John Buscema Original Art: Beyond Barbarians

by Patrick Bain

092721E-300x157 John Buscema Original Art: Beyond BarbariansWith literally thousands of pages of original Conan art to his credit, it’s easy to forget that John Buscema is more than a barbarian.  I’m not misusing the word literally by saying “Big” John Buscema was literally ten feet tall in the eyes of his young fans from the seventies.  Nor am I saying that John Buscema literally added floors and additions to the house Jack built.  But I reiterate my exposition, John Buscema actually drew thousands of pages of Conan art.  And, he drew thousands of pages of art featuring the Avengers, Fantastic Four, Thor, Silver Surfer, and BEYOND!

Going Beyond Barbarians with John Buscema

Avengers-41-198x300 John Buscema Original Art: Beyond BarbariansHis comic book career began earlier than I realized.  Before becoming the muscles behind Conan, I remember seeing John Buscema’s art in 12¢ Avengers comics.  I didn’t know at the time that his first ‘MARVEL’ work appeared with Jack Kirby in Strange Tales #150 featuring Nick Fury, just before Steranko took over.  Though CGC claims Strange Tales 150 from 1966 as Buscema’s first Marvel work, he literally (sorry) worked with Stan Lee pre-Marvel at Timely in the 1940s.

Timely-Lawbreakers-Always-Lose-3-189x300 John Buscema Original Art: Beyond BarbariansBuscema’s first credited work appeared in Timely’s Lawbreakers Always Lose #33.  One CGC 9.0 sale from 2018 for $552 is likely going to be blown away by the time this article publishes.  Though probable that John Buscema original art from that book no longer exists, the artists that contributed to the Timely issue are phenomenal.  Syd Shores, Mike Sekowsky, and John Severin all penciled along with Buscema.

The Promise Collection Pedigree includes some of Buscema’s early works including Justice Comics #13 and Wild Western #7.

John Buscema Original Art Western Style

Roy-Rogers-Comics-74-208x300 John Buscema Original Art: Beyond BarbariansI haven’t seen any news of a Mighty Marvel Western Disney+ show yet, but John Buscema illustrated movie and TV cowboy Roy Rogers a year before Disneyland opened.  That beautiful run in the fifties started in Issue 74, lasting about thirty issues.  From GoCollect I found the census on this book sparse, with few high-grade copies and fewer recent CGC sales.

Let’s divert for a moment to solicit audience feedback.  What would motivate you to buy Roy Rogers #74?  Would original art by a legend like John Buscema entice you?  Would the comic have to be part of a pedigree collection like the ones mentioned above?  After all, Roy Rogers passed on years ago, is there any reason for his Dell comics to remain collectible as his audience wanes?

Superheroes Galore!

Silver-Surfer-4-202x300 John Buscema Original Art: Beyond BarbariansCrime, Romance, Westerns… is that REALLY what I meant by John Buscema Original Art: Beyond Barbarians?  To quote one of Buscema’s best-illustrated characters, “I say thee nay!”  Thor, Silver Surfer, Fantastic Four, the Avengers– I loved ‘Jovial’ John’s work on all of them, and they predated when he crafted Conan per his own muscular vision.

Avengers-81-Page-1-Original-art-by-John-Buscema-and-Tom-Palmer-221x300 John Buscema Original Art: Beyond BarbariansLater, I will review some original art by John Buscema featuring Thor and the Fantastic Four.  So, let’s focus first on The Avengers.  I’m going to make a bold assertion, feel free to throw out your own strong opinions.  John Buscema and Tom Palmer art in The Avengers marked the highest pinnacle of Marvel comic art!  Knee-jerk reaction:  What about Jack Kirby art, or Steve Ditko, or John Romita, Sr., Todd McFarlane, or Jim Lee?  Okay, for me, I just love the way Buscema and Palmer drew superheroes!

