How could Marvel Comics have known that when they hired Jim Steranko in 1966, they would be hiring one of the most influential and innovative comic creators of all time?
Born November 5, 1938, Jim Steranko grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania. While growing up, he drew an early interest in magic, even taking it as far as working in the circus and carnival as a magician and escape artist. His history in magic would lead him to create a comic series entitled “Mr. Miracle” that was based on his life. At 21, Steranko would leave his career as a magician to become a professional musician.
During this time, Steranko found work as a freelance newspaper artist and even gained a position in the art department of a printing firm. After spending some time learning commercial printing techniques, Steranko would become an art director of an advertising firm, abling him to practice commercial design and perfect his copywriting skills. Unwilling to give up on his dream of becoming a musician, he would do commercial design and copywrite during the day and music at night.
In 1965, a meeting with Joe Simon would convince him to give drawing for the comics a try.
With newfound inspiration, he set out and found work at Harvey Publications. Unfortunately, within just a few issues of the publications he was working on, the line folded. Not all was lost for Steranko as his work got the attention of then Marvel Comics Editor, Stan Lee. Soon thereafter, Steranko found himself pencilling “Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Initially, Steranko would fill in the layouts created by Jack Kirby but would soon take over the series. This was the opportunity that he needed. He immediately began to experiment with the medium. He employed tactics that were unusual for comics as he began to play with unusual points of view, started to restructure the composition of the pages, utilize Benday Dots (think Roy Lichtenstein) and moire screens.
In 1969, he began his own publishing firm, “Supergraphics”. Through this, he was able to publish the very popular entertainment magazine “Mediascene” as well as his own “History of Comics”.
He would continue to work as a cover artist for Marvel until 1973.
In 1976, Steranko wrote, drew and produced Chandler: Red Tide. This was an illustrated novel for Preiss Visual Publications.
With an exception here and there, Steranko has rarely worked in comics since.
- He wrote, drew, coloured, and lettered Superman 400 for DC Comics in 1984.
- He worked did cover, character and logo designs for Hercules: The Thracian Wars for Radical Comics
- In 2012, he created poster art for RZG Comics
Steranko has won numerous awards in his career. Some of these includes:
- His series Nick Fury, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was inducted into Alley Award Hall of Fame
- He has won multiple Alley Awards (Best Pencil Artist, Best Feature Story and Best Cover)
- A Shazam Award
Although he wouldn’t stay in comics as long as some of the other artists, Steranko’s work is influential and has set the bar for years to come.