Long live the great John Buscema

March 3, 2002

By Avi Green

This January the 10th, the comics industry lost one of it’s greatest legends, the artist John Buscema, who was 74 when he died. He was one of the best artists the industry ever had, with work that graced the pages of the Avengers, Silver Surfer, and even Wolverine.

Buscema first began working at Timely Comics, later to be known famously as Marvel, in 1948, and his first works included western and romance comics. 2 years later, when the industry was in a bad slump, he went freelance, but then, in 1966, he came back to Marvel, and it was then that he really grew into a the big legend he’ll always be remembered as today.

One of my first exposures to the legendary Buscema was his work on the first run of the Silver Surfer’s solo book from 1968 in TPB format. I enjoyed it a lot. It was a great tale of a lone being’s revolt against the master, Galactus, who gave him the powers he possesses, and his fight to save the earth from being devoured by this gigantic warlord.

The Silver Surfer first appeared in the pages of the Fantastic Four, at the time a servant of Galactus (or herald, as the giant warlord put it). He’d first appeared as a simple sight in the background that the legendary Jack Kirby casually inserted into a background scene. Stan Lee, upon seeing this, encouraged him to expand it into a full- fledged character, who later rebelled against the warlord to whom he’d sold his soul, and broke away to use his powers for the cause of good rather than evil. And in the first series of the Silver Surfer from 1968, we saw him as he strode to understand the human race, and his relation with Ardina, the humanoid who was dispatched by Galactus to try and convince him to come back to work for him. The Surfer then tried to convince her in his turn that the human race was not all the evil she may have thought it was, and eventually succeeded, but sadly, lost Ardina to Galactus at the end when he decided to liquidate her.

From my reading this, I realized that he was an artist capable of some real wonders, and my breath was absolutely taken away from what I read. This man was a born talent, with a real big career ahead of him, who could really take the comic book world by storm.

His other great works include his runs on the Avengers with Roy Thomas and Roger Stern, and include “Mansion Siege” and “War on Olympus”, exciting stories all. Captain America, Hercules, Wasp and Black Knight never had it better.

Plus, there was also his work on Marvel’s Conan series with Barry Windsor-Smith that began in 1970. Based on the pulp novels that Robert E. Howard wrote in the 1930’s, it was a brilliant transformation to picture of the fantasies that Howard had first created. Though it had no place in the regular Marvel universe, it was still a very brilliant translation, and subsequently led to the publication of Red Sonja in 1977, based on another one of the characters that Howard created in his time.

And so, he came as a natural choice for Stan Lee in the late 1970’s when he was signed on to work on How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way (Simon & Shuster, 1978). For he most certainly was the Marvel Way.

I’d known from last year that he’d sadly fallen ill, and it was pretty sad news to discover. Now, with the great Buscema gone, we’ve lost one of the best artists in the business, a man whose styles can be learned from. And he never disappointed his fans.

I want very much to get all those old classic Avengers and Silver Surfer issues that he worked upon. This guy, believe me, has done work that is to be treasured for generations to come.

So long John. We’re going to really miss you pal.

Avi Green sometimes wishes he could ride the skies, the heavens, and space on a surfboard too. He can be reached at avigreen2002@yahoo.com

Copyright 2002 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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