Deathlok by Rich Buckler
Deathlok the Demolisher (Astonishing Tales 25, 1974)

Rich Buckler was an American comic book artist, writer and editor, who was mostly active during the so-called "Bronze Age of Comic Books" in the 1970s and 1980s. He worked on nearly every important superhero comic book by Marvel and DC Comics during this period, often as a cover artist. He is probably best-known for his run on Marvel's 'Fantastic Four' in the mid 1970s and as the creator of the cyborg antihero 'Deathlok the Demolisher' in 'Astonishing Tales' in 1974. He furthermore co-created DC's superhero team 'All-Star Squadron' in 1981.

Born in 1949 in Detroit, Michigan, Buckler entered the comics world through the local fan scene of the 1960s. He regularly attended the annual Detroit Triple Fan Fair, and even ran the convention with its originator Robert Brosch in 1969-1970. His first published comic story was the four-pager 'Freedom Fighters: Washington Attacks Trenton' in the King Features comic book 'Flash Gordon' #10 in November 1967. He self-published one issue of the fanzine Intrigue in 1967, for which he created the characters 'Cap Liberty and Doc Darkness' with Steve Perrin. The work has been reprinted by Hamster Press in the 1990s. Buckler furthermore contributed stories to Sal Quartuccio's fantasy magazines Phase (1971) and Hot Stuf' (1974). He became a frequent contributor to both DC and Marvel in the early 1970s, and continued to alternate between the two publishing giants in the following decades.

Superman by Rich Buckler
Fabulous World of Krypton from Superman #251 (March 1972)

He made his first appearances in DC's mystery titles 'The Unexpected' and 'House of Secrets' in 1971. Buckler and writer Mike Friedrich made back-up features with "Boy Wonder" 'Robin' in the 'Batman' title from February to June 1972, while Buckler also did some installments of 'Fabulous World of Krypton' in 'Superman' in 1971-1972. His other early work was the 'Rose and the Thorn' back-up feature with writer Robert Kanigher in DC's 'Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane' in 1971-1972. Buckler had no long stints on any DC title during the 1970s. His production was limited to single stories with 'Batman', 'Hawkman' (in 'Detective Comics'), 'Jonah Hex', 'The New Gods' and 'The Flash', and many covers. He made four issues of 'Star Hunters' with writer David Michelinie in 1978 and 1979.

The Black Panther by Rich Buckler
The Black Panther, from Jungle Comics #8, art by Rich Buckler and Klaus Janson

His first work for Marvel was a story in the anthology title 'Where Monsters Dwell' in May 1972. He then made four issues of 'The Avengers' with writer Roy Thomas (issues 101 through 104 in 1972). He was the penciller of the solo feature of 'The Black Panther', the first black superhero created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee for the 'Fantastic Four' title in 1966. Buckler drew the first original stories by Don McGregor in 'Jungle Action' in 1973-1974. He began his two-year stint as the regular artist of 'The Fantastic Four', working subsequently with the writers Gerry Conway, Len Wein and Roy Thomas from January 1974 (#142) to June 1976 (#171). His work was inked by Joe Sinnott, while George Perez became his assistant during this period. In the meantime, Buckler and Conway had a three-issue run on 'Thor' (#227-230) in 1974.

The Fantastic Four by Rich Buckler
The Fantastic Four #159

Buckler had done his first contribution to Marvel's anthology title 'Astonishing Tales' with two stories about jungle hero 'Ka-Zar' in 1972, although most pencil art was provided by John Buscema. He remained a regular in the series from August 1974 to July 1976 with his own creation 'Deathlok'. Buckler created the plot and concept of the fatally injured American soldier Luther Manning, who is reanimated in a post-apocalyptic future (1990) as the cyborg Deathlok. He worked out the script with writer Doug Moench, although Buckler later wrote most of the stories by himself. This rendition of the character made appearances in the 'Fantastic Four' and 'Captain America' titles until the early 1980s. Deathlok remained in the Marvel Universe, but the identity was reused by other authors for three different characters with different back-stories in the 1990s and 2000s. Later in life, Buckler stated that many later cyborg super-soldiers were modelled after his creation, specifically naming the movie franchises 'Robocop', 'The Terminator' and 'Universal Soldier'.

Cover for Fear by Rich BucklerThor by Rich Buckler

Buckler additionally contributed to several of Marvel's mystery/horror titles, such as 'Vampire Tales', 'Supernatural Thrillers', 'Journey into Mystery' and 'Fear', and drew single stories with 'Doc Savage' (1974), 'Conan the Barbarian' (1974), 'The Invaders' (1976), 'Power Man' (1976), 'Black Goliath' (1976) and 'Battlestar Galactica' (1979). He most notably established himself as a productive cover artist for most of Marvel's 1970s titles. In this capacity, he has drawn nearly every character in the Marvel universe, from 'The Incredible Hulk' and 'The Defenders' to 'Tarzan' and 'Howard the Duck'. With Alan Weiss, John Buscema and Sal Buscema he was one of the pencillers of Steve Gerber's 1977 superhero comic book based on rockband Kiss. In 1979 Buckler briefly took over the newspaper comic strip 'The Incredible Hulk' (1978-1982) from Larry Lieber, which was based less on Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's eponymous comics series and more on the then popular TV series, with whom it ran parallel. The characters in this specific 'Hulk' comic were also not modelled after the comics characters, but after the real-life actors on the show. Later in 1979, Buckler passed the comic to Alan Kupperberg, who would continue it until 1982.

Buckler furthermore had stories published in James Warren's black-and-white horror titles Creepy and Eerