“We worked on the plot, Stan and I. I was very, very excited about doing the book. I thought, 'this is one job I'm going to get away from the Kirby layouts. I'm going to try something different,which I did. I think it had a different look about it from the previous stuff I'd been doing. People were congratulating me on this particular issue. Stan tore the book to pieces! He started with the first page: ‘Well, okay, not bad.’ On and on and on. Every second page he ripped to shreds. ‘This is not good, this should be done this way...’ I walked out of that damn office of his; I didn't know which way was up or down. I was completely demoralized. I walked into John Romita's office; John looked at me and saw that I was very upset. I said, ‘John, how the hell do you do comics?’”

Born December 11, 1927 in Brooklyn, New York.

A comic book artist best known for his renowned work on Marvel Comics titles including The Silver Surfer, The Incredible Hulk, The Avengers, and The fantastic Four. He also wrote the best-selling book ‘How to draw comic the Marvel way’, which has been owned by nearly everyone who has ever dreamed of drawing super heroes.

Buscema attended the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan, and while in high school he spent a year and a half studying life drawing and design at the Pratt Institute. Like most aspiring artists, Buscema spent a lot of spare time in museums admiring the works of such greats as Michelangelo, Da Vinci, and Raphael.

John Buscema began his professional comics career in 1948, when he began working for Marvel, then known as Timely Comics. “Stan Lee gave me my first job,” Buscema said in an interview, “ on staff, for a salary of seventy-five dollars a week, a hell of a lot of money in those days.” Described as a dream come true for such a young artist, Buscema began working in Marvel’s famous bullpen, a large room where all Marvels’ staff artists worked. At the time he worked there with golden age legends Danny DeCarlo, Mike Sekowsky, and Carl Burgos. This apprenticeship came to an end in 1950, when Marvel laid off their full time artists. “It was a bad period in comics, Marvel had just a few books each month and they had guys working on them, DC told me they couldn’t use me, as they had just enough work for the people that they employed.”

Discouraged and unable to support himself, Buscema abandoned the comics’ field in 1958 for a career in advertising. "I was fortunate in getting into a very large studio loaded with talent, great illustrators. It was a wonderful period of my life - I learned how to paint. I did a lot of things: I did paperback covers, layouts, editorial illustration, textbook illustrations, all kinds of stuff. I enjoyed it a lot." As much as he learned and enjoyed the work, the six-hour daily commute from his home in Long Island and long hours began to take its toll. “My son was born in 1964 - and for his first year I never saw him. I would get home and he'd be asleep. I would leave and he'd be asleep. The weekends would come around and I could go home, but I'd be working. It was a real cutthroat business."

In 1966, Buscema’s old Marvel boss Stan Lee offered him work. Thinking about the inconstant nature of the industry during the 50’s, John agreed tentatively to resume working for Marvel at the understanding that he would continue to do advertising work as well. Soon he discovered the renewed strength of the comics industry, and left his commuting job behind to work for Marvel. “ I’ve been happy ever since.”

He first worked on a Nick Fury story in Strange Tales. He then did a one shot Incredible Hulk issue, followed by a regular stint working with Roy Thomas on The Avengers. He continued to work with Thomas when he replaced Barry Windsor-Smith on Conan the Barbarian. From that he moved on to what has been his most acclaimed work. He and Stan Lee began working on the Silver Surfer book. "The Avengers was doing very well, and Stan came up with the idea of doing a large book on the Silver Surfer.” Said Buscema. “ Books were, I think, a dime, at the time, and this was a 25 cent book - which was outrageously expensive, but Stan said it would be successful. He took me off the Avengers and I started the Silver Surfer. I enjoyed doing the Surfer because it had a hell of a lot of freedom, especially in the first couple of books.” He did sixteen issues of the Surfer, and then moved on to The Mighty Thor and The Fantastic Four. In 1976 he wrote, with Stan Lee, and illustrated How to draw comics the Marvel way, which is one of the best selling comics primers to this date.

John Buscema would cite Hal Foster, Alex Raymond, and Burne Hogarth as his comics’ influences. He said that his main influence has always been Jack Kirby. “If it wasn't for Jack Kirby, I wouldn't be in comics. When I went back to comics in '66, my stuff was dead, dull - I just didn't know how to tell a story, and I got that from Kirby. I was at least successful in what I was doing, because of Kirby, and I have tremendous admiration for the man." Whenever asked about others in the industry Buscema always spoke his mind. When asked about his brother Sal’s comic artwork he refuses to give comment, but he will praise other artists like Joe Kubert. “Bill Sienkewicz,” he says,” is an absolute marvelous talent, but he shouldn’t be in comics.” He was known to be slightly agitated at the mention of such artists as John Byrne, John Romita Jr., and Jim Lee. As for Frank Miller, “ He might be a good writer, but he’s a lousy artist.”

In 1996, after almost fifty years of monthly titles and kept deadlines, John Buscema quietly retired from the comic book business. Five years later, at the San Diego comic convention, Vanguard Press unveiled “The John Buscema Sketchbook”, featuring drawings from his personal collection. In September of the same year he released work with lifelong friend and partner Stan Lee for the last time. They had reinvented an American icon for DC Comics in the long awaited, “Just Imagine Stan Lee and John Buscema Creating Superman.” A month after this highly successful book was released John Buscema was diagnosed with cancer. Sadly, on January 10th, 2002 John Buscema succumbed to his illness.

Comic World, March 1995, issue 37
How to draw comics the Marvel way

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