Monday, January 26, 2015

Tribute to Bronze Age giant Sal Buscema

I hadn´t planned to do a post but after finding out that Sal Buscema celebrates his 79th birthday Today I thought I should at least do a short one since he was - and still is - such a big part of my comic reading diet.

As someone who started reading comics in the Bronze Age, Sal Buscema was always present since he did many books at that time at Marvel.

Because if you were reading comics in the Bronze Age you were reading Marvel comics since they were a cut above the rest. I would have said competition but for the largest part there was no real competition for Marvel as DC was largely selling books based on the familiarity of readers with the characters and the art than because of the quality of stories. But I might be biased in this regard since I always liked Bronze Age Marvel better than Bronze Age DC. In any case Sal Buscema was in a lot of my reading material and he became one of my favorite artists early on.

Together with his brother John Buscema he did a lot of different titles for Marvel and because of his ability to draw really fast he had a huge artistic output and doing four different titles during one month was not unusual for Sal. While some people say he only got started in the comic business because of his brother I think most people get their jobs with ye old vitamin b and the important thing is that he did have the artistic ability to become one of the all time comic greats. Since it would be too long to list all the titles he has worked on in this post I´m just going to mention the few that have played a bigger part in my comic reading journey.

So the first thing I want to talk about is part of the past but also of the present because it has to do with his unparalleled ten year run on THE INCREDIBLE HULK. Longtime readers have had the opportunity to read various long posts on my love for the Bronze Age Hulk especially the short period where Sal was partnered with inker Ernie Chan. For me it is one of the highlights of Sal Buscema´s epic Hulk run and one of the great injustices of history is that none of it is available in a nice hardcover edition. With Disney´s new focus on omnibus books and the new Epic Collections it is uncertain if that will ever be the case as some people question if the Marvel Masterworks are going to be continued at all.

Having just recently acquired my first Marvel Masterwork ( which featured the Celestial Madonna Saga, one of the Avengers most famous stories that includes some issues drawn by Sal Buscema ) I have to say that they are still a bit expensive for my taste but in the case of the Hulk issues by Sal Buscema and Ernie Chan I´d be willing to make an exception because they are some of the best stories Marvel ever produced - at least in my humble opinion. And issue 217, where the Hulk joins a band of circus misfits is probably one of the best comic stories of all time.

Today´s readers have no idea what a ten year run on a single title is like.

I mean, nowadays most comic creators seldom stay longer on any given title than the obligatory six issues necessary to be collected in a trade paperback. And some even have trouble accomplishing that so that the comic company has to find other artists for the issues in between.

So staying on a title for 120 consecutive issues is something readers have no concept of. To put things into perspective a bit : when I was still going to school as a kid and we went to Spain every year for the holidays, who was the artist on those issues of LA MASA I bought ? Right, Sal Buscema.

Many years later, when I was a teenager still going to school and Condor started publishing Marvel comics again in Germany, and I could read the Hulk again who was still drawing it ? You guessed right. Sal Buscema.

And once again many years later, when I was doing my education as a car mechanic in Stuttgart and had discovered a newsstand that was selling american comics, who was still doing the Hulk ? Sal Buscema was who.

Now you might say that with the spanish and german translations of the HULK comics there were issues from all periods of the title´s history.

Issues drawn by Jack Kirby, Gil Kane, Herb Trimpe and of course Sal Buscema. But the thing is that even when they had finally caught up to the actual issues all of those were done by Sal Buscema. I mean when I read comics as a little kid Sal Buscema had started on Hulk and when I was a grown man he was still doing it. I had just gotten my first issues of Crossroads Hulk ( comic readers from my generation will remember this period fondly ) and my pal Sal was still whipping them out every month.

Okay, I said that Sal Buscema´s historical ten year run on the Incredible Hulk title was something from my past as a comic reader but also from my present because he´s the main artist in ESSENTIAL HULK volume 7.

( as always here´s the colored version of the splash page above : )

You may recall that I started to pimp it - when it was still at a bargain price of 7.50 EUROS at amazon ( the current price is 11 EUROS but it might get even lower again ) - and then went on a tangent about the Marvel Masterworks and the new Epic collections and why there are no cheap comics available in Germany. But I never really got around to do a full post on this so you kinow there is one coming up very soon. It´s a really great book and even if I´m a bit miffed that Disney cancelled the Essential line I am glad that they made it to that volume because it comes just between issues 29 and 33 of the spanish BIBLIOTECA MARVEL line.

