"When I think about people who are really artists,
I think of Reed Crandall and Neal Adams and maybe
a half-dozen other people in comics who draw amazingly
well. If I had to categorize myself, I would probably say that I
belong to the class of storyteller."
Jim Steranko, Born a few days after Orson Well’s War of the worlds
classic broadcast in 1938, is one of the most versatile people ever to have been involved in the comic book industry. Some would say they know him from his years spent as a magician, or as publisher of his magazine
Prevue, now in it’s twenty second year of publication. Still some would know him by his movie posters, book cover paintings, his writing, or his filmmaking career. Steranko’s life shows the telltale signs of the dabbler, but his success in so many fields is very unique. Jim Steranko’s life is a testament to the statement that life is often stranger than fiction
, as few have accomplished as much in so many fields.
Steranko spent his early years working to improve his skills as a magician
and artist. His summer vacations were engrossed in carnivals and the circus. Eventually he became a professional escapist dropping his first name to follow suit with other giants in that field. "After all," he reasoned, "how many Sterankos could there be?" His performances during this time inspired the legendary Jack Kirby
to create the character Mr. Miracle
. After he had mastered his craft he moved to more conventional magic performances such as slight of hand, the Hindu bed of nails, and fire eating. He wrote several books about his quirky and unconventional approach to classic tricks, and became one of America's top ten "Card Stars" before he was 21 years old.
Almost overnight Steranko abandoned the world of magic to pursue a career in music and art. He learned to play a number of instruments, composed and arranged music and sang in a number of acts. "Music has always been closer to my heart than any other of my proceedings, and is infinitely more fulfilling. I often regret my decision to move out of that field.” In the world of art Steranko’s career flourished as well. Since the age of seventeen he had worked from a freelance artist to a prepress position in a printing firm. Then in 1965, at the age of 27, he met Captain America
creator Joe Simon. He then quickly emerged himself into the world of comics.
His first works were for Harvey Comics
, where he created the books Spyman, Magicmaster and The Gladiator. He was then hired by Stan Lee
and began working for Marvel Comics
on Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
. Steranko’s work can be seen internally on this comic from issues one to three and issue five. He did amazing cover work for the first seven issues. His approach to sequential art
was unique in that it came from a working knowledge of graphic design that had not yet been seen in the field. He used special effects and marketing tactics on the cover work that had never been seen by comic book readers. His comics work, which is limited to a mere thirty issues, has impacted the media profoundly.
Steranko produced internal and cover art for three of the best remembered silver age
Captain America issues (110, 111, 113), and also drew two issues of the Uncanny X-Men
(50,51). He also did work on an obscure Marvel romance title, My Love Story
, probably the most revered title in romance comics of that age.
In 1969 Steranko unveiled Supergraphics, his publishing company, and ventured into new territory. He launched Prevue, an internationally known newsstand magazine. He did countless movie posters. He created art for thirty books of The Shadow
. He’s done original set design for the films Raiders of the lost arc
and Bram Stoker’s Dracula
. During his forte with Supergraphics he has published more than sixty works.
Jim Steranko has been a celebrated member of every field of creativity he’s employed in, from magic to comic book art. He frequently lectures on pop culture, and has shown his work internationally at more than one hundred and sixty exhibitions, from the Sydney Opera House
in Australia to the Louvre. A recent poll in the Comic Buyer's Guide
named him as the twenty-first most influential artist in the history of the form. When asked about his abilities and talents he has said, “I have never thought of myself as an artist or a writer, but primarily as an entertainer."