And now, one of the all-time greatest artists to work in comics. (Behold… the archive!)
209. John Buscema
“Big John” Buscema was a brilliant comics artist who took Marvel to a different level of artistry, defined the Avengers, became one with Conan, and much, much more. He had a strong, realistic style that commanded the page and drew the reader’s eye with, seemingly, the greatest of ease. His heroes possessed power and grace; John took them on adventures that featured such wonders so as to prove that he could draw anything, and draw it well.
He got his start in the industry at Timely Comics, but advertising work wooed him away. Cajoling from Stan Lee brought him back to the Marvel fold, however, in the mid-’60s, and Buscema found himself on a swath of different books, including the Avengers. I’d bet my sweet bippy, whatever that is, that no one’s drawn the Avengers better than John Buscema; he brought a great, expressive sense of character to the title, and truly portrayed them as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
Buscema was beloved on superheroes, but his true love was fantasy, or specifically, Conan the Barbarian. He drew approximately eight bajillion Conan stories, and they all looked beautiful. No one has ever drawn savagery and power like John Buscema– he was fantastic at all the heavyweight guys like Thor, Hercules, Tarzan, Namor, and, yes, Gilgamesh.
Of course, he also handled his fair share of philosophical characters as well, like the emotional android Vision in the pages of Avengers, but the primary example here has to be the Silver Surfer, whom Buscema drew in his own solo series. Lovely, lovely space opera.
In the later part of his career, John returned to the Avengers, drew some Punisher stories (including the greatest Frank Castle tale of all, Archie Meets the Punisher), and some more Conan, along with other odds and ends. The last published comic he ever drew was a new collaboration with Stan Lee, on Just Imagine Stan Lee and John Buscema Creating Superman, for DC.
John Buscema proved that even an android could cry. And when Mr. Buscema passed away in 2002, that android cried again, as did all of comics fandom. He was monumentally skilled, and his art was exceptionally crafted and beautifully rendered. I hope he is forever paid tribute, for he was a great, legendary artist.
For more on John Buscema, I’ve gotta link you to the Official John Buscema Website, which is loaded with goodies. Also, Marvel’s released a Visionaries volume for John Buscema; you should buy it. And for more on the Buscema family, journey back to a previous Reason entry on John’s younger brother, Sal Buscema, another artist extraordinaire.