Wednesday 27 April 2016

The artists most likely to make you buy a comic.

John Buscema, self-portrait
You can never accuse this blog of not being clued-up. After all, it's only taken six years of its existence for it to occur to me to do a post about who my favourite Bronze Age artists were.

It's easy, of course, to make the mistake of doing this in a rational manner, informed by adult knowledge of who did what and how well.

But that would be to ignore the fact that I read those comics when I was a youth and had nothing to go on back then but gut instinct as to what I did and didn't like.

Therefore, I'm going to, as I type these magic words, try to cast my mind back to the 1970s and remember which artists' presence in a mag would have been most likely to make me buy it in those days.

As far as I can remember, these are the artists in question: John Buscema, Jim Aparo, E.R. Cruz, Jim Starlin, John Byrne, Barry Smith, Mike Grell, Dave Cockrum, Alfredo Alcala, Walt Simonson, Paul Gulacy, Nestor Redondo and Neal Adams.

It's interesting that, since then, my tastes have changed somewhat. Of those, I must confess that Mike Grell's work no longer grabs me overly much, as I can spot its anatomical weaknesses and his debt to Neal Adams that I somehow missed as a child.

Neal Adams himself, while I can still see how accomplished and creative he was, doesn't hold the same appeal for me as he did back then. There's something about the rubberiness of his figures and the ad-campaign quality of his work that distances me from the stories in a way they once didn't.

Paul Gulacy's a strange one. Somehow, at the time, I totally failed to spot that, in his work on Shang-Chi, he was totally channelling Jim Steranko. As an adult, it simply leaps out at me. The odd thing is that I don't care about that because I actually prefer the look of Gulacy's work to Steranko's. Truly, the human mind is an odd thing.

All the other artists on the list, I think I still perceive in the same light as I did back then.

As for people who don't make that list, the likes of Sal Buscema and John Romita always appealed to me but never enough to motivate me to buy a comic just because they'd drawn them.

Oddly, even though Gil Kane was one of my favourite artists of all time, his presence in a comic was, likewise, never an actual motivating force for me buying it.

Anyway, who were the artists whose work was most likely to make you buy a comic back in the days of your youngsterdom? And have your views on them changed over the years?


Craven Lovelace said...

My list would have significantly overlapped with yours, although I never appreciated John Buscema or Jim Aparo back then as much as I do now. I really loved that Shadow work by Ernie Cruz, but didn't always love his other stuff as much. I would have also included Kirby (of course), Bernie Wrightson, Mike Kaluta, Frank Brunner, Craig Russell, Alex Nino and Mike Ploog. A lot of the artists I decried as boring or "weird" back in the day I have much more appreciation for now. That list would include Frank Robbins, Herb Trimpe, and even poor old Don Heck, who we used to deride mercilessly, but whose work nowadays strikes me as strong, journeyman illustration. I have, however, never warmed to Sal Buscema.

Thanks for the memories!

Anonymous said...

Steve, if I had to pick a single favourite comic artist of the 70s, it would be Jean "Moebius" Giraud, but seems this is really about Marvel and DC...

Its tough to choose not only because, as you say, tastes change over time but we also get different things from each of them; the best comic artist might not necessarily be the best artist working in comics. Like, I wouldn't say Jack Kirby's work was particularly elegant or even technically correct, but its great.
On the other hand, John Buscema was phenomenally skilled, but seemed content to churn out work that - for me at least - somehow lacked that extra really creative spark. So I liked him best teamed with Alfredo Alcala or Rudy Nebres.

Hard to choose... but limiting the field to high output artists who have consistently impressed me over time - Gene "the dean " Colan and the mighty Alex Nino. Love a bit of Gil, but definitely agree that - oddly - he didn't always get me buying his work.

I never warmed to Sal Buscema either.


HannibalCat said...

My favourite 70's artist list was small; Gil Kane, Ross Andru, Jim Starlin, Frank Brunner, Paul Gulacy, Jim Steranko, Rich Buckler, John Byrne - I loved everything they did back then. The range of my appreciation has expanded considerably since. I cannot believe I avoided Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four at the time, nor Gene Colan's Daredevil, though I loved him on Howard the Duck. I also really love Sal Buscema's work on Rom Spaceknight; I think it's his career highlight. I have also grown to love Don Perlin, Billy Graham, Herb Trimpe's Hulk and, as far as I am concerned, the greatest Iron Man artist - George Tuska. He also produced some great Luke Cage.

Paul R said...

Along with Byrne, you have to put up Perez, Rogers and Golden on my list.
Unfortunately being young up-coming artists they tended to get terribly inkers, most notably being Jack Abel.
I have to admit I also hated Don Heck, Frank Robbins and Carmine Infantino, there style seemed to belong to an older age and not specifically to the super-hero genre.

Steve W. said...

I shall definitely have to do a post about artists whose work put me off buying a comic. Fortunately, there were very few of them.

paul Mcscotty said...

My list is pretty much in keeping with your own although John Romita, Gene Colan, Bernie Wrightson, Mike Ploog, Marshall Rogers, and Sal Buscema (when he was trying) and especially Alex Nino were always on my list.

In the 70s I was (to say the least) a Neal Adams fanatic and bought everything he did, and looking back on his body of work from around 1968 – 75 it still look amazing. I am still a big fan of his but from his days at “Continuity” onwards (maybe a bit before that) he lost a lot of his “sparkle” whilst still managing to make his work look amazing (a lot of his new stuff, whilst looking great seems to be standard dramatic open mouthed poses).

As I have gotten older I have really appreciated artists like Alex Toth, Don Perlin, Herbe Trimpe and George Tuska ETC. I couldn’t disagree more on Frank Robbins (whose art I admit I literally hated at first ) but look at it again it is just genius all 100 mph stuff (ok I’m not going to convince anyone on this am I?)

Anonymous said...

I thought Jack Kirby/Joe Sinnot were fantastic. I started reading Spider-Man Comics Weekly at #103 and I remember being very disappointed when John Romita was replaced by Gil Kane in #117 (I think). Of course I also loved John Buscema. But no artist made me buy a comic - I was a huge Marvel fan and would have bought the comics anyway but I still had my favourite artists. I also have to mention George Tuska - my first ever Marvel comic was Planet Of The Apes No.5 so Tuska was the first Marvel artist I ever clapped eyes on (okay, it was actually whoever drew the cover) - POTA #5 also included Gulliver Jones drawn by Gil Kane and Ka-Zar drawn by Barry Smith. One artist that I wasn't keen on back in the day was Pablo Marcos but now I'm rather fond of his work - partly that's nostalgia, I suppose, for all those covers he drew for Marvel UK weeklies.

Steve W. said...

I always had mixed feelings about George Tuska. Whether I liked his work or not was totally dependent on what strip he was drawing at the time.

I'm afraid I never warmed to Pablo Marcos. I think I marginally preferred his inking to his pencilling.

Holyone said...

In the 60s I bought a lot of comics because of Nick Cardy's covers & art. His Aquaman & Teen Titans comics really caught my eye. The late 60s & early 70s had many great artists with Neal Adams at the top of my list. I picked up comics in the 80s that I wouldn't if it weren't for Alan Davis. He even caused me to pick up a few Marvel comics. I don't buy many new comics anymore but search the bargain boxes for those 'good' artists who have unique styles such as Toth, Kirby, Ditko, Williamson, & Rude.

Phil said...

Steranko. Barry Smith. Corben.
Back in the day, Colan and Kirby. In fact I still bought Kirby in the 70s and 80s. I think the only mag I didn't get was Devil Dinosaur.
Anything by Curt Swan.