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A Year of Cool Comics – Day 208

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

Today we look at Jim Steranko’s short-lived Strange Tales’ spin-off, Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD!


Steranko only managed to do four of the first five issues of the new series (going from doing half a comic to doing a full comic took its toll on Steranko’s ability to get the book out on time), but boy, they were EPIC stories – stories that resonate over forty years later!

The biggest problem with Steranko’s run is that he left the book before we got an answer to the following question….

By the way, check out that opening – STUNNING…

If you thought that opening was great, check out how Nick Fury deals with a problem later in the issue (click on the splash page to enlarge)…

And this was all in the SAME issue!! How amazing was Steranko’s Fury?!!?

So yeah, Scorpio is set up to be this big bad guy, but we don’t know WHO he is.

The next issue, #2, features the famous censored panel of Nick Fury and his girlfriend, the Contessa…

And in Steranko’s final issue, we get more between the lovebirds, in his Eisner-inspired openings…

And then Scorpio strikes again…

When the issue ends, Fury recognizes Scorpio, but WHO is he? Later writers would come up with an answer, but I don’t know what Steranko was planning. Anyone know if he said who he was planning on Scorpio being?


im fairly certain is was onslaught, right?

Steranko is some mad synthesis of Ditko, Kirby, and Eisner here. And now, having read the Ross/Steranko interview and knowing Steranko is the manliest comics creator who ever lived, I’m starting to think this was an autobio comic.

I always wondered what a Steranko-directed movie would be like. He was so cinematic in his style

Okay, I read that same Ross/Steranko interview and it was pretty awesome. However, he says he works for like 12 hours each night…what exactly does he do now?

Steranko’s NICK FURY is so cool.

WHO IS SCORPIO?: Although I have no inside knowledge of Steranko’s intentions, I have always thought that he never intended to provide an answer, that the witholding of the final revelation was meant to be permanent. Hence, Roy Thomas’ solution (Scorpio as Nick’s brother Jake) was, to my mind, misguided. Some things are meant to be open ended.

MINI REVIEWS: Since I reviewd the Steranko Fury run in STRANGE TALES, here is my take on the NICK FURY solo book:

1: Come on people, what can I say? This is sheer brilliance, one of the pinnacles of narrative art. Noteworthy bits: everything! Grade: 10.

2. Steranko’s second issue sees a slight dip in quality. The art and writing are still great, but the concepts are a bit too derivitive, as the plot is an ISLAND OF DR MOREAU rip-off. Noteworthy bits: King Kong vs donosaurs! (Yeah, you heard me), the OTT movie crew on the island. Lowpoint: Jimmy Woo, hitherto a completely American character, suddenly starts talking like Charlie Chan. Grade: 8

3. The low point of Steranko’s run. As with the previous issue, Steranko lifts plot elements wholesale from another work. This time, Conan Doyle’s HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES provides the plot structure, with Nick filling in for Sherlock Holmes. Noteworthy bits: Although the plot is uninspired (the Steranko additions read like SCOOBY DOO rejects), the art is stunning. check out the opening credits stalk, the great two page spread, the ghost of Ravenlock, etc. Grade : 8

5. After two relatively lackluster issues (bearing in mind that a lackluster Steranko is still leagues above just about everybody else), Steranko returns to form with this fantastic issue. Noteworthy bits (well, besides what Brian has kindly put up): Pickman (imagine Sydney Greenstreet playing an old buddy of Nick’s), Nick (mistaken for an LMD) running a deadly SHIELD gauntlet, Fury’s final anguished cry of “You” as he sees the face of Scorpio, etc. Grade:10

Judging from these examples, I think the action scenes were Steranko’s weakest feature as an artist, but they’re still pretty good. But the other stuff is just amazing. Why aren’t more artists trying to copy him instead of the lesser artists they usually imitate? I love how ’60s those domestic scenes look– Steranko should come out of retirement to do an Austin Powers book or something.

Why aren’t more artists trying to copy him instead of the lesser artists they usually imitate?

Mary, I think Chris Weston’s work on The Filth owes a lot to Steranko– but that might have been deliberate as Grant Morrison says that an early version of it was a rejected proposal for a Nick Fury story.

