Happy Independence Day 2021

Our annual post.

Jim Steranko’s cover to Strange Tales 167

Today, July 4, is Independence Day in the United States.

For this blog, there’s no better image to celebrate the holiday than this Jim Steranko cover from Strange Tales No. 167, published in January 1968. The issue was the climax to a months-long saga that Steranko wrote and drew featuring the intrepid Nick Fury and the forces of SHIELD.

For more background, CLICK HERE for a 2000 article that originally appeared on the Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website. Happy July Fourth to everyone.

Jim Steranko still having an impact on spy-fi

Jim Steranko’s 1968 cover to Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD No. 4, which influenced the cover of a James Bond comic book from Dynamite Comics.

Decades after Jim Steranko made his spy-fi flash with Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD, the writer-artist still is having an impact on spy entertainment.

Dynamite Comics, as part of its continuing series of James Bond stories, opted to have one cover modeled after a Steranko Nick Fury cover from 1968 (see above; the same cover was also used on a 2000 trade paperback book collecting many of Steranko’s SHIELD stories).

However, there has been a bit of a fuss. Artist Aaron Lopresti disclosed he had been told to alter the image of a woman in underwear holding a gun but then was instructed to put more clothes on her. Nevertheless, the Amazon.com entry for the issue includes Lopresti’s original image.

The artist complained about having to make the change. See a March 31 story at the Bounding Into Comics site and an April 15 story at the MI6 James Bond site for more details.

A short while later, another Steranko SHIELD creation, Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine, showed up in the Falcon and the Winter Soldier MCU series on Disney +. As created by Steranko, she was a SHIELD recruit. Over the years, Marvel Comics turned her into a villain and that’s what showed up on the streaming series.

The contessa, more informally known as Val, was played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and is expected to show up more in Marvel movies. Louis-Dreyfus took to Twitter on April 19 to make note of her new role.

Nostalgia can be powerful. Where Jim Steranko is concerned, nostalgia can be like a boomerang, coming back at you.

Countessa Val causes an MCU fan reaction

Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine at left in this cover for Strange Tales 167 (published January 1968)

Yes, there be spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

A character originally created by writer-artist Jim Steranko for Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. this week appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe via the streaming series The Falcon and The Winder Soldier.

Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine, depicted as a S.H.I.E.L.D. recruit in Strange Tales No. 159 in 1967, appeared in the latest episode of the show. Except she’s now Madame Hydra, leader of the villainous organization that’s caused trouble throughout the films produced by Marvel Studios.

On the streaming series, Val (as she was often called in the comic books) is played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. For a time on Friday morning, “Madame Hydra” and “Julia Louis-Dreyfus” topics on Twitter.

The development spurred various outlets to do stories, including VANITY FAIR (“Marvel, reportedly, has even bigger ambitions for Louis-Dreyfus’s villainous figure”), NEWSWEEK, (“…fans are treated to a cameo that no one saw coming), and CBR.COM all did stories about it.

UPDATE (April 18): I asked Jim Steranko about this on Twitter. He hasn’t seen Louis-Dreyfus’s performance yet. Here’s his response.

S.H.I.E.L.D. writer-artist compliments Craig 007 films

Jim Steranko caused a sensation in the comic book world in the 1960s as the writer and artist of Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. It was Marvel’s entry in spy craze and Steranko came up with story telling techniques that seemed experimental at the time.

Nick Fury originally was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. But Steranko came in later and made the strip his own.

Steranko also was a James Bond fan. And it would seem, he still is.

In one 1960s issue (which Steranko drew but only plotted), there’s a supplier of gadgets named Boothroyd. Later, in a 1967 story (by which time he did the full scripting as well as drawing), Steranko provided the Sean Connery version of Bond a cameo. See below.

Anyway, Steranko, now 82, likes to hang out on Twitter. This Sunday night, he indicated he still likes Bond films, specifically the Daniel Craig movies. Take a look for yourself.

Happy Independence Day 2020

Jim Steranko’s cover to Strange Tales 167

Today, July 4, is Independence Day in the United States.

For this blog, there’s no better image to celebrate the holiday than this Jim Steranko cover from Strange Tales No. 167, published in January 1968. The issue was the climax to a months-long saga that Steranko wrote and drew featuring the intrepid Nick Fury and the forces of SHIELD.

For more background, CLICK HERE for a 2000 article that originally appeared on the Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website. Happy July Fourth to everyone.

