Early on in my comic collecting days, my favorite title was The Avengers. Those early days were the mid 70s and I was collecting the new books. It didn’t take long for me to begin collecting back issues of the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. I wasn’t always so concerned about the condition of the books, I just wanted them in my collection. I now have virtually every one of the first 200 issues.
Well, I lack the most valuable ones. I ain’t made of money, you know! Most of it was spent on comic books. That doesn’t make much sense, does it?
When the Avengers started in 1963 the books were illustrated by (who else?) Jack Kirby. For a long time I wasn’t much of a fan of Kirby’s work, but I did eventually come to really like it. Kirby’s anatomy drawing was never his strong suit, but his layout and dynamic design and action drawing were top notch.
Next came Don Heck, taking over the pencils with The Avengers issue number nine. Heck was a better anatomy drawer than Kirby. His characters were more realistically drawn, if a little bit stiff and less dramatic than Kirby’s characters.
If only there was an artist who could somehow combine Kirby’s dynamic action with Heck’s more anatomically correct illustration…
Issue number 41 introduced just such an artist: John Buscema. I think he was Marvel’s best artist in those Silver Age days. (Yes, there was Gil Kane. He was a very close second.) I really, really liked the way Buscema drew his Avengers. Big! Dynamic! Full of movement!
Compare these three fight scenes:
Even without color, Buscema’s is so much more exciting and melodramatic. The others are good, I just think Buscema was simply a better illustrator. (Although, the bad guy in the center of Buscema’s drawing does appear to be wearing a metal diaper.)
Buscema’s characters were powerful and graceful. I especially like the way he drew the Vision:
I had read that Buscema never felt very comfortable with drawing superheroes. He felt his true calling was to illustrate Conan the Barbarian. And he was the artist for most of the Conan issues from number 25 to number 190. That’s a hell of a run.
John Buscema’s run on The Avengers in the late 60s was among the most beautiful and awe-inspiring work in the history of comic books. (How’s that for hyperbole?)
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