Sunday, August 20, 2006

Must See Books: Tower of Shadows #1

This is a little 15 cent gem that is notable for one reason: Steranko's "At The Stroke Of Midnight" a veritable primer in graphic storytelling. Some of the panels from this story were printed in the collage at the back of Steranko's History of Comics, but have to be seen in the original form to truly be appreciated

Alan Weiss once said to me over beers, "Once you get past Kirby you get to Steranko and Adams, the two superstars of their day. Some people simply never got over one or the other." And he was right. Watching Sienkiewicz start as an Adams clone on the early issues of Moon Knight, and how can you see Paul Gulacy without realizing what his influences were? Impossible on either account.

I admit to enjoying the graphic nature of Steranko's storytelling as opposed to the ultra realism of Adams. Probably explains why I like the Rogers Batman, who is quite a bit more graphic than real, over Adams. Steranko's camera moves around in space, capturing angles and light and showing us, the reader, all the little bits of story that we need to know. It catches, with a dispassionate eye, all the elements necessary to carry the information and mood and carries us, inexorabily towards the finish. There is something "hitchcock-ian" about Steranko's storytelling. It's cold and distant in a way that is not there to keep us from getting emotionally involved in the story, but distant in a way to show us that his eye is in control. Even the staggering One and two page splashes used in SHIELD and Captain America are so beautifully arranged that we can but stop and marvel at them, appreciating their staging.

At The Stroke of Midnight is like that, perhaps the ultimate in Steranko's storytelling from that period, showing off his lighting and coloring effects which were pushing the boundary of the printing process at that time, while dragging the reader through a chilling twilight zone of a story. Every bit of flash is used to set the tone of the story, and it has flash to spare.

i could never imitate the strokes that Steranko used on the splash page and it drove me crazy for years until I finally saw the original. It was done with a marker. Now I know. Bastard.

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