Monday, September 29, 2008

Our Pal, Sal Buscema

While he didn't receive the critical acclaim of his late brother, John, Silvio "Sal" Buscema was (and still is) one of comics' greatest artists. A master of storytelling, Sal's art crackled with energy reminiscent of Jack (King) Kirby, himself. His speed and dependability were legendary. If an artist missed a deadline, nine times out of ten, the job was saved by "Our Pal" Sal. Because of this, Sal probably drew every Marvel character during the Groovy Age, whether it be in Marvel Team-Up, Marvel Two-In-One, or their own mag.

Sal Buscema was one of the reasons Ol' Groove got hooked on comics. While Li'l Groove was picking up a comic here and there for most of his life, it was issues 88 and 89 of the Avengers that turned him onto the path of comicbook fiend (at least, that's what his family and friends called him). Those covers leapt out at me, grabbed me by the shirt and screamed, "Buy me!"--so I did. And from then on, I was never the same (hey--you just got the origin of the Groovy Agent--free of charge!). Soon, I found back issues (thanks to aunts and uncles with great taste in reading material) filled with Sal's work. He had been drawing Sub-Mariner, inking Silver Surfer and Conan, and supplying covers galore (even for comics he rarely drew, like Iron Man and Daredevil). Before long, Sal was the regular artist on Captain America, my second favorite title (Avengers being the favorite, natch). From then on there was no separating me from anything Sal had a hand in. Defenders, the aforementioned Marvel Team-Up and Marvel Two-In-One, the Incredible Hulk, Skull the Slayer, Nova, Ms. Marvel, Spectacular Spider-Man, Tarzan, Rom: Spaceknight, and fill-ins galore. Though many times he was doing "breakdowns" (sparse layouts to indicate what was happening on the page to the "finisher" and/or inker), plus the fact that his style (especially when doing breakdowns) left him pretty much at the mercy of whomever was inking him, I could always depend on "Our Pal" to entertain me. Whether it was groundbreaking superhero drama (his work with Steve Englehart on Captain America), all-out superheroics (Avengers, Nova) or superhero insanity (literally!--meaning his run with Steve Gerber on the Defenders), Sal packed every page with drama, action, and fun.

He still makes new fans and admirers even over two decades past the Groovy Age, mostly as an inker (on Spider-Girl). Sometimes, though, we get lucky and his powerful pencils pop up for a special story or cover. Mr. Buscemal has always stood for quality comics. Sal, we salute you, pal!!


  1. great post. sal never got the acclaim he was due. i loved his run of Marvel Team-Up, and his Defenders issues were terrific, especially the ones where they brought in Klaus Janson on inking duties.

    oooooh, just fab. . .

  2. Wow, Groovy. Talk about taking the words right out of my mouth! I couldn't agree more. For me, Sal Buscema DEFINED the Marvel house style in the 70s. He ranks right up there with his brother, John Romita, Jack Kirby and Gil Kane as my all-time favorite Marvel artists. Why he has gotten anything resembling a bad rap over the years is baffling to me....but he is a perfect example of what a comic artist SHOULD be, but often isn't these days.

    Sal had a knack for conveying action in a way that only Kirby could top. You felt every explosion, every fist slam into the concrete......the motion of the figures as they scattered across the page was something else. One of my favorite story arcs illustrated by the Sal was the Moondragon/Vision/Dr.Strange/Spidey/Salem Witch-thingy in Marvel Team-Up.

    I hated to see Sal forced to change his style in the late 80s in an attempt to keep up with the "times." However, that doesn't take away from his overall career, which has been nothing short of masterful.

  3. Sal was matchless.. I hung on every panel of Cap and Falc during the '73/'74 timeframe with Secret Empire (and all the 'superstrength' issues from the year before..). I stopped reading when Frank Robbins came in, just terrible art. It was like a bad hangover after the glorious Sal years.

    LOVED his drawing of Yellowjacket in the Defenders stint.

    David B.

  4. nothing short of tragic to have had steve ditko replace Sal on ROM spaceknight.



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