Happy birthday to superstar Jim Steranko from his friends at SYFY WIRE!
Long before cool was cool, Steranko set the comic book industry ablaze with a late '60s style and confident swagger that is still reverberating within the business today.
The Eisner Award-winning creator skyrocketed beyond the Marvel mentorship of Jack "King" Kirby and delivered an entire new sensibility and artfulness to costumed crimefighters, infusing his compositions with pop art and op art influences and his gripping stories with macho, muscular prose. From epic covers for Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Captain America to the X-Men and Strange Tales, Steranko left a permanent mark that sliced deep.
They say the light that burns twice as bright burns half as long, but Steranko is still cutting new trails as he marks his 79th birthday today, loaded with fresh projects galore and deluxe artist's editions of his works being released yearly.
Here's the master in his own indelible words on this auspicious occasion!
"To celebrate another trip around the Sun, SYFY asked me to name FIVE of my favorite Steranko comic book covers. Hey, they're ALL my children, and each holds a certain resonance for me. But if I have to shake out a quintet, they might be SHIELD 6, X-MEN 50, SHIELD 5, CAPTAIN AMERICA 111, and SHIELD 7.
"But because it's my day, I'd rather kick back and let someone else do the work. I'm certain SYFY can Shanghai a few willing participant notables on such short notice.
"However, to kick it off, here are some declarations from my longtime pal, award-winning author-historian J. David Spurlock. JDS and I first connected way back in '72, when I founded and managed Marvel's official fan club, FOOM! And we've had plenty of adventures since. Let's see what these nuggets spark in his grey matter. Rock it, JDS:"
NICK FURY, AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D. #6 - NOVEMBER 1968
The famous Wally Wood tribute—complete with bubble-helmeted spaceman and photo-collage background. Steranko conceived the piece hoping his old friend Woody would accept his invitation to ink it—making it a collaboration with one of his mentors. But Wood declined, claiming Steranko put "too much detail" into his work which, ironically, was a trait Steranko had picked up from Wood's 1950's art. Upon publication, Wood really liked it and admitted, "You were right—I should have inked it!"
X-MEN #50 - NOVEMBER 1968
A landmark cover for a landmark issue. Steranko premieres his co-creation, Polaris. In addition to a stunning, impossible-to-ignore composition, the piece features innovative, limited-palette color by Steranko and—not just black power globules (aka Kirby Krackle) but—for the first time ever, WHITE globules as well! And let's not forget, issue 50 was the first to showcase the dynamic, Steranko X-MEN logo—which is still being used today!
NICK FURY, AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D. #5 - OCTOBER 1968
This colorful, uniquely Steranko, movie poster-esque composition epitomizes the 1960s as much as anything from famous Pop Art maestros, Andy Warhol, Peter Max, and/or Roy Lichtenstein. How many experts know that Steranko initially created the image for SHIELD 1—which was rejected by Stan as "not a Marvel cover!" A tsunami of SHIELD mail changed his mind by issue 5!
CAPTAIN AMERICA #111 - MARCH 1969
In addition to featuring Steranko's character creation, Madam Hydra, this one has it all: power, splash, panache, innovative design, graphic impact, engaging characters, unique use of color and more. Another Steranko Pop-Art statement that put the innovator at the top of Marvel's creative list!
NICK FURY, AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D. #7 - DECEMBER 1968
A few pre-Steranko items in the history of comics from the likes of Ditko, Kirby, Wolverton and/or Winsor McCay could constitute surrealism in comics. But, no one else inspired and effected as many as did Steranko, whose evocative, surrealistic images highpoint his career, from this Dali-like tableau, through his artistic, 3D extrapolations of Harlan Ellison's "Repent Harlequin" and beyond. Steranko cites discovering Dali's surrealistic work during his childhood as one of the great "invisible epiphanies" of his life.
Thanks to the Hall of Famer's long-time agent and publisher J. David Spurlock for his illuminating analysis.
Which of Steranko's striking covers would you pick as your Top 5? Now help blow out the birthday candles on this cool cat's cake and tell us which of his Marvel works take the prize in the comments below.