Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Spotlight On...Sal Buscema



Karen: Perhaps the patron saint of Marvel's Bronze Age, Sal Buscema was a true go-to guy, handling the penciling chores on numerous titles, such as The Incredible HulkPeter Parker The Spectacular Spider-Man, The DefendersThe AvengersCaptain AmericaMarvel Team-Up, and many more. Buscema brought solid story-telling and a dynamic style to his work (the famous 'Sal Buscema Blast' has frequently been referenced here at the BAB). Sal was also a terrific inker, and was one of his big brother John's preferred inkers.  Thoughts on this Bronze Age mainstay?







Buscema-blasted

20 comments:

C.K. Dexter Haven said...

At the risk of sounding like a "prevert", I've always admired the way Our pal Sal draws a woman's lips. Seriously, though, as a kid I could always tell when Sal was the artist just by looking at one image. The wild, crazed look of terrified people, the fanatical madness that he gave the Hulk and everyone else engulfed in rage. His work varied wildly too. Sometimes it looked wonderfully put together yet other times his art looked scratchy and rushed.

Sal Buscema is for me the definitive Incredible Hulk artist (I love Herb Trimpe but his run is before my time), but then I grew up reading his and writer Bill Mantlo's long run on the book. However, it has only been recently that I purchased a complete run of ROM: Spaceknight that I got to enjoy the duo's collaborations on that vastly underrated book. I loved the wild concepts and artistic renderings whenever Mantlo and Buscema got together. I read somewhere that Bill didn't think much of Sal's work? How could that be possible?

More less-than-cogent thoughts to follow...

Colin Jones said...

Yes, Sal Buscema was a great inker - a perfect example would be the early Barry Smith Conan The Barbarian stories inked by Sal. I never liked Barry Smith's art all that much but those early Conan tales look terrific.

C.K. Dexter Haven said...

Oh! And on an unrelated note: why isn't Bill Mantlo considered a "Hulk Visionary" (though his run has been reprinted and well-represented now, thankfully)?

Redartz said...

Colin- glad you recalled those Conan stories; they were a pleasure indeed!

As for Sal, for me it depended upon the inker. With a Klaus Janson, Joe Staton or Dave Hunt (a solid Bronze Age inker one doesn't generally hear much about), Sal's art just shined. On the other hand, Mike Esposito's inks on Sal left me cool; just seemed flat...

I certainly applaud his storytelling abilities; he helped tell quite a few winners (his Avengers issues are among the classics: Avengers/Defenders, Celestial Madonna, just as a start...).

Rip Jagger said...

I started in comics almost at the same time when Sal Buscema started up inking his brother (beautifully on the magnificent Silver Surfer #4) and on Barry "Not-Yet-Windsor" Smith on Conan the Barbarian #6. When he debuted as a penciller (with perfectly matched Sam Grainger inks) on The Avengers #67 (his art looking like a leaner sleeker version of his brother's) I was enthralled. Later he developed the more distinctive style he used on The Defenders, Captain America, Hulk and just about every other title Marvel published.

Sal was one of those artists who despite having a distinctive and efficient style never ceased to grow and his later run on Spider-Man had real power and gusto which had not necessarily been evident before. Always he seemed to become more his own artist and less similar to his brother.

Rip Off :)

david_b said...

Not sure how to relate this, but I'm lukewarm to Sal's Spidey work, even back to the early MTU issues. Guess it totally depended on inkers, at times the faces were too structured, and I missed the early Romita Sr softness or even Kane iconic-ness.

Sal was my unmatched hero on early Bronze Avengers, Defenders, and obviously CA&F. When he left these titles, so did I. He simply had 'that gift' of showing remorse and regret (ANY emotion, actually...), especially on the CA&F title.

Yet me made my heroes Cap and Falc shine in all their heroic glory.

C.K. Dexter Haven said...

I positively revel in the magnificence of Sal's work in Hulk. I'm looking over issues #281-290 and theLeader/Avengers and Modok/Ms. Modok/terrified Abomination storylines are brilliant reminders of how much I enjoyed his run on that book. I love the high-concept science of A.I.M. and all that Kirbyesque machinery in the background. Those arcs are wonderful reminders of my childhood but more importantly they're imo some of Sal's best work (and he had a variety of inkers during that run, too; all of whom only made Sal look even better).

Oh, how I adore this stuff.

