Archive for July, 2013


SK-UKCoverA new review of SEVEN KINGS—here’s what Otherworld Book Review has to say about the Second Book of the Shaper: 

“What John R. Fultz has done with his heroes is basically turn their worlds upside down…I lost count of the times I uttered the words ‘I can’t believe you’ve just done that!’. And it’s not just physical tragedy that can sometimes inflict the suffering on the heroes, it’s the mental pain also that each has to go through, and as you read you feel their pain. You even start to grow to hate some of the heroes you loved in SEVEN PRINCES…John has turned everything upside-down and made you reassess your view on each of the heroes…The BOOKS OF THE SHAPER have set a new standard in ‘Epic’ fantasy on a monolithic scale…”

(Click here for the full review)

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Front cover of FUNGI #21.

There’s a place called The Urbille that exists in some distant corner of the space/time continuum. It’s a time/place/city where fractured realities collide, where lost souls amble in prisons of rust or dance in clockwork bodies, and where human flesh is a weakness to be discarded and devoured.

I wrote two stories set in The Urbille. They are positively the WEIRDEST stories I’ve ever written, combining elements of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. Now they’re being published together in the jumbo-sized 30th Anniversary Edition of FUNGI (#21).

The first Urbille story is called “The Key To Your Heart Is Made of Brass.” The second is “Flesh of the City, Bones of the World.” Both are epic journeys into strangeness, mystery, and horror.

FUNGI #21 is available now from Amazon.com and it’s 420 pages of fantastic weird fiction. In addition to my two Urbille tales, which bookend the issue, it includes tons of other stories and articles.

“The Sword of Thongor” is a new tale of Lin Carter’s barbarian hero by Robert M. Price. Weird fiction master Wilum H. Pugmire contributes a new novelette entitled “A Presence of Things Past.”

Additional contributors include:

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The back cover of FUNGI #21.

David Daniel
H.P. Lovecraft
Thomas Ligotti
William F. Nolan
Richard F. Searight
William Hope Hodgson
Ann K. Schwader
Glynn Barrass
James Person, Jr.

Publisher/Editor Pierre Comtois says of the fully illustrated issue: FUNGI #21 features a stellar lineup of the most incredible talent in the weird fiction field from contemporary hit makers to talented newcomers to yesteryear’s classic authors…including special spotlights on Richard F. Searight and West Coast authors Richard Matheson, William F. Nolan, Charles Beaumont and many others. It also features a new interview and fiction from Twilight Zone writer Earl Hamner, Jr.”

The cover painting is a classic piece from Murray Tinkelman, first seen on the cover of Ballantine Books’ edition of H.P. Lovecraft’s THE HORROR IN THE MUSEUM in 1976. Another stellar Tinkelman piece graces the back cover, one Ballantine used as the cover of it’s ’76 edition of Lovecraft’s THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD.

To order a copy of FUNGI #21 click here.

Fascinating discussion where science meets spirit
and cosmic consciousness is the ground state of the universe.

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Primeval worshippers bow before the great idol of Tsathoggua the Toad-God in primeval Hyperborea. (See full wrap-around cover at the end of this article.)

I’ve been waiting to announce this book for months and now I can shout it from the steaming top of Mount Voormithadreth…*

DEEPEST, DARKEST EDEN: New Tales of Hyperborea is a brand-new anthology from Miskatonic River Press, edited by the esteemed Cody Goodfellow. These 17 never-seen-before stories (and two poems) are all set in the ancient world of Hyperborea, as imagined by the great WEIRD TALES author Clark Ashton Smith. Contributors were invited to spin a yarn set in Smith’s prehistoric creation, and naturally I jumped at the chance. Smith is one of my favorite writers.

Most of Smith’s original Hyperborean tales ran in WEIRD TALES in the 1930s. They featured lost cities, haunted jungles, strange sorcery, and terrible demon-gods such as Tsathoggua and Abhoth. His entire cycle of these tales was gathered into a single volume first in 1971’s HYPERBOREA from Ballantine Books, then again in 1996 for THE BOOK OF HYPERBOREA from Necronomicon Press.

