Tuesday, February 8, 2011
It's A Fine Line: The Vision in the Bronze Age
Doug: After previous examinations of the Thing and Spider-Man (and even Spidey's cast of offbeat co-stars!), we're back at it with a look at our favorite Avenger. The Vision has been a stalwart on the roster since his introduction in Avengers #57; but what sort of treatment would he get as he headed into his second decade? Well, funny you should ask...
Sal Buscema, 1970. How about Our Pal Sal? While always overshadowed by his big brother John, Sal was (in many people's estimation) "the look" of Marvel throughout much of the Bronze Age. The sample at left is from Sal's first run on the book and shows off a powerful Vision. One of the things I've always admired about Sal was his ability to make just about anyone in the Marvel Universe look good -- maybe not great, but good. Vizh is buff but not too much, tall but not a giant. He's pretty much right in the groove.
Karen: I think you put it just right. Sal can draw everybody well, but I never think of him as a spectacular artist. Still, I never complained when he was the artist on a title.
Neal Adams, 1971. In contrast to Sal's rather sturdy-looking Vision, here to the right we see a typically lithe Neal Adams figure. Adams could make just about anyone look 6'5" and strong. Of course this is a page from the "Kree/Skrull War" and showcases Vizh's power of intagibility as he slugs it out with the Super Skrull. By the way, I love the way Adams draws the cape clinging to the synthezoid's body in the first panel.
Karen: I love Adam's depiction of the Vision -and pretty much everyone else! Vision is very unearthly here. The work with the cape makes him mysterious. I especially like the way Adams draws his face and eyes-with just that little spark in a field of darkness.
Barry Smith, 1972. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm pretty hot and cold with Barry Smith. I think his earliest Marvel work is quite atrocious (OK, maybe that was a bit strong, but c'mon -- it wasn't worthy of being called a "Kirby clone"). However, by the time we got past the first few issues of Conan the Barbarian, he was putting out some beautiful pictures. I think this little stretch of the Avengers (#'s 98-100) was in the latter mold. This sample at left is pretty solid. I really like the dynamism of the first panel, and the panel on the bottom is pretty good -- although I'd argue that the hands look just a bit off. Too small? Overall nice work.
Karen: It's certainly better than his early work on Avengers, but I've just never cared much for Smith's super-hero work. I think his style was great on Conan and even Dr. Strange, but these issues really didn't do much for me. His Vision is decent enough.
Rich Buckler, 1972. I think Buckler's stint on the Avengers (just after Barry Smith's short tenure) is among his best work -- ever. We just finished a series of posts showcasing his pencils on the FF; this sample at right really looks nothing like it, despite the fact that both series were inked by Joe Sinnott! Here we see a brooding Vision, and I absolutely love the third panel -- that's what the Vision should look like. Again, he's leaner than Thor or Iron Man, but more muscular than Quicksilver. Buckler, at least in these pages, "got it" about his stature and musculature. The face, again, is just super.
Karen: This is some of Buckler's best looking work in my opinion, but I suppose this was when he was aping Neal Adams! It's really hard to believe that Sinnott inked this, because I don't see much of his influence at all, and I consider him a very heavy inker. The Vision looks great here; mysterious and dark.
Don Heck, 1973. Ah, Don Heck. I've gone on record 100 times to say that Don Heck was the guy who taught me about the Avengers, back in the reprint series Marvel Triple Action. But just a few years later, into the Swingin' '70's, the Dashing One had lost it. Big time. Look at how stiff the Vision is in the page sample. His body looks to be out of proportion as well, unless those are the biggest artificial pectorals in history. Heck could tell a story well enough -- moves the action along, etc. But his figure and facial work by this time had really become a liability. And I'm always sorry when I talk this way.
Karen: I'm sorry but no; just no. As you say, his work had really deteriorated. Perhaps this was due to age or illness, and I feel badly for putting down his art, but by the 70s Don Heck was in second place for the artist I least wanted to see in my books (Frank Robbins held down the top spot).
Bob Brown, 1973. Now Bob Brown... Bob Brown could also tell a story. But alas, his figure work could be a little strange. Always liked his Daredevil (even if he did draw weird boobs), but his work on the Avengers was hit-and-miss. In fact, we have a Brown Avengers/Zodiac story on our to-do list. The first two panels here at right show some good stuff at top, but the three face-shots at the bottom are not good. Yeah, it's a Bob Brown face, no doubt -- but he's got the eyes all wrong! Go back up to Buckler's close-up... you've got to have the glimmer! Oh, and do you ever wonder why Ultron left the teeth white when he made the skin red? Why not purple teeth, or orange teeth? Maybe that was beyond the suspension of disbelief.
