Sunday 18 February 2024

Steranko Sunday: X-Men 51


Long-time readers of this 'ere blog ( pauses for hysterical laughter at the thought of such mythical creatures ) may remember I used to produce a semi-regular feature here called Steranko Saturdays, devoted to the works of that comic book maverick, Jim Steranko. In the spirit of that long-lost series, I thought I'd do a quick post about a recent acquisition: X-Men 51 ( December 1969 ), the second issue of the Jaunty One's brief, two-part stint on the mag. So, it's Steranko. On a Sunday.
To be honest, this comic was never going to win any awards. The lead strip, a 15-page story featuring the X-Men facing off against their mortal enemy, Magneto, and his army of henchmen, is a bit of a mess. Arnold Drake's script features a lot of "down with the kids", late-1960s groovy dialogue, which is often painfully over the top, but also has much heavy lifting to do as Steranko's story-telling powers seem to have deserted him, frequently leaving the dialogue and captions to fill in the blanks. This is the continuation of the previous issue's introduction of Lorna Dane's alter-ego, Polaris, who starred on the iconic cover of issue no. 50 but gets lost in the mix this time. There's a lot of mutant-on-mutant action ( spicy! ) and a minimum of coherence. Steranko's artwork itself has its moments ( he draws a foxy Marvel Girl! ) but the scratchy inking by John Tartaglione lessens its impact.
The back-up strip is another in the series of untold origins of our merry mutants, this time a Beast story by Drake, Tartaglione and long-term X-Men penciller Werner Roth. Average super hero fare which looks staid when up against the Steranko work, even if it's one of Steranko's weaker efforts for Marvel.
I've not been too complimentary about this comic, but it's still good fun and the cover is wonderful: this is what most attracted me, as I've always loved it, and I used to have a black and white copy of it stuck on my bedroom wall when I was a kid. Typically for a Marvel comic, the cover depicts a scene that doesn't actually happen in the issue, but it's a terrifically moody and atmospheric slice of Steranko goodness.


I bought this issue ( graded at VG, cost £20 ) from the amazing Out Of This World in the fair city of Worcester. I'd meant to visit this shop for quite some time and finally got round to it last weekend. The shop is a real Aladdin's cave of Silver and Bronze Age treasures and I could have easily spent hundreds of pounds in there... luckily, I reigned it in and just picked up this one comic, but I'll have to get back there for another look when funds allow. The owner, Gary, is a friendly guy, very knowledgeable about comics, and we had a lovely long chat, until Sarah arrived and reminded me I should have met her in Costa 10 minutes ago. Oops! Comic fans, eh?

7 comments:

Steve W. said...

Simon, it's always a pleasure to see Steranko Saturday raise its head, no matter what day of the week it is.

Simon B said...

Thanks Steve, that's much appreciated. I hope all's well with you?

Steve W. said...

Everything is currently well. :)

McSCOTTY said...

A pretty nice purchase Simon. Not the best Steranko cover but I thought it had some nice artwork inside and a great splash page ( I only have this in a collected edition). I hope you bought Sarah a nice cake to go with that coffee for being late!

Simon B said...

Hi Paul. I've always liked that cover but, maybe because it was on my bedroom wall as a kid, and I was so familiar with it, I've over-inflated how good it is. Maybe. It's a shame Steranko's career in mainstream comics was so short-lived, but I do wonder if his style ( which was so tied into its era) would have stood the test of time in later years. Of course, the man himself is a total right-wing MAGA headcase, but the less said about that the better...
As far as I can remember the cakes were very good lol.

McSCOTTY said...

lol. Good point on his art style . Oh I didn't know that about Mr Steranko's views!

Perú said...

Your blog consistently provides a breath of fresh air with its insightful content.

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