The Hyperborean cycle of tales, along with Smith’s ZOTHIQUE cycle, had a tremendous influence on my first story cycle THE REVELATIONS OF ZANG. Clark Ashton Smith wasn’t my only influence (there is also plenty of Howard, Vance, Dunsany, Lovecraft, Leiber, Schweitzer, and Lee to be found in those tales of Artifice and Taizo), but CAS’s stories always inspired me. Still do! His far-out fantasy creations, always laced with and undercurrent of cosmic horror, are told in hypnotic, lyrical prose that simply cannot be reproduced in this day and age.

The cover to the 1971 collection of Smith's Hyperborea cycle is based on the story "The Seven Geases."

The cover to the 1971 collection of Smith’s Hyperborean cycle is based on the story “The Seven Geases.” (WEIRD TALES, 1934)

Smith’s Hyperborea wasn’t wholly his own creation, but his interpretation of an ancient Greek legend. “In Greek mythology the Hyperboreans were a mythical people who lived far to the north of Thrace…Hyperborea was an unspecified region in the northern lands that lay beyond the north wind. [It] was perfect, with the sun shining twenty-four hours a day.” (Wikipedia.org)

Smith took this ancient legend and brought it to life in all the brilliant, shimmering colors of his fantastic prose. And he introduced the idea that a terrible force of evil was slowly devouring the land with ice and cold, moving inexorably southward from the northern regions.

In “The Coming of the White Worm” Smith reveals that the icy doom is being caused by the alien entity Rlim Shaikorth, a vast white worm that the Warlock Evagh tries to stop. It is a true classic of the sword-and-sorcery genre that wasn’t published until 1941, and was a sequel of sorts to his two other “icy doom” stories “The Ice Demon” (1933) and “The White Sybil” (1934). My contribution to DEEPEST, DARKEST EDEN is a story called “Daughter of the Elk Goddess,” and it was partly inspired by my re-reading of “The Ice Demon” and “The Seven Geases.”

Smith could deliver sparkling fantasy adventure in the style of Robert E. Howard, but he avoided “happy endings,” usually preferring to have his “heroes” meet with horrible deaths at the end of their stories. This placed him closer to H. P. Lovecraft on the fiction scale, and indeed he stands right between Howard and Lovecraft when people talk about the “Big Three” WEIRD TALES writers.

The Hyperborean tales are also known for their sense of grotesque irony and dark humor. I’m sure we’ll see some of that in these New Tales of Hyperborea. This is going to be one of the year’s best anthologies, so be sure you don’t miss it.

Here is the complete table of contents in order:

Nick Mamatas – “Hostage”
Joe Pulver – “To Walk Night…Alone”
Darrell Schweitzer – “In Old Commoriom”
Ann K. Schwader – “Yhoundeh Fades” (poem)
Cody Goodfellow – “Coil Of The Ouroboros”
John R. Fultz – “Daughter Of The Elk Goddess”
Brian R. Sammons – “The Darkness Below”
Dieter Meier – “The Conquest Of Rhizopium”
Lisa Morton – “Zolamin And The Mad God”
Brian Stableford – “The Lost Archetype”
Ran Cartwright – “One Last Task For Athammaus”
Don Webb – “The Beauties Of Polarion”
Robert M. Price – “The Debt Owed Abhoth”
Marc Laidlaw – “The Frigid Ilk Of Sarn Kathool”
Charles Schneider – “The Return Of The Crystal”
John Shirley – “Rodney LaSalle Has A Job Waiting
in Commoriom

Zak Jarvis – “The Winter Of Atiradarinsept “
Jesse Bullington – “The Door From Earth”
Ann K. Schwader – “Weird Of The White Sybil” (poem)

DEEPEST, DARKEST EDEN: New Tales of Hyperborea should be available in late August or early September. I’ll be sure to announce it right here as soon as it arrives.

Not only am I honored to be among such splendid company and working with such legendary material, but I simply can’t wait to read the rest of  these stories. And what an amazing cover!

