Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Big John Buscema: A Life in Sketches

One of the great new releases tomorrow is new book called "BUSCEMA: A Life in Sketches" by Emilio Soltero, a compilation of artist John Buscema's preliminary sketches and page/panel layouts.

It's very cool look into the mind and talent of one of this industry's classically styled pencillers. Particularly when looking at Soltero's book and these sketches, one sees that Big John was influenced by Alex Raymond, John Allen St. John, Hal Foster and other earlier 20th century illustrators.
John Buscema is probably best known for his long run on Marvel's CONAN the BARBARIAN title of the early '70s, taking over for Barry Smith (now known more as Barry Windsor-Smith) after Smith's seminal early run on the Robert E. Howard character.

Big John was a more than an able successor to Smith. He refined and defined the look of Conan comics starting in the early '70s.
My first encounter with John Buscema's art was in 1967 when he pencilled Marvel's AVENGERS. From that time on, he was always one of my favorites, so I was very happy years ago to acquire some of his original pages, mostly from another of my favorite comic artists, Jim Mooney, who inked Big John's work on Marvel's FANTASTIC FOUR for an issue or two.


I own several pages from FF #117, from 1971--- excellent pages featuring the Human Torch, the Thing and Crystal, along with Diablo and Lockjaw.

When I bought the pages from Jim Mooney, I didn't expect to find some bonus sketches by Buscema on the backs of each page. Some of his most interesting work was done on the back of his original art pages. Jim Mooney wrote me a blue-pencil note on the back of one of the FF pages "These sketches are the greatest. I really hate to part with them."


Who knew John Buscema also fooled around doing Harvey Comics-styled characters?


Buscema really made no bones about the fact that he didn't much care for drawing super-hero stories, though he was among the best in the field for most of his career.

John Buscema was not only a master of comic art, these sketches and the ones in Soltero's new book prove that he was an avid practitioner of his craft.


Today's comic art students could sure take a lesson from John Buscema and the artists of John's generation. The best constantly work to hone their skills and improve the facility of their art.

The two barbarian pages here, both inked by Buscema's long-time Conan collaborator Ernie Chan, are from the backs of pages from CONAN #149 & 150. All the others are from the backs of pages from FF #117.

Enjoy!

Peace 'n' Buscema-beautiful art!

FlyCoJoe
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