Thursday, October 25, 2012

At The Stroke Of Midnight!









This remains the scariest single comic book story I've ever read, at least one that was supposed to be scary. It is Jim Steranko's finest single comics work in my opinion.  This ghost story is an exquisite gem, that yields more excitement the more you examine it and the many facets which make it sparkle so brilliantly. I think I found it so memorable, because as a young fellow reading it, I did not completely understand what I was beholding,  but I knew in my core that what it added up to was some nasty stuff. The tricks with time really pull you along. Sam Rosen must be given kudos also, as his lettering does precisely what it should, be available readily to the eye, but rarely intrusive into the core of the imagery, a real challenge in this tiny panels.  Only the great Eisner ever designed a comic book page which compelled the reader so completely and utterly. This is Steranko at the top of his game.



Now I  am not gonna dismiss the John Romita cover which adorns the debut issue of Tower of Shadows. The ominous image is a dandy, and while less in your face than Steranko's rejected image, it does give a stronger hint about what is beneath it. I don't think Digger's leering mug is helping though, so Steranko's blending of the logo and box works best for me as far as t hat goes.

All in all a masterpiece of fright.

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5 comments:

  1. In my case, the creepiness lasted across decades! I bought the comic new in '69 but it literally gave me nightmares (the only comic that ever did!). I quickly traded it to a friend, probably for some coverless Legion of Superheroes comics. After that I put it out of my mind...for decades. Then one day around 2004 I was looking through the dollar box at my local comic shop and found a copy of the issue. The whole story came flooding back and I thought I'd try it again. This copy was in the dollar box because it had been around. The price on the cover was marked out and another written in. There was a different price on the inside first page and a third pencilled in on the back cover. It, too was crossed out with a 4th pencilled next to it! And on the first page of the comic, at the bottom...were my initials!!!!! In 1969, I started putting a little circle with my initials on all my comics and here it was! THIS WAS THE EXACT SAME COPY THAT HAD GIVEN ME NIGHTMARES 35 YEARS EARLIER!!!!!!!! AAAAAagggghhhh...... (and I still have it!)

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  2. Fantastic story! I think I might have some of your old comics in my collection. I've seen initials in a circle before, but I'd hard pressed to dig them up now.

    I still own the copy of ToS I bought off the stands when it came out, and a few reprints of this story since. Both Tower of Shadows and Chamber of Darkness were pretty cool comics for a few months. Seeing the Marvel Bullpen do these kinds of non-superhero stories was real fun back then.

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  3. The thing about that though was back then Stan's idea's and visions were priority and when he wanted continuity he stuck to it. While Jim's cover is over the top beyond it's time and uniquely original in composition and even better in some cases...the printed cover is exactly what Stan wants and was even more than likely scribbled on paper and handed to JR for him to produce.
    Keeping the comic...period.

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  4. Jim was starting to push comic art, eliminating the true black border line necessary around figures and background, working with light and shadow (that folks like Bob Powell, Roy Crane and at the time Wally Wood and soon Alex Toth) experimented with. He was pushing the storytelling of Eisner and Kreigstein, yet kept the simplicity of Johnny Craig, for example, in his work. His logo showed his love for The Shadow, but I doubt the cover would truly work. Most comic books back then were sold overlapping, on stands or spinner racks. Today, with full frontal exposure, the cover would rock. Back then, it wouldn't be noticed. 90 images on 8 pages, all fully rendered and used to move the story along with corresponding dialogue. The pacing is exceptional. I would actually like to see this as a short film!

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  5. It was made as a short film by the American Film Institute. It was about 30 minutes shot in black and white. Steranko was given writing credits. Check out this link for info on the cover:
    http://comics.ha.com/c/item.zx?saleNo=7066&lotNo=93424&type=wlem&wlc=176714314#88768876185

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