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* = Mount Voormithadreth is a four-coned extinct volcano in Hyperborea. It is the tallest peak in the Eiglophian mountains and the dwelling place of various horrors including the sub-human Voormi savages, Tsathoggua the Toad-God, and Atlach-Nacha the Spider-God (to name a few).

_____________________

DEEPEST, DARKEST EDEN New Tales Of Hyperborea

Click to see the full-sized wrap-around cover in all its primordial glory!

SS-CoverOnly five months until the BOOKS OF THE SHAPER Trilogy comes to its world-shattering climax in SEVEN SORCERERS.

The book is set for release on December 10, but Amazon is taking PRE-ORDERS right now.

As I’ve mentioned before, this is my favorite cover of the series. That is the Shaper himself in the foreground. SEVEN SORCERERS is also my favorite volume of the series. Seven years of story-time separated Books 1 and 2. Only seven DAYS of story-time separate Books 2 and 3.

The invasion of Zyung the Almighty and his Manslayer hordes is only days away. It’s up to Iardu the Shaper and Sharadza Vodsdaughter to revive, awaken, and assemble a group of sorcerers with enough to power withstand Zyung’s Legion of High Seraphim—a thousand fanatical wizards.

Vireon the Slayer and Tyro the Sword King lead Men and Giants to defend the free world. So begins the great slaughter of the age…

And that’s only a taste of what’s going on in this book. I haven’t even mentioned Khama the Feathered Serpent, Dahrima the Axe, the Twin Kings of Uurz, D’zan the Sun Bringer, the King On The Cliffs, Sungui the Venomous, or the return of Ianthe the Claw. Other secrets I’ll not mention by name…like the spells in a sorcerer’s book, they must be read to be realized.

Critics talked about the “epic” nature of SEVEN PRINCES. The stakes have only gotten higher, the battles larger, and the sorcery more fantastic in this third and final Book of the Shaper.

 

 

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Click any image to see a larger version

A lot of comics news has been breaking lately as the industry gears up for its yearly pilgrimage to the San Diego Comicon, the mother of all comics conventions (at least in terms of sheer size and high profile). Some of the best news involves a “rebirth” of DC’s VERTIGO imprint and a new slate of promising titles from IMAGE Comics.

Comics trends usually move in cycles. If what I’m seeing lately is any indication, we’re about to see a new age of non-superhero, creator-owned comics rise to make history. I still dig superhero comics (when they’re well done), but the comics that have always thrilled me the most, inspired me to the point of obsession, and drew me back to re-read them the most over the years are usually non-superhero books. Or, they’re books that have such a strange and skewed angle on their heroes that they break the mainstream mold of “hero comics.”

Not long ago VERTIGO founder Karen Berger left the company, turning over the Executive Editor reins to longtime editor Shelly Bond, who has been responsible for some amazing comics during her 20 years with the imprint: SHADE THE CHANGING MAN, THE INVISIBLES, HEAVY LIQUID, HELLBLAZER, HOUSE OF MYSTERY, FABLES, and many more.  (NOTE: Shelly was also the model for “U-Go Girl” in Mike Allred’s X-STATIX comic for Marvel.)

Now that Shelly Bond is in charge, VERTIGO seems to be revamping, redefining, and revitalizing itself with a slate of promising new (ongoing) titles. Here three of them that are sure to be can’t-miss books:

HINTERKIND – An epic fantasy adventure set in a post-apocalyptic world, HINTERKIND is written by Ian Edginton and illustrated by Francesco Trifogli, and debuts this October. Decades after “The Blight” all but wiped out the human race, Mother Nature is taking back what’s hers and she’s not alone … all the creatures of myth and legend have returned and they’re not happy.

HinterkindMy thoughts: One look at the cover image and you can tell this is going to be a big, rollicking fantasy of the kind that VERTIGO does so well. The combination of the post-apocalyptic and epic fantasy genres is intriguing, and the art of Francesco Trifogli is a huge draw.

