Steranko is one of those guys that just took the way things were done and wrenched it all to hell. I love his distinctive style, and in some ways it seems strange that his amazing blend of pop art and surrealism inspired very few imitators… but I suppose it’s because he was such an artistic anomaly that others didn’t have the ability to draw or design like him without resorting to outright artistic theft. Surrealism, frankly, shouldn’t work in a sequential medium, but Steranko made it happen.
Some examples of the oddities that might be found within a given Steranko comic. I almost feel like I’m being immersed in the images, drawn into them.
Two of the most imitated Steranko covers. I love the feeling of isolation in the Fury cover, and the sense of rage and power in the Hulk cover. I can remember reading the Hulk comic to shreds when I was a kid. Can’t remember where I picked up a copy. Probably a garage sale. I don’t remember the story being worthy of that cover, but it didn’t matter… I sat that cover on a bookcase where I could stare at it.
Two more views of the man himself. The first is from one he was making his living as an escape artist, and then the second is from when he was making his living killing Russian spies and sleeping with Mongolian princesses. (Okay… I made up that second part, but he WAS an escape artist)
A look at a couple of covers and their originals. Again… simple designs with strong messages.
Classic Steranko in action.
They’re not comic covers, but it’s worth pointing out that Jim did quite a number of covers for paperback novels. He’s a great fan of the pulp heroes, and his articles / books on the history of comics and the great pulp characters are quite good reads. He’s not only a historic artist for comics, he’s a comics historian.
Parts you’ve probably read in earlier posts:
You might not see your favorite artist during this countdown. That’s okay. Don’t get mad. Some of MY favorite artists aren’t here. Hugo Pratt, Bernie Krigstein, Mike Wieringo… these guys (and others) are fantastic artists, but their covers just don’t strike me. Some people need sequential panels in order to have their art sing… and that’s okay. Furthermore, this list is subjective to my moods of the moment, so if you disagree with me, then rest assured that I probably disagree with me, too. That said, I welcome any and all comments as this list progresses over time.
THE FINE PRINT: (Why I’m doing this)
Recently, on a trip to a comic store, I was DISGUSTED by the overall lack of design on covers. Most covers were nothing more than two or three characters punching each other and snarling, the exact kind of design that I would have worked out when I was eight years old, and spat on by the time I was ten. So, why do such covers proliferate the shelves? One reason is for trade dressing… so that any cover can be put upon almost any trade compilation, which is one of the reasons behind the other Far Too Common cover design… that of the character or team standing at attention, looking tough, staring at the viewer. Fuck that. I’m lucky enough to work largely with editor Nate Cosby, who does very good work at hiring talented cover artists and creating covers that don’t piss me off, but in consideration of my other less lucky friends, and the industry as a whole, I’m going to spend the next few weeks counting down my own personal Top 40 Comic Book Cover Artists… the ones who got it right.