Steranko Recognizes the Power of Kindness in Julie Award Speech

On Saturday, August 30, 2003, Jim Steranko was honored with a JULIE AWARD at DragonCon in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. The award is named for veteran DC editor and literary agent Julius Schwartz. Previous winners include Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Alice Cooper, Anne McCaffery, Neil Gaiman, and Will Eisner.

Jim Steranko has been successful in many fields of creative endeavor, including filmmaking, music, close-up magic, graphic storytelling, escape artistry, publishing, and commercial illustration. He's also a recognized comic-book historian for his massive two-volume HISTORY OF COMICS and recently served as Creative Consultant for the History Channel's two-hour documentary COMIC-BOOK SUPERHEROES-UNMASKED. After receiving the award from Mr. Schwartz, Steranko gave the following acceptance speech.

"Before I did my tour at Marvel Comics, I had the opportunity to visit the DC offices. As a kid, I had a dream, like many of you, to make myself part of this wonderful, fantastic medium that only a very few actually get to work in. One day I was in New York and decided to go to DC to ask some questions, to find out about the comics business. It was about 1:30 in the afternoon and I knew at that time almost everybody would be out to lunch, except a skeleton crew to man the fort while the rest were away. I went into the receptionist's office and I asked if I could talk to someone and the woman said, 'Everyone's out to lunch.' And I said 'Surely there must be someone here.' She said, 'Let me see. You know, Julie Schwartz is in; would you like to see Julie?' Well, would I like to see Julie? I was imagining a very shapely woman with long red hair. No, of course, I knew who Julie was. I said, 'I'd be thrilled.' "A minute later, Julie took me into the bullpen and walked me through. There were a few guys working on pages and he introduced me to maybe half a dozen of them. I remember there was an Alex Toth page tacked up on one of the walls and I asked Julie what the page was doing there. He said it all in one word: 'Inspiration!'

"Anyway, we talked for about 40 minutes, which was a real surprise because for some geek just to walk in off the street and get the inside track from Julie Schwartz is really pretty special. At the end of the session Julie said, 'I have something to show you. Wait here just a minute,' and disappeared. And he came back holding a stack of paper.

"It was a complete script and all the original art--about 28 pages--for a comic that coincidentally happened to be one of my favorites: Adam Strange: Man of Two Worlds. Julie said, 'If you study this carefully and figure out how even one half of it was done, you'll be a pretty good comics artist.'

"Well, I did. I took the story home and spent days with it. It was the first full script I'd ever seen, complete with panel descriptions and dialogue. I learned a lot from it and eventually went on to create a few comics of my own.

"But there's something even more important that happened because Julie took the time out of a tight schedule to spend it with some kid--and Julie doesn't remember this because he did it hundreds of times with other kids--but the kindness that he showed me in that single moment changed my life. And had it never happened, I probably wouldn't be here to accept this award tonight. So, the circle closes, with my thanks to my guide, my associate, and my friend, Julie Schwartz."

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