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Snippets From a Steranko Master Class

Due to traffic and other sundry excuses, I was 15 minutes late to Jim Steranko’s master class.

The room was dark in preparation for his PowerPoint presentation.

My friends, Peter and Dave, were already seated in there somewhere.

I quietly grabbed the first seat available. I’d find my friends later.

Steranko was already speaking.

He was leaning against a table with his arms folded.

He wore a turtleneck sweater beneath a double-breasted jacket.

Regardless of the dim light, he wore dark glasses.

He spoke in low tones and was in the middle of an anecdote.

As with most 80-year-old men, he had a quiver full of anecdotes.

and this man’s quiver was fuller than most.

When he finished a story, he’d return to the table, upon which sat the only light source in the conference room.

He removed his glasses, examined the pages in front of him, and read key points from his own writings.

What follows are a small sampling of things he said (some paraphrased—because I don’t possess a photographic memory). If the comments jump around a bit, that’s the way they came to me. His delivery of the points he made that night were intermixed with lots of great stories and entertaining digressions.

“I was a magician and an escape artist. My mindset was this: any knot a man could tie—I could untie.”

“Jack Kirby was the warrior god of comic book art.”

“Stan Lee discovered me, and he was my mentor.”

“The Stan Lee you saw in public was the real Stan Lee. He was a nice guy.”

“Reed Crandall was the greatest draftsman of them all.”

“I call what I do ‘narrative engineering’.”

“When I took over doing Nick Fury, I gave him three things—my tailor, my barber, and my attitude!”

My friend Peter said, “And your apartment.”

Steranko said, “And my apartment!” He glanced at Peter and added, “You get extra points!”

(As far as I know, nobody else got extra points that night.)

“Submit your first synopsis, or outline, to ruthless deconstruction.”

“Sacrifice for the plot.”

“The story will always tell you what to do.”

“Jack Kirby once did a drawing of Captain America for me. He started by drawing the belt buckle. Who starts at the belt buckle?”

“I drew 29 comic books 50 years ago, and I’m still referred to as a comic book artist… I’ve written over 3 million words, but nobody calls me a writer.”

“All of us who read comics when we were growing up—it helped to shape us into the people we became—we’re in a brotherhood.”

When talking about his time working on the storyboards for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, he referred to the director as “Francis.”

The class was supposed to run from 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. At one point, seated in his chair, he said he was going to go on for as long as he felt like it. He promised us that despite his age, he would be the “last son of a bitch standing.”

Six hours into the class, at 1:00 a.m., I wimped out, grabbed my stuff, and ducked out. I drove the 35 minutes from Puyallup back to our hotel in Renton.

At 2:30 a.m., Peter texted me, “He just finished.”

Wine Tasting

Restrain the tannins

Pour fruit-forward Zinfandels

Taste buds do your dance

Typewriter on a Shelf

Word wielder’s weapon

Disheveled and disabled

Obsolete rapier

The Kiss of Ocean Weather

A fractured placard

Meaning lost to ocean air

Bodega decay

Emma Peel

Nuff said…


I wanted to create something special for my daughter, so I combined two of the things she loves most—her kitty cat and…that George Lucas-spawned Disney franchise.

Three Mussings_

1. It is the skeletal carcass of a universe-traipsing TARDIS—its final fate unknown and, therefore, unsung.

2. Perhaps it‘s the now-rusted-out cage once used in Harry Houdini’s final public performance.

3. Or it‘s a displaced cell, a mere fifty feet from the rubble that’s all that remains of a California Gold Rush town jail.

(And, just maybe, one of these is true.)