THE DISCIPLINE – Coming this December from writer Peter Milligan and artist Leo Fernandez, THE DISCIPLINE is a dark, erotic thriller about a privileged young woman named Melissa who is thrust into a centuries old battle between good and evil. She begins an affair with a mysterious man named Orlando who opens her eyes to a sexually sinister world she never knew existed.

My thoughts: Peter Milligan. ‘Nuff said. I first fell under his spell when I picked up issue #1 of his SHADE THE CHANGING MAN comic—with art by the young Chris Bachalo. I still have every single issue of this comic, which is one of my all-time favorite series. But Milligan has blown me away several other times during his long and storied career. Leo Fernandez caught my eye with his PUNISHER run at Marvel, and his noirish style sounds perfect for this concept.

SUICIDERS – Also in December is the great Lee Bermejo’s one-man-show SUICIDERS. Bermejo will both write and draw this series set in Los Angeles after “The Big One.” “Suiciders” is the wildly popular reality sport that contestants are literally dying to be a part of … and to be the best, you have to murder the best.

My thoughts: After reading Brian Azzarello’s graphic novel JOKER, with art by Bermejo, I was amazed at the artist’s versatility. Until then, I had thought of him only as “painter”–if he did comics they were painted comics, and therefore he would never do an ongoing series—too time consuming. However, JOKER proved that he had the chops to go the pencil-and-inks route, with gorgeous results. The concept behind this sci-fi story is basically “two futuristic boxers—one on top of the world, the other trying to fight (and kill) his way there. Sounds like a real knuckle-duster. I am so there.

For a complete list of VERTIGO’s new titles you can go here.

BlackScience-01-Cover-B-Dressed-a7939IMAGE Comics announced several new titles this week at its Image Expo event. Three of them, for various reasons, have me champing at the bit to read them. Here they are:

BLACK SCIENCE – Writer Rick Remender announced BLACK SCIENCE with artist Matteo Scalera, coming in November. The series is a “sequel” of sorts to Remender and Tony Moore’s FEAR AGENT, and was “inspired by the writer’s love of Frank Frazetta paintings and Al Williamson illustrations.” Scientist Grant McKay has finally done the impossible—deciphered Black Science and punched through the barriers of reality to ultimate chaos. “Now Grant and his team are lost, living ghosts shipwrecked on an infinite ocean of alien worlds, barreling through the dark realms, long forgotten, ancient and unimaginable.”

My thoughts: Wow—this sounds amazing. I was a big fan of Remender’s FEAR AGENT, but this sounds even better. First of all, Frank Frazetta is my favorite artist of all time (as well documented on this blog), and Al Williamson was one of the greatest science fiction illustrators in history. This is going to be pure, all-out sci-fi adventure at its best (just like FEAR AGENT). Also, with digital paints by Dean White (UNCANNY X-FORCE) it’s going to be gorgeous to look at. Let the trip begin!

VelvetVELVET – Ed Brubaker announced this new series with artist extraordinaire Steve Epting. It’s an “espionage-flavored” book similar to their work on CAPTAIN AMERICA, yet more “twisted.” Velvet Templeton has to leave a desk and go back into the field as a secret agent. Brubaker says the book will have a James Bond/Mission: Impossible vibe “mashed into a meta textual cold war scenario.”

My thoughts: Brubaker is the MAN. What can I say that hasn’t already been said about spectactular books like CRIMINAL, INCOGNITO, FATALE, SLEEPER, not to mention Bru’s many triumphs on Marvel books. Nobody does espionage/crime books as well as Ed Brubaker. And Steve Epting? Good lord, the man is talented. These two have a synergy that approaches sheer comics perfection. Check out any issue of their run on CAPTAIN AMERICA and you’ll see what I mean. My only worry here is that Epting will be leaving Jonathan Hickman’s NEW AVENGERS, where he has been blowing my mind lately on a monthly basis. I hope he stays, but I’m expecting he’ll need to focus on VELVET. As long as Epting keeps giving me monthly doses of his fine artwork, I’ll avoid withdrawal symptoms.

