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Thursday, October 31, 2019

A Treat from Steranko - Two Versions of "At the Stroke of Midnight"

Vampire Tales #2 (October 1973)
Tower of Shadows #1 (September 1969)(cover by John Romita)
"At the Stroke of Midnight"
Jim Steranko

Happy Halloween, everyone! What's a fella to do when he's noticed that almost a year of this blog's life has gone by with nary a mention of one of the all-time greats? One cobbles together a fun post featuring the art of Jim Steranko, that's what! As mentioned last week, I recently purchased a copy of the Vampire Tales trade paperback (volume 1) at our local Half-Price Books. Other than Marvel choosing to trim it in digest size, it's a wonderful compilation of the first three issues of the magazine of the same name. Interestingly, those magazines included some gems from Marvel's horror past. And some of those had nothing to do with vampires. But who am I to quibble, especially when those stories featured art by the likes of Bill Everett, Gene Colan, and today's featured artist. Boom!

Today I'm featuring a short story by Steranko in its original color version, side-by-side with the black & white reprint that graced the magazine shelves four years later. For my money, the B&W version is superior to the colored art. You decide for yourself, and I'd invite you to leave a comment at the conclusion of your perusal. Along the way, color or not, I hope you relish Steranko's panel layouts, his use of lighting/shadow, and the general tension of the tale. It's top shelf horror writing, and of course we all know what a master Steranko is at layouts. So enjoy this treat, and I hope you are not on the receiving end of any tricks when the little goblins are out and about this evening. Stay safe, effendi!


  1. Hiya,

    Perfect treat for Halloween. An example of how to put a twenty page story into seven pages of content and not losing a smidgen of content.

    Did you know that there was a short black and white movie adaptation of this story. I saw it years ago so I really can't recall much beyond it starred John Fiedler, of The Bob Newhart Show, as the husband.

    Makes me feel a bit better to see this as due to the current weather conditions (dangerous) I won't be making the seventy mile trip to my mother's house to hand out comic books and other treats this year.

    Bah, Humbug.



    1. Hiya,

      Found it.

      For what was apparently a student project it's got a lot going for it.


    2. Hi, PFG -

      Michael Kronenberg chimed in on Twitter with this to say about the video:

      Did you know that Jim Steranko made a movie based on his classic “At the Stroke of Midnight” (SHADOW HOUSE)? It was funded by AFI & filmed at their studios. Jim wrote the script & was the production designer. I have a copy of the film. You can see it here:

      So there's that.

      Thanks for digging up the link!


  2. I have the color version of this story in an issue of one of those Special Edition reprints from the early 1980s (the first issue of the Captain America one, to be precise). This is the first time I've seen the b&w version, and honestly, I can't say which I prefer: in some places the b&w looks better (like the sixth page) but at places the color works better (like on the preceding page, esp. the middle row of panels with the books).
    But regardless, this is a wonderful little story - like PFG notes, there's so much story and art packed into those seven pages.

    1. Steranko gave the whole package, didn't he? His eye for color is a huge part of any conversation about his work.


  3. I was mad for Steranko's work as a kid, and actually read this story originally in b&w, in one of the British Marvel comics. Don't recall the title, but it was some one-off special from around the end of the 70s (which also included that Dr Doom story about his mother in hell, drawn by Gene Colan iirc).

    Steranko was unusual back then for doing his own colour, and - more to the point - using it effectively; but Stroke Of Midnight is one instance where it lets his work down a bit, so I agree with you on that Doug. The unusual palette - his use of purple, green and yellow - and sharp contrasts that worked so well on SHIELD and his Cap trilogy aren't really suited to the horror genre.
    But its still great work either way of course.


  4. Doug, you provided a great quickie read for this All Hallows Eve. The art is a toss up- both ways look great. So many little gems hidden among those old Bronze age horror anthologies...

  5. I'm partial to the original color version, which I read (and still have) in Tower of Shadows #1. An interesting aside: the book's narrator, Digger, as conceived by Steranko is seen here in an entirely different form from the version Stan Lee preferred (you can see Stan's inferior version in the corner box of the issue's cover).

  6. Thanks for the post. Love Steranko's work and what a character he is. Love the comparison of both versions and I agree, the black and white works best!


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