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Thursday, May 2, 2019

John Buscema: Under the Influence

If you're not a fan of Big John Buscema, well... I honestly don't know why you wouldn't be! Be that as it may, one thing JB fans often discuss is the "look" of the Master's work when under the pen and brush of various inkers. It's long been known - basically because Buscema said it whenever he saw an "in" - that John Buscema preferred only two inkers ever touch his pencils: his younger brother, Sal, and himself. All others, again according to Buscema, ruined his work. Buried it. Whatever negative you want to throw in here, chances are good that Buscema felt it or said it!

Today we're going to examine several samples of wonderful John Buscema pages, each one with a different inker. A hearty "thanks!" in advance to the great people across the Interwebs who own these pages and have posted them elsewhere online. We all benefit from your generosity!

Here's today's Hall of Fame line-up:
  1. John Buscema
  2. Dan Adkins
  3. Alfredo Alcala
  4. Sal Buscema
  5. Ernie Chua
  6. Tony DeZuniga
  7. Frank Giacoia
  8. Don Heck
  9. Rudy Nebres
  10. Tom Palmer
  11. George Roussos
  12. Joe Sinnott
  13. Sonny Trinidad
Your job is to leave some impressions in the comments section, and hopefully a rich conversation develops today. Please also offer suggestions on other inkers I may have missed. My goal was certainly not to slight anyone's work, and I make no claim that my presentation today is comprehensive.

So let's get on with it...

John Buscema inks, from Avengers Annual 24, p. 23

Dan Adkins, from Sub-Mariner 8
Alfredo Alcala, from Savage Sword of Conan 2, page 31

Sal Buscema, from Silver Surfer 7, page 38

Ernie Chua, from Conan the Barbarian 36

Tony DeZuniga, from SSoC 27, page 20

Frank Giacoia, from Sub-Mariner 1

Don Heck, from Our Love Story 3

Rudy Nebres, from SSoC 158

Tom Palmer, from Avengers 81, page 4

George Roussos, from Avengers 42, page 9

Joe Sinnott, from Fantastic Four 121, page 9

Sonny Trinidad, from SSoC 22, page 15


  1. I think that selection proves that Big John's work looked good pretty much regardless of who inked it. The exceptions would be Tony DeZuniga who, I feel, robbed John's work of its identity, and George Roussos whose lines were too thin for the job.

    On the other hand, Don Heck's inking looks way better over Buscema's pencils than I would have expected. Clearly, Don resisted his habitual urge to add large areas of dead black to an image.

    Of the examples shown above, I love Dan Adkins and Joe Sinnott the most but my Number One choice has to be George Klein whose inking perfectly captured both John's elegance and his dynamism.

  2. Doug, an inker you missed is Pablo Marcos. He inked an issue of Conan The Barbarian (shortly before Conan met Belit in Conan #58). I can understand why John Buscema would have been unhappy about Pablo's inking because you can hardly recognise John's pencils in my opinion. As a kid I wasn't a fan of Pablo Marcos's art (or inks) but nowadays I feel quite nostalgic about Pablo Marcos mainly because he drew a lot of covers exclusively for Marvel UK :)

  3. Thanks for stopping by, guys! Great to hear from the UK contingent!

    Colin, you are right - Marcos's influence was seen over just about everyone in the Bronze Age. I actually have an appreciation post dedicated to his work on the schedule. Stay tuned!

  4. Yeah, looking over those samples, I can't find any that I don't like (including de Zuniga and Roussos) - Buscema tends to shine through everywhere.

  5. When I saw your topic today, Tom Palmer was the first name that came to mind; I always liked his Avengers stuff with Big John. Of the other work featured above, I like the Alcala and Chua (or Chan) stuff; they always seemed to bring their A-games on Conan. Dan Adkins looks pretty good too, but from what I've seen Adkins' inking works great with pretty much everybody.

    I'm not that familiar with Sonny Trinidad's work, but I like the example above. Some people might think it's overdone, but I like the heaviness; it almost looks painted.

  6. Ruby Nebres was a phenomenal inker - the page here is a masterclass in how to use a brush. Alfredo Alcala was amazing too, and while I'm sometimes a bit lukewarm toward Ernie Chan... is it just me, or was the earlier stuff he did as Ernie Chua better than what followed?

    Of the American contingent, Tom Palmer is the one that really does it for me.



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