Jim Steranko had his beginnings in comics in 1966, when he landed assignments at Harvey Comics under editor Joe Simon, who as one writer described was “trying to create a line of super heroes within a publishing company that had specialized in anthropomorphic animals.” Here Steranko created and wrote the characters Spyman, Magicmaster and the Gladiator for the company’s short-lived superhero line, Harvey Thriller. His first published comics art came in Spyman #1 (Sept. 1966), for which he wrote the 20-page story “The Birth of a Hero” and penciled the first page, which included a diagram of a robotic hand that was reprinted as an inset on artist George Tuska’s cover
Steranko also approached Marvel Comics in 1966. He met with editor Stan Lee, who had Steranko ink a two-page Jack Kirby sample of typical art for the superspy feature “Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.”. Steranko self-published it in 1970 in the limited-edition “Steranko Portfolio One”; it appeared again 30 years later in slightly altered form in the 2000 trade-paperback collection Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. This led to Lee’s assigning him the Nick Fury feature in Strange Tales, a “split book” that shared each issue with another feature. Future Marvel editor-in-chief Roy Thomas, then a staff writer, recalled,
Steranko began his stint on the feature by penciling and inking “finishes” over Kirby layouts in Strange Tales #151 (Dec. 1966), just as many fellow new Marvel artists did at the time. Two issues later, Steranko took over full penciling and also began drawing the every-other-issue “Nick Fury” cover art. Then, in a rarity for comics artists, he took over the series’ writing with #155 (April 1967), following Roy Thomas, who had succeeded Lee. In another break with custom, he himself, rather than a Marvel staff artist, had become the series’ uncredited colorist by that issue.
“Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” soon became one of the creative zeniths of the Silver Age, and one of comics’ most groundbreaking, innovative and acclaimed features. Wrote Les Daniels, in his Comix: A History of Comic Books in America, Even the dullest of readers could sense that something new was happening. … With each passing issue Steranko’s efforts became more and more innovative.
Steranko’s Marvel work became a benchmark of ’60s pop culture, combining the traditional comic book art styles of Wally Wood and Jack Kirby with the surrealism of Richard Powers and Salvador Dalí. There will be many key Steranko issues up on www.cybercomicsandtoys.com for sale soon!
Here is one of his Captain America issues whose cover strikes immediately at several emotions: grief, pride, fear, hatred and things that go bump in the night. I want to shout “Look out!” This is comic cover genius!
Captain America #113 published in May 1969