13 Mar 2010

The Buscema Avengers Project

By Matt C
There were a number of choices I was juggling as the potential follow-up to my Byrne FF Project, and while they were all great candidates (which I will probably revisit in the future), when I had to make the final decision the winner was John Buscema’s final run on Avengers.

The difference with my look at Byrne’s run on Fantastic Four is that Buscema rejoined Avengers (he'd been regular artist on the title several times beforehand) as penciller partway through Roger Stern’s long stint on the book, and he stuck around while Walt Simonson took the reigns for several issues - in total, his name was on the credits from issue #255 to #300 (missing only #280). Calling it the Stern/Buscema Project would have meant skipping those final few issues, and I seem to remember them pretty great and worthy of inclusion (hopefully I’ll be proven right down the line!). I guess I could have called it the Buscema/Palmer Avengers Project, since the veritable Tom Palmer was always on hand to provide some astounding inks, but for simplicity’s sake I’m sticking with Buscema Avengers Project.

The reason I’m going with the choice is that, as with Byrne on Fantastic Four, Buscema was the artist on Avengers when I started picking up proper US superhero comics (as opposed to the UK reprints) and the guy’s work blew me away, searing itself onto my brain to become a kind of definitive template for how the characters should look. That’s often the way with these things, your first (proper) visual instruction to a character (or characters) shapes the way you view them from then on. First impressions an all that…

There’s obviously an argument to be made for Buscema peaking in the pages of Conan The Barbarian (and Savage Sword Of Conan for that matter) but even at this stage in his career he was still at the top of his game (although the contribution of Palmer’s inks really needs to be emphasised on a regular basis!). In addition to that, I seem to recall Stern’s scripts being tight, action-packed and brimming over with the type of superhero soap opera that only really exists in team books. I’m particularly looking forward to rereading the assault on Avengers Mansion by the Masters Of Evil arc - I had look at it again a few years back and it remains a classic of the genre.

As always, I hope folk enjoy my journeys into the not-too-distant past, and maybe it will prompt someone out there to go seek out the issues in question for the first time. The project begins in tomorrow’s Mini Reviews with Avengers #255…

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