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CSBG Archive

Silver Age September – Today Earth Died!

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 look at the classic 1968 Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD tale, “Today Earth Died!” from Strange Tales #168, the final issue of Strange Tales to feature the characters. Written and drawn by Jim Steranko (with Joe Sinnott), it is terrific!


First off, check out the opening page alone…

Nick is moping due to the events of the previous storyline, where he thought he stopped the evil Yellow Claw, only to discover that it was a fake Claw. At the same time, Fury spent time trapped in another dimension. So this is definitely not the typical self-confident Nick Fury.

As you will see as reports of an alien surface…

Amazing stuff, right?

I’ll let you find the resolution/cliffhanger yourself (Steranko’s Nick Fury stories have been reprinted many different times) as it is sure a doozy. It is more like an episode of the Twilight Zone than anything.

And wow, does Steranko draw Contessa well or what?!? One of the defining Steranko Fury issues (in a run FILLED with them).


nice pick for steranko art really added a flare to nick fury. though still think that yellow alien dude is a little wacky looking.

Hells yeah. I got the reprint collection from about 10 years ago and it’s a great read. They even have a neat fold-out part so you can see the four page spread from #167 fully. Read this stuff!

Is this the first appearance of Ozymandias?

I love Silver Age September!

I’ve had several chances to buy this book in my life and never took it. I really regret it. I’m pretty sure it was better than whatever crap I did end up passing it up for.

I remember reading an interview I believe either with Dick Ayers or Chic Stone. It was in Kirby Collector I believe. Whoever it was was saying how Joe Sinnott was a bad inker not because he lacked skills but because he overpowered the pencils too much with his own style, and that when an inker is doing his job well you shouldn’t even notice him. Even though I see his point, when the end result looks like that, I think an overpowering style is more than excusable! (same goes for John Romita Sr’s inks)

Any chance of a Golden Age October soon Brian?

I will not deny that Steranko did some absolutely stunning pencil work on this one. That va-va-voom shot of Val Fontaine alone makes this very memorable. But I was really disappointed by the ending of the story (I won’t give it away, though, just in case some people here have never read it).

Me, I always liked Steranko’s dialogue style. It’s got the Stan Lee hyperbole — though admittedly, not as good as Stan himself — with some interesting tics borrowed from Will Eisner and others. As a hybrid, it’s less distinctive than the true scripting giants of comics, but it does seem to anticipate the more naturalistic scripting styles of later decades.

Steranko also had a gift for what you might call “incidental continuity:” offhand references or distant glimpses suggesting that, say, the FF are *of course* involved in an alien landing investigation, or the casual inclusion of exposition about recent issues amid character-centered dialogue. It lends some cohesion to the Marvel universe without ever letting it overwhelm the story. (Steranko is also setting up a suspect for the Scorpio mystery in Nick’s solo title, for that matter.)

He’s sometimes accused of presaging the “flash over substance” excesses of the Image era, but I think he’s genuinely committed to storytelling and uses more sophisticated techniques than some of the 1990s artist-writers. He suffers by comparison to the writers he borrows from, of course, but he’s borrowing from the *right* writers, and that makes a big difference. I suppose the one weakness of Steranko’s writing is that he doesn’t have the same gift for theme, for narrative vision, that the other giants of the Silver Age do. This story stands out in part because it does have a strong, Twilight Zone-style theme, but Steranko elsewhere has a tendency to let his love of genre conventions take the place of unique or personal themes in his stories. Kirby, Ditko, and Lee never made that mistake.

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