It’s the last day of my summer vacation. Yesterday I completed my epic THOR read-through, following the run of the immortal Big John Buscema on the title. It was quite a ride, and I’m left with an even greater appreciation for Buscema’s stellar talent.
Not only did Buscema live up to Jack Kirby’s impressive THOR legacy, but he also imprinted his own unique style on the character, one that would far outlast his own tenure on the title. Buscema practically redefined the complex and magical world that Kirby invented.
My journey started with THOR #178 and ended with THOR #247 (the last issue in THOR ESSENTIALS Vol. 6). Inkers came and went during this era (the early 70s), but the best inker of Buscema’s work (by far) was Joe Sinnott, who had just come off inking Kirby for years. By the time we get to the latter half of THOR ESSENTIALS Vol. 6, the Buscema/Sinnott team had merged to perfection.
My journey through the world of Buscema’s Thunder God doesn’t actually end here. It will resume in late October, when THOR ESSENTIALS Vol. 7 is released. That volume sees the departure of Sinnott and the arrival of new inker Tony DeZuniga, who would form an even tighter synergy of pencils/inks. The Buscema/DeZuniga team did some of the most legendary issues of SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN, but they also did a long run on THOR. I’ve read a few issues from this mid-70s run, but I’m looking forward to reading the entire thing.
Another run I look forward to reading in THOR ESSENTIALS Vol. 7 is when the great Walt Simonson replaced Buscema as penciler from #260 – 271. Simonson would come back to the title a few years later when he would both write and draw the title, changing its direction and creating one of THOR’s most popular eras. Yet this was Simonson’s first stab at the world of Thor and Asgard. The continued presence of DeZuniga on inks ensured a cohesive feel until Buscema returned in #272. (Presumably to be collected in THOR ESSENTIALS Vol. 8.)
At this point, Buscema would do nine more issues of THOR before dedicating himself almost exclusively to CONAN THE BARBARIAN and THE SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN. His run illustrating the Cimmerian’s adventures is a legend all its own. Thankfully, both of those runs are collected in Dark Horse’s CONAN CHRONICLES and SAVAGE SWORD reprints series.
Up Next: KA-ZAR MASTERWORKS, featuring work by Jack Kirby, Barry Windsor-Smith, John Buscema, and the mighty Gil Kane. This is gonna be good.
Meanwhile, on the prose side I’ve started reading Guy Gavriel Kay’s UNDER HEAVEN. This is one of those authors who immediately has me asking: “Why haven’t I discovered this man’s work before now?” I’m only a few chapters in, and the book is already crazy good. Count me among the legions of fans who sing Kay’s praises.