Friday, April 12, 2013

Far-Out Fantasy Week! Making a Splash: Big John Buscema's Conan, Phase One

Hey, hey, hey, Groove-ophiles! What better way to end the week than with some sensational splashes by Big John Buscema? Big John's run on Conan the Barbarian is considered by many to be the definitive version of Robert E. Howard's greatest creation, and though Barry Windsor-Smith fan I most certainly am, 'tis hard for me to argue! Following is a mere handful, but a fragment--though the fragment on which the legend was built--of savage splashes, starting with Mr. Buscema's debut on Conan the Barbarian #25 (January 1973) through CtB #33 (September 1973), including his awesome double-page center-spread from ish 33--wow!
 And yeah, those inks by brother Sal and Ernie Chan (Chua) are pretty suh-wheet, too, aren't they?

7 comments:

  1. Love these Buscema pages. Ernie Chua/Chan is a big part of Big John's early success on Conan, two were definitely greater than the sum of their parts.

    With the rooted and assured storytelling of Buscema, I think Conan entered a mature phase. Smith's stuff was often stellar, but too often it was art for art's sake, and with Buscema the character's pulp identity is allowed to flourish as the storytelling becomes paramount.

    I can remember thinking at the time when Buscema took over that the book must have been doing well after some rocky months in the past. Conan never looked back.

    This reminds me of Steve Ditko on Spider-Man, who was outstanding, but it was when John Romita took over, that the book seemed to take off in sales even more than before. The idiosyncratic nature of some art is appealing to us fanboys, but there is something in the totally accessible art of Romita and Buscema which has mass appeal.

    Rip Off

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  2. CROM!
    I have to agree Big John did a beautiful job. Very few artists/writers can top a previous super star Pro. Conan & Romita SR's Spider-Man were a few. John made Conan more gritty & more indepht as a character with Roy's great adaptaions/stories. Following talent like Barry Windsor Smith & Gil Kane is no small feat! If not for these gentleman. Conan would probably be long forgotten. Ahnuld would also probably wouldn't had gotten his big break in Hollywood either in 1982! Instead of the Action Hero era. We would had gotten the Girly Man era! YIKES!! The thought of that gives me a T-U-M-O-R!!!!

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  3. According to Roy Thomas, Buscema's first issue of Conan that he drew was actually #27, with that gorgeous Conan-on-horseback splash; then he went on to draw #s 25, 26 and then #28 on. This was in the introductory essay Roy wrote for volume 5 of the Dark Horse tpb reprint series.

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  4. Crom's beard! Big John and Ernie Chan (then Chua) really did a bang up job on our favourite Cimmerian barbarian!

    - Mike from Trinidad & Tobago.

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  5. What's interesting to me, and these splash pages are an excellent place to see it, is how Buscema's art slowly changed on the series, becoming more naturalistic and losing a lot of the Kirby-ish flourishes. In various interviews Buscema talked about how he adopted Kirby's layouts and composition for his super hero work (the extreme foreshortening, etc) but within a few issues of Conan, the pure Buscema command of human anatomy and figure drawing shows through. Note the differences between the Conan figures for Two Against Turan and Flame Winds. The second is much more naturalistic. Buscema will really hit his stride in a couple more issues, particularly when he inks his own work on The Warrior and the Were-Woman and The Dragon From the Inland Sea. For me Buscema's version of Conan is the definitive one.

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  6. I'm a great fan of CTB 75, a Cinematic masterpiece!

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  7. Amongst my most favourite runs of all comic history. Buscema and Thomas on CTB were awesome. The stories were so engaging, the telling of the tales so consistently exciting. Big John was one of my all-time fave artists, it looked like it all just fell effortlessly into place on the page. Such great quality and so consistent over such a long time.

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