Comics

Writing About Jim Steranko For Sequart

SHIELD

If you’re trying to write intelligently about the medium that a long ago generation decided to refer to as “comic books” and so we will forever after, you can do no better than Sequart. I’m honored to be a part of their operation, and after a short review of Wallace Wood’s Cannon, I’ve just had a go at doing justice to a hero and friend of mine, the one and only Jim Steranko.

Mr. Steranko is a continual inspiration to me, as an artist and as a person. When I sat down and attempted to write about his work, it became clear that if I wanted to bring it in under 100,000 words, I would need to focus on one facet of his ongoing career, so I decided to elaborate on his Marvel work. If it was going to be under 50,000, it would have to be about one aspect of that, so I chose Nick Fury. And if I wanted to tag it under the 2,000 word goal, I was going to have to really zero in. As it turned out, I had to tighten focus down to how he got the gig and the first three pages of Nick Fury: Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

I hope I got it right. And I would be remiss if I failed to mention that this week, IDW has pulled off a major coup and released an Artist’s Edition reproducing a great many of his original pages from Strange Tales. I’m already sorry that I forgot to bring up that he calls his work from that time as Zap Art, and that he created the familiar X-Men logo because he wouldn’t do the book unless they changed that, or that he created the look of Indiana Jones and then didn’t do the storyboards when Lucas and Speilburg asked him to because he didn’t feel like doing it, or that Jack Kirby based Mister Miracle on him…

 

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Music

On The Record: From Elvis In Memphis

OnTheRecordOnline

On The Record is a series of meditations on albums, movements, and artists of the last 80 years or so of music. This time around, we focus in on the moment that Elvis Presley had clearly grown up.

ElvisInMemphis

“Man, this is one funky studio!”

The Memphis Mafia cronies laughed, but the session men didn’t. They had been looking forward to recording with Neil Diamond that day, but that was bumped in favor of recording with Elvis Presley. The pay would be less and the honor would be dubious, considering the quality of his last dozen or so albums.

Producer Chips Moman and his American Sound Studios were chosen for their physical proximity to Elvis’ home in Memphis, but also for a sterling reputation as a soulful spot. This wasn’t a place where junk would get churned out, and as Elvis quickly found out, it’s sparseness and somewhat dated equipment would only lend to the creation of real art. It was a renewed Elvis that walked in that day, fresh from the experience of the Comeback Special and ready to work hard on something worthy. He would find out that he came to the right place. The talented instrumentalists would challenge Elvis, and he would bring his A game until he overcame their indifference.

Suspicious Minds would be born from the sessions that followed, as well as In The Ghetto, but the monumental effect of the time spent there was the album From Elvis In Memphis. At an intersection of Country and Rhythm & Blues, a very mature and adult version of Elvis Presley laid down songs of great depth and feel.

Much has been made over the years of the fact that Elvis didn’t write any of the songs that he sang, but that rarely stopped him from imbuing them with great passion as he sang them. When possessed of good material, Elvis sang like Robert De Niro acts. From Elvis In Memphis and its follow up, Back In Memphis show Presley at his peak.

 

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