Karen: Bob Brown was acceptable, but I was never excited about his work. It was sort of flat looking. And yes, the eyes should have a tiny glimmer.
Dave Cockrum, 1974. Man, I like those Giant-Size Avengers issues that Dave Cockrum drew during the "Celestial Madonna" saga. I know we're all thinking of the X-Men when we think of Cockrum, but he really had a pretty varied career at the House of Ideas. The panel sample here is from a slugfest against Wonder Man, at the time a member of the Legion of the Unliving, and Vizh's left arm hung by a thread (or wire, or duct tape...). I think the fourth panel is really fun -- it's really a quite acrobatic move for a guy we either think of in terms of a) stealth, or b) strength.
Karen: Those GS Avengers by Cockrum were awesome! I don't even think this sample really does his work justice. If only he could have been the regular artist on the book! We had such a boatload of mediocre artists during Englehart's run.
John Buscema, 1974. Big John Buscema was called upon to perform his magic on the Avengers in between the runs of the aforementioned Bob Brown and John's own brother Sal. This is a real interesting sample for two reasons. The first is that it is unmistakably inked by Dave Cockrum (sheesh -- is everyone in this section aforementioned?). The second point of interest is the first panel. Doesn't that just strike you as a very human posture for our hero? Karen and I have long debated the Vision's humanity. I usually stand as a small but somewhat vocal minority. But I really like that panel.
Karen: You're right, looks more like Cockrum than Buscema to me. Of course Big John may have just done rough layouts for this book. But what can you say about John Buscema and the Vision, other than he drew the best Vision ever? He's my pick for the number one Vision artist of all time, and heck, I would say that based on just one image alone:
Karen: Of course that's from 1968, and we're talking 70s, but still -the guy is Vision artist number one in my book.
George Tuska, 1975. When I think of George Tuska in the Bronze Age, I think of the Champions. While Tuska had a relatively short tenure on the Avengers (known mostly by me for one of my favorite stories -- #'s 139-140), we had to include one of the scenes from Vision's and Wanda's honeymoon, with Vizh chillin' on the beach! Guess he couldn't sunburn, huh?
Karen: I've never been a fan of Tuska's art. Particularly when inked by Colletta. I don't like his anatomy, his facial expression -just not my taste. So I can't really say anything about his Vision. Although seeing him out of costume is always a weird thing.
George Perez, 1976. We ran this panel earlier when we did the Squadron Supreme story. Really, nuff said about its greatness.
Karen: He's another one that draws everybody well -but he can also be spectacular! The Vision looked good here. I wasn't quite as happy with his efforts when he and Kurt Busiek were doing Avengers. His Vision during that time period had a very thin face and I liked the more full-faced version, like Buscema's. But that was when Perez was giving everyone different facial features.
Jack Kirby, 1977. This is the cover of Avengers #158, which is another of my fave stories from the Bronze Age. The King is in all of his blocky glory here. I really like, however, that he shows the reader a whole lot of what the Vision can do -- all in this one panel! Talk about getting someone up to speed.
Karen: What can you say? It's Kirby, everyone is built like a brick house. There's no subtlety at all to the Vision here!
John Byrne, 1977. Lastly, we'll close this one out with one of the masters of the 1970's-'80's, John Byrne. As we both remarked back when we reviewed the Count Nefaria stories, Pablo Marcos wasn't the best candidate to ink Byrne's pencils. I think the muddy look doesn't help this at all. But let's focus on Byrne's interpretation of our poster boy. The one thing that really stands out to me is the way the cloak clings to the Vision's body -- an attribute that's as much Vizh's as it is Batman's. Also, the way he reaches out toward Nefaria with the intent of disrupting his molecules (or whatever the heck it is he does) is really creepy -- good representation of that power.
Karen: Byrne does a good enough job. Vizh is suitably dark and spooky. Thankfully he's still in his green and gold togs and not the hideous all white suit Byrne gave him after he lobotomized him.
Karen: For my money, I would go with John Buscema as my all-time favorite Vision artist, but Neal Adams, George Perez, Rich Buckler, and Dave Cockrum all did very nice work on the android avenger.