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Posted July 7, 2005
When I first began collecting comics back in the mid-1970's, one of the first books I bought was Conan the Barbarian #42. The cover featured Conan battling a winged gargoyle, high above a city, while the gargoyle also held a comely wench. That book would begin a life-long love affair that I would have with the art of John Buscema. In today's comic scene where it seems all the artists can do is produce splash pages of abnormally large-breasted women, Buscema's art displays the qualities of a true master storyteller. Vanguard Productions has released this wonderful sketchbook of Buscema's art, another in their outstanding series of sketchbooks featuring some of the all-time great comic book artists. With an introduction by the legendary illustrator Jim Steranko, and a book-length interview with J. David Spurlock, we learn of Buscema's early career as he was hired by a young Stan Lee at the then Timely comics. He would work on a freelance basis for Timely/Atlas and also work for other comic publishers, notably Western doing books such as 'Roy Rogers' and 'Indian Chief'. Buscema would leave the comic business in the late 50's and move into advertising until a call from Stan Lee brought him back to Marvel for good in 1966. And we can all be thankful that Stan made that call. While Jack Kirby clearly set the tone and style of Marvel art of the 1960's, it was Buscema who took the reins in the 1970's, developing a different style than Kirby's, but no less dynamic. Ironically, John initially had trouble grasping the Marvel style when he returned until Stan gave him a number of Kirby titles to look over. Buscema would even go on to write the bible of Marvel art 'How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way' which is still widely read over 25 years later. John would go on to do many titles at Marvel over the years including a long stint on the Avengers where he would create the look of the android Vision for the classic Avengers #57. He also worked on Thor, The Silver Surfer, and countless others, but it was his work on Conan that captivated me. No artist, not even Frazetta (whom Buscema acknowledges as THE Conan artist) ever captured the true essence of the grim, brooding warrior of Robert E. Howard like Buscema did. Buscema reveals how he took over Conan after Barry Smith left and barely can contain his disdain for Smith's youthful, slender version of Conan. He would draw Conan in both the color comic, and the B&W Savage Sword of Conan magazine for some 25 years. This wonderful book is loaded with sketches, some finished some just rough layouts, from throughout his illustrious career. Buscema's women are not the pencil-thin waits, giant bosoms of today's comics, but REAL women sensuous, often buxom and with his trademark pouty lips. Buscema's characters were real characters. His expertise at drawing anatomy and movement correctly almost a lost art in today's splash page heavy, 'in your face' style of art. There's a wonderful story John tells during the interview about how Stan Lee criticized John's art on the now celebrated Silver Surfer #4, featuring one of the greatest covers in history. Years later, Stan would tell John that it was their best work together and he never recalled his earlier comments. You gotta love ol' Stan! Buscema is a true comic hero of mine and a man who left us all too soon. His works will live on however and be continued to be loved and appreciated for generations to com. This sketchbook is a marvelous item for fans and collectors of his work. Reviewed by Tim JansonWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.