Tag Archives: Jim Steranko

Noir as Religion: Steranko’s Chandler

Chandler: Red Tide by Jim Steranko

my lil’ copy, published 1976

An Illustrated Novel: CHANDLER… a tough, new detective in a new kind of mystery thriller that explodes with the fury of a lightning bolt!

When Chandler by Jim Steranko was published in 1976, it was cresting the neo-noir wave in which many of the great artists & storytellers of the decade were paying homage to the hard-boiled past. Released just 2 years after Roman Polanski’s Chinatown, even the title (and protagonist’s namesake) is a wink at one of the “big three” noir crime fiction authors, the Holy Trinity of noir to which we offer humble obeisance: The Dashiell Hammett, the James Cain, and the Holy Raymond Chandler.

The book is a sermon. Steranko pounds the pulpit with all the good stuff we’d expect from the gutter genre we’ve come to worship. How’s this for a hook: A dead man named Bramson Todd comes to Chandler looking for revenge. He’s been poisoned and doctors have given him 72 hours to live – 3 days for Chandler to find whodunnit. Chandler’s plot doesn’t disappoint. The hook is a promise that’s delivered like a haymaker; it’s a head-spinning, ears ringing, nose breaking race from one revelation to another.

Chandler Red Tide by Jim Steranko 1

“I’ve got 72 hours to live, Mr. Chandler. I want you to find my murderer.”

Steranko certainly flexes his storytelling muscles, but it’s his art that makes you stop and stare. 2 vertical panels per page, with all the quality of an ad you’d see on an easel at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. These images have a limited color palette & limited space, but there is nothing limiting about their impact. Sexy silhouettes, mean mugs, fisticuffs, wet city streets, & deadly docks are framed with a director’s eye. Steranko is a master stained glass artisan in the Cathedral of the Night.

The Femme Fatale

Our goddess, Ann Crane, is worthy of our devotion. She’s full of lies we want to believe, and she’s got her hooks so deep into Chandler that he believes every one of them. Her shadow looms large over his past and sends us all spinning into the darkest abyss of his pain (the pain of what could have been). I want to tell you that in the end, she doesn’t win. I want to tell you that, but I can’t. She’s femme fatale incarnate; a truly deadly woman.

Chandler Red Tide by Jim Steranko 2

“Stay out of it Ann,” I said. “Promise me. There’s a red tide coming that’ll drown all of us.”

The Anti-Hero

Chandler is the priest of these cold streets. He’s intimate with the prayers of the hard-boiled and more than familiar with the scars of the flagellants. His god insists he work alone; outside of the system, apart from the herd – a shepherd of the sinful hiding their sins. “I’m not a hired gun.” He tells a client, “I don’t like to be shot at.” But his profession often makes him a target anyway, because he gets paid for doing “what other men couldn’t do— or wouldn’t do.”

My Advice: Get you some religion. Read Chandler.

Chandler Red Tide by Jim Steranko 3

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Noir Art | Jim Steranko

Noir Art Jim Steranko Chandler Red Tide

Jim Steranko (Born November 5th 1938)

Jim Steranko is a legend in the comic book industry, and as a noir artist he is unparalleled. Born James F. Steranko in Reading, Pennsylvania on November 5th, 1938, his parents were Ukrainian immigrants that worked coal mines and tin. Jim began to draw while very young, opening and flattening envelopes for sketch paper. His ambition to become an architect garnered family support, who eventually began to provide the boy with comics and other media to work from.

In the Silver Age of Comics, he made several innovations in sequential art that have left a deep and lingering impression upon the comic genre. His most famous and memorable work being with Nick Fury, Agent of Shield, he nevertheless showed his noir prowess with the “Visual Novel” (precursor of the graphic novel) Chandler: Red Tide. Although it enjoyed a very limited printing, it still serves as one of the most wonderful collections of noir inspired images in the genre. A bulk of the captures you see here are from that single book.

 “Fans seem to think that the more lines that go into a drawing the better it is. Actually, the opposite is generally true. The fewer lines you can put into a drawing the quicker it reads, and the simpler it is.”

Noir Art Jim Steranko

Noir Art Jim Steranko

Noir Art Jim Steranko

Noir Art Jim Steranko Chandler Red Tide

Noir Art Jim Steranko

Noir Art Jim Steranko Noir Art Jim Steranko

Noir Art Jim Steranko

Noir Art Jim Steranko Chandler Red Tide

The influence Jim Steranko has upon modern noir comic artists is obvious. When you look at the panels above, it’s so easy to see the ripples that spawned Sean Phillips, Frank Miller, and many others. Bless you for your contribution Jim, bless you.

(Thanks to the following sources:)


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