Week 3: Steranko Squared

Grading comics allowed for the large and vibrant vintage comic market to expand exponentially. Gone was the worry of missing pages, of undetected restoration, of missed cropping and of buying over graded books. All this had come at a cost because another thing gone was the interior art.

This column will celebrate the Splash page. You know, that page you will never get to see again because your comic is locked and sealed in a hard plastic case.

I think your jaw will drop with some of this art and I think you may even be tempted to crack that case open to see these gems first hand.


So I’ll go with noting the week and then a reference to one or more of the splash pages featured.

Jim Steranko is a wizard. I love the style and the mood of his splash page to Tower of Shadows #1, from September 1969.

One of my favourite artists in comics is the mighty John Buscema: he gives us a beautiful splash page to Avengers #62, from March 1969.

I could put a Steranko up every week but I’ll try not to by sneaking two in this week. Such an open, fresh and airy splash page for My Love #23 from May 1973.

I know its called Making a Splash but the column is here to highlight the art denied us by the CGC cases. John Romita’s single panel from Amazing Spider-Man #50 has turned out to be one of the most celebrated panels in comic history, from July 1967.

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Walter Durajlija
Walter Durajlija is an Overstreet Advisor and Shuster Award winner. He owns Big B Comics in Hamilton Ontario.
Articles: 1578

15 Comments

  1. Yes! Great choices all. It’s so interesting that Steranko tackled several genres at that time for Marvel, including romance. At the very end of the romance era, I believe, as the. Genre sputtered to an end.

    I can’t help but think Jim probably chose to draw this story because he wanted the challenge. Stan surely preferred him doing better selling super hero titles, but that’s Jim, pushing the envelope. Obviously I have been a huge fan since his first comics work for Marvel, which I was buying off the stands, such as the Strange Tales SHIELD stories even before SHIELD got its own title.

    I qualify that, since I was a bit too young…or just bypassed…that rather weird first run of his at Harvey. Still not MY Steranko, that stuff, but I suppose I should take another look.

    Yes! Really powerful Spidey panel. Again, I bought this off the spinner rack and those Soidey stories really spoke to me, every month, as a fifteen-year-old. Still does today. Powerful work by Stan and “that Ditko replacement” guy…Romita. It took a little while but I did buy into his very different interpretation from Ditko.

  2. All great works Walt! As a son of the Silver Age these all resonate well with me and your series touches on one aspect that has kept me away from encapsulated books… although that could change given the countless websites dedicated to showing the interior stories! Keep up the great series and I am even curious about modern takes on the splash as well!

  3. hi Bud…….without my getting into doing research……what did Steranko do for Harvey?? Very curious. I met Jim about 4 years ago and he couldn’t have been a nicer person. He signed a couple of things for me and then told stories until 2 or 3 in the morning. don’t believe he was necessarily a great artist (whatever that means) but his sense of style and design make him a truly one of a kind creator. I hope to have all of his work someday.

  4. Oh that would have been Spyman with his high-tech gadget hand Robin.
    I still have my beat up, coverless now, copy of one of the issues. I think some of his later poses at Marvel were probably influenced by his editor here, Joe Simon.

  5. I will be putting up modern splash pages for sure Gerald, as I gear up in this column I see that I’ll have to put up multiple splash pages each post.

    The next Steranko splash will have to be from his Harvey work!

  6. That Steranko My Love splash is just off the hook. Those art deco clouds make it. It was bad enough that you got me to chase these romance books for their covers – now you’ve got me wanting to see the interiors as well!

  7. Robin, our friend Jim_b has it right. I could’t remember the specifics of Steranko’s Harvey work—for good reason, I’m afraid.

