John Buscema, born Giovanni Natale Buscema (December 11, 1927 – January 10, 2002), was an American comic-book artist and one of the mainstays of Marvel Comics during its 1960s and 1970s ascendancy into an industry leader and its subsequent expansion to a major pop culture conglomerate. His younger brother Sal Buscema is also a comic-book artist.
Buscema is best known for his run on the series The Avengers and The Silver Surfer, and for over 200 stories featuring the sword and sorcery hero Conan the Barbarian. In addition, he pencilled at least one issue of nearly every major Marvel title, including long runs on two of the company’s top magazines Fantastic Four and Thor.
He was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2002.
Born in Brooklyn, New York City, New York, John Buscema showed an interest in drawing at an early age, copying comic strips such as Popeye.
In his teens, he developed an interest in both superhero comic books and such classic adventure comic strips as Hal Foster’s Tarzan and Prince Valiant, Burne Hogarth’s Tarzan, Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon, and Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates. He showed an interest in commercial illustrators of the period, such as N.C. Wyeth, Norman Rockwell, Dean Cornwell, Coby Whitmore, Albert Dorne, and Robert Fawcett.
Buscema graduated from Manhattan’s High School of Music and Art. He took night lessons at Pratt Institute as well as life drawing classes at the Brooklyn Museum. While training as a boxer, he began painting portraits of boxers and sold some cartoons to The Hobo News.
Seeking work as a commercial illustrator while doing various odd jobs, Buscema found himself instead entering the comic-book field in 1948, landing a staff job under editor-in-chief and art director Stan Lee at Timely Comics, the forerunner of Marvel Comics. The Timely “bullpen”, as the staff was called, included such fellow staffers as established veterans Syd Shores, Carl Burgos, Mike Sekowsky, George Klein, and Marty Nodell and hired, roughly two months earlier, newcomer Gene Colan. Colan recalled that “…John never seemed very happy in comics… there always seemed to be something else he really wanted to do.”
His first recorded credit is penciling the four-page story “Till Crime Do You Part” in Timely’s Lawbreakers Always Lose #3 (Aug. 1948). He contributed to the “real-life” dramatic series True Adventures and Man Comics (the premiere issue of which sported one of Buscema’s earliest recorded comic-book covers), as well as to Cowboy Romances, Two-Gun Western (for which he drew at least one story of the continuing character the Apache Kid), Lorna the Jungle Queen, and Strange Tales.
Until the bullpen was dissolved a year-and-a-half later, as comic books in general and superhero comics in particular continued their post-war fade in popularity, Buscema penciled and inked in a variety of genres, including crime fiction and romance fiction.
Buscema, who lived in Port Jefferson, New York, on Long Island, at the time of his death, was married to Dolores Buscema, with whom he had a son, John Jr., and a daughter, Dianne. His granddaughter Stephanie Buscema is a freelance illustrator and cartoonist, who started out as an inker for her grandfather.
Buscema was diagnosed with stomach cancer, and died at the age of 74. He was buried with an artist’s pen in his hand.