I don't think people were put here to be happy. I think if you decide to be an artist or a writer, you automatically accept the responsibility of being alone. However, after your 50 or 60 years are up you'll be able to look back and see this output that you've done that will endure long after you're gone, and will continue to fill the minds of millions of people.
– Jim Steranko
Greetings from the desert fellow CBSI Members. One Year Ago a title was making its mark in the comic world. Perhaps not in units moved, water cooler discussions, or speculation, but make no mistake this comic carried clout that echoes back to the 60s.
The times when colorful rainbow collages were regurgitated over every item from clothes to artwork. Perhaps, the best word to describe this era can be told by a quick story, so pull up a seat. Psychiatrist Humphry Osmond was looking for a alternate word to describe hallucinogenic drugs.
Seeking the name for the experience induced by LSD he contacted Aldous Huxley, an acquaintance and advocate for the therapeutic use of substance. Huxley created the term phanerothyme from the Greek terms for “Manifest” and “Spirit”. Now here’s where it gets interesting…In a letter to Osmond, Huxley wrote the words “To make this mundane world sublime, take half a gram of phanerothyme”
To which Osmond responded with “To fathom Hell or soar angelic, Just take a pinch of psychedelic” With this, the term psychedelic was coined in noun form and the rest shall we say is history.
Alright enough make love not war talk, and let’s get back to comics. During this period of time Jim Steranko’s beautiful, multi colored drenched scenery both on the cover and within the panels were making its way across Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD pages throughout its 18 issue run. The depth, creative color usage, and visuals on each panel paralleled other artwork beyond comics of this period. Take another look at that poster above if need be to see the detail. Here, below is a cover as an example as well. I mean come on, this is otherworldly in its depiction.
Nick Fury, Agent of Shield # 3
Alright so what does this have to do with One Year Ago as I mentioned in the intro? Well in mid 2017 another comic rendition of this universe was born within a encapsulated six issue run aptly titled Nick Fury. The uniqueness of this we will get into later. However, I will say this was one big homage to the aforementioned Steranko run, done with its own personality. It’s ironic, that beginning quote above spoke to long lasting appreciation of a talents work 50 or 60 years later in time. That’s exactly what we are seeing today. The true recognition of this iconic work play across today’s comic world pages from artists who are also fans.
The team of writer James Robinson and the artist ACO make up the creative nucleus of this 2017 universe. It’s a fast paced, lucid dream world reminiscent of James Bond in storytelling. Yet, the visuals add a second layer to the overall DNA of this work. It echos Steranko’s beliefs of “Writing visually, or die” methodology. Oh, I know what about spec value right? Well let’s take a look at that and you can decide.
- Issue 1: 32K print run including a 1:25 Variant – Approx. 1280 copies
Includes 1st app & 1st cover of Frankie Noble, Agent of Hydra
- Issue 2: 16K print run including a 1:25 Variant – Approx. 640 copies
Includes 1st app of Daniel Kiku aka Danny Fear
- Issue 3: 13K print run including a 1:25 Variant – Approx. 520 copies
Includes 1st app of Melodía Dias
- Issue 4: 11K print run only one cover
- Issue 5: 9K print run only one cover
- Issue 6: 9K print run two covers
Pictures of these Variants you ask?
2017 Issue # 1 1:25
2017 Issue # 2 1:25
2017 Issue # 3 1:25
Steranko’s original piece circa 1968
2017 Issue # 6 Variant Cover 1:1
Steranko’s Original Piece circa 1968
I did speak to uniqueness with this title, so let’s cover that too. This six issue run actually was about Nick Fury Jr. aka Marcus Johnson. This is a Nick Fury Sr’s second son.
