Monday, October 24, 2016

Drawing Swords And Swordsmen!

I don't even remember picking this up, but there it was as I unloaded a box from deep inside the the stacks of my archeological dig which passes for my collection, the John Buscema Sketchbook. I remember wanting it, looking at it, and even having it, but I don't remember actually buying it. Still there it was in all its glory from the folks at Vanguard Productions.

Alongside a gaggle of rough sketches and quick drawings and even a few finished illustrations we have an interview with "Big John" conducted by David Spurlock. He covers the entirety of his career, not with the detail one might expect in some quarters, but nicely conversational. Buscema seemed to have been in a pretty good mood and shared his history as well as his opinions. He thinks highly of Jack "King" Kirby and discusses the transition by him when Kirby jumped to DC and it was Buscema who became the central talent at Marvel. He talks candidly about how superheroes and the Marvel style bewildered him until he partook of the Kirby magic and decoded the King's style of storytelling.

He also speaks of his time on Conan and how the job slipped through his fingers because of costs in those earliest issues. He clearly states that he intentionally made Conan a more robust and even an older character when he took the reins on the comic he'd shepherd for many years to come. His vision was what he saw when he read the original Robert E. Howard stories, which he demonstrates a profound respect for. He also rejected the more refined and elegant Smith version as looking like a high school kid, which truth told he sort of did.

All of this is shared in an engaging way and all the while we are presented with copious images of vivacious women, rugged men, cowboys, swordsmen, wizards, dames, and even several pages of pirates.

I miss seeing new artwork by Buscema. He was just coming into prominence when I landed at the gates of Marveldom and I was in my primetime fanboy mode as he became the core of the company I adored throughout most of the Bronze Age. He's my favorite artist without doubt and I'm glad as I read this forgotten tome that I was able to visit with him, at least a little bit in my imagination.

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