TNT: What Happens When a Comics Great Turns His Attentions to Twitter
Jim Steranko brought a new sense of style and modernity to comics in the late 1960s, and decades later, he's doing something similar to Twitter with his nightly 'TNT' sessions.
For hardcore comic folk, just the name "Steranko" is amazingly evocative, bringing to mind work that's effortlessly stylish without being overly tricky. Jim Steranko's comic output may not be as large as, say, a John Byrne nor as influential as Jack Kirby, but his late 1960s/early 1970s work on series such as S.H.I.E.L.D. and Captain America broke new ground and paved the way for countless other artists to follow.
Now, he's found himself a new medium to play in, and a new audience to dazzle. Jim Steranko has joined Twitter, and transformed the service from the usual 140-character free-for-all into something that feels more like a digital hangout with a one-man Rat Pack, spinning stories of days of yore in such a way that you'll laugh, you'll cry and you might wonder if Twitter will ever be the same again.
It's not as if Steranko's Twitter account -- His username is, appropriately enough, @iamsteranko -- isn't used for traditional CelebTwitter purposes; he chats with fans, answering questions and retweeting comments he finds amusing or flattering. But, most nights at around 7pm Pacific, he starts something he's taken to calling "Steranko TNT" (The latter acronym stands for Twitter Narrative Technique, he's helpfully explained).
What that actually means is that he'll start telling a story from his past. It might be about his time in comics -- There was one about slapping Batman co-creator Bob Kane in the face at a convention that had to be read to be believed -- or it might not, but it doesn't matter; every single story is a masterpiece of not only narrative, but also medium: Even in 140-character chunks, you can't look away.
That's because Steranko's life has been amazing: Before he got into comics, he was an stage magician and illusionist, as well as a musician who played with Bill Haley and the Comets; before he made it big in comics, he got by however he had to, including a Christmas where forging money was the only way to buy a gift for his girlfriend. In later life, he worked in the movie industry, providing concept art for Raiders of The Lost Ark and Bram Stoker's Dracula.
All of these ridiculous, wonderful experiences are shared on a nightly basis on Twitter, with Steranko holding court in front of an ever-growing legion of admirers. He's a charming writer, and an incredible showman; you get a simultaneous sense of his honesty and his hyperbole as he goes from writing about crying over a dead dog in the neighborhood to writing lines like "I've thought about generating a bio, but--hell!--I'm still living it!" without any palpable sense of irony, which is surprisingly refreshing.
Steranko's Twitter is the kind of greatness that couldn't be faked; the tall tales would ring false, the tone wouldn't be quite right. It'd be a curio, but one whose appeal would fade quickly as you recognized the joke's limitations. The real thing, though, is utterly compelling, as contradictory and surprising as real people are and yet consistently entertaining. Almost half a century after conquering comics, Jim Steranko has done the same to social media.