SouthernBastardsSOUTHERN BASTARDS – Jason Aaron announced this new crime series with artist Jason Latour. launching in early 2014. “People say write what you know…this is what I know,” said Aaron, who is from Alabama. “This is the book I was meant to write in a very sad, dark way.” Latour called the book “The Untouchables versus Boss Hog” or “The Dukes of Hazard by the Coen Brothers on meth.” The book is set in a fictional Alabama county “filled with lots of mean old bastards…”

My thoughts: Finally, the writer of VERTIGO’s superb SCALPED crime-noir series gets back to his roots. Jason Aaron has been doing mostly Marvel hero books (such as THOR) since he finished SCALPED. SOUTHERN BASTARDS sounds like a return to gritty, salt-of-the-earth crime noir fiction—or Aaron’s version of it anyway. Latour’s art speaks for itself, and seems to be the perfect match for the story Aaron wants to tell. SOUTHERN BASTARDS sounds like the perfect remedy for “superhero overdose.”

For info on more new IMAGE books in the works go here.

Well, there they are: Six new comics bound to drive the medium forward and provide some much-needed relief from the hero-glut of mainstream comics.

The next 12 months is going to be a great time for reading comic books.

In between great fantasy novels, of course…. 🙂

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John Buscema’s first issue of THOR was #178, but he would return as the regular series artist with #182. And thus began the 70s (known to comic fans as the Bronze Age), when Jack Kirby moved to DC and Buscema stepped up to redefine the look of Marvel Comics.

One of the immortal Jack Kirby‘s greatest creations was THE MIGHTY THOR. Much has been said and written about Kirby’s years-long run on this classic title. It might even surpass his immortal FANTASTIC FOUR run as my favorite of his Marvel creations. However, one of my all-time favorite post-Kirby artists is the great Big John Buscema.

This summer, for the first time, I’m reading my way through the initial Buscema run on THE MIGHTY THOR.

I have about 17 classic issues in blazing full color from the glorious 15- and 20-cents era, beginning with THOR #183 up to #203 (with about three issues missing). If I were to buy all the actual Buscema issues (which begin in 1970) it would run into thousands of dollars. Luckily, I have the THOR ESSENTIALS Volumes 4, 5, and 6, which carry me nicely all the way to #247. And Volume 7 will be released in October 29.

The Essentials volumes are in black-and-white, but the art of John Buscema (usually inked by the amazing Joe Sinnott here) is so entirely superb, I don’t even miss the color. Oh, sure, I’ll read the dog-eared old full-color issues that I have, but the bulk of my journey through Buscema’s THOR years will be in black-and-white, where the pencils and inks take center-stage.

86927464040.185According to his Wikipedia page, John Buscema worked on THE MIGHTY THOR #178, 182-259 (with only a few breaks for fill-in artists), then returned for #272-278 and #283-285. During this time he also did 3 THOR Annuals. So as you can see, this is a journey that won’t be complete in a single summer. I have several years of Buscema’s THOR to enjoy as the issues are released in further Essentials volumes. (Perhaps down the road I’ll go back and collect them all in full-color Marvel Masterworks editions, but right now you get way more issues-per-volume with the b/w Essentials.)

It’s no easy thing to fill the shoes of Jack Kirby—the man who practically invented modern comics and established the Marvel Universe—but John Buscema not only did this several times, he helped move many Stan Lee/Jack Kirby creations to the next era of greatness.

Spider-Man 77I grew up in the 1970s (born in ’69), and started reading comics before I hit elementary school. The first comic I remember picking up and “reading” (although I didn’t know how to read yet) was AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #77, with stunning art by—you guessed it Big John Buscema. In this issue, Spider-Man is trying to defeat the Lizard while convincing the Human Torch to leave the beast alone (he doesn’t want to reveal that the Lizard is really his friend Dr. Kurt Conners). But the Torch won’t butt out, so there are some great scenes of Spidey vs. Torch vs. Lizard here. I remember this was the first time I had seen the Human Torch (although I had doubtless seen Spider-Man on the TV cartoon show). The images in that book imprinted a pattern on my young consciousness–a pattern set by the phenomenal art team of John Buscema and Joe Sinnott. THIS was Marvel Comics to me, from then on.

