Saturday, October 3, 2015

#Inktober -- Big John Buscema


Doug: As the new month dawned, I noticed lots of tweets and retweets with the hashtag #inktober. Artists displayed their wares, and enthusiasts posted inked pages or sketches. It's been fun to see the variety of work. So, ever the thief of ideas, I thought we'd spend our weekends this months admiring the work of some of our favorite artists. To kick it off, who better than the "Michelangelo of Comics" himself, Big John Buscema? Enjoy the master.



















18 comments:

Redartz said...

What an array of beautiful illustrations! Big John truly could 'do it all'. Nothing shows off the skills of an artist like a black-and-white drawing. Nothing against color, it simply allows you to easier appreciate each pencil or pen stroke; to see how each line builds with it's neighbors to create an appealing image.

That shot of Conan, seated, leaning on his sword? Seems familiar; can't place it's origin though. Absolutely incredible. "Sullen eyed", indeed. Wish I had a poster of this...

Martinex1 said...

Those examples are spectacular. I could look at them for hours. John Buscema handles bodies and movement extremely well, but I love his faces. The different noses and chins and facial structures stand out when compared to other artists. He does something with the lips that I always notice. Particularly on villains, the faces seem fleshy and worn and gruff. Thanks for sharing.

Doug said...

Like you guys, I could continue this love affair all weekend. The images I displayed were from files I've saved from various internet sources over the years. I go to that folder often. As you may know, I've purchased several JB art books through the years -- those will not be part of the purging any time soon.

If I can pull it together this week, next weekend I'd like to attempt to scan from some of my artist editions. The Johnny Romita volume I recently bought features him inking himself, and of course the Joe Kubert Tarzan book features full-on Kubert pencils and inks. Not sure what I'll do for the end of the month - open to suggestions, especially if anyone out there has some pencil/ink art for one of the masters.

Thanks, and continue to enjoy the pretty pictures!

Doug

Humanbelly said...

What's especially cool are the images that he abandoned partway through the inking process. We see two startlingly different interpretations of the same image, all at once. Did he "see" the finished product in his head while doing the pencils? Or is the life in the initial drawing, and then embellished upon? Or. . . both? Gosh, and some of them seem like a TON of effort for just being, obviously, sketchbook work. It's so cool.

This may sound crazy, but there's something about a lot of these sketches that makes me see a relationship to Norman Rockwell, of all people. The distinctive, fully-realized face work is part of it, I think-- but there's also that indefinable sense of capturing a living being (or creature) in a "real" moment. Completely different material and subject matter and tone, sure, but for me there's a distinct common connection in the way they similarly breathe life into their characters. . .

HB

Anonymous said...

Yeah, thanks Doug, this is great.
Totally agree with the comments so far. But those images also remind me how rarely we got to see Buscema ink his own work for publication, especially during his prime. Obviously he had some really great inkers - I particularly liked Alfredo Alcala (even if big John didn't!) - but all the same, theres something in his own stuff that has real movement that even his better inkers didn't often achieve.

-sean





William said...

They just don't make 'em like Big John anymore. Budding artists take note. Aspire to be this good.

Edo Bosnar said...

What can I say that hasn't already been said? What a wonderful set of images, and what a great, great artist. Of these, I particularly like the cowboy on horseback, which I don't think I've ever seen before, as well as that page of random sketches in the middle of the bottom row.
I think HB really hit the nail on the head with his observation about Buscemaa being able to draw "captured" moments.
And Sean, I completely agree about Alcala.

Anonymous said...

Ah memories of Big John, RIP big fella!

Yeah, I can't add much to what nearly everyone has said here; Big John was truly a comics, heck, I'd go so far as classifying him as being a plain awesome artist period, not just in the comics medium.

Like Edo I particularly like that cowboy sketch. I don't know how many westerns he did, but I would have liked to see his work on that. Also, as Doug once pointed out, Big John was the master of the weird and wonderful; his Loki looks really villainous here, almost to the point of being a caricature.

HB, I think Buscema's finished artwork was a combination of both seeing the finished art as well as the inking further embellishing the pencils. Disclaimer - I'm not a professional artist, just a fanboy who doodles occasionally!


- Mike 'still don't know how to pronounce 'Buscema'' from Trinidad & Tobago.

R.LLoyd said...

I wish that John Buscema had the chance to draw something other than super heroes. He was a fantastic artist that spent most of the 1970's drawing Conan. However he was much more than that and it's sad that he never got the chance to flex his talents in something other than super heroes. He could have just as easily worked on other non-traditional comics.

Rip Jagger said...

