måndag 17 januari 2011

Brian Peck: John Buscema, Michelangelo of Comics

Finished Brian Peck's "John Buscema, Michelangelo of Comics", 170 pages of lush illustrations of a remarkable career in comics accompanied by a lot of data (including one-page mini-bios of inkers who have worked on Buscema's pencils), and a lot of fan-boy gushing.

Peck is obviously a huge fan of Buscema, and unfortunately, that means the book is short on analysis and long on "and then John did this great thing, and then John did this great thing…". It's unfortunate, and it probably didn't help that he had his mom for an editor.

That said, the book covers Buscema's career and career choices after studying at Manhattan's School of Music and Arts and the Pratt Institute, and it is worth reading for the grand overview of his career and the many well reproduced illustrations from that career.

Unsurprisingly, Buscema was a big fan of Hal Foster's "Tarzan" and "Prince Valiant" as well as of Alex Raymond's "Flash Gordon" and Milt Caniff's "Terry and the Pirates". He also admired illustrators like Norman Rockwell, N. C. Wyeth and Robert Fawcett. More surprising, perhaps, was that he wasn't a fan of superheroes and didn't much like drawing them – he hated drawing cars and modern buildings. So when he worked on "Conan", that was much better in his opinion. In a perfect world, though, Buscema wouldn't have been able to draw exclusively adventure stories like "Conan", "Tarzan" etc – he would have loved drawing superheroes as much as they loved being drawn by him, because boy did he do some absolutely beautiful work on them! His Silver Surfer version is just about perfect, and his "Thor" was magnificent, and…


Turning a bit fan-boyish myself, there, it seems. Anyway, the $40 cover price is a bit steep for a book with these flaws, so I can't really recommend buying it. If your library has it, or you can find it reasonably cheap second-hand or on a sale, then it's definitely worth reading if you're a super-hero fan, or just want to know more about great superhero artists. But it's not the definitive John Buscema book this labor of love could have been with a stronger writer, or a stronger editor guiding Mr. Peck.

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