FF #108, Buscema's second issue and one of my all-time favorite comics covers.

FF #108 Buscema’s second issue and one of my all-time favorite comics covers.

Not long after this, I discovered my first issue of FANTASTIC FOUR. It was the infamous #108, with art by Buscema (who had just taken over for Jack Kirby, whose name I didn’t know at the time), but part of the issue was composed of left-over Kirby pages, shown as a “flashback.” But it was the COVER of this book that made my jaw drop and captured my imagination, once again imprinting on my brain in a way that said THIS is how comics should be done.

And who drew the cover? Of course it was Big John Buscema.

Many years later I learned the story of Marvel: How Stan Lee and Jack Kirby built it from the ground up (with a lil’ help from Steve Ditko), and made comics history until Kirby left the House of Ideas in 1970. Well, that was just about my entry point into the world!

So while the previous generation grew up revering Kirby as the King of Comics, for me it was John Buscema who was king. (Later—in my teen years (the 80s), John Byrne took that crown with his work on UNCANNY X-MEN and FANTASTIC FOUR, but he would share it with Frank Miller for his legendary DAREDEVIL run.)

86927464040.187When Kirby left Marvel in ’70, it could have meant the end. However, Stan Lee was smart enough to let the House Style evolve. Artists like John Buscema, Gil Kane, Jim Steranko, Rich Buckler, (and others) took up the best facets of Kirby’s work, but added an extra layer of realism—in the tradition begun by Neal Adams and Jim Aparo in the mid-60s. Buscema had done the super SILVER SURFER title (because Stan felt Kirby was too busy with his other books), he had taken THE AVENGERS to new heights years after Kirby created it, and now he came along and replaced Kirby no not one but TWO main Marvel books: THOR and FANTASTIC FOUR.

As a kid discovering comics, I knew none of this. I simply knew amazing artwork when I saw it. John Buscema became the new paradigm of a Marvel artist—something even Stan Lee recognized when he had Buscema be his partner on the book HOW TO DRAW COMICS THE MARVEL WAY. Had this book been done five years earlier, it would have probably been Kirby instead of Buscema. Indeed, a lot of the lessons Buscema iterates in the book are lessons learned from studying Jack Kirby’s work.

Kirby’s work effected every artist who came after him, he was THAT important.

86927464040.188So, when I say that the John Buscema run on THOR and FANTASTIC FOUR are my favorite runs of those comics, I do not disparage the amazing and seminal work of the great Jack Kirby in creating those concepts and maintaining/evolving them for most of a decade. There is no doubt that Kirby was and still is “The King of Comics.” However, I grew up on John Buscema, not Jack Kirby. And there’s something about that you cannot avoid.

John Buscema, in my mind, was every bit the genius that Kirby was—in his own way. Perhaps this is why others have called Buscema “The Michelangelo of Comics.” Others have called Kirby “The Picasso of Comics.”

Now, for the first time, I’m able to sit back and discover the spectacular work Buscema did on THOR when he took over for Kirby. (I also have his entire FANTASTIC FOUR run in Essentials volumes–but that’s a later post.) I’m completely amazed at the quality of these issues—having read only a handful of them so far—and I’m even more amazed by this fact: Buscema drew FF and THOR simultaneously!

Big John came in and not only replaced Kirby on one of his most iconic titles—but TWO at once! Much has been written about Kirby’s Herculean work ethic—and Buscema had to be cut from that same cloth. Today’s comics artists don’t draw two monthly titles at once. It’s just not done anymore.

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When John Buscema had the luxury of inking his own pencils (as he does here in a CONAN illustration) the results hearkened back to the great artists of the comics strips: Alex Raymond, Russ Manning, and Hal Foster.

These classic runs (THOR and FF) were nearly impossible to find when I was a kid, but I grew up reading Buscema’s CONAN THE BARBARIAN. That was my biggest “Buscema fix” as a young’un (although I loved the reprints of his 60s AVENGERS run in Marvel Triple Action). Later I discovered that he had replaced another master, Barry Windsor-Smith, who started CONAN at Marvel. When you have a giant talent and you need to fill his shoes—you got Big John Buscema. This is one of the big lessons you learn when you look at his career.

I’ve always had Buscema’s CONAN issues, and enjoyed them time and time again. In addition, he did tons of issues of THE SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN, the black-and-white “mature readers” magazine. Just as he had drawn FF and THOR on a monthly basis at the same time, Buscema did the CONAN color comic and the SAVAGE SWORD magazine simultaneously. The word “prolific” barely even describes it.

Buscema had a number of inkers during his long tenure at Marvel, but he always preferred to ink himself. I always found it a rare treat when I found a Buscema pencilled-and-inked issue (or cover). My favorite Buscema inker growing up was Ernie Chan (in the CONAN color comic) and Tony DeZuniga (in SAVAGE SWORD). However, now that I’m finally able to read Buscema’s THOR run, I have to say that Joe Sinnott was the perfect choice for it.

86927464040.202The Buscema/Sinnott artwork is as gorgeous to look at as the Kirby/Sinnott combo was. Sinnott is considered one of the best inkers Kirby ever had, and I maintain that he is definitely also one of the best inkers to lay a brush across John Buscema’s pencils.

So how did Buscema fill Kirby’s shoes? Stan Lee stayed on as writer until #193, when he turned the writing reins over to Gerry Conway. What a prime gig this must have been for the new-to-comics Conway. More than anything else, this was Buscema’s show. (Or The Buscema/Sinnott Show, to be more precise.)

Buscema came in with a bang: Odin summons Thor back to Asgard, where a threat beyond any other looms near. The approach of The World Beyond and a mysterious being known only as Infinity are literally “eating up” the universe. Worlds and stars are being snuffed out or mindlessly enslaved as this force moves across the cosmos. Odin goes off to fight Infinity alone, but Thor soon follows.

This first major Lee/Buscema story arc (after a quick two-issue Doctor Doom tale) is as cosmic and interstellar as anything Kirby ever did—Thor and Odin (with some help from the enignmatic Silent One) are literally battling to save the entire universe. Infinity makes Galactus look like a chump! (There’s a great scene where we see Galactus slumbering on a distant planetoid, his tummy full of the most recent planet he’s devoured.)

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Coming off his extra-galactic SILVER SURFER run, John Buscema brought his stellar “cosmic” sensibility to bear on his THOR run, which would last far longer.

The reason Buscema brought such a cosmic vibe to THOR right off the bat is obvious to any comics scholars: He was coming off his 17-issue SILVER SURFER run, a comic that turned Norrin Rad from a supporting character into one of comics’ all-time great icons. Many years ago I acquired the wonderful Marvel Masterworks full-color editions of the original SILVER SURFER—it was way too short, and now Buscema’s tour de force continues in the pages of his THOR run.

By the time the unguessable secret of Infinity is revealed, the earth itself has faced a cataclysm of Biblical proportions. Thankfully, when all the cosmic dust has settled, the Odin-power is there to restore the broken universe. Yet Thor is left with a huge debt to pay the Hela, the Goddess of Death. Hela has always been one of my favorite Kirby creations, and in the hands of Buscema she is even more gorgeous and deadly.

I’m still at the beginning of my “journey back to Asgard” in the company of the masters Buscema and Sinnott, but already I find it utterly inspiring and at times even breathtaking in its sheer perfection of comic art excellence. There is so much great stuff to discover in the issues that follow: Kartag the Keeper, the return of Mangog, Ego-Prime, the Legions of Pluto, the Mark of Mephisto, Ulik the Troll-King, the Demon Brigade, Xorr the Spawner of Worlds, the Keeper of the Inner Cosmos, Hercules, Galactus, Firelord, Odin in Exile, the Time-Twisters, and more…

Later I’ll go back and read Buscema’s initial FANTASTIC FOUR run—the one he drew at the same time he was doing all these great THOR tales. Even though these runs were created and published simultaneously, I can only take in so much brilliance at one time.