Man, I really want to read these stories, but apparently the (now out-of-print) trade they’re collected in is really low quality (one of the reviewers on Amazon even claims that Steranko threatened to spit on anybody who asked him to sign a copy…)
Does anyone know if there’s going to be a new, better collection? It’s a shame, because the trade featuring the Nick Fury stories from Strange Tales is so unbelievably awesome.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

July 29, 2010 at 6:01 am

@trajan: Steranko has said here and there that he had a solution tot he Scorpio mystery. Going back to the original stories, there are a number of clues — probably red herrings — that it’s Jimmy Woo, seeking vengeance for what he thinks is the death of his lover Suwan back in Steranko’s Strange Tales SHIELD stories.

Woo vowed vengeance then; Scorpio says he following an oath of vengeance “sworn in blood” in issue #1. We’re reminded that Woo swore revenge in the opening pages of issue #2, and though Woo thinks about his oath later on, he never quite gets to discuss where he and Fury stand before the main plot gets going. And Woo’s not present at the LMD test in issue #5 where Scorpio’s present disguised as Nick, something the Contessa puts in rather hinting terms: “By the way, Jimmy Woo said…that he’d be late!” Fake-Nick/Scorpio’s response: “Don’t worry about it.” So I have the strong feeling that he had a solution in mind for Scorpio; he was setting it up as a proper mystery story, complete with a phony suspect.

Michael Hoskin has pointed out that three Steranko era villains used the phrase “parable of doom” — Scorpio uses it in issue #1, Centurius uses it in issue #2, and Strucker used it back in Strange Tales. Additionally, Scorpio’s use of cover identities like “Julio Scarlotti” was Strucker’s gimmick when Steranko used him. Maybe it’s just a phrase Steranko liked, or maybe Scorpio was supposed to be linked to one or both of them. After all, neither Woo nor Fury can figure out how Centurius’s ARC managed to his his island all by itself…did someone silence him?

Steranko wasn’t shy about using continuity in his SHIELD stories, what with half the Marvel Universe of the time turning up in the Yellow Claw arc, as well as Strucker being pulled from Fury’s other comic for Steranko’s big HYDRA climax. It might’ve been Strucker, as Hoskin suggests; it might’ve been one or another old Fury enemy from Strange Tales or the Howling Commandoes title. But I think it would’ve been someone: thaqt’s the pattern of Steranko’s other two serials with Fury over in Strange Tales, where the mystery villains were revealed as established characters like Baron Strucker and Doctor Doom.

@Edo Bosnar: The trade is quite high quality, save for the coloring. Steranko’s anger is because Marvel found a way to screw him out of any royalties for it by printing it through a French publisher.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

July 29, 2010 at 6:03 am

Oh and Edo…the best way to read the stories is to find the Special Edition series that reprinted the Steranko SHIELD series back in the late 1980s — Steranko even did a new cover for issue #1 of the thing, and they’re not terrifically expensive. There are a few minor coloring changes from the original issues, mostly for the better and probably with Steranko’s involvement.


Thanks, Omar!

“The next issue, #2, features the famous censored panel of Nick Fury and his girlfriend, the Contessa…”

How was it censored? And it what way is it famous? (I’d never heard of it.)

Regarding Steranko having an identity for Scorpio in mind, I just find it hard to believe that he would write a scene where Fury sees Scorpio’s face and says, “YOU?!?” and not have someone in mind for who Fury was seeing.

That man was decades ahead of his time. His use of silent panels and shape was groundbreaking.

Crashing through the wall on a rocket-powered motorcycle with no helmet (and no shirt), without knowing there’s a half dozen unconscious people including your girlfriend behind it, two guns blazing like Yosemite Sam, while smoking, as only the SHIELD ramrod can – although a very cool way to impress your friends – might be *kinda* reckless.

I’m just saying.

He could put someone’s eye out.

Awesome stuff, thanks for choosing it.

I think Marvel Masterworks Nick Fury Vol 2 is supposed to take Steranko’s run from the second half of Strange Tales and his Nick Fury issues, but I haven’t seen it yet. The printing quality on Vol 1 is very good, and is the first half of Strange Tales (Kirby to other artists to Steranko).

The Nick Fury collection from about 10 years ago has some of the worst color and worst ink reproduction of all time, but I’m a fan so I bought it.


Omar and Brian, you might be right. Perhaps Steranko did plan on eventually revealing Scorpio’s identity. I’m just not sure. A look at the evidence:

Scorpio in issue 1:

Page 4, panel 3: Fury finds a disc with a scorpio sign on it.

Page 6, panel 5: Fury states to Val that he is running the Scorpio disc through the FBI and Interpol.

Page 7, panels 4 and 5: A race car driver named Julio Scarlotti has the mark of Scorpio on his wrist.

Page 9, panel 4: A shield techno has the same mark on his wrist.

Page 10, panels 1 and 2: Fury contemplates Scorpio, noting that no one seems to really know who he is:

Page 14, panel 2: Scorpio speaks of the “VENGEANCE OF SCORPIO!”

Page 16,panel 4: Scorpio states that he will “FULFILL MY MALEVOLENT OATH, SWORN IN BLOOD…TO KILL NICK FURY!”

Page 16, panel 6: Scorpio states that “you’ll not find me as vulnerable as your other adversaries!”

Page 17, panel 4: Fury states to Scorpio, ” You been shootin’ yer mouth off about revenge…but revenge for what? It’s gonna take me one second ta find out!

Issue # 1 info on Scorpio:

A.. Hints of Multiple aliases: Scotland Yard, the FBI, Interpol: each one thinks that he is someone else. The reader is given the Scarlotti identity, but this seems to be an alias. As Omar has noted, this can be made to fit Strucker’s STRANGE TALES MO, where he routinely assumed different IDS (Don Caballero, Emir Ali Bey, Agent Bronson,etc).

B. Vengeance: Scorpio is acting to correct a past wrong or defeat at Fury’s hands:Again, this can be seen as indicating Strucker, who has suffered multiple past defeats at Fury’s hands.

Issue #5:

Page 2, panel 3: Val reads Nick’s horoscope: “Beware, someone in your past will return today!” Obvious Scorpio reference. However, from how deep in Fury’s past does he come?

Page 3, panel 1: Fury thinks “Couldn’t tell Val how important this could be to me! How long do I haveta look? How many leads do I haveta track down? How many blank walls do I haveta run into before I find him? ” Fury is searching for someone who is highly important to him, but is it an old adversary? The language is ambiguous as to the nature of the relationship.

Page 3,panel 5: Fury, speaking to Pickman, says that “I’d do it myself, but I can’t get SHIELD involved!” If Fury is searching for an old enemy,why can’t he involve SHIELD? Is this a sign that SHIELD has been compromised (Note Pickman’s discovery of SHIELD data in page 10, panel 5)? Or is it a sign that Fury’s quest is personal in nature?

Page 3, panel 6: Pickman says to Fury that ” I know what it means to you! We’ve worked on this too long to quit now! Don’t forget, I knew him too!’ Not only have Pickman and Fury been searching for this individual for a long time, but Pickman also had a personal relationship with the individual.

Page 8, panel 6: Scorpio directly states that he is the same Scorpio from issue 1.

Page 10,panel 4: Pickman thinks that “This will give Fury the answer he’s been seeking these many years!” Fury has been searching for “many years!” This seems a bit too long of a span of time for it to be Strucker.

Page 10, panel 5: Pickman learns something that indicates that Fury is in danger.

Page 18, panel 4: Scorpio thinks that “He [Fury] always was the lucky one an…” A sign that Scorpio is well acquainted with Fury. Note the almost familiar phrasing of the passage. Is this how one describes an enemy?

Page 19, panel 5: Scorpio, disguised as Nick, thinks “The shot…hit the wrong one! …Where the devil did that old man come from? Wait!! Could it be…No, Can’t find out now!” Clearly, Scorpio recognizes Pickman.

Page 20,panel 5: Fury, seeing the unmasked Scorpio cries “You!”

Page 20, panel 7: The narrator states, regarding Fury,”What strange secret now lay locked in his heart…What revelation had caused the taut, grim visage he now wore like a mask? Was the search over or had it only begun? Fury asked himself the question a thousand times over again…would he ever know?…Whatever happened to Scorpio?”


Strucker: The Baron seems to be ruled out by the long term nature of the search.

Jimmy Woo: Again,the long term nature of the search seems to rule him out as well.

Who is Scorpio?: Look carefully at the narrator’s description of Fury’s response to learning Scorpio’s identity. Fury seems shattered by the revelation. This hardly seems like the kind of reaction that he would have to finding out that Scorpio was some old adversary like Klaue or the Agent of 1,000 Faces. His response seems more in keeping with a sense of personal betrayal. Frankly, if one insists on putting a face to Scorpio, one can well understand Roy Thomas’ choice of Jake Fury.

My thoughts: I don’t know; the story, with Fury knowing and the reader ignorant,seems so complete to me. Reducing it to a conventional mystery just seems wrong, in an aesthetic sense.