So even if I am nowhere near to a complete run at least I have no gaps.

And this period of time is really one of my favorite ones from the title because the book was where a lot of new characters were introduced.

A lot of them saw their first light in the pages of other publications but I encountered most of them for the first time inside of MARVEL TEAM UP

or the other Spider - Man title THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER - MAN. And yes, the artist on these books - among others - was once again Sal Buscema.

THE INCREDIBLE HULK was another Marvel book were new characters were introduced or re - introduced to newer readers which was mainly because the Hulk always needed somebody new to fight each month.

And the Hulk could appear anywhere in the world. With his giant jumps he could cover great distances very fast and he could pop up anywhere on the panet. When I first read the Contest of the Champions the few characters aside from the regular Marvel heroes who had their own book I recognized like the Arabian Knight or Sabra had previously been in the Hulk comic.

Another title where I just recently got some new hardcovers at a bargain price where Sal Buscema did some of the issues is THE AVENGERS and the stories are the classic Defender War and The Celestial Madonna Saga.

I have already mentioned the Celestial Madonna Saga I my last comic pimping post so I won´t talk about it here. Also I want to do a full post on that wacky story. The same goes for the Defenders War but I´m going to mention one thing which is that I liked the issues of THE DEFENDERS more than the AVENGERS issues because they were done by Sal. His art really makes the whole book and the DEFENDERS has always been a book on my TO - READ list. This was Marvel´s first anti - team book, there´s some great art by Sal and it´s were the Valkyrie was introduced who is one of the most often underappreciated and underused characters.

I could go on for hours like this but it´s once again time to wrap things up so I will just quickly mention two of my favorite books before closing.

The first one is the SPIDER - GIRL series which had many continuations. It´s one of the best spider related books out there and Sal Buscema did the inks on the final part of the issues. If you have had enough from all the retcons and restarts and you can´t stomach any more brand new days or Doctor Octopus taking over Pete Parker´s body here´s a book for you.

And speaking about Spider - Man and lengthy runs you might want to check out SPECTACULAR SPIDER - MAN where Sal did issues 134 to 238.

Last but not least I have to mention ROM, SPACEKNIGHT by Bill Mantlo where Sal Buscema did the first 58 issues and Steve Ditko did the rest.

Since Disney is not interested in reacquiring the license ( at least until there is a big blockbuster movie involved ) there will be no reprints so your only chance to read this comic gem is to work your way through back issue bins or head on over to the fabulous DIVERSIONS OF THE GROOVY KIND where our good pal Old Groove is tirelessly posting the issues of ROM like issue 7 that just went online . Yes, it´s the post where I found out that it´s Sal´s birthday and you can find the first six issues here.

So no links this time but I have a DEJA VUE cover. What ? You don´t think I picked the cover for SPECTACULAR SPIDER - MAN 206 at radom, do ya ?

Now you might want to get your favorite Sal Buscema comic from your comic book collection ( I´m sure there are enough to choose from since he practically drew any Marvel character at some point of his career ) to celebrate Sal´s birthday. Or you might just want to check out Today´s videos. Since this post was pretty Marvel centric here´s another Spider - Man movie from my misspent youth : SPIDER - MAN STRIKES BACK !  

And in the cartoon section of this post we stay with Spider - Man although we include his amazing friends. Not only was this Spider - Man´s most successful cartoon, it also introduced Firestar who became a New Warrior.

And to close things out here´s another Schoolhouse Rock video, Conjunction Junction is one of the best known and most beloved videos.

New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN : top ten posts / more posts of interest / best of the best


Terry Hooper-Scharf said...

Great Post!!

SUBZERO said...

Thanks, although without Old Groove I wouldn´t have know Today was Sal buscema´s birthday. I was all set to watch all the old episodes of Craig Ferguson that were taking up space on the laptop.

The Groovy Agent said...

What a great post! Thanks for reading my blog and for caring about our beloved comicbook creators!