Comics · Here, Read · Jim Steranko

Look Here, Read: Midnight Double Feature

[N.B.: I just noticed that the sixth page was missing from the first story. I uploaded it, but I got the image number wrong in the gallery code. So that’s been fixed.]

From Journey into Mystery #3 (October 1952), here’s “The Stroke of Midnight,” with uncredited script and art, although according to this page at comics.org, pencils and inks are by Vic Carrabotta (an artist I’d never heard of until I stumbled across the story a couple of months ago):

[CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE]

And, from Tower of Shadows #1 (September 1969), here’s “At the Stroke of Midnight,” with script and art by Jim Steranko:

[AGAIN, CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE]

Notice there are two covers above. The one with the couple staring wide-eyed at you, the reader, as they recoil, screaming, from an unseen horror, was designed and illustrated by Steranko specially for the inaugural issue of Tower of Shadows but was (in)famously rejected by editor Stan Lee in favour of a far more pedestrian effort by John Romita, et al., that featured a goofball portrait of the magazine’s host, Digger, in the upper left-hand corner. The title — “At the Stroke of Midnight!” — was also a Stan Lee imposition. Needless to say, Steranko was not pleased with what he viewed as Lee’s picayune editorial busywork. Here’s how the incident is described in the “Tower of Shadows” page at Wikipedia:

“At the Stroke of Midnight,” Steranko’s lead story in the premiere issue (Sept. 1969), won a 1969 Alley Award for Best Feature Story. Its creation had led to a rift between the celebrated Steranko and editor Lee that caused Steranko to stop freelancing for Marvel, the publisher that had showcased his highly influential work. Lee had rejected Steranko’s cover, and the two clashed over panel design, dialog, and the story title, initially “The Lurking Fear at Shadow House.” According to Steranko at a 2006 panel and elsewhere, Lee disliked or did not understand the homage to horror author H. P. Lovecraft, and devised his own title for the story. After much conflict, Steranko either quit or was fired. Lee phoned him about a month later, after the two had cooled down, and Steranko would return to produce several covers for Marvel from 1972-73.

5 thoughts on “Look Here, Read: Midnight Double Feature

  1. I’ve always loved that Steranko story…he was always one of my favorite artists, but his shadowy style for that one and his similar style for his graphic novel Red Tide is to me his best work…that is, the most dramatic. Great post!

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  2. If you like Steranko’s work in “At the Stroke of Midnight” and Red Tide, Clayton, you should also take a look at Steranko’s adaptation of the movie Outland. The movie itself was weak, but Steranko’s visual style/storytelling is nothing less than inspired.

    Steranko’s Outland might just be the best comics adaptation of a movie of all time.

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  3. Oh wow! Thanks for that post…your right, inspired is the word. Do you know where that was published, or is it a stand alone graphic novel? That is definitely worth hunting down…I suppose I could start at the link you’ve already provided. Thanks again!

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  4. I’m glad you like it, Clayton. You noticed that you can click to enlarge the images on that site, right?

    Steranko’s Outland was serialized from July to October 1981 and January 1982 in Heavy Metal Magazine. There’s a four-page preview of Steranko’s adaptation in the June 1981 issue, but it’s not integral to the story, so if you’re looking to buy the back issues with Outland but save a bit of money, you can safely skip that one. I don’t think the story was ever published as a stand-alone graphic novel in English, but maybe someone out there knows better…

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  5. Thanks again, RC! Yes, I noticed the enlarged images…Awesome ! This might be something to hunt down at the San Diego Comic-Con this year, if I don’t find it before. I usually see Mr. Steranko there…a super nice guy, the type of Super Star artist who knows that his fans are his biggest asset, always willing to sign something or chat a little bit. Thanks a lot.

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