"Big" John Buscema is my favorite artist in comics all-time. Sorry Kirby, Kubert, Kane, and you other greats, but JB had the stuff. It all seemed to flow from his pencil effortlessly (though I know it didn't).

As for inkers who did a terrific job on him, I'd have to give the top nod to his brother Sal who alas was too important as a penciler in his own right to do much of it. After that Dan Adkins did well on some Silver Surfers, Frank Giacoia on some Thors, and of course Tom Palmer on The Avengers. The latter was the whole being greater than the sum of the parts for sure.

His best inker, as some have mentioned, was himself. He did some great Conans on his own but couldn't keep up the tempo to make it happen regularly.

Rip Off

Edo Bosnar said...

Mike from T&T, and everyone else: regarding the pronunciation of Buscema, I think this interview with Sal should put that question to rest once and for all (go to about the 1:08 mark, although the entire response to the question is entertaining - and the entire interview is well worth listening to).

Humanbelly said...

Byoo-SEH-muh.

That's great, edo, thanks so much for that link! (Naturally, I will TOTALLY be going back to listen to the interview in its entirety before long. Probably during lunch tomorrow.) Man, what a lovely rich speaking voice Sal has. A savvy PR person would have tapped him at some point to do the narration/voice-over on comics-related promos and other film pieces-- what a missed opportunity. I can see why he did well in his local community theater circle.

R.Lloyd, I believe Doug's read more on the subject than many of us, but I seem to recall that John B had a bit of a reputation for being downright disdainful of his super-hero work at times, which is truly a shame. He may have shared your feelings that his talents were wasted in that particular genre of the medium, which would explain why he focused his best efforts on fantasy/exotic locales and such. Myself, I completely disagree with that perspective. When you think about it-- where else would he have applied his specific talents as a visual artist? As the un-sung, unseen storyboarder for films? Advertising? As a starving portrait artist? He was one of the inarguable top-tier giants of comic book artists, and his talents were a flat-out perfect fit for the medium. Possibly, the next logical step for him would have been graphic novels-- but that's not really an appreciable difference from what he'd done.

It's not at all unusual for any type of artist's best work (graphic artist, writer, musician, actor, etc), the work they have the most natural aptitude for, to not exactly line up with what they believe their artistic passion to be. It. . . makes me crazy, really, when rather than recognize and embrace their strengths, they choose to denigrate or dismiss the work they've done that's had the most impact on people. This quality in Big John (or at least, the sense of that quality) does make me like him a bit less personally even while I'm a naked admirer of his whole body of work. I've heard mention of an interview where, when asked about the final panel of Avengers #58 (Vision overcome w/ emotion), he dismissed it by pretty much saying he didn't remember drawing it or creating the character, etc, etc. It's just so sadly ungracious.
I once did a show with a brilliant (but temperamental) actor who was having trouble with a couple of moments/beats during one of our scenes, and in talking through it I mentioned how something might read to the audience. And he snapped, "I don't care about the audience! I'm not HERE for the AUDIENCE!!" And I thought to myself, okay, so if an actor falls in the woods and nobody sees it, was it still a performance?

Ahhh, I'm waxing on--- so sorry. . .

HB

Colin Bray said...

On JB being dismissive of his superhero work, it is a shame but it shows his generation's attitude to the medium.

Stan Lee could never shake off his regret that he wasn't a serious writer either, his public proclamations notwithstanding.

How each man dealt with it was more a function of his personality than a difference in attitude.

Roy Thomas and the subsequent wave of creators were the first to see comics as their true vocation.

Colin Bray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BobC said...

I spoke to John Buscema (my all time favorite artist, especially when inked by Tom Palmer) shortly before his death, and he told me he hated drawing comics (with the exception of Conan) and he only did it because the money was good. I had to remind him who Ultron was--a character he created!! He said "Oh you mean the robot with a pumpkin head."

Garett said...

Buscema's sketches are fantastic, so lively! Nice selection, Doug! In some ways they're better than his comic pages-- more free and perhaps more true to his own artistic spirit. There are some nice examples of Buscema inking himself, like in Savage Sword 61, 70 and 73, the graphic novel Conan the Rogue, and some other scattered comics. He did draw some western comics back in the '50s for Dell, like Luke Short's Top Gun, and also a few issues of Indian Chief that he inks himself.

Looking forward to the rest of the art weekends this month Doug!

Edo Bosnar said...

Garett, see my last comment in the "What Are You Reading?" post from a few days ago...

BobC said...

The greatest thing about Big John was that he seemed incapable of drawing an awkward pose. His anatomy is always spot on, no matter what.

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