Tuesday, November 24, 2015

John Buscema´s Top Ten Avengers covers

Since the response to my Big Christmas Contest has been less than I anticipated I have time to continue with the top ten AVENGERS covers, this time from his second run with Tom Palmer and writer Roger Stern.

I wanted to do this after dinner but I got distracted and sorted all the stuff for the upcoming MARVEL VISIONARIES posts. As I have mentioned I am really frustrated right now because Disney doesn´t want my money.

Okay, not in general. They would be just too happy to take my money - the problem begins when the question arises what to spend it on. You see, Disney would like me to spend all my money on all their great Marvel NOW books and new Epic Collections and omnibus books. And I want to spend it on comics I want to read like AVENGERS 81 which IS available in a nice, expensive MARVEL MASTERWORKS edition. Theoretically. In thesis the comic was printed and it could be possible for me to find it. In reality it is not. Either you can´t find it or it goes for hundred or two hundred bucks. So what do you do instead ? You buy MARVEL VISIONARIES books which does not give you exactly the issues that you want but at least you have some good ones in there. To read. Because if you want it for the art you better get the MARVEL MASTERWORK edition ( which is not always available so this becomes a vicious circle ) because the reproduction on some of the issues in the MARVEL VISIONARIES books is really bad.

But that´s not what this post is about. I don´t want to repeat the criteria by which I choose the covers again since you can read all about that in my first post but there is - as always - another wrinkle added to it. While all of the points from my last post still apply this time I also tried to include covers where I had the original black and white art by John Buscema and Tom Palmer and as usual I´m posting them with the colored versions. So keep that in mind while I start the run down with the first cover. As last time I couldn´t do a ranking - it was difficult enough to pick ten covers.

You will notice that a lot of the covers I chose have people standing around. Which with a lesser artist might be boring but John Buscema excelled at people striking a pose. No matter if they were triumphant, crazy or celebrating it would all come out through their body language.

Firelord is looking really majestic and defiant shaking his fist at anybody who dares provoke him while Hercules - as the strongest and the most impetuous - is the first to engage him. The Black Knight, being the more laid back team player is coming close behind with the drawn Ebony Blade.

He was a character I always enjoyed since he was one who seldom sought the attention and the glamour many others had but he always pulled his weight and was one hundred percent reliable. For me has emphasized what an Avenger should be so in this respect he was kind of my Hawkeye. Plus the whole knight and chivalry motif reminded me of the comics I read as a kid like SIGURD, CAPITAN TRUENO or EL GUERRERO DEL ANTIFAZ.

Back to the cover to AVENGERS 258, right behind the Black Knight is Captain America, always the master tactician who is probably already planning the next five moves anticipating his opponent´s strategies.

Now these three take up the bottom of the picture and to avoid empty space John put the two fliers of the team, Starfox and the Wasp in the top of the cover. The Wasp is flying in from the front while Starfox brings up the rear and to make it even busier Spider - Man drops by in his brand new black and white duds. If I remember correctly this is a crossover with the Spider - Man comic where Peter whupped Firelord´s ass. Yup, he did and he didn´t even have the power cosmic. Of course it couldn´t have happened to a nicer guy since Firelord was always kind of a dick and a tool. I never liked him and I guess the writers kept him around because of his cool visuals. Anyway, the epic battle with Spider - Man started because Firelord was on a rampage and this issue deals with the fallout of that

And speaking about epic battles and Avenger members who behave like a dick our next cover is one of those that already tell you all you need to know about the whole issue : Hercules versus Namor. It´s on, beyotch !

This for me is one of THE best issues of the run, one of the funniest that also shows Hercules in a different light than usual. Since I don´t want to spoil it for those who have not read I can´t go into more detail but for once he has a very good reason for starting his usual sheenanigans.

Not that you need much to pick a fight with the usual hot tempered Avenging Son. You know, it´s really strange that it took that long for someone called the Avenging Son to become a member of the Avengers.

Which would not have happened without Captain America which in turn shows you what a brilliant writer Roger Stern is. A lot of writers - especially Today - are afraid of continuity but Roger Stern used the continuity in which Captain America had already been team members in the Invaders back in World War II to bring Namor into the fold. I don´t think it would have worked if anybody else would have asked him to join but because of their shared history Namor became an Avenger. Which led to one of the best rivalries on the team between the uptight arrogant king of the seven seas and the brash, joyriding demigod from Olympus.

Namor is a good example that the right writer can make any character interesting and engaging. I mean, basically he is another version of DC´s Aquaman but while Aquaman was just a joke until the NEW 52 relaunch Namor has always been a badass nobody in his right mind messes with.