Regarding the NICK FURY SPECIAL EDITION, all of the copies of the second issue (the one containing reprints of FURY 3 and 5) that I have seen are badly scrambled in pagination. E.g., in the copies that I have seen, page 16 from issue 5 is followed by page 11 from issue 3, page 17 from issue 3 is reprinted twice, etc. Of course, I’m not sure if this problem exists in all of the copies of issue two, but I have never seen one without it. On the plus side, I have never encountered any problems with copies of issue 1, containing reprints of FURY 1 and 2.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

July 30, 2010 at 6:33 am

Huh, trajan…my copies of the Special Editions had no such problems, and I own both those and the original issues and did some coloring comparisons once, so I hope I’d have noticed. That site I linked also seems to note discrepancies, as in the Warlock Special Edition where an issue was altered for the reprint, and I think they might have mentioned the problem if it were widespread.

As to Scorpio’s identity — I agree that Woo’s a red herring, but he’s pretty clearly set up as a fake suspect for Scorpio’s identity. I suppose that Strucker might be a shattering reveal because Fury wouldn’t want him to be alive after all that mess, and Fury knew him for a long time before joining SHIELD. (I don’t entirely subscribe to Mr. Hoskin’s theory myself for the reason that I, too, think Scorpio’s identity is meant as a betrayal, but it’s still the best theory I’ve seen out there.) Steranko can’t have intended Jake Fury, of course, since Jake didn’t get a name until he appeared in Sgt. Fury story published some time after Scorpio’s debut, and that was by an entirely different writer.

As to the SHIELD techno and Julio Scarlotti — surely you agree that they’re Scorpio’s cover identities and that the tecno serves a story purpose. Note that the techno’s lit in sinister fashion, and is pressing a button wher Val can’t see him. That panel’s supposed to explain that he’s infiltrated the SHIELD base and is shutting down the EPB force field to kill Fury. The implication rather obviously that Scorpio is a master of disguise and that he’ s been inside SHIELD several times as the story proceeds. That does fit almost exactly with Strucker’s behavior in Steranko’ earlier stories, where he switches between a variety of international celebrity identities before infiltrating SHIELD in the guise of a captured agent. You note this yourself.

My own suspicion? We’d have gotten some “new” old acquaintance of Fury’s, or perhaps Steranko intended to pull in someone like Bull McGiveney or someone else from the old Howling Commandoes stories. (I once joked with Mr. Hoskin that Scorpio was Peter Lorre, to complete the implication that Nick is Bogie and Pickman is Sydney Greenstreet. Would that make Strucker into Major Strasser?) The problem with Jake was that, when he finally appeared with a name, he reconciled with Nick. David Kraft, Archie Goodwin, and Keith Giffen had to belatedly give Jake a reason to go from Nick’s basically decent but originally anti-war brother to a lunatic murdering supervillain several years after Roy Thomas’s throwaway one-panel reveal in Avengers #72. Roy’s reveal is crummy because it gives Scorpio an identity, but not a motive; it’s Roy explaining a loose end just for the sake of tying it off, something he increasingly tended to do over the years.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

July 30, 2010 at 6:35 am

I’d note also that the pattern of Scorpio story titles might have suggested a thiurd and final part. The first one is titled “Who Is Scorpio?” and Fury gets no answer; the second is titled “Whatever Happened to Scorpio?,” and Fury gets an answer to the “who?” question from before, but not the “Whatever Happened to…” question at the end of #5.

Who is Scorpio,part 3:

SPECIAL EDITION NICK FURY: Thanks for the info, Omar. I guess that it was just bad luck on my part that the two copies of issue two that I bought had scrambled pagination.

SCORPIO: You raise some good points, but I just can’t seem to find a suitable candidate, one who would engender the kind of shock and melancholy that we see in Fury’s face. Let’s have a quick look at the criteria again:

Nature of the Reaction: As noted previously, Fury’s response to learning the identity of Scorpio is one of great shock and melancholy. the overall impression is one of betrayal.

Time Frame: Nick has been searching for “many years” for the man beneath the Scorpio mask.

Bearing these facts in mind, what can we say about the candidates:

1. Old Villians: As previously noted, i can’t see someone like Klaue or the Agent of 1,000 Faces engendering that kind of response. Strucker, Nick’s greatest enemy, can be neatly ruled out by reason of chronological proximity; there is simply no way that Nick could have been searching for Strucker for “many years.”