    According to Grand Comics Database, he did Spyman #1 and 2, this being his first comics work in 1966, September cover date, and Double-Dare Adventures #1 and 2, also for Harvey. Then he jumped to Strange Tales #151 and that’s December cover date, so like Roy Thomas, he jumped ship almost immediately to the better company. Neal Adams also did some of his earliest superhero work in Spyman #1; before that he was only showing up doing mostly half-page Archie stories…gasp! Obviously editor Joe Simon recruited Neal, too, as well as Jim. Early GCD says Neal did one Panel in The Fly #4 for a Joe Simon story. Humble beginnings…

    I suppose I should take a look at those Harveys, but none of us back in those days thought anything of them. Steranko’s first work in Strange Tales began a bit rough…not unlike Barry Windsor-Smith’s beginnings on Conan. But it got better REALLY fast. Interesting that by cover date June 1968, Jim had full reins on Nick Fury #1, his first solo title after a long, steady run of SHIELD stories in Strange Tales. He was very consistent. And an exciting new talent to us, this was even before Neal Adams began to show up. Stan recognized talent when Steranko walked in the door. There’s an anecdote about him cold-calling on Stan for their first meeting, I just read again somewhere.

    It’s funny, my buddy out here, Alex Grand, tells much the same story of hanging with Steranko just last year at the Dallas Con. Alex runs a site called ComicBookHistorians.com. So Jim is consistent after all these years, a night owl, outgoing and generous with his time.

    My favorite Steranko story is celebrating Chester Grabowski’s birthday, I believe it was in Detroit at the show there. Maybe 1974 or ‘75. Chester was a good buddy of his and Phil Seuling’s, he like Phil grew up and still lived in Brooklyn. Another kid that grew up loving comics in the 1940s…by then an old-timer (to us youngsters) of maybe 40 years old. Jim drew a banner, “Happy Birthday to Chester, The Polish Prick” with an appropriate drawing, and we hung it up in the dealer’s room after hours and had cake and, I don’t know, beer or sodas.

    Jim also gave me a lecture on how cleavage sells, at one or more of the shows we both exhibited at. He used to set up, like a regular dealer, and sell his History of the Comics, his calendar, and other things. This was back when he still had his mail order business, the one he ran in his own Mediascene and then in his magazine Prevue, very much like what Warren had done in the back pages of Creepy, etc. with Captain Company. But Jim stuck more to straight comics, histories, art books, pin up stuff..the same kind of stuff I was selling…and I think some magic books.

  8. I’ve never read that Spidey issue but am familiar with that splash page. Neat stuff, Walt, had no idea Mr. Steranko did romance or horror but I guess one had to do it all. Did he do any funny animal stuff? I met him briefly once at an Edmonton comic con I think a long time or so ago.

  9. I can’t think of any funny animal from Steranko…he seems to have stuck to more straight stuff. His Shadow paperback covers are great. We used to haunt the racks for the latest pbs by Frazetta, Jeff Jones and the very occasional Steranko. Back when pbs were mostly $1.25 or less. I think Doc Savage with Bama covers were .50, and of course the ERB Frazetta and Krenkel covers were initially .40, then reprints came out at .50.

    These days at $9.99 I don’t anyone who’d buy a paperback just for the cover art.

  10. That’s a great essay on Steranko Bud. I’d ordered from his catalogue of stuff in Prevue mag and only have nice things to say about him and his friendly service and even talking to him on the phone a couple of times he was always a pleasure to deal with and came through with the goods. What a guy, I say.

    Actually if I remember right he had a small catalogue that I must have around somewhere, maybe it had a Talon image on the front? One of my prize pieces of his (besides the Supergirls calendar, ha) has to be the portfolio of Repent Harlequin! Said The Ticktockman

  11. Just listened to a Steranko interview on that cold meeting with Stan! Was great fun to hear the story from Steranko…and if him growing up.

  12. Me too Bud, all those artists caught my interest on pbs. I even had Steranko’s Talon poster for what 2$? Didn’t think it was printed that well, and chased his Shadow covers for years.

  13. Adding, Steranko did a few very good cover paintings for sf books though I don’t remember the titles now.

  14. Here’s one Steranko SF cover painting:

    https://comics.ha.com/itm/original-comic-art/jim-steranko-infinity-one-paperback-cover-original-art-lancer-books-1970-/a/830-92448.s?ic4=ListView-ShortDescription-071515

    and here’s a Shadow:

    https://comics.ha.com/itm/original-comic-art/paintings/jim-steranko-the-shadow-painting-original-art-undated-here-s-a-show-stopping-scarcity-a-jim-steranko-shadow-painting/a/821-44500.s?ic16=ViewItem-Auction-Archive-PreviousPricesHeritage-081514

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