The first time I became aware of John Buscema was via the compilation magazine Hacoc that was released by Marvel in the early 90s. This magazine collected a some of their edgier stories such as Deathlok, Ghost Rider, RoboCop and most importantly, the Buscema illustrated Conan. This story was beautiful to look at and oozed an atmosphere of Cimmerian aggression and sexuality that I wasn’t used to from Marvel’s otherwise clean-cut output. Needless to say it left an impression.
All of this and more is covered in IDW’s latest book, Big John Buscema: Comics and Drawings, which looks at his prolific career as shown at an exhibition in Spain in 2009. The work throughout is outstanding and shown in every stage of its creation from draft to the printed page. Whilst reading the accompanying text by Florentino Flórez, what stands out as much as the great work is the complete frankness with which Buscema talks about his near hatred of the business of comics! I suspect much of this attitude comes from working in what must have been a boiling pot of a studio, but it becomes clear that he held unfulfilled aspirations to be a painter, coupled with a dissatisfaction with his colleagues to whom his pencils were subject (in his eyes) to inferior inking and colouring. Heated arguments are referred to between Buscema, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby regarding the proper approach to certain characters, with the Silver Surfer proving particularly problematic; not that us readers would ever notice as the final product was always brilliant. This must certainly have been different to the advertising world from which Buscema came and seemed to enjoy, working alongside the likes of Bob Peak and Bernie Fuchs; part of his early career also covered in this book, if only briefly.
As comic art goes Buscema’s incredible portfolio as shown here represents a pinnacle of the industry and although this may present him as an intimating figure, he also appears as someone fiercely dedicated to his art. Big John Buscema passed away in 2002 aged 74, but left behind an incredible amount of work of the highest quality, brilliantly presented in this book which makes this an essential purchase.
Big John Buscema: Comics and Stories by Florentino Flórez
Hardback 328 pages
24.1 x 2.5 x 29.2 cm