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365 Reasons to Love Comics #128

I’m still in a Spidery mood, so, what the heck. If you don’t mind, I’d like to turn your attention to another terrific comics artist who never got his proper due. And yeah, he drew a huge Spider-Man run. And a huge Hulk run. And a huge… oh, you’ll see.

5/8/07

128. Sal Buscema

Sal Buscema 2.jpg

Our Pal Sal is the best “workhorse” artist in comics. He’s drawn everything in the Marvel Universe a thousand times over, thanks to his astonishing work ethic, ability to meet deadlines, and incredible spirit. He’s got a solid, unique style that has served him well when drawing Spider-Man, the Hulk, Thor, Captain America, the Avengers, and even (and especially!) ROM, Spaceknight. He was the go-to fill-in artist for years and years. I’d say, however, that he’s gone unappreciated.

Sal is, after all, John Buscema’s younger brother, and it took him a while to break free of his brother’s shadow, but he certainly did. It wasn’t through sheer volume of work, though to list out all the issues he’s drawn would take pages, but rather through his gorgeously crafted, rock-hewn style. He’s never been a show-off like some other artists, but his work is amazingly well-done. I am using many adjectives. Mr. Buscema is worthy of them. As a youngster, I never cared much for his work, but I was looking for flashy stuff. I’m kicking myself for being so stupid. I love Sal’s work now.

Sal Buscema 1.jpgSal Buscema 3.jpg

Sal’s run on Spectacular Spider-Man with writer J.M. DeMatteis is, for me, the highlight of his career. Sal pencilled 100+ straight issues of the title (and inked most of those, too– uncanny), but yeah, the ones with DeMatteis writing were the strongest. Thanks to the storylines, Mr. Buscema was able to showcase his skills as an expert draftsman, handling both heavy action and heavy emotion with ease.

I’d say no one inks Sal’s work better than Sal himself, though I did enjoy the handful of issues with finishes by Bill Sienkiewicz. Anyway. I have scans again. Let’s hope they did not come out too huge this time:

Sal Buscema 4.jpg Sal Buscema 5.jpg

Sal’s Hulk is the definitive Hulk. There. I said it. Working with the brilliant Bill Mantlo, among other writers, Sal gave us a Savage Hulk with a ton of heart and an explosive rage. It’s a beloved, classic era of Hulk, and Sal contributed a great deal to the mood and the, well, greatness. A fantastic gallery of original artwork for Hulk can be found at this website. There’s some Defenders stuff on there, too. Yes. He drew Defenders, too. Including the Elf with a Gun bits. Like I said, he’s done everything. Here’s a Hulk page, by the way:

Sal Buscema 7.JPG

Let’s not count out Thor, either. Many people might not realize that Mr. Buscema drew quite a bit of Walt Simonson’s terrific run, including one of my favorite single issues of the title, #355. Have a page:

Sal Buscema 6.jpg

I could go on and on, with examples from every Marvel title ever (including, yes, ROM, which I adored, and which was one of Marvel’s best titles at the time), and a couple DC ones. Like I said, Sal’s drawn everything. And it’s all been good. The man is a quality machine.

I read somewhere, I think in an old “Marvel Vision,” that Sal considered pencilling to be work, but inking to be fun. I suppose that’s why, even in his “retirement,” he can still be found inking Spider-Girl every month.

Thanks for everything, Sal. You’re not just “our” pal– you’re the very comics medium’s pal. You’re a master of the form– and, hopefully, you’ll be appreciated well into the future.

28 Comments

I did not enjoy Sienkiewicz’s inking tenure over Sal on Spectacular. I like both men, but their styles do not mesh.

Like you, Bill, I couldn’t stand Sal’s — or a great many others’ — old-fashioned pencils back in the day. (I came back to comics at 17, right at the start of the Image Age, after all.)

But man, how I love ‘em now. Thank you, Marvel Essentials.

And thanks to you, too, Bill.

Good pick, the DeMatteis/Buscema Spec Spidey was the first extended run by a single creative team I ever bought.

….

I cried when Harry died.

Just a little.

And Sal was a part of that. Definitive artist for the second goblin I think. And along with Mark Bagley encapsulates my image of pre-clone post-Venom Spidey. Took a while to get used to his style but I ended up digging it. Still do.

Sal’s Spectacular with Sienkehoweveryouspellit did indeed suck, and almost turned me off of the Spidey books completely at the time (given that just prior to the Clone Saga they were all intertwined).

Rohan Williams

May 8, 2007 at 9:55 pm

Wow! I’m loving this column. Yesterday JRjr, today Sal Buscema… top picks. BEFORE I decided, as a naive 10 year old, that JRjr’s Spider-Man #75 was my favourite comic ever, Sal’s Spectacular #200 held that particular spot for a few years.

In retrospect, looking at both of those issues with a little more perspective, Spectacular #200 probably gets the nod for me, because while the art was phenomenal on both issues, the Harry Osborn story was so well constructed, and it’s just impossible to go past those last few pages.

Rohan Williams

May 8, 2007 at 9:56 pm

Oh, and yeah, Sal’s Defenders run was just awe-inspiringly good. (Thank you, Essentials!) He had that whole widescreen action thing going on decades before Morrison and Ellis and Millar made it cool.

I originally wasn’t that big a fan of Sal+Bill, but it steadily grew on me. #200 is just fantastic.

“Sal’s run on Spectacular Spider-Man with writer J.M. DeMatteis is, for me, the highlight of his career.”

I wholeheartedly agree! Those were some good Spider-Man comics!

I don’t follow Buscema’s work, but I did get a sketch from him. Back when Priest was writing Black Panther, I bought lots of relate back issues. Two of them was the Masters of Evil storyline featuring Man-Ape. I got them at “The National” convention in New York…and when I realized Buscema was sketching, I couldn’t resist asking him for Man-Ape. I caught him off-guard, but he did good with one of the issues I had bought the previous day. What do you think of this?

Sal kicked ass for years and still does! His Hulk run along with Mantlo is awesome.

Right on. I love Sal Buscema’s work. I was always a fan of the Hulk, and as a teenager I dug through back issue boxes for old issues, that’s when I discovered Sal and you are absolutely right, the definitive Hulk.

I cried when Harry died.

Just a little.

And Sal was a part of that. Definitive artist for the second goblin I think.

Oh man, the issue he drew when Harry died… The Green Goblin set up the whole trap to kill Spidey but Harry changes his mind in the nick of time and dies saving Peter from the exploding buildig. I read as a kid and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. Did Marvel ever publish a trade of that whole story?

Good choice. He is another great artist and it is nice to see the black and white work from him in the Marvel Essentials.

I never noticed before that the Goblin carries a pink purse.

“but Harry changes his mind in the nick of time and dies saving Peter from the exploding buildig.”

Doesn’t Harry die after saving his wife and child from the building? Also, either way, he died from his own poisonous goblin serum, not from the explosion.

I, for one, didn’t like Sal’s run on ‘Spectacular. I thought the heads he drew were too tall and skinny, like they had been crushed by Mark McKinney or something (actually, more geeky, Mark McKinney’s rival, since McKinney went horizontal and the other one — McCulloch? McDonald? — went vertical).

Doesn’t Harry die after saving his wife and child from the building? Also, either way, he died from his own poisonous goblin serum, not from the explosion.

Your partially right, so I stand partially corrected.

Harry planted the bombs and drugged Peter leaving him immobile in the soon to be blown up building. He suddenly remembered his wife and kid were still in the building and rescued them on his glider, this made him regain himself and upon realizing he left Peter to die he went back and saved him in the nick of time. He collapsed outside the building and died on the way to the hospital due to poisonous side-effects of the Goblin serum. With his last breath he apologized to Peter and reaffirmed their friendship.

I *heart* Sal Buscema’s work. Check it out…

http://www.comicartfans.com/GalleryRoom.asp?GSub=14694

Our Pal Sal is such an underrated artist, so I was glad to see him get a write-up here.

“…when I realized Buscema was sketching, I couldn’t resist asking him for Man-Ape. I caught him off-guard, but he did good with one of the issues I had bought the previous day. What do you think of this?”

Great sketch, Jason. Thanks for posting a link.

Nice collection of convention sketches, by the way.

Your partially right, so I stand partially corrected.

Harry planted the bombs and drugged Peter leaving him immobile in the soon to be blown up building. He suddenly remembered his wife and kid were still in the building and rescued them on his glider, this made him regain himself and upon realizing he left Peter to die he went back and saved him in the nick of time. He collapsed outside the building and died on the way to the hospital due to poisonous side-effects of the Goblin serum. With his last breath he apologized to Peter and reaffirmed their friendship.

It was Mary Jane, actually.

See here for scans of the scene in question.

Great minds think alike, Reed! I’m a Sal fan, too.

I love Mr Buscema’s work, there’s a great interview with him in a recent issue fo Back Issue, which is well worth a read.

The Balder The Brave mini-series is worth hunting down for classic Our Pal Sal art.

I’d love to see Marvel publish a special Sal Buscema issue similar to the recent JRjr 30th Anniversary Special : it’d be a lovely retirement gift to Sal and a great occasion for all his many fans.

Sal is great. His Hulk was a “hulk”. Not a twelve foot giant with 900 tendons popping out of his neck. Who did more issues of one character than Sal did of the Hulk? And yet when Marvel did that hardback book they failed to show even one panel of he Hulk work or even mention him by name.

Marvel Comics is an ass.

I think Sal had the misfortune of being primarily known by two labels:

1. “Buscema the Lesser”
2. “Workhorse” – which can be a backhanded compliment, and lets people take you for granted sometimes.

But in retrospect, he was one of the greats!

god, JRjr and now Sal…stop reading my mind of underappreciated greats.

These guys were some of my favorites growing up…

Annoyed Grunt

May 9, 2007 at 1:18 pm

I think I remember reading back in one of the old Marvel Bullpens that one of his pages went in to the Smithsonian museum. Does anyone remember that or am I just remembering something else? And you can count me as one of those kids who couldn’t stand his stuff at the time because it wasn’t Image-ized but came to appreciate him later.

Buscema will always represent a certain era of marvel comics, for me, visually.

Yeah, me too…albeit I didn’t know who was responsible until now. But those panels/covers are definitely the Marvel comics I know and loved.

DeMatteis’ and Buscema’s run was THE BEST. It’s absurd, maybe, but I’ve missed them terribly all this years. And now, with OMD…….. MUCH MORE.

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