That´s right. Namor is a complete dick and he will sleep with your wife. Just ask Reed Richards. He will tell you. Susan won´t tell you because she lives in total denial. No, that´s true. I just recently got the FANTASTIC FOUR - ALL IN THE FAMILY Epic Collection against my better judgement and reprinted there is issue 305 in which Susan Richards has a talk with Cristal because she feels uncomfortable with the fact that Cristal cheated on her husband Quicksilver ( with a real estate salesman of all people ) and now will be on the team with Johnny Storm, her ex - boyfriend. Who Cristal dumped in the worst way in the entire Marvel universe so she deserves all the grief that came from her marriage with Quicksilver.

Pietro is even worse because he admits that he only married her because she reminded him so much of his sister. Which is creepy on a level beyond Superman making out with his cousin or Supergirl having a date with her super horse that walks like a three legged man. So for all of you out there who thought that Jeph Loeb´s ULTIMATES run was stretching things with Pietro and Wanda being more than just brother and sister it was all there in the comics. I never guessed that when they said that comics aren´t just for kids anymore they meant Pietro being " hands on " with his sister.

Although that would fit right in with the rest of Wanda´s disturbing family dynamic. Which was caused in great deal by retconning a lot of stuff. Like that Magneto was her father. That made AVENGERS 111 where Magneto had Scarlet Witch under his control and let her like dance for him sick.

Because even if Magneto hadn´t known that Wanda was his lost daughter he just went : " Wow, there is this hot chick who looks EXACTLY like my sexy wife and is about the same age as the daughter I lost. What a weird coincidence. I think I´ll let her dance for me, drool. " I mean, Wanda must be the ultimate sexbomb since she made an android become all hot and bothered and her sex appeal even brought Simon Williams back from the dead but that´s just ridiculous. They are just lucky Magneto didn´t make her do something else than just dance while under his control.

But I´m already going too much on a tangent here. The whole oversexed writing of the Scarlet Witch character deserves a long post of its own.

So back to Susan Richards. During the conversation she mentions that while she and Reed had their problems during their marriage she had never been with another man. Which is where I would have spilled my drink if I had been drinking something at that moment. Never been with another man ? Is she serious or does she not count Namor as a man ?

Or maybe it´s one of these " it doesn´t count because it was just oral sex " or whatever things. Just ask Bill Clinton. Come on, we all know that every time she had any kind of problems with Reed she went to Prince Namor and he´s not the kind of guy who just talks and holds hands.

That´s my story and I´m going to stick to it. Okay, back to Buscema´s best AVENGERS covers the next one also features the Sub - Mariner. Another cover with somebody just standing there but while Firelord was the embodiment of triumph Namor is the total opposite of that here.

With his arms and shoulders hanging, the drooping corners of his mouth and the uncharacteristic wrinkles on his forehead you can almost feel that this is not a good day for him. The banners already tell you why Namor is so apprehensive and John Buscema managed to depict various emotions from vexation to concern to suspicion on the faces of his fellow Avengers.

Not quite as pensive and introverted is the cover for AVENGERS issue 287. I´m sorry but if that is not one of the best covers ever I don´t know.

I just love this cover. I know, some people will say that it is too much " old school " but those are the best. The composition is so dead on with the Fixer at the center of the picture and the beams going out from him in which the Avengers fall totally under his control and are defeated. Here the Fixer reigns supreme and with the expression Buscema put on his face you can almost hear his maniacal laughter echoing from the walls.

Another cover with somebody standing at the forefront in this one Kang´s posture is a mix of triumph and defiance. You also have the Hulk, Storm and Colossus rushing in to fight him besides the Avengers which has to do with the story inside which is - of course since Kang is involved - another timey wimey time travel alternate world kind of thing we all love or hate.

Because let´s face it : while some of the best stories in Avengers lore like The Celestial Madonna Saga or Avengers Forever or the brilliant story Walter Simonson started in his final issues on AVENGERS and resolved during his run on FANTASTIC FOUR revolve around Kang trying to keep his continuity straight will give you a headache. Kang, Immortus, Rama Tut, Scarlet Centurion, this guy has almost as many identities as Hanl Pym and he appears everywhere. I just recently finished volume 4 of ESSENTIAL DOCTOR STRANGE which reprints DOCTOR STRANGE 53 in which Doctor Strange travels back in time to the events of FANTASTIC FOUR 19. Both of which are also in the second WEST COAST AVENGERS omnibus which I still haven´t had time to read. Now you might say that I have the same issue twice but I´m glad that I got both comics. Now it makes sense to include both issues in the omnibus because guess what - the West Coast Avengers are also on a time travel journey into which the events in the comics play into. So if you want a bit of background info on why Doctor Strange is doing what he is doing and what´s up with the Fantastic Four you can read those issues. I would even go as far as to say that they should have put those issues first because it´s a prologue to the rest.

