The Original Cover Artist: Jim Steranko

by Matt Tuck

Incredible-Hulk-Annual-1-214x300 The Original Cover Artist: Jim SterankoWith so many variants being thrown at us, it’s no wonder that you have more artists making a career by just doing covers. The hottest names at the moment include Gabrielle Dell’Otto, Francesco “Matt” Mattina, and Clayton Crain. Back in the 1960s, Jim Steranko’s covers were unmatched. 

“Don’t be a stranger.”

That’s what Jim Steranko told me as he shook my hand (he did one of those two-handed shakes with the left hand over the top). “Don’t be a stranger. Okay?” I didn’t really know what to do since I’d already told him thank you for signing my Captain America #111, and the hand shaking just kept going and going. Then things got awkward when he wanted to know how much I could bench press while still shaking my hand. I didn’t expect an 80-year-old man to be interested in my strength training, but I was nonetheless flattered.

So there you have it: my Jim Steranko story, and I fondly share that with you. I considered myself lucky to get to meet a living legend in the business. He was brought into Marvel to follow in the footsteps of Jack Kirby, but Steranko separated himself with a more pyschedleic, surrealist take on comic art. That’s the thing with Steranko: not only are his covers spectacular, but his interior work is equally impressive. I only wish more artists would follow in his image.

To celebrate my fandom, I’m going to spotlight three of my favorite Steranko covers. I’m not going to be able to get to all his classic work, so feel free to add a photo comment of any you feel I neglected.

INCREDIBLE HULK ANNUAL #1

This is one of the most reproduced covers in comics. It encapsulates all that makes the Hulk, well, the Hulk. (On a side note, I happen to have a t-shirt of IHA #1, not that it matters.) What collectors may not know is how quickly the price on this one is shooting up. Over the past 12 months, 11 graded 8.0s have sold on eBay, and nine of those have been in 2018. Those 11 have averaged $233, but what’s more impressive is that one of those sold for a record $325.

NICK FURY: AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D. #1

In my humble opinion, if any single issue embodies Steranko’s artistic style, it’s Nick Fury #1. The cover art is a masterpiece in both his pencil work and the story he is telling with the placement of the characters on toy blocks, sending the message that they are all pieces in a bigger game. This version of Nick Fury is very much inspired by the spy genre of the 1960s, and it is enthralling. As far as investing, this one has experienced a lull in recent years. The graded 8.5, which once brought sales as high as $250 five years ago, hasn’t cracked $200 since 2015. However, it is showing signs of life; earlier this month, one brought $175.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #111

Finally, I present to you Captain America #111. The cover is classic Captain America thrusting his shield in the air with danger lurking behind him. It’s the interior art that I find more interesting. Steranko’s abstract full-page art is mesmerizing. From an investing perspective, Cap #111 is worth a closer look. Over the past 12 months, nearly all grades have seen an increased fair market value. The 8.5 grade tends to be the most popular, and its FMV has increased from $109 in 2016 to $150 since last August. You’ll also want to watch the 7.0 grade; after averaging $65 last year, its 90-day FMV has jumped to $114.

 

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