caught the eye of Stan Lee, who hired Steranko to pencil his Nick Fury comic series. Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Dr. Strange series both ran together in the comic book Strange Tales. Initially, Steranko worked on the layouts of Jack Kirby, but eventually he took over, changing the look and feel of the stories. Andy Etris noted in a biography for Comic Art & Graffix Gallery online that Steranko expanded on the sci-fi aspects, "employing an amazing variety of graphic tricks, including the unusual points of view, moire screens, and Benday dots, and completely reorganizing the composition of frames on the page. The 'Fury' strip turned into a tour de force of graphic effects that had never been so thoroughly explored in the comics. His work became a major influence on contemporary comix artists." Steranko has said that he put all of his own experiences into the stories.
Before producing illustrations for George Lucas's film Raiders of the Lost Ark and becoming a project conceptualist for Francis Ford Coppola's "Dracula" film, Steranko collaborated with French director Alain Resnais and Italian director Federico Fellini. He also worked for Paramount Studios and with animators Ralph Bakshi and Shamus Culhane. In 1970, he produced The Block, a widely praised comic book about drug abuse that was distributed to children in urban schools, including in New York and Philadelphia.
Steranko's art has been displayed in more than 200 exhibitions, including in the Louvre, and his original covers have sold at auction for more than twenty thousand dollars. A reader's poll taken by Comics Buyer's Guide in the 1990s, found him high on the list of influential comic artists throughout history, an incredible result considering that it had been decades since his heyday in the business. Steranko's two-volume The Steranko History of Comics is a complete history beginning with pulp comics until its printing in 1970.
J. David Spurlock wrote in a biography on the Dark Horse Comics Web site that Steranko "brought the noir sensibility to comics: in his characterizations … narrative themes … and the visual style he used to develop them." Spurlock commented that in bringing his own life to his stories, Steranko created "a graphic tour de force that produced more than seventy-five innovations never seen previously in comics." Spurlock concluded by saying that Steranko is also "still the best-dressed man in comics."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Bud Plant Comic Art Web site, http://www.budplant.com/ (January 15, 2004), Michelle Nolan, Steranko biography.
Comic Art & Graffix Gallery Web site, http://www.comic-art.com/ (February 15, 2004), Andy Etris, Steranko biography.
Dark Horse Comics Web site, http://www.darkhorse.com/ (September 30, 1999), J. David Spurlock, Steranko biography.
DragonCon Web site, http://www.dragoncon.org/ (February 15, 2004), Steranko biography.
Prevue Online, http://www.prevuemag.com/ (February 15, 2004).
Jim Steranko Home Page, http://www.steranko.com (May 5, 2004).