In addition, it’s Marcus’s 1st stand alone story arch speaking to his early days when he joined SHIELD. Yes, I know what is his 1st appearance then for reference? Here is the breakdown and covers for a later date with a LCS long box:
- 1st Cameo: Fear Itself Issue # 7 2011
- 1st Full: Battle Scars # 1 2011
- 1st revealed as Nick Fury, Jr: Battle Scars # 6 2011
Okay, let’s get back to the meat and potatoes of this 2017 series. These issues essentially are one shots, yet they do bleed into one another a tad as well. Generally, each issue Nick has a dangerous task to accomplish. This can best be described as a Mission Impossible exercise. I want you as readers to enjoy this without spoilers so we will just take a look at a few panels of Issue # 1 in all its beauty to get a real flavor of this ride.
Take a gander at this level of detail…Incredible!
Perhaps some of you were wondering why the hell this article was titled those particular words and what does that even mean? Time to break out Webster’s. Polychromatic – Having various or changing colors. Paragon – a model or pattern of excellence or of a particular excellence. Now put them together and you have Polychromatic Paragon. Another way to say this is a shaken, not stirred kaleidoscope of eye candy that would make Willy Wonka proud. The results being even the most rapid Tim Burton fans state that this is a divine vision of psychedelic visual ecstasy. Sounds like a good review comic blurb to throw out there LOL.
Alright, one more gaze of panels as we close up shop this week. The editors note at the end of the second panel is amazing. “To get the full effect of this panoramic scene, place two issues side by side for a four page spread like only ACO could bring you.” Sheer brilliance with a sprinkle of humor!
Now to honor the original work, here is a look at Issue # 4 of Steranko’s run
In closing let’s look back at what was originally spoken to in regards to is this run spec worthy? None of us know the secret formula to financial success with every comic we purchase. We do however look at a few factors. Let’s analyze both the potential positives and negatives.
- Low print runs with mid range ratio variants all under 1300 copies per issue
- First appearance of a future player in the Hydra world whom has some pizazz, and or palpable gumption.
- Underrated, underused artist who has not fully broken out yet
- 1st major story with Nick Fury Jr at the helm
- Visually feel the ghost of Steranko past influencing the art work
- The minis don’t do as well spec wise vs. continuing series theory
- Not a lot of well known characters throughout the series
- Little known artist without the big whale persona
- Jr vs. Sr. Mr Fury as the main protagonist
- Knock Off of the older Nick Fury series
Aren’t those basically the opposite of each other in terms of meaning depending on positive or negative? Ah well yes! Isn't that what comic book speculation amounts to at a diminutive level?
Which is the beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Or in many cases whether it’s in your PC short box or not. Someone can make arguments on both sides for just about any book. However that discussion is for another time, and trust me it’s coming soon.
There are head scratchers every year we shake our collective heads about in how they lived beyond the “Hater Wave” ® Ummm, Mel V you do own that term via a trademark by now right?
Ok let’s walk thru a few items that are of certainty regarding this series. First, Nick Fury Jr. has a potential future. He has a somewhat rich backstory that I don’t want to spoil, but is well worth the time invested to read.
I will say this, he carries the same Infinity Formula his father does within his blood. Now to remind others, this gives him the ability to slow aging, speed up heal time, and possess peak human physical abilities. Secondly, ACO is an artist I would keep my eyes on over time.
I would advise you to check out his DC Midnighter run with writer Steve Orlando. He also briefly worked with in collaboration with James Robinson previously within Marvel on the title Squadron Supreme. Finally, and most recently you can see his talent on display both for the cover and interiors in the one-shot JLA/Doom Patrol Special.
We can never get too many good artists as we are truly blessed in today’s world with the plethora of talent. ACO has a bright future no doubt.
One last thing for all you Constantine fans. Here is a great shot of Mr. Steranko present day. What’s that saying…Life imitates art? Thanks Jim for all your blood, sweat, and tears across decades of time. Go on, have a smoke with the Hellblazer, enjoy!
Well that’s it for this week. I trust you learned something that you can take away. As always, I appreciate those who read my column every week. If you have suggestions on future topics, please contact me via email or Hangout.