On the other hand with time travel these stories all happen at the same time so the order in which you read them is not important so you can include them in the back of the book. Now besides being a crossover with the Fantastic Four and the West Coast Avengers DOCTOR STRANGE 53 is also the finale of a long story arc so if you want to know what the hell Doctor Strange is going on a time travel in the first place you can read all of it in the ESSENTIAL. Which has some of the best art on the title with such great artists like Tom Sutton, Alan Kupperberg and Gene Colan,

Howard Chaykin, Pablo Marcos and P. Craig Russell ( inking ), Paul Smith,

ASTRO CITY´s Brent Anderson and the incomparable Michael Golden,

one of my favorite Superman artists Kerry Gamill and Marshall Rogers.

Marshall Rogers is best known for his run on BATMAN with writer Steve Englehart but he also did some exceptional issues of DOCTOR STRANGE. 

Back to AVENGERS 267 it´s the first part of a three part story which was reprinted together with other Kang stories in the KANG - TIME AND TIME AGAIN trade around the time when YOUNG AVENGERS was a big hit.

You can also find it in the AVENGERS - THE ONCE AND FUTURE KANG trade which reprints AVENGERS 262 to 296 as well as AVENGERS ANNUAL 15 and WEST COAST AVENGERS ANNUAL 1. I skipped this new trade because not only do I already have all this issues as singles but I have the two annuals in the aforementioned WEST COAST AVENGERS omnibus volume 2, issues 265 and 266 are included in the SECRET WARS II omnibus hardcover and issue 263 is part of FANTASTIC FOUR VISIONARIES - JOHN BYRNE vol 7.

It´s incredible how long it took Marvel to reprint the Roger Stern / John Buscema run in chronological order. The first part is THE LEGACY OF THANOS and so far I have held off on buying it. I still hope we get more hardcovers from this run than UNDER SIEGE and ASSAULT ON OLYMPUS.

Speaking about AVENGERS 266, it almost made my top ten because it´s another great cover that tells a story. I only did not include it because there are a few others I just had to include and still two more covers with people standing around on the list. Man, John Buscema knew how to place them : notice how Hercules is already making a fist, ready to strike while the Silver Surfer has his board ready for action, Captain America is walking to the Molecule Man obviously expecting a decision, the Black Knight is in the background, as always, Namor looks impatient, his whole body language being closed while Captain Marvel is completely open. And you can see that the Molecule Man has to make a very difficult decision.  

And with that I have to wrap things up even if I only managed to do five of my Top Ten John Buscema covers from his second run. But it´s already too late to go on and we will have to continue this in the second part.

As usual a shout out goes out to the reliable guys from SUPER MEGA MONKEY`S MARVEL COMICS CHRONOLOGY who provided all the issue summaries linked to in the text for all those new comic readers who want to check out all the issues I talked about in this post. I also got most of the pictures from the inside of the comics from them except the final page of Cristal breaking up with Johnny that I found on this page from the website THE FANTASTIC FOUR ( 1961 - 89 ) WAS THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL . I would also like to thank the websites where I found the black and white art if only I could remember who it was. It´s been too long. 

Since I mentioned that Magneto was retro actively outed as the father of Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch I thought it would be a good idea to post another video from COMIC MISCONEPTIONS that explains who was first presented as the father of Pietro and Wanda, how Magneto was fit into the continuity to become their REAL father and how the current issues of UNCANNY AVENGERS are already destroying that and introducing the REAL origin of Pietro and Wanda. Those two are like the Marvel version of Donna Troy who also gets a new origin story every few years.

I also mentioned spanish cult comic EL GUERRERO DEL ANTIFAZ about whom you can get more info on the official EL GUERRERO DEL ANTIFAZ website. At least Terry Hooper will get a kick out of this video.

We´re taking a break from the Doctor Who documentaries with DOCTOR WHO - LOST IN THE DARK DIMENSION, an animated fanfilm of a story that was never produced. As usual I haven´t had the time yet to see it.

Well, as promised here´s another video from a casting show, this time AMERICA`S GOT TALENT. I already posted one with a woman, a man and a group but so far no kids - which is the reason why I started watching these things in the first place. So here´s eleven years old Mara Justine.

Now usually the casting show videos are at the end of the post so they end with a nice song but this time I just had to put the last video by Comicbookgirl19 as the grand finale. Because after you have seen EPIC HISTORY X - MEN VOLUME 2, THE PHOENIX SAGA you can´t watch anything else. We have to support Comicbookgirl19 as much as possible because I want to see at least the third part of this ongoing series which will cover THE DARK PHOENIX SAGA, the best comic story ever written.

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


Entigo Montoya said...

Thanks for making a post about John Buscema's Avenger's run and specifically his covers. I totally agree with you about the strength of his drawings. I have a bunch of his run at home that I will now go find and read again!

SUBZERO said...

Well, the post was mostly about the covers and I plan to make a few post about the run. The way I´m writing these things I´ll need two just to cover UNDER SIEGE. And it´s surprising how strong the run is even with all the tie in issues they had to make.