To celebrate Marvel’s 80th-anniversary, reprints of the Marvel Visionaries series have come out as well as new highlighted creators too. They’ve produced this collection for John Romita Sr., Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, and now John Buscema. Buscema is a titan of artistic abilities who drew Marvel Comics from the ’60s on through the ’90s. During that time he even opened his own school and produced “Drawing the Marvel Way” videos. Check one out below:
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Celebrate the career of a true Marvel Visionary! The Incredible Hulk, the devastating Dragon Man, the epic end of the Norse gods themselves…none of it was too much for Big John Buscema! And the Avengers never looked mightier than when Buscema drew them! Now, one of comicdom’s most acclaimed creators takes center stage in this genre-spanning gathering of greats. Witness Nick Fury vs. Hydra! Thor vs. the Silver Surfer! The Avengers vs. the Avengers! The hidden pasts of Wolverine and Dracula! The twilight of the Masters of Evil! Plus lushly illustrated crime, horror and romance work from the pre-Marvel era!
Why does this matter?
The Marvel Visionaries series is a great way to read a wide selection of a creator’s work, which is particularly interesting when they worked at Marvel for so many decades. The first story in this collection is from Crimefighters #4 from 1948 and the last is a Hulk story from 1998. You can literally flip through and see how Buscema changed as an artist over the years.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that this collection houses a lot of Avengers comics, but there are some horror books and romance comics too. One of the joys of this series is seeing how an artist can shift their style to suit a genre. The horror story here, from the 1973 Dracula Lives #3, is a black and white tale that’s certainly edgy with semi-nudity for the time. The romance comic My Love #2 from 1969 is lighter and framed somewhat differently to reduce the thrill and adventure of Avengers comics. Because this book packages the work of one creator like this, you tend to look at the stories differently and look for similarities and techniques. It’s a great way to study Buscema.
This book runs 368 pages so you’re getting a good sized collection of their work. The titles include Crimefighter #4; Strange Tales #22 and 150; Tales to Astonish #85-87; Avengers #41-42, 75-76, and 277; Avengers Annual #2; Silver Surfer #4; My Love #2; Fantastic Four #111-112; Thor #200; Dracula Lives! #3; Marvel Spotlight #30; Epic Illustrated #1; Wolverine (with Bill Sienkiewicz) #10; and Shadows & Light #3. It’s a wide selection never leaning too heavily into series he wasn’t a huge part of. A knockout highlight from this book is “The Answer,” which appeared in Epic Illustrated #1. It’s a Silver Surfer and Galactus story written by Stan Lee that is painted by Rick Veitch. It’s everything you could want in a cosmic story.
This book also has a few back matter pages devoted to showing a bit of the process with pages not yet colored. The full page of Vision crying is collected here from Avengers #58 which is nice to have since it’s so iconic. Also included are the cover art for Foom magazine (never heard of that one) as well as plot and layout notes for an unfinished Marvel Italia story.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
This is the first Marvel Visionaries I’ve reviewed that didn’t have an intro or afterword from a creator who knew the artist. That reduces the purpose, of the book leaving you with the work but no explanation or detailed context as to why they were great in the first place. It seems shortsighted and it’s too bad it doesn’t have a mini-essay since I’m sure there are dozens of folks who would love to write something about him.
Outside of this, this series does make reading the stories within disjointed and hard to follow. You’re dropped into a story or series and then by the time you’ve figured out what is going on you’re off to another series entirely. It’s a weird way to read these stories even if it’s not intended to be read in that sort of way.
Is it good?
A good collection that features one of the greatest superhero artists who ever lived.