I recently bought another IDW imprint- “Big John Buscema“(sorry, son, it looks like community college for you). While it highlights Buscema’s long and prolific career in comics, it also features examples of his partially inked “warm-up” sketches. These sketches reminded me how much I loved John Buscema’s inking. Like Gil Kane and John Romita, Buscema was the best inker of his own work.
Buscema spent most of the ’70′s and 80′s at Marvel penciling multiple titles per month. This meant that for most titles, he was essentially producing rough layouts; any detail was the responsibility of the inker and most left a strong aftertaste (Ernie Chua, I’m looking in your direction!). This is unfortunate since I think Buscema’s inking ranks with Hal Foster and Alex Raymond in its rich texture and bold thick-to-thin brushwork. Buscema’s brushwork over light, loose pencils are particularly enjoyable for me as it gives an insight into his thought process. It’s clear that Buscema was drawing during the inking stage, instead of coldly recording the decisions that tight pencils had already made.
The other night I was watching a You Tube video of John Buscema sketching and inking an image of Captain America. I was trying to show my son, who’s getting into drawing (quite well!) what I meant by loose drawing. It struck me while watching, that Buscema held his brush the way people hold a pencil. Most inkers of the current generation (that I’ve noticed) hold their brushes low on the ferrule, their hands sideways over the page, flicking backwards with the wrist as the pivot point. It makes for a clean, precise line- but not necessarily an interesting line. I think I’ll try that method the next time I’m noodling with a brush …. I’m sure it’ll look like I used a tater tot instead of a brush.
According to Florentino Florez, who provided the biographical data in Big John Buscema, Buscema was never satisfied with his work in comics. Working on so many titles simultaneously, producing rough layouts, left him wishing he could take his time on some of his projects. His favorite title was Conan and over the years, in his spare time, he plotted and drew his own Conan adventure. He took his time with this one and in the end he published it with Roy Thomas through Marvel as a graphic novel called Conan the Rogue. Naturally, it’s out of print- but I’m biding my time, haunting ebay and trade shows for a chance to enjoy Buscema at his best.