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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #209

And now, one of the all-time greatest artists to work in comics. (Behold… the archive!)


209. John Buscema

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


Always fun when I guess the entry from the teaser! But after all, John Buscema really is one of the best!

I remember in the submarine flick “Crimson Tide” they shoe-horned in some everyman characterization by having Denzel Washington settle an argument about who drew the definitive Silver Surfer, Kirby or Moebius. Besides feeling very phony and out-of-nowhere, the scene was lame ’cause they never even mentioned the actual correct answer.

John Buscema is one of my favorite artists ever, especially on Conan, Avengers and of course Silver Surfer.

I really enjoyed this tribute.

I really need to pick up one of Dark Horse’s recoloured collections of Classic Conan…Barry Windsor-Smith may be the one most closely identified with Conan, but Buscema’s is my favourite. The guy could draw the human figure like nobody’s business. And I’m only just noticing it now, but he really seems like part of the Frank Frazetta/Wally Wood continuum.

Is Buscema the one who created the “chainmail bikini” look for Red Sonja? I remember when she debuted she had a really awful outfit with dorky hotpants. Not that her more well-known outfit isn’t dorky too, but hey, at least it’s a pleasure to look at.

I’m reading the Essential Avengers right now, and he is a toweringly great artist. Nothing against Don Heck, who he replaced, but the difference is shocking and immediate. (And I haven’t even gotten to the introduction of the Vision yet.)

Johnny Kwango

July 29, 2007 at 4:52 am

Thank you! I’ve been waiting for this one since January 2nd!

Someone, I can’t remember who, said that John Buscema wasn’t a comics artist, he was an artist who worked in comics.

The Marvel Visionaries books are great, but personally I’d like to see the occasional creator-themed Essentials volume – it could be a good opportunity to introduce readers to some of the more obscure works of the all-time greats. Of course, an Essential John Buscema would need more than one volume….

According to Amazon, Dark Horse is about to embark on the Complete Savage Sword of Conan reprint collection, with volume one rolling out in November or December. There you will find my personal favorite examples of John Buscema on Conan; he really shone in the magazine version, and with the larger black-and-white format you can see how much he put into the art. I hope Dark Horse A) leaves it at magazine size and B) doesn’t color it. It looks great as is.

I’m not sure I’m all about the Vision in a corset, but that’s about it for criticism. Buscema’s is the iconic ‘comic book’ style.

Now THAT’S a reason to love COMICS.

Not only a superb artist but also a fantastic storyteller.

I grew up reading the British Marvel B&W re-prints in the 1970’s and John rapidly became my favourite artist. The power and grace of his work gripped me then and still does today.

Great choice Bill!

John Buscema is awesome. I took How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way out from the library when I was a kid and didn’t return it ever.

I wasn’t around back in the day so maybe his art was revolutionary at the time, but I find his art fairly bog standard. Not bad per se, but there’s just nothing about it to make me care either way

John Buscema has always been my favorite Conan artist.

I saw an original comic art panel page of [b]Conan The Barbarian #100[/b] up for auction at Heritage Auctions.
The auction ends August 8, 2008


John Buscema & Ernie Chan – Conan #100 – page 44 (final page) – Marvel Comics – 1979


I agree totally with you, and I’m glad that you posted a shot from John’s “Conan The Rogue” GN. If anyone wants to see Big John doing his thing completely – pencils, inks, and colors as well as coming up with the story – this 62 page masterpiece is the book to own. The next best things to get: Marvel Materworks: Silver Surfer 1-6 and the 64 page hard-bound Surfer book with Stan Lee. Judgement Day, I think its called.

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