Joe Sinnott, Marvel’s ace inker, dies at 93

Splash page to a 1967 Nick Fury story, drawn by Jim Steranko and inked by Joe Sinnott

Joe Sinnott, an inker who contributed to the look of Marvel titles such as the Fantastic Four, died today at 93, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Monthly comic books, because of their deadline pressures, typically had one artist draw in pencil with another going over the drawings in ink.

Sinnott drew particular praise for inking Jack Kirby’s work on the Fantastic Four in the 1960s.

Sinnott’s “smooth, stylized ink work” brought “a new sheen and consistency” to Kirby’s pencils, THR said.

The artist came aboard the FF as the title, primarily plotted by Kirby, exploded with new characters such as the Silver Surfer, Galactus, the Inhumans and the Black Panther.

Sinnott also worked with other Marvel artists, including Gene Colan, John Buscema and some issues of the Jim Steranko written and drawn run of Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Sinnott retired in the early 1990s but continued to appear on the comic book show circuit and do paid commissions.

Writer and artist Walter Simonson issued a tribute to Sinnott on Twitter.

UPDATE (10:35 p.m. New York time): Jim Steranko also issued his own tribute to Joe Sinnott on Twitter.

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A few things about Bond fan outrage

The past few days have been overheated in James Bond fandom. If you’ve followed the news, even casually, you can guess why. But here are a few things to keep in mind.

It’s only a movie: James Bond isn’t real life. If you want to get upset, get upset about real-life events. There are plenty to choose from.

Don’t go there: I saw a video that specifically made a homophobic reference to a Bond fan who does amusing YouTube James Bond videos. No, I am not going to link it.

Don’t go there. Don’t do it. There’s no need to do it.

Long-running characters change and evolve: Sherlock Holmes got “timeshifted” to the 1940s in movies made by Universal during World War II. Batman fought aliens in 1950s and early 1960s comic books. Dick Tracy had his own “space era.”

If you don’t like one era for a character, it’s likely a new era will occur sooner or later. Batman became darker after the end of the 1966-68 Batman TV show thanks to stories by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams. Bond has had his own share of different eras.

Characters may change race or gender: Marvel’s Nick Fury went from white (in the original 1960s comics) to black. It happened with an “alternative universe” version where Fury was drawn to resemble Samuel L. Jackson. When Marvel began making its own films, Jackson got cast in the role. A 2010 Hawaii Five-0 television series (still in production) turned The Governor and Jonathan Kaye into women characters (Pat Jameson instead of Paul Jameson, Jenna Kaye instead of Jonathan Kaye. Also, Kono transformed into a woman character in the new series.

Meanwhile, Bond films came out with black versions of supporting characters. such as Felix Leiter and Moneypenny.

Happy Independence Day From The Spy Command

Jim Steranko’s cover to Strange Tales 167

Today, July 4, is Independence Day in the United States.

For this blog, there’s no better image to celebrate than this Jim Steranko cover from Strange Tales No. 167, published in January 1968. The issue was the climax to a months-long saga that Steranko wrote and drew featuring the intrepid Nick Fury and the forces of SHIELD.

For more background, CLICK HERE for a 2000 article that originally appeared on the Her Majesty’s Secret Servant website. Happy July Fourth to everyone.

Happy Independence Day 2018

The blog’s traditional July 4 greeting: The cover to Strange Tales No. 167 featuring one of Jim Steranko‘s most memorable covers during his run on Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Jim Steranko’s cover for Strange Tales No. 167

Jim Steranko lets out a S.H.I.E.L.D. secret

A 1967 S.H.I.E.L.D. story that introduced agent Clay Quartermain

Jim Steranko, the writer-artist of a classic run of Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D stories in the 1960s, gave away a bit of classified information Sunday night.

Steranko interacts with fans on Twitter each Sunday. This past weekend, a fan asked about the inspiration for a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent named Clay Quartermain.

“I modeled SHIELD’s CLAY QUARTERMAIN after BURT LANCASTER — they’re birds of a feather don’tcha think?” Steranko said on Twitter.

This caught The Spy Commander’s eye because he saw Steranko at a Detroit-area comic book convention/collectibles show in the Detroit area some years back. It almost seemed like Steranko resembled Quartermain.

Years earlier, while reading a collection of Steranko’s S.H.I.E.L.D. stories, it seemed to me that the writer-artist subtly changed Fury (making his face a bit more angular) to resemble Lancaster compared with Jack Kirby’s original version of Fury.

So, in a tweet, I asked Steranko about that. You can view his answer below.

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