This post was originally published on April 2 2010
Doug: Last December Karen and I showed some things on our Christmas wish lists. On March 19 I finally got one of my wants -- TwoMorrows' Sal Buscema: Comics' Fast and Furious Artist, by Jim Amash with Eric Nolen-Weathington. I received the standard trade paperback edition, which retails for $26.95. You can order it here (at a slightly discounted price). It was worth all of the publishing delays...
As I usually do with TwoMorrows' books and magazines, I took a quick thumb-through upon unpacking it. I'm not sure they could have crammed any more art into this volume! If you wanted samples of Sal's work, then you'll get it here (Disclaimer -- the illustrations I've included with this post are examples of original artwork that was for sale on eBay when I wrote this post; these art pages are not in the TwoMorrows book). In fact, the last 64 pages are a B&W and color art gallery featuring sketches, commissions, and tons of published covers and art pages. All of that is in addition to literally hundreds of exhibits from Sal's career shown throughout the book. The format of the text is one long interview between Jim Amash (best known as one of the major contributors to Roy Thomas' Alter Ego magazine) and Sal. To say it's an exhaustive interview might be an understatement. Amash covers all of the points of not only Sal's career, but his life. I had the one-time pleasure of visiting all-too-briefly with Sal at the Chicago Comicon (in the late 1990's), and his gentlemanly manner certainly shines through in Amash's interview.
Fans of Sal's big brother John (eight years Sal's senior) will be extremely excited to read all of the anecdotes about John's career, as well as the interaction between the two. I at first wondered at the directness of interviewer Amash's questions in regard to John -- in a book about Sal, it seemed as if Amash jumped right in about the impact of John's career on the family, on Sal, about the two being compared, etc. Sal's love for his brother just shone through, and any discomfort I had was quickly laid to rest. In a market that is all too thin on the life and work of John Buscema, this biography of Sal dovetails nicely with Vanguard's The John Buscema Sketchbook, Pearl Press's John Buscema: A Life in Sketches, and the out-of-print SQ Productions The Art of John Buscema. Whereas the first and last books feature interviews with John, this latest Buscema book features comments from Sal himself on John's career. Of particular note is Sal's clearing up once and for all the matter of John hating comics. Sal affirms that John didn't hate comics; John hated drawing buildings! John wanted to draw people, and particularly loved drawing Conan and Tarzan because there were no rules -- the fantasy settings allowed John's imagination to run wild and he could draw whatever he wanted!
One of the most interesting series of quotes in this book concerns Sal's remarks about inkers who have embellished his work over the course of his career. While he admits that he holds no one in disdain and would never deny a man his livlihood, he does have negative words for Mike Esposito, Joe Staton, and Ernie Chan. He says that although he liked Joe Sinnott inking over his pencils, John strongly disliked Sinnott's inks -- not Sinnott the man, but the impact Sinnott had on John's pencils. Sal remarks that while Sinnott is certainly considered one of the best inkers in the business, when Joe inks a penciller, it's Joe you see. I'd argue that Sinnott is what gave the Fantastic Four its visual identity over 2+ decades, but I understand what is being said. Oh, one other nugget -- Sal reveals that John loved Dan Adkins inks on the Silver Surfer. What the...?! I have many a'time commented that I think Adkins was even heavier than Sinnott over Big John. I was shocked to read this!
Sal also discusses his collaborators through the years. Of all of the writers he has worked with, he praises Len Wein and Steve Englehart above all others. Wein was his longtime scribe on The Incredible Hulk (I did not realize that Sal handled the art chores on that title longer than Herb Trimpe), and Sal raves how they just clicked -- Sal knew exactly what Len wanted him to draw, and Len often couldn't believe how Sal returned pages with ideas drawn just as he'd envisioned them. Sal gives the reader further insight to the oft-discussed "Marvel method", and takes a shot at current writers and their too-constricting plot synopses. In Sal's opinion, artists of today are confined. As for Englehart, Sal places him just below Wein, yet raves about their tenure on Captain America. Sal does hold some reservation, though, for the climax of the Secret Empire storyline, and further questions Steve Rogers becoming Nomad. To Sal, Rogers and Captain America cannot exist apart. Sal also discusses his relationship with Jim Shooter. At first amicable, they parted under less-than-friendly circumstances due to Shooter's alleged micro-managing of Sal's art on Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21: the wedding issue. This was detailed in Back Issue #23. It's those little stories that make this book a really fun, nostalgiac, insightful, and so much more-kind of read.
The table of contents is --
Introduction by Walter Simonson
1. Inspiration All Around
2. A Heroic Departure
3. How to Break In the Marvel Way
4. The Workhorse Hits His Stride
5. A New Start With a Different Company
6. The Craft of Creating Comic Book Art
You can find a chronological listing of Sal's work by clicking here.