Thursday, February 5, 2015

Fantastic Four #107 (Pt 1) John Buscema's Fantastic Four

Surprise! Betcha expected to see more Giant-Size Avengers #1 here. Well, I do have more Buckler queued up--boy, do I ever--but for some time now I've been itching to post a sampling of John Buscema's Fantastic Four. (I also have some John Romita Sr. FF in the hopper, but frankly I don't find it as interesting as Buscema's--or Buckler's--so it'll have to wait.)  

You probably already know that Jack Kirby's last Fantastic Four issue was #102 (1970). Romita Sr. stepped in to fill the void and penciled issues #103-106. In John Romita...And All That Jazz, the Jazzy One noted he was "raised in the syndicated artists ghost period." That is, there was a time-honored tradition of keeping characters, especially well-known or longtime ones, "on model." And for the FF specifically, there was the need to adhere to the established versions of the Baxter Building...Reed's lab and equipment...the Negative Zone...and so on. Accordingly, it seems that both Romita and Buscema--who took over as the FF's regular penciler with #107--used the Kirby issues as their Bible.  
Fantastic Four 107-JohnBuscema
FF 107 (1971) Buscema                               FF 78 (1968) Kirby 
Also, during this post-Kirby period it wasn't just the art that evoked the Lee-Kirby era-FF. It was a time of transition for Marvel; not only was Kirby gone, but there were new owners, Marvel was in the throes of expansion, and Stan Lee was in the process of becoming publisher. With so many responsibilities--and without Kirby--it appears that when Lee put his writer hat on, he turned to what had worked in the past: Reed trying to change Ben back to his former appearance; Ben turning against the rest of the team; Thing versus Hulk; Reed trapped in the Negative Zone; Johnny brooding over Crystal; battles against all-powerful antagonists like Galactus...you get the idea. All this may have seemed fresh and exciting for readers brand new to the FF; but as someone who'd been reading the mag for a few years, this mining-the-past approach struck me as stale and uninspired--it was déjà vu all over again...and again...and again...

Okay, let's take a look at Reed trying to change the Thing back to his Ben Grimm appearance, from both FF #107 (Big John's first issue) and FF #78. Looks like Reed's using the same equipment both times, so chalk up one for consistency!
Fantastic Four 107 Buscema
Fantastic Four #107 (1971) J. Buscema
Fantastic Four 78 LeeKirby
Fantastic Four #78 (1968) Kirby

Fantastic Four 107-AndNowTheThing
Fantastic Four #107 (1971) J. Buscema
Fantastic Four 78-ThingBenGrimm
Fantastic Four #78 (1968) Kirby

6 comments:

  1. Superb stuff! I wish more people read this. I still hear fans say "Buckler was nothing but a swipe artist, not like Buscema, a REAL artist." By focusing on one issue you have shown that these similarities are no coincidence: Buscema either had the Kirby comics open in front of him, or he had a very good memory for images.

    As for the claim that maybe Buckler used tracing paper, that is absurd, given that art was drawn on high grade board. Besides, I do a bit of art myself, and tracing takes a lot longer than drawing freehand.

    So thanks for showing the much needed context. Keep up the good work!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Chris. Buscema (and Romita during his short stint) likely had the FF issues in front of them for reference/shorthand. As Buscema went on, he naturally relied less on the Kirby FF...but I have several examples queued up from later in his run that show he never entirely abandoned the Kirby issues. It's how many comic book artists worked, for house style consistency, as a time-saving measure, etc.

      As for Buckler, I am refraining from posting my conclusions for now--but I do think there was likely some lightboarding involved. Some of the proportions are just too identical with the Kirby panels.

      I have much more Buckler to post, but probably won't get back to Buckler for another month or so--I want to showcase some more Buscema first.

      Thanks for the comments and for reading, and stay tuned!

      Delete
  2. PS, do you mind if I swipe these FF 107 examples for my own site? Fully credited of course!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Chris, no problem with that--go ahead. :) Glad you enjoy reading these.

      Delete
  3. PS, Hadn't thought of light boxes. I defer to your expertise on that - look forward to your conclusions.

    ReplyDelete

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