Sal Buscema: Comics’ Fast & Furious Artist by Jim Amash (book review).

I pulled ‘Sal Buscema: Comics’ Fast & Furious Artist’ by Jim Amash last year at auction last year. In many respects, I think the fan community back in the day saw him as a workman artist than give him any status. I tend to remember the scene from ‘The Defenders’ where a despondent Hulk is waiting on the kerb in Bleecker Street and the camera eye pans back to witness a crowd of people watching him demonstrating a mixture of emotions. It’s shown on page 44 referencing to Incredible Hulk # 206 but I’m sure it was repeated in ‘The Defenders’.

Eight years younger than his brother John, they both had a knack for drawing although Sal’s main ambition was to draw comicbooks. I’m keeping to their forenames to make it easier to tell them apart. John didn’t like drawing cities all the time and was happier with the likes of Conan. Something he admits not always being happy about himself. In the end, Sal did extended runs on the Hulk and Spider-Man. What did surprise me was his first work at Marvel was on ‘The Avengers’ and even he didn’t think he was really ready to handle so many characters as his sample story was of the Hulk. Oddly, he wanted to become an inker more than a penciller and prefers to do both himself when given the opportunity. Oh, he also designed the Falcon’s second costume with wings.

Sal Buscema is very honest on his artistic skills and that of others when it comes to draughtsmanship but the real ability is telling a story over a series of pictures and sees it as a job, doing whatever is asked of him which is a very honest appraisal. I do think if anyone would want to categorise and recognise a Sal Buscema face is one frowning with an agape mouth although, seeing here, he is capable of other expressions and a few pictures of his Conan work definitely shows otherwise. The way with a couple paintings of his at the back of this book also shows some versatility never exploited in his professional career.

For several years, Sal admits he did as Marvel instructed and did layouts, often doing 5 pages a day simply because he was doing this for several books, regarded for his speed and helping out on short deadlines when other artists were late. When Jim Shooter became editor-in-chief and wanted his artists to up their quality, Sal cut back to only two books a month and did them fully. There is an insightful moment when Shooter began micromanaging Peter Parker’s marriage that ultimately made Sal leave Marvel in description terms sounds like a Mort Weisinger moment.

Sal Buscema’s comments on comic conventions being places of work should make you think. He is right because artists are expected to do sketches all the time and invariably charge for them. You don’t see writers sitting down and write a page for a fan.

The art gallery at the back of the book does not only cover Sal’s comicbook work, but also the odd painting and life studies. It would have been interesting to see more of his experimental work because he played with some of the poses in these. If he hadn’t then some of the models were definitely odd shaped.

Don’t under-estimate Sal Buscema. He might not be a fan-favourite, something even he agrees with, but he was an essential workhorse artist at Marvel Comics for a long time before he moved to DC Comics. Any artist who can keep going for extended runs on comicbooks deserves some respect and is worth picking up this book  to understand the long hours you need to pull to be a professional in this industry.

GF Willmetts

June 2022

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing, 2010. 173 page illustrated softcover. Price: $26.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-60549-021-2. Direct from them, you can get it for $15.00 (US))

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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