2. Old Friends: Betrayal from this quarter would likely generate the kind of shock that we saw in issue 5, but there are great chronological problems with this category:

Dugan: Impossible. Fury would have no reason to search for him.

Captain Happy Sam Sawyer: Teamed up with Fury in SGT FURY ANNUAL 3 (1967). As SHIELD # 5 came out in Oct., 1968, there is no way that Fury could have been searching fo him for “many years.” Just in case someone is curious, ANNUAL 3 was not set in WW2; it was set in the then present day of 1967.

The Other Howlers: Ruled out by appearances in ANNUAL 3 and numerous other stories.

Bull McGiveney: ruled out by ANNUAL 3.

Simon Savage; probably the strongest candidate; Fury last saw him in the Korean War (SGT FURY ANNUAL 1). Savage is an atractive candidate on two grounds: chronology (as of Oct. 1968, Fury last saw him during the Korean War), and character importance (unlike, say, Morita, Savage was a reasonably important character in Nick’s life). A little pseudo-psychology (See, Savage resented the greater fame of the Howlers as compared to his team…)

Jake Fury: As you noted, Omar, in Oct of 1968, Jake was just a nameless character in a one panel scene from STRANGE TALES. Roy Thomas seems to have just picked him out out desperation. After all, the audience doesn’t need much background on someone to understand that betrayal by a brother is shocking.

As you can see, I just can’t seem to find a suitable candidate. Even my half-jesting suggestion of Savage simply does not feel right. My problem, I suppose, is that nothing seems quite as effective as the haunting that Steranko gave us to issue # 5.

Steranko is a Comics god.

Just wanted to say that I agree with Mary Warner. Steranko is aces at Romance. Someone at Marvel should have him do a Fury going out on a date one-shot.

Steranko will fry your brain.

That final line should read:’as the haunting ending that Steranko gave us to issue # 5.” Damn typos

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

July 30, 2010 at 6:13 pm

As I said, I think it’s likely we’d have gotten Scorpio revealed as an invented old friend as anything. After all, SHIELD #1 has a beatifully contained ironic ending that takes out Scorpio…but Steranko brings him back anyway. Without HYDRA around anymore, I suspect Scorpio was set to be the next recurring villain in the series.

“Jake was just a nameless character in a one panel scene from STRANGE TALES. Roy Thomas seems to have just picked him out out desperation.”

I totally disagree with that. Nick’s very first dialogue balloon in #5 has him reminiscing about his brother, and I always figured Thomas looked upon that as foreshadowing.

Pickman (wonder if Steranko got that name from Lovecraft) and Fury were in my opinion looking for somebody from the past who turned out to have taken the Scorpio identity, but their search I felt may well have started before he first appeared as such. I’m open to it being someone other than Nick’s brother.

Oops; that was me. I forgot to put my name in the box.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

July 31, 2010 at 9:08 am

I always just figured “Pickman” was a bad pun, since he’s seen picking locks at several point in the story, but there could be a wink to Lovecraft there. Strange Tales #168 certainly suggests that Steranko had read a little of ol’ Howard Philips.

Fury’s reminiscence with Val seems very much like his reminiscence with Laura back in Strane Tales #159; even the bit about “night music” is a little like Fury’s similarly Chandlerian bit of prose on rain in the earlier story. It may be that brief mention of Fury’s brother sparked Roy’ idea; it still seems to me like Roy grasping at straws and digging up a character from Fury’s past with minimal rhyme or reason so he could get on with introducing the Zodiac and pulling the Zodiac Key into the Avengers title.

Zodiac pops a little later in Roy’s Avengers, and then again when Roy’s editing Steve Englehart on the title, but nobody so much as mentions Jake Fury a second time until Goodwin, Kraft, and Giffen finally turn the reveal into a proper story years later in some Defenders issues. Of course, I’m also a bit annoyed at the way Roy’s Zodiac never lived up to its potential, since he never really bothered fleshing out most of them. They never quite had the same sense of menace as Steranko’s Scorpio…but then, could that even be done in a book like Avengers in that period?

“Steranko is some mad synthesis of Ditko, Kirby, and Eisner here. And now, having read the Ross/Steranko interview and knowing Steranko is the manliest comics creator who ever lived, I’m starting to think this was an autobio comic.”

Ha! Great comment, Bill!

The wiki at Marvel.com identifies Scorpio (?)…


Say it ain’t so, Joe!

[…] Comic Book Resources recently put up a selection of pages from possibly the most famous Steranko storyline “Who Is Scorpio?”: […]

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