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Silver Age September – Jim Steranko’s “At the Stroke of Midnight”

After a month of spotlighting the strange (if endearingly strange) history of comic books (and especially the Silver Age), I think it is worthwhile to show the comic books of the Silver Age that are simply great stories period. Here is an archive of all the Silver Age comics features so far!

Today we take a look at a brilliant Jim Steranko story from Tower of Shadows #1 by Jim Steranko titled “At the Stroke of Midnight.”


Words almost fail to describe just how brilliant this Jim Steranko story from the first issue of Tower of Shadows is (released in the Summer of ’69). I think just this sampling will whet your appetite quite well…

This story is reprinted with its awesome ending in Marvel Visionaries: Jim Steranko. It is well worth a purchase!


The house itself is a major player in this story … so much of the art is background. The splintered panels and much of the layout reminds me of Bernie Kriegstein’s “The Master Race,” done for EC in the 1950’s.


I now understand the influence Jim Steranko had on Gene Day’s artwork. These pages could be mistaken from his run on Master of Kung Fu. I mean that in a good way.

This is just sheer brilliance from Steranko: the mood, the masterly use of color, the Krigstein-esque manipulation of panels to convey the passage of time, etc.

Beautiful work.

I recall first encountering a page or two of this, probably 15+ years ago, in Marvel’s 50th anniversary coffee-table book. (Not hard to guess why this small, one-off story was among the works they reached for in a celebration of the publisher’s greatness, of course.)

I finally got to read the whole thing when I picked up the two-part reprints of Steranko’s work on Captain America; each of the two parts included one or two other, unrelated reprints, this among them.

Well-worth featuring, here, given how little-known this gem remains, as a result of being entirely outside the Marvel/superhero “mainstream.” I agree 100% that it’s worth the purchase.

I bought Tower of Shadows #1 at the time it was published. Terrific story with a terrific ending. It was too bad Marvel’s horror titles sold so poorly. They remain some of the best works of the time. BTW, this particular story is my second non-superhero favorite. #1 is the Witching Hour story where a new maid drugs an old woman so she can use the mansion for a monster party.

Steranko is a great artist. Unfortunately (for me) I’ve only read his X-men and his Captain America issues, which were both amazing and left me hungry for more. Maybe I’ll get that Marvel Visionaries trade.

The panels, the panels! A lesson on how to tell a story with panels. And light and shadow. . . and color. . . and editing. . . and body language and expression. . . and background. . . and mood. . .

God, that’s a good-looking comic.

Truly one of the greatest living artists. I wish more of the general public ( knowingly) was aware of Sterankos’ work.

@Mars Bonfire: I was thinking of something similar, but for a different reason: According to Dave Sim (good friend of Gene Day), Jim Shooter, who I believe was EIC when Day was on MOKF, told Day NOT to use the continuous backgrounds, as it was “confusing” or some such. Being a stubborn guy, he kept doing it. Shooter had the colorist color the panels different colors, so it ruined Day’s effect. There was also a comment about the Day pages being shown to Archie Goodwin, who said that the pages were maybe a tad hard to read, but overall were fine.

So, yeah, this story would have been nixed in the Shooter era, according to Sim.

For those interested “At the Stroke of Midnight” is also reprinted in glorious black and white in the #2 issue of Vampire Tales magazine. I actually think it looks better than the original colour version The line work is crisper and the panels are of course larger.

This makes me want to see A Month of Scary Comics in October.

Wow does that look good. Looks like I’m picking up that Visionaries volume.

Mars, it reminded me more of Gulacey’s work on MOKF, which I think was Day’s inspiration.

Damn, that was a great comic!

One more note, if anyone is still reading this thread:

I went back and re-read the story after seeing this post, and noticed something new. The husband and wife’s first names are a subtle tie-in to their eventual twist-ending fate.

Never picked up on that before. Nice!

Wriath, I had never noticed that either. My favourite effect in this story is in the second panel on page 4, when Lou is thinking back on his childhood spent in that house, and, it is almost subliminal visual flashback, there is against the large window, the figure of a boy.

For what it’s worth, there’s a black and white reprint of this in the recent VAMPIRE TALES VOL. 1 trade paperback. I just read it a couple days ago! The reprint was originally in VAMPIRE TALES #2.

This would be a three-issue mini-series in today’s decompressed style. The first 2-3 pages conveyed about as much information as the entire Joe the Barbarian #1.

The black and white Vampire Tales version was revised by Steranko with zip-a-tone replacing colour.

Yep, Krigstein definitely. Maybe a little Alex Toth too? Steranko, Krigstein, Toth – Pop artists.

Here is a page of the black and white version from Vampire Tales with a massive amount of zip-a-tone replacing colour.


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