Edo Bosnar said...

C.K. why would your admiration for the way Sal drew women's lips make you sound like popular 20th century French poet Jacques Prevert? Was he a fan of Sal's as well? :P

Seriously, though, I completely share your admiration for Sal's work on Hulk. I loved the lengthy Mantlo/Sal B. run on that title, and yes, based on that and his work on the Defenders, for me Sal is the definitive Hulk artist, bar none.
As I've made clear many times before on this blog, I absolutely love Sal B.'s art, and he's one of my all-time favorite comic book artists. On the topic of inkers, I recall that a good showcase of Sal's art with a variety of different inkers can be seen in the last 10 or so issues of Marvel's Tarzan (another fun and underrated series).

J.A. Morris said...

I talk about Sal Buscema a lot on my blog, so I won't post too much here. But if I had to pick two words to explain why I'm a Sal fan, here they are:
Comfort food.

Humanbelly said...

I'm the guy who's always saying that there's a difference between "favorite" and "best", and Sal in the Bronze Age is exactly the reason why. Is he the "best" artist? No-- that's always going to be the usual battle between Byrne, Perez, J.Buscema and a couple of other superstars. Is he my "favorite"-? Yes, absolutely-- no question. A book with Sal's pencils simply was never going to crash and burn visually-- and he DREW EVERYBODY SO THEY LOOK RIGHT! Even when working fast and/or autopiloting, he had an inherent knack for sticking to Stan's oft-repeated maxim that the story should be clear and understandable without the words being added. He clearly shared Perez' respect for the medium and affection for the characters in his hands. His artistic ego was/is apparently non-existent beyond a healthy confidence in his professionalism and work ethic. And as has been mentioned before, the fact that he never stopped trying new artistic techniques and styles, and kept pushing himself artistically (rather than resting on what had always served him in the past) just speaks VOLUMES about what kind of fellow he was.

Folks in the Arlington Players several years ago also said that he was a FANTASTIC Tevya in their production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. . .

HB

Ozone said...

In many ways I was late to the Bronze Age party, never more so than when I discovered Sal Buscema. For me, that discovery took place in the pages of ROM Spaceknight. Sal's artwork brought Bill Mantlo's concepts to life in dynamic fashion. And he was able to put such energy into the characters, even though they were essentially robots on the outside. And, oh, those Dire Wraiths. They were some of the best bad guys going during that period of Marvel. Whether in their human guises or depicted in their alien forms, Sal's Dire Wraiths radiated evil.

Sal's art stayed true to one of Marvel's earliest maxim's, one that Kirby instilled. Make the artwork dynamic. Make the characters pop from the page. Give the reader explosive action scenes. Sal excelled at that. -JJ

Anonymous said...

I generally like Sal's older stuff (Hulk, MTU, Defenders, CA), but his later stuff (especially Spectacular Spider-Man) just looks weird to me.

Mike Wilson

Martinex1 said...

I agree with what everybody has said. I also particularly liked Sal's work on ROM and the Hulk. We talk a lot about "storytelling" when we discuss comic sequential art, and I think Sal just had a tremendous knack for it. His layouts and panels were fairly simple, but there was something honestly great about that clarity. It goes to a discussion we had earlier about not seeing the artist, just the art and I think he exemplified that. He drew characters as the company wanted them portrayed, he wasn't flashy, the story was readable, etc. HB mentioned it a couple of weeks ago, how if you notice the set or lighting direction, the set director or lighting director is not doing a good job. I sometimes fall into that problem with artists like Adams or Steranko. They are brilliant, but sometimes also distracting. Surely the panel borders and style should not take you out of the story. That was not so with Sal... even though I also knew it was Sal. We talk about the Sal "smash pose"; to me that is the perfect depiction of the result of a hard superhero punch. What else should it possibly look like?

I would like to point to some of his very early art in Avengers (around issues 69 to 72). That stuff is dynamite. For me, those are definitive Avengers depictions. His Cap in those issues is just perfect. There are scenes in the Zodiac issue where the Zodiac members, Captain Marvel, the Avengers are just so spot on. He also had a set of panels where three characters' faces morph into the villainous countenance of Scorpio.... just brilliant. The fight scene was spectacular, and an earlier scene where the Avengers just sat around their meeting table seemed so relaxed and appropriate. Grainger was a great inker for him and together they just clicked. There was something about the clarity of the Sal / Sam team, while they were trying to mimic some of John Buscema's Avengers style that was in my opinion better than the source. (I am sure I am of the minority there, but those issues are "my" Avengers).

Did you ever notice how his Hulk could look angry and a bit confused at the same time? His hulk was impatient and stubborn but also caring and peace seeking. I just think his Hulk had so much depth. And yet so much strength. Really great.

ANd his ROM had no real face (as many say he was a toaster with red flashing eyes). But somehow Sal just flooded him with personality and mood. I am not sure if anybody else handling ROM could have done so. It just must have taken talent.

It is funny, as has been mentioned, that he may not be the "best" but he is a "favorite". Maybe that is the best. He is definitely in my top three.

Colin Bray said...

To echo the thread so far, Sal is absolutely key to my enjoyment of the Bronze Age and comics more widely.

It was his opening scene in Avengers #156 that turned me onto comics in the first place. The Vision appearing through a wall to be confronted by Dr Doom holding a gizmo gun. Man alive, I must have gazed at that page for hours of my life. Of course it helped that the story for great too...thank you Mr Shooter.

I think the key to the successful partnership between Sal and Mantlo was that they both took comics seriously enough to bring genuine emotion into the stories, but they didn't take comics so seriously as to jeopardise why we as readers loved them so much. So they were perfectly pitched for children/young people ready to see and understand the wider world through the prism of comics. Which is such a Bronze Age thing.

That's why I put Our Pal up there as the tied best Bronze Age artist with John Byrne, who had similar qualities as both an artist and writer during this period - again with his ability to keep 'comic-ness' while introducing humanity and real emotions to stories.

Sal should also get props for sustaining his career for so long right through to at least his Spider-Girl run - again a fun comic written about and for a young person.

I could go on but will just end by saying that by all accounts Sal is a gentleman too, a genuinely nice person.

William said...

To me Sal will always be the definitive Captain America and Hulk artist.

There is a run of Captain America that he did from issue #228- #237 that is tied with John Byrne's run for my favorite Captain America stories ever.

And when I was growing up, I don't really remember anyone else drawing the Hulk besides Sal.

C.K. Dexter Haven said...

William- Funny you should mention Cap #237 as today I just bought a copy of that very book at a comic shop whose owner I've known since he sold me a copy of Star Wars #48 back in 1981--when I was nine.

Unless the post passed me by, perhaps the hosts of BAB will someday do a Mantlo-Sal Hulk run retrospective. It would have to be a series, naturally. They had quite a run with ol' Greenskin.

Graham said...

I always recognized his work in the 70's whenever I picked up a book he worked on. I don't guess he ever put a hop in my step when I saw his name in the credits, but I always knew it was going to be a well-done book and he never disappointed me. I really liked his inking on his brother's pencils, too.

johnlindwall said...

I hope somebody follows my comment with some gushing praise because I don't want the thread to end on a downer... Never fear, I am not going to be _too_ negative, however I am not the unabashed Sal fan as many of you are. I appreciate his work and agree with the any of the comments made above: his characters looked "right" and consistent, his story telling was great, and he surely drew comics "The Marvel Way"(tm).

Even at the young age I read his comics, I felt that his work was "good". That's not bad right? "Good" is good certainly... However there were other superstar artists that I would get truly *excited* about, such as Byrne, Starlin, Kirby, Adams, etc. Those guys would make me buy I book I normally would not pick up, just for the art. Sal was usually drawing a book that I was buying for the character, and not so much for the creative team.

Sal fans: You are lucky! The man produced a lot of work for you to enjoy (another aspect of his career that I appreciate)

R.Lloyd said...

Sal was one of my favorite 70's artists. His clean and crisp style delineated many comics that I read over and over again in my youth. If you saw his pencils for Secret Wars II that were rejected, you'd see why. It was Sal who was asked to draw the sequel. I think Jim Shooter took him off the project. However look how incoherent and ridiculous the art on part two was. Sal brought a clarity to the art that is not seen today. He didn't have any fancy perspective shots that made many an artist miss a deadline. You got an entertaining story with compelling and attractive art without all the unnecessary angles and forced perspective that don't make the story any better.

JalRod said...

My first encounter with our pal, Sal, was Cap & Falc! Sal is one of the best storytellers of all time.

Related Posts with Thumbnails