In the arena of superhero comic books, Jack Kirby owned the 1960's. Though certainly an important artist before and after that decade, Kirby's groundbreaking work during the 60's took comic book storytelling to a sprawling, bombastic new level. Once Kirby kicked down the door, younger artists couldn't help but be inspired to experiment with their own brand of hyper-dynamic visuals.
One such artist was Jim Steranko, whose life prior to entering comics encompassed performance magic, rock music and ad agency work. After a brief stay at Harvey Comics, Steranko received his first Marvel assignment from Stan Lee in 1966 inking (and later penciling) the Nick Fury, Agent of Shield feature.
In the years to come, Steranko took Kirby's spirit of innovation into stunning, surreal new directions through his use of graphic design, trendy "op art" and cutting edge cinematic techniques. Marvel also commissioned Steranko to create a number of covers, many of them achieving "instant classic" status. Chief among those covers, in my opinion, was the HULK King-Size Special #1 (1968).
This image perfectly captured the essence of the Hulk character, demonstrating his stubborn, savage defiance under the crushing "weight" of constant persecution. The illustration's elemental mass, raw power and tenacity will never quite be surpassed.
After a relatively short stay in comics, Jim Steranko went on to continued success in the book publishing, magazine and film industries....yet his comic book work remains one of the artform's undisputed high points.