Jim Steranko has worn many hats in his career—artist, author, illustrator, art director, designer, entertainer—but he wore them all when he put on quite a show at Marvel Comics at the end of the Silver Age. It began in 1966 when, as a virtual unknown, he was handed complete control of a second-string Jack Kirby character, the James Bond-knockoff Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD. He promptly used Fury as an unlikely launching pad for his meteoric rise to prominence, which would result in him being dubbed the Jimi Hendrix of comics!
Steranko invested the B-feature with a startling array of cinematic and stage storytelling techniques, wedded to the ascendant Kirby/Marvel style of in-your-face power. The combination was an explosion of alchemical proportions, and it blew the field wide open. Each issue, indeed each page of Steranko’s Marvel works—including a stunning trilogy of Captain America stories—was a supercharged surprise, as Steranko relentlessly, iconoclastically experimented with mixed media applications, fusing a graphic designer’s with an illustrator’s approach to the medium of sequential storytelling.
His influence on the field today is in converse proportion to the relatively small body of work he produced for Marvel between 1966 and ’70. Looking back on that work, Steranko remarked, somewhat rhetorically, ”After your fifty or sixty years are up, you’ll be able to look back and see this output that you’ve done, that will endure long after you’re gone, and will continue to fill the minds of millions of people.”