Comics legend Jim Steranko shows us his early concept art for Indiana Jones

Jim Steranko gave an intimate question and answer session this past Sunday in the waning hours of Dragon*Con. The veteran comic book artist is known for his psychedelic, groundbreaking work on Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Captain America in the late 1960s. He also helped to create the look of Indiana Jones, and told a captivated audience how it happened.

Comics legend Jim Steranko shows us his early concept art for Indiana Jones


Initial Paintings
After meeting with Lucas and Spielberg, Steranko went off to do four paintings to develop the look and feel of Indiana Jones in several scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark. As far as direction, Steranko was told give Indiana a jacket, "one like George (Lucas) wears," which would be a leather bomber jacket at the time (a jacket that wouldn't last too long in Raiders of the Lost Ark).

Comics legend Jim Steranko shows us his early concept art for Indiana Jones

Steranko personally added the Hobbs Fedora hat and the diagonal Sam Browne belt, staples of the Indiana Jones look. The name, "Indiana was the name of George's dog, and I think Jones was just pulled out of the air," was already established, as was the presence of the trademark whip, as it was present in the initial script.

Comics legend Jim Steranko shows us his early concept art for Indiana Jones


The "Lost" Paintings
Spielberg and Lucas were so impressed by the initial work that the duo approached Steranko to do fifty more paintings, "one a day up until Christmas," as it was November at the time at the time of their second meeting. Steranko noted during the session that these paintings would have essentially represented each scene of the movie. Steranko initially declined, due to the workload and time constraint. It took Steranko about a day to do each of the four previous production paintings, but doing one a day for fifty days would be difficult, with Steranko saying that he was, "afraid to disappoint, and you don't want to disappoint Spielberg." Spielberg offered an extension until the first of the year, which Steranko candidly declined.


Comics legend Jim Steranko shows us his early concept art for Indiana Jones
Comics legend Jim Steranko shows us his early concept art for Indiana Jones Steranko's Influence
By looking at these four production paintings, which match some of the film scenes perfectly, you see just how much Steranko, one of the great comic book artists of the 20th Century and a very established pulp cover painter, influenced the world of Indiana Jones.

With the "What If?" possibility of Steranko producing fifty more paintings, he could have easily been to the Indiana Jones franchise what Ralph McQuarrie and Joe Johnston were to Lucas' first Star Wars trilogy. These four paintings, on their own, show that Steranko certainly contributed much.

Images courtesy of Jim Steranko and Lucasfilm Ltd.