Wednesday, 9 December 2009

John Buscema

Big John Buscema was born today. I've only realized in the last couple of years quite how much I took Buscema for granted while he was working. As Stan quickly figured out while he was casting around for a replacement for Jack, The Big Man could draw anything, plus he was really quick. And just like Kirby, he was so good, all the time, that I ( and I assume, more than a few fans ) got used to how great John was without even thinking about it. I don't ever remember anybody saying: Did you see The Avengers this month? The art was brilliant. Of course it was, it was Buscema. It's like saying Have you seen the sky today, it's blue.
John drew just about everything during his career, of course, including all these guys.

But come on, it's Buscema day. Which means it's Conan day!

Right there is the single greatest illustration of Conan ever done by anyone ever, and I'll split the skull of any Stygian dog who disagrees. As much as I love the Barry Smith issues, no one has ever, or will ever, do The Cimmerian better. I know there's some fine work done over at Dark Horse, but I don't care. Conan looks like that. That one shot tells you everything you need to know about this guy, and he isn't even doing anything.
Big John hated doing superheroes, but he loved drawing Robert E. Howard's greatest creation. It was his chance to be Hal Foster. If Foster had had balls the size of coconuts.
Raised on Prince Valiant, this was Buscema's chance to create that kind of world for himself, and to immerse himself in it. Freed from what he saw as the drudgery of trying to remember which superhero wore which costume, he could go wild in Conan's pre-historic world.
As he said: That ( book ) I enjoyed. Because I don't have the restrictions of the goddamn automobiles and skyscrapers. I can create anything that comes into my imagination. That's why Conan appealed to me. I had a lot of freedom in those books. I could do anything with the buildings and create costumes. Again, I don't like drawing mechanical things. I just don't enjoy it.

And talking of things mechanical, if my damn scanner hadn't died on me, today I'd obviously be posting the whole of a Buscema Conan. One of the truly great ones, like A Witch Shall Be Born or The Tower of The Elephant, or even the far better than it had any right to be What If Conan Lived Today? So consider this a taster for a bigger piece to come, with a brief look at some classic Buscema pieces.
Here, for instance, is Conan enjoying his second favourite pastime.

Weirdly Jack Davis-esque Conan there.

John's rough's were, of course, beautiful. Like these three.

And is this Valeria?

And here's another couple of great pieces.

In an interview with Roy Thomas, years after the fact, when Buscema couldn't remember a single thing about the plethora of superhero books he's spent his career drawing, he still had this to say about Cimmeria's favourite son: I loved the Howard books. I fell in love with them as soon as I read them and I was chomping at the bit and I wanted to do them so badly....I enjoyed every Conan we worked on. As long as it was Conan, I loved working on it.

So read some Conan today, ok? Don't make me send the big guy round.


  1. Lovely tribute to Big John B! Although I always say Barry Smith is my fave Conan artist, Buscema's version is probably more authentic and closer to Howard's original. And, by Crom, he could draw some beautiful women!

  2. Great post.

    For me, Big John was simply the best...

    Buscema draws 4 or 5 pages per day during more years. John with two months to draw one comic-book like a few today artists..... I think was incredible...

    The best ever.

  3. Very nice tribute. Buscema IS Marvel Comics to me. When I was a kid, it was his Thor, his Fantastic Four, that became the iconic versions in my head. He was an artist of vast gifts, able to do action and quiet scenes equally well. If I could only show one piece of his work to the uninitiated, it would be the full page shot of the Vision crying in Avengers 58. Breath-taking.

  4. I agree with Karen, Buscema is pretty much the definitive Marvel artist in my mind as well(together with Sal...)
    Interesting to learn that he didn't necessarily enjoy do superhero books as much - personally, I prefer his work on, say, the Avengers, over Conan, as good as it was.

  5. John Buscema was the man. He could turn his hand to any character that Marvel could throw at him . Loved his Avengers stuff so much but Conan was classic Buscema. Realy miss his work.

  6. Let's not forget SILVER SURFER 1-17!

  7. SILVER SURFER-John Buscema hated doing that book.She called him a whinny bastard.Buscema is pretty much the definitive Marvel artist.Even I prefered the Barry Smith Conan over his,being the world was decarative and fantastic,I didn't realize until a few years ago how much he taught me just by reading his comics.I was drawing one of my characters-Prince Eric Khorum Rhann and noticed just how much of the late John Buscema came through in the art.

  8. John Buscema for me was the greatest and most inspiring comic artist I've ever seen.'Nuff said.

  9. I have a page by John. Got it a number of years ago. It has Iron First in it, but for the life of me I don't know where it is from. On top it has the initials TICE and the words "AFTER ALL". It also says page 74 so it must be from an annual. Anyone have any ideas? John never did an Iron Fist comic.