A wasp, a barbarian, an amphibian, and Mephisto walk into a bar…

It would have been Big John Buscema’s 89th birthday this week. The man who was one of the Silver Age greats who literally transformed the Marvel Age of comics into the Marvel House style after Jack Kirby left Marvel for DC, and is responsible, I think, for some of the most iconic covers that have ever graced a comic book!

When I think of my favorite covers an awful lot of them are Big John’s work. I would like to throw out a question to you all. What are some of your favorite John Buscema covers?

I am going give you a few of mine, and I have attached a few pictures of some of my favorites. I bet that Silver Surfer #4 is probably in just about at the top of everyone’s list but I am going to point out a few of my favorites that are a little less obvious.

One of my very favorites is Avengers #60. I always loved this cover. I couldn’t find an image of the original art for this but the floating heads were all drawn separately and attached to the art. It also contains a fair amount of white out in getting the image the way they wanted. A hi resolution image can be found in the book that showcased the Exhibition of JB’s work in Casal Solleric Museum in Palma de Mallorca, Spain in September to November 2009.

The museum published a massive book, Big John Buscema Comics & Drawings, highlighting a ton of original artwork never before seen by the general public. It was reprinted in English and made a little less cumbersome. I highly recommend this book as well as The John Buscema Sketchbook and The Art Of John Buscema, both which contain a lot of his work that really showcases his pencil work and method of working.

Another couple of great issues were Roy Thomas’ Alter Ego tribute to John’s passing (here is a link to one article) and the Comics Journal tribute as well. Most of these are available at your favorite book sellers or at Two Morrows Publishing.

Now back to some favorite covers. Conan #95 is a stunner and I have attached a high resolution scan of the original art. What perfect symmetry!

Silver Surfer #3. The first appearance of Mephisto.I have attached a recreation by Big John from my collection, which is beautiful! At least as beautiful as Mephisto can be.

And last but not least Sub-Mariner #2, Cry…Triton. Again, a perfect dynamic showcase of his prodigious talent!

Nuff Said!

So Happy Birthday Big John Buscema!

Let’s hear your favorites … and continued Happy Collecting!

Oh, and one more thing. Roy Thomas is returning to Conan at Dark Horse and he is teaming up with Tom Grindberg fresh off their run on Tarzan. They promise a return to greatness and Grindberg is using Buscema as a guide for his Conan! Here is what that looks like!

Dennis De Pues
Dennis De Pues

Dennis is an admitted "Son of the Silver Age", having grown up with the influences of Silver Age greats: Kirby, Colan, Romita and Buscema.Three decades later, he is the creator of Crash!! and Galloway Park. More is definitely on the way.

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  1. Great article! It is almost impossible for me to select my favorite cover from Big John. I loved his first 4 issues of The Silver Surfer, but even that won’t do him justice. When Barry Smith left Conan with issue #24, I couldn’t imagine who could replace him? John did and even made the book better!

  2. I think one of the reasons Big John’s Conan worked so well was that it was such a completely different version of the character than Barry Smiths that it was like starting over with a character that had the ring of familiarity that Roy and Barry created but visually was an exciting and fresh approach.That was the genius of John Buscema! Any character he did , he made his own.

  3. Great post as usual Dennis! I have often thought that, if I had never seen Jack Kirby’s work, I would have crowned Big John King of the Comics. He brought a Hogarthian litheness to his figures and the most amazing pacing I have ever seen in a comic. I’m with you on that Silver Surfer #3 cover. Beautiful line work. You are indeed very lucky to have that recreation by the man himself.

  4. I couldn’t agree with you more Mel!It boggles the mind that even stuff he clearly and vocally did’nt care for was head and shoulders above most creators favorite subjects.
    And as far as the #3 Surfer recreation goes, I know I am lucky with that one.It is stunning and it is pretty clear to me he had a great time doing it as it is such clean and precise line work.

  5. Another stellar piece Dennis. I sure am glad you remember everyone’s birthday.

    Big John did a great job taking over on Conan, Thor, and his Silver Surfer work was awesome. Where he had the most impact on me was the Avengers and Sub-Mariner titles.

    The Avengers title was really ho-hum for a couple years prior to his arrival. They flourished with his pencils. My guilty pleasures there are Avengers Annual #2 (gotta have a Big John face-ff cover), and Avengers #58.

    The Sub-Mariner series has a really cool group of covers in the first eight issues. #1,2,5,6,8 being the standouts for me. I would argue his #1 cover is as good as any of the “new launch” covers from 1968.

    Thanks for shining the light on these sadly missed heroes of comics past Dennis.

  6. Your cover picks are a couple of my favorites as well. I notice you left out Sunny #4.That issues interior art may be the absolute best 20 page story in the run.#7 I often overlooked as well bu the interior is anothe JB gem!

  7. I grew up reading Conan in the 70’s and 80’s. John was there with me all the way. I actually shed a tear when I read that he had died. He has been missed.

  8. I’ve been cruising the CBD archives and noticed the most number of comments per post were on yours, Mike’s and Ivan’s. I also noticed that they were the most interactive and chatty of all the CBD spots. To me, that is the beauty of an interactive forum like this, and I shall be eternally grateful to all the people who have contributed to that sense of camaraderie. Let’s all raise a glass to all our fellow geeks and nerds over the holidays and, remember, that these days we don’t always still reside in our parents’ basement.

  9. I know what you mean KLD.I had gotten away from comics just before Jack Kirby passed away and came back when John B passed away.Not all but an awful lot of my favorite artists have gone to the Big Bullpen in the sky.Fortunately we have there body of work to continue to enjoy and I am pleasantly surprised when a comic they did tha I missed shows up ,or a piece of Original art that was either commissioned or on the back of an original page of art that is out there.Big John did that a lot to warm up with.

  10. Mel , I am sure Mike and Ivan would agree with me , it is a lot more enjoyable when writing these posts to get feedback from all the fans that love this medium as much as we do.Here is to all the fans who do comment on these forums.They mean an awful lot to me and bring me as much joy as I hope the columns bring you you!

  11. For an artist’s work to be both stylistically unmistakable, and skillfully done, you’ve got to be really good. And to think how JB stands out among his professional peers (both then and now) is a real tribute to this man’s talent. We’re still amazed at covers done over forty years ago. They stand the test of time (at least so far). As a comic artist I admire his vision and skill immensely. Because it’s unmistakably his!

  12. Instantly recognizable and almost always one of the best covers of any given months covers.Even his layout pages were alive with body language and energy.Thanks for your spot on observations Mike!

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