I’ve seen a few fantasy and SF paperbacks with covers by James Steranko on the shelves at local bookstores and thrift shops over the years, but I’ve rarely bothered to buy any. Here’s a scan of one that I did buy:
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I also found a copy of Steranko’s 1976 “visual novel” Chandler priced at $3.99 at the local Value Village, so I bought that, too, and scanned the cover for display:
Now, that’s a very strong cover, no doubt, but I think that anyone who is familiar with the work of Gustav Klimt will tell you that the composition of Foster’s illustration owes a clear debt to Klimt’s Medicine (1901), a large-scale ceiling painting that was destroyed in a fire started by the Nazis and is known to us only by a black-and-white photograph of the finished work and a small colour preliminary:
Although at first glance you might be tempted to conclude that, in addition to being inspired by Klimt’s composition, Foster flat-out swiped the figure of the woman suspended in space in the upper-left-hand quadrant of Klimt’s painting, I think a closer comparison of the two figures suggests that what Foster actually did was hire his own model and instruct her to strike a pose similar to one Klimt chose for his model.
Just came across an illustration (with collage elements) by Jim Steranko, published in 1970, that obviously shares a strong family resemblance with the cover illustration by Foster, published in 1968, featured above:
[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):
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And, from Tower of Shadows #1 (September 1969), here’s “At the Stroke of Midnight,” with script and art by Jim Steranko:
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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.
The famous cover of Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D #6 (November 1968) is commonly referred to as Steranko’s “homage to Wally Wood” — that spacesuit! — although many have noted that the cover could almost as easily be seen as an homage to Famous Funnies #214, with art by Frazetta. I don’t, however, recall anyone mentioning what I believe is a swipe by Steranko from the opening panel of “The Man in Grey,” World of Fantasy #7 (May 1957), with art by Gray Morrow. Or maybe I’m just seeing things. Take a look and decide for yourself…
Yes, the yellow-and-orange-suited figure on the 1952 cover of Weird Science #15 (art by Wally Wood; see above) is in the ballpark — it may, in fact, have been an influence on both Morrow and Steranko — but there’s something about that Morrow panel…
From a 33-year-old catalogue of “original art for sale” entitled Cartoonists and Illustrator’s Portfolio Volume Three (Wyomissing, PA: Supergraphics, 1978), here’s a short interview with Barry Windsor-Smith, conducted by the catalogue’s publisher, James Steranko:
Revolutionary artist Barry Windsor-Smith takes on the Uncanny X-Men! The original X-Men go toe-to-toe against Blastaar, deadly menace from the Negative Zone! Storm and Forge find themselves trapped on a primitive paradise world with no hope of escape! Spiral and Lady Deathstrike target Wolverine for death! And Dazzler is hunted by the Marauders, with only the X-Men to save her!
“Arnold Drake (Author)”? Funny, I bought the LifeDeath comics, back in the day, and I don’t remember that at all… but anyway, it’ll be nice to have the work on my bookshelf in hardcover form… I just hope they don’t screw up the colour too badly…