On History: Stereon

By | Tuesday, December 13, 2016 3 comments
There's a semi-famous incident from the early 1980s where Johnny Carson got a hold of some 3-D glasses that featured some Jack Kirby art and credited him as the "King of Comics." Carson had never heard of Kirby and, assuming "comic" to mean "comedian", proceeded to mock this obviously overly self-important jokester. Mark Evanier helped to sort the matter out, and Carson publicly apologized on his show.

But where did those 3-D glasses come from?

I haven't quite been able to figure this out completely. The 3D Video Corporation put out a comic in 1982 called Battle for a Three Dimensional World with a script by Ray Zone and art by Jack Kirby (pencils) and Mike Thibodeaux (inks). It's a fairly short (15 pages) and self-contained story. From what I can tell, though, the 3-D glasses that came with the comic were pretty generic. Every version I've seen for sale that comes with glasses has the same bland pair. No Kirby art, nor any mention of Kirby.

At the same time, 3DVC also put out a promotional mini-poster of the comic's main character, Stereon. Again, Kirby and Thibodeaux on art. And the poster also came with a pair of 3-D glasses. As near as I can tell, it was this poster that came with the special 3D glasses with Kirby artwork, not the associated comic.

What I don't quite get is that all of the "how 3D works" pieces that are included in the comic and the poster specifically talk to how 3D television works. And that make sense from a company called 3D Video Corporation. What I don't get, though, is how/why they wound up doing a comic book and poster, and who this was intended for. I've seen backer cards for the comic, suggesting that it was sent to comic shops and sold (as opposed to some kind of promotional giveaway to television producers and directors) but to what end? They don't seem to have published anything outside this single issue, so it doesn't seem like they were shooting to become regular comic publishers. So who was this intended for and why? How was it distributed? Was the poster an advance teaser of the comic or did they come out simultaneously? And why put the higher end glasses with the poster, but not the comic? Lots of questions here that I can't find answers for.

As an interesting aside, the 3D effects for this comic were done by Tony Alderson. This comic was one of his first jobs for the company. He also did the 3D conversions for the Jaws 3D trading cards from Topps. His process was to use Kirby's original line art as the left image, then cut apart a copy of that and re-assmble it with slight displacements for the right image. He left 3DVC not long after, but continued doing 3D work, including the 3D comic versions of Sheena, The Spirit, The Rocketeer, Spacehawk, and Dracula. Alderson passed away in 2002.
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Phil said...

Love 3D comics ! Got this and the Spirit and Sheena and Rocketeer. I even bought a Red Sonja comic because it was 3D.

Bob Buethe said...

Generic glasses? There must have been a backlog on the Kirby-designed glasses. You can see a pair here.

Fantastic - thanks, Bob!