Wednesday, October 16, 2013

One Of These Gods Looks Familiar

You won't get any argument from me--or from many others, I'd imagine--that Rich Buckler's work as an artist is exemplary. Just off the top of my head, I could put up at least a dozen panels of his art that validate that statement. Or I could simply point you in the direction of his Avengers work or Deathlok, two of my favorites, and then watch your expressions of delight as you turn the pages.

With my recent looks at Thor stories, though, I was reminded of a post I made around this time last year, which is perhaps a caveat emptor for any look at Buckler's work in two Marvel titles which I conspicuously left off that reference list: Fantastic Four and Mighty Thor. In those runs, Buckler suppresses his own style and instead draws panels with heavy influences of Jack Kirby's work. Yet, as you'll see, "influences" is understating the matter, given how often Buckler mimics Kirby's prior panels to the point of producing a close copy.

In Fantastic Four, where Buckler's run on the title was more extensive, we could be here all day with such examples. Instead, let's focus on just the four issues of Thor where he stepped in for John Buscema. I do wish we could have simply seen Buckler's otherwise skilled hand on these issues, depicting such an interesting range of characters like Hercules, Ego, Galactus, Odin, Firelord, et al., not to mention Thor himself. Yet what you're about to see is Buckler taking great pains not to be himself, as well as spending considerable time and effort drawing on prior work from the book and weaving it into new stories. We thus are deprived of how Buckler would artistically interpret the writer's story from beginning to end; instead, we mostly get a sense of the writer trying to compensate for the frequent placement of artwork that has already seen publication, recycled for stories it was never meant to tell.

In these examples, you'll first see Kirby's original art, followed by Buckler's adaptation.

There were other panels which rang familiar, but I couldn't get my memory to cooperate in placing them with their original depictions. Yet this probably gives you a good idea of how Buckler laid out these stories. And believe it or not, if you can manage to "un"-see what you've seen here, I'd still recommend these issues to you because the stories themselves are interesting and entertaining. You'll see the first exposure of Marvel heroes to "fear itself" (that is to say, the actual entity of Fear, which would go on to face Dr. Strange and I think a few others)--and you'll learn the origin of Ego, the Living Planet, in an excellent story by Gerry Conway which John Byrne will unfortunately rip to shreds in a later FF tale.  Just try to ignore the feeling that you may have seen this Thunder God before.


Anonymous said...

You're right, of course. There was a lot of redrawing of Kirby going on here. But like you, I've got a soft spot for Buckler because his versions of Thor and the F.F. are kinda the ones I grew up with. That Ego story was my first introduction to Thor! And it was a pretty damn good comsic comic! Ego scared the hell out of me! I stopped reading Donald Duck after that. (Nothing against the duck.)
But they were copying Kirby on Thor in the late 80's and early 90's, a great run, and a few classic bronze age pencilers whom I won't mention copied themselves a lot.
How many different ways can you show the Hulk throw a punch? Those guys had to work fast.

Kid said...

Ron Frenz did the same of course, and did it well. However (although I could be wrong), Buckler didn't mix his styles, whereas Frenz sometimes had Kirby Thors and Buscema Thors on the same page, which was a little disconcerting. I don't mind artists imitating Kirby - just ao long as they're consistent.

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