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When Jim Steranko Re-Cast Nick Fury and the Agents of S.H.I.E.LD.

This is Foggy Ruins of Time, a feature that provides the cultural context behind certain comic book characters/behaviors. You know, the sort of then-topical references that have faded into the “foggy ruins of time.” To wit, twenty years from now, a college senior watching episodes of "Seinfeld" will likely miss a lot of the then-topical pop culture humor (like the very specific references in “The Understudy” to the Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding scandal).

Today, we look at how Jim Steranko "re-cast" Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. when he took over as the artist on the feature.

Ever since comic books even became a thing, comic book artists have been looking to movie stars for the inspiration for their characters. It just makes too much sense to NOT do, as movie stars are generally movie stars BECAUSE they stand out in the crowd, thus they make for great inspirations for larger than life characters. Although, even for mild-mannered characters like Clark Kent, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster looked to a movie star, Harold Lloyd (as I wrote about in this old Foggy Ruins of Time here), for inspiration.

Here's the thing, though, what happens when you base a character on a specific character but then other artists don't feel like drawing the character that way? That's when you get the interesting stuff like comic book artists, in effect, "re-casting" the character with a DIFFERENT actor. We see this a lot more in modern times due to artists using a lot more digital adaptations of photos and screen caps for characters, thus a character might look dramatically different from book to book.

However, while it was rarer in the old days, it wasn't something that didn't happen and one of the most notable examples was when Jim Steranko decided to re-cast Nick Fury during his time on Strange Tales.

When Jack Kirby introduced Nick Fury in Strange Tales #135, Kirby essentially took the same design he had come up for Fury as Sgt. Fury, only a little bit older (and, you know, without the eye)...

That designed remained consistent, even when other artists drew the book, like when John Buscema drew an issue...

And when Jim Steranko joined the series, that remained the case. You see, back in those days, Stan Lee had a typical thing that he would do when he was breaking in a new artist to the Marvel Style of things. He would have Jack Kirby do layouts for the artist to follow, so that they would learn how Lew wanted them to handle things and then Kirby would move on to do something else. And so when Steranko joined Strange Tales, it was working over Kirby's layouts and thus the designs naturally looked the same...

Even on his second issue...

With Steranko about to take over full-time, though, I don't know whether this was a coincidence or because it was what Steranko wanted, but in Strange Tales #153, Nick Fury got a shave...

thus making his face look a bit different...

Then Steranko took over the next issue on his own and Fury looks a LOT more refined...

However, Fury then took on an even more clear-cut change soon enough...

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