John Buscema - the last Marvel master

 Marvel John Buscema

When I was little, I had a passion for drawings with impacient, quick lines. The artists never called my attention in particular, but rather the drawing situations. My first praise to art was over a logo for a cement factory of a muscular figure in an Herculean pose where its simple and precise lines stood out.

It was from that point on that my attention was focused on inspiring figures, such as Spiderman, Hulk and other super heroes born from American artists' pens. In the gateway to adolescence, my focus was only to be found in football and the amazing Marvel comics.

I remember that once, on a school afternoon of absolute boredom, a coleague and great friend of mine remembered to bring, between study books, a comics magazine, with a cover that was only comparable to the famous covers of the Anita books, by the peerless Marcel Marlier (although the styles and contents of the books were completely different). I was struck by that acrylic painting on the cover - by Earl Norem - of a war situation from which a tanned character - Conan the Cimmerian - stood out.

The best, however, was yet to happen. While getting myself comfortable to open the story, a boiling wave of pure mastery in the shape of Indian ink cut me the glottis and blocked my pulmonary gear. I tried to compose myself from the initial shock and follow the ritual of the comics reader, coordinating, in my mind, the drawings with the story. Nevertheless, the task seemed complicated; the lines cleared paths that I didn't even imagine at the time. I read, in the footnotes, the names of the artists: the drawer was John Buscema and Alfredo Alcala worked on the finishing touches.

I looked closer at the work of art. The drawings were imperial: free from complexes, loose, to the point and rebellious; defying every method, feinting every concept, naturally elevating itself. The sequences were as harmonious as appearances of Marilyn Monroe - watched frame by frame, the actress appears sublime in every frame. Square by square, the drawings are subline in every line.

 Marvel John Buscema

By the middle of the story, I still had no idea what the plot was all about. My retinas jumped from light to contrast, from shadow to movement, devouring every detail, blinding from so much information. Furthermore, Alcala lent the drawings finishing touches with a lot of dedication and study, complementing the work of art with touching faithfulness to the original drawing.

From then on and for many years to come, all of my savings and improvised resources were spent on John Buscema's work. I, who had been, until then, indifferent to names, who captured art detachedly, began to focus all my thirst for learning about art in this man of formal and bulky figure, with an impeccably trimmed beard and concentrated look.

Born in Brooklyn, New York in the mid-1920s, Buscema showed an early interest in the great classical figures, like Michelangelo, Rubens and Davinci. He became a penciller, not only as a cartoonist, but also in the less desirable advertising industry (where I presume he understood the need for perfection). It was at Marvel, however, that he spread all his talent and proved that art can also be found in illustration and comic strips, which he helped develop and enlarge.

The post-Buscema Marvel is what it is. Nowadays, its comic strips display an array of colours inlayed in characters of misshapen musculature and distorted faces, that appear from the darkest and most claustrophobic atmospheres, all of if sprayed with the most sinister photoshop resources. The drawings have stopped breathing, the stories have lost their inspiration and the filling is full of cholesterol: they have printed a sort of fast-draw and packed it up for sale. The pencillers do what they can and then some. But it's also fair to say that teams like Buscema - Alcala only come around ever so often. Those are tough shoes to fill in.

For what concerns me, the art and work of John Buscema remains ingenious, defying youngsters and naive pencillers like me to ride out adverse winds. He helped us realize that from a simple line, a primary draft, we can seep our way into a world of sensations far beyond that which we intended to be part of the day we decided to be scribble-creators for the rest of our lives.

 Marvel John Buscema

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