Artist Spotlight – John Buscema

Hi everyone, please welcome guest author Alexander Lee as he discusses one of his favourite artists, John Buscema! Do also check out Alex’s film & TV review column for CBSI, Live from Mojoworld!. And for those interested in Alex’s other OA collecting tastes, here’s his Collector Spotlight!

Big John

A number of comic book fans in their 30s-40s will have fond memories of How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, a tutorial collaboration between Stan Lee and John Buscema.  Bursting with action and dynamism, that instructional was my first introduction to the sublime art of “Big” John.  Since then, Buscema's larger-than-life, action-packed style has captivated me and countless others.

Born in 1927 in New York to Sicilian immigrants, John learned his craft at Manhattan's High School of Music and Art.  He started his career as a commercial artist, and in 1948, joined the Stan Lee-helmed Timely Comics.  John honed his skills on crime fiction, westerns and romance fiction, and after a decade, left comics for commercial art.

In 1966, the artist returned to the superhero comic realm.  And he did so with great aplomb, providing penciling duties on an iconic run on The Avengers. A prolific illustrator, John provided duties on an average of two books a month.

Zenn La

In 1968, Buscema launched the memorable Silver Surfer series.  The cover to issue 1 remains one of Marvel's most iconic covers.  Many consider John's work on the title to be among his very best, and pages from the series have consistently clocked in high prices. For instance, a Buscema-Stone page featuring Mephisto sold for just over $11,000 in May 2017.

Silver Surfer #17, page 2 by John Buscema & Chic Stone – Sold for $11,352.50 in May 2017 on Heritage Auctions

Another strong Buscema-Adkins page starring Galactus went under the hammer at over $21,500 in May 2016.

Silver Surfer #15, page 5 by John Buscema & Dan Adkins – Sold for $21,510 in May 2016 on Heritage Auctions

The premium pricing of Buscema's Silver Surfer work is a clear reflection of its desirability.  It's by no means accessible to most, and those who are lucky enough to own such pages will rest in the knowledge that, as with most hobbies, the best stuff always rises to, and remains at, the top.

Assemble!

John's close association with the Earth's Mightiest Heroes is in part due to his helming of two remarkable runs on the book – first in the ’60s/’70s (collaborating with, among others, the great Roy Thomas) and later, in the ’80s. It’s not surprising that the maestro's work on the first run remains more desirable, with pages going in the range of $3,000-$5,000.  Later run pieces are easier on the wallet, in the region of $500-$700. I feel that for those unable to cough up the moolah for a nice Kirby Avengers page, Buscema's work on the title presents a nice alternative.

Avengers #77, page 5 by John Buscema & Tom Palmer – Sold for $3,824 in May 2017 on Heritage Auctions

Avengers #276, page 14 by John Buscema & Tom Palmer – Sold for $657.25 in February 2016 on Heritage Auctions

FF and Thor

In 1970, Buscema took up The King's mantle on Fantastic Four and Thor. Big John's dynamic style was perfectly complemented by Sinnott's clean, precise inks on Marvel's First Family.  I think that Fantastic Four pages, which range from $1,000-$3,000, present decent value.

Fantastic Four #121, page 15 by John Buscema & Joe Sinnott – Sold for $2,868 in February 2017 on Heritage Auctions

The God of Thunder's mystical universe allowed Buscema to include a strong, Conan-esque fantasy element in a superhero book.  His exceptional take on the gods and demi-gods of Asgard will remain an important part of the title's history. John worked with a stable of inkers/finishers in the course of his run, including Colletta, Mooney and DeZuniga. Values of Buscema's work on Thor have been steadily increasing over the last few years, and I think it is worth snagging a page now (should one turn up) before it reaches more dizzying heights!

Thor #188, page 18 by John Buscema & Jim Mooney – Sold for $1,434 in June 2017 on Heritage Auctions

Thor Annual #5, page 11 by John Buscema & Tony DeZuniga – Sold for $1,314.50 in July 2017 on Heritage Auctions

By Crom!

John is also closely associated with the muscle-bound men and buxom beauties of Conan.  From as early as 1973 to as recently as 1995, he spear-headed several runs on various Conan titles.  Buscema's prolific runs on the barbarian's books mean that there is an abundance of such pages.  Naturally, “babe” pages fetch a premium!  However, the ubiquity of the work means that Conan fans can pick up non-splash, “regular” pages in the $400-$500 range, at non-nosebleed prices.

Conan the Barbarian #66, page 11 by John Buscema & the Tribe – Sold for $836.50 in May 2017 on Heritage Auctions

Conan the Barbarian #151, page 23 by John Buscema & Ernie Chan – Sold for $358.50 in June 2017 on Heritage Auctions

To me, Big John will remain an integral part of Marvel Comics' history and development.  While not as renown as The King (a tall order indeed), I believe that his place in comics' pantheon of greats will be increasingly cemented!

 

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