Comic Artist Jim Steranko celebrates
He was an escape artist, magician and musician in a rock and roll band jazz band that once opened for Bill Haley and The Comets. He claims to have invented go-go girls and once slapped Batman creator Bob Kane in the face.
Legendary artist Jim Steranko, best know for his art work on Marvel Comic's Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.E.I.L.D. and Captain America in the late 1960s, made an appearance Saturday at The Comic Book Shop on Marsh Road. Other special guests celebrating The Comic Book Shop's fifth year in business, owned by Patrick and Sarah Titus, were Ren and Stimpy co-creator Bob Camp and David Spurlock, founder of Vanguard Productions.
Spurlock, who is Steranko's agent, said Steranko is a bit of a renaissance man - he also writes and published his own magazine for 25 years.
"He was still playing music regularly when he started at Marvel, which was in late '66. In fact, he was working as an art director at an ad agency during the day, would then go play a gig with his band at night, get home about 2 a.m., do his Marvel work [until] day break then shower and go back to the ad agency," Spurlock said. "And while he was doing his Marvel work between 2 a.m. and daybreak, he was doing it with sunglasses on."
At a youthful looking 76 years of age, Steranko consumes only one meal a day, rarely drinks alcohol and eats mainly vegetables.
"After studying him for years I've distilled a list of Steranko's super powers: he can escape out of anything, can see in the dark, does not require sleep and can put himself in suspended animation. " Spurlock said.
Steranko also has the power of suggestion at his command: One day in the mid 1960s while in New York City seeking a publisher for his work, Jim stopped by the Marvel Comics offices at 4:55 p.m., right at the end of the workday. Seeing the office manager "Fabulous" Flo Steinberg Jim announced, "I'm here to see Stan Lee". Flo chucked softly and said incredulously, "No one gets to see Stan Lee". Tucking his artwork firmly under her arm, he retorted, "You show him this, he will see me."
Taken slightly aback by his boldness, she went to speak with publisher Stan Lee. She returned shortly with a surprised look on her face and said to Jim, "Stan will see you!"
At that meeting, Stan gave Jim choice of any Marvel book because he saw what he called "energy" in Steranko's artwork. Of all the titles, he picked the lowest selling, Strange Tales featuring Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.D. He could have picked a top seller, Fantastic Four, written by another comic book legend at the time, Jack Kirby. To follow Kirby, Steranko thought, would have been suicide. Thinking that Strange Tales was the dregs, the only way for the publication's sales to go was up. Stan accepted Jim's choice. Soon, Jim was writing, penciling, inking and coloring the title. And sales took off. Eventually, Nick Fury would spin off into his own title, with Steranko at the creative helm.
In later years following his comic work for Marvel, Steranko also worked in film with some of the biggest producers in Hollywood. Among his creative credits includes work on Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula and as a consultant for a Batman film Oliver Stone wanted to produce. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg also tapped Steranko to develop the first conceptual art of Indiana Jones for Raiders of The Lost Ark before Harrison Ford was even chosen to play the part. Many elements of the characters look were suggested by Steranko.
On Saturday, crowds of fans continued to file into The Comic Book Shop for their coveted moment of conversation with this legendary creator, well past his schedule appearance time. Always the gentleman, Steranko took the time to engage with fans that came to meet him and told the story behind the creation of the comic book or print placed before him by a fan for an autograph. Steranko said he was delighted to meet the many fans that came and hopes to return to The Comic Shop again one day.
The next big event at The Comic Book Shop will be Free Comic Book Day weekend on May 2 with special guests to be announced.