Avengers-80-introduces-Red-Wolf-198x300 John Buscema Original Art: Beyond BarbariansI did a quick review of GoCollect most popular sales at the time of this writing.  I believe Avengers #57 is the only issue to currently crack the top 200 from Buscema’s Silver Age run.  However, issue #80 stands out in my childhood memory for story and art.  It also stands above its peers in FMV because of the introduction of Red Wolf.  The Buscema and Palmer art team excelled in this one!

As an Alley Award-winning story for Buscema, I can’t miss mentioning Silver Surfer #1.  Issues 1 and 4 frequently make the top 100 in hot sales on GoCollect.  As recently as September 10, 2021, recreation cover art by Buscema of Silver Surfer 1 sold for $57,000.  That’s actually more than the original cover sold for…Back in 2001!  The original exists and sold for $40K in 2001, what do you think it would sell for in 2021?  Nice Christmas present, perhaps?

Original Art from John Buscema for Sale

Fantastic-Four-112-202x300 John Buscema Original Art: Beyond BarbariansIf you want to get some Conan the Barbarian art by John Buscema, I highly recommend it!  JB probably created the image of Conan most people relate to.  Plus, with art pages in the thousands, his Conan art enjoys solid affordability.  But this article goes beyond his barbarian works.  Buscema handled multiple stints on the Fantastic Four.  Though no one wanted to see Kirby leave the supergroup, Buscema created some iconic visuals for the Fantastic Four. I present Fantastic Four #112 as evidence.

Fantastic-Four-139-page-22-202x300 John Buscema Original Art: Beyond BarbariansHowever, since the cover of issue 112 is not up for sale, I direct your attention to page 22 of issue #139.  Expect it to fetch more than Conan prices at the upcoming Heritage International Auction.  But probably less than many modern artists’ works sell for.  This Buscema masterwork features the Thing and Medusa.  Plus, it’s from the heyday of Buscema’s artistic powers.  By the way, near mint copies of FF #112 sold for about $2,000 this last summer.

Thor-242-Page-27-202x300 John Buscema Original Art: Beyond BarbariansIf you say thee nay to Fantastic Four art, could I entice you to consider art from Thor #242?  This Bronze Age phenom hails from 1975.  Action abounds, although with Thor in only one panel it gets a lower grade on the CAT scale.  Like the FF art, the final price should be nice, but not exorbitant.

Supply and demand always factor into the sale of art (just like everything else without price controls).  John Buscema may not be Jack Kirby, but his influence on Marvel has been pronounced.  It’s nice that his art is so plentiful, keeping prices reasonable.  However, his superhero art will only go up.  Especially as people become priced out of the early sixties Marvel art and start looking at works from the late sixties and seventies.

Will you be bidding? Do you already own any JB art? Tell us about it in the comments!

000080221A_Posters_2-Footer John Buscema Original Art: Beyond Barbarians


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Grant October 4, 2021 - 9:43 pm

Great article. I’ve collected for quite some time now but only recently happened upon an issue of Avengers 256. The artwork really jumped out at me enough that I looked into the artist. Its Buscema. So I started looking at more Buscema stuff and found that yeah, while most of its great, my favorite stuff is when he teamed up with Tom Palmer. Its just different. So I’ve been buying up a lot of the duos run. Also, incidentally, I’ve always loved the art for Avengers #80. Finally picked up a copy a couple years ago and never realized, until this article, that thats Buscema too!
Obviously I’m a bit late to the Buscema party so its nice timing to see this write up about his work.
Thanks for sharing!

Patrick Bain October 5, 2021 - 12:03 pm

Thanks for sharing Grant! As far as being late to the party… you’re never too late to enjoy the work of a master.

Patrick Bain October 7, 2021 - 2:08 pm

Final sales price on FF139 Page 22 art: $5,125 including buyer’s premium. Final for Thor 242 Page 27: $4,500 also including buyer’s premium. As expected both sold better than Conan (and Red Sonja) pages that were closer to $1,000. (Disclaimer: Barbarian pages were more recent.)

With prices on Buscema FF and Thor art around $5K, that’s still reasonably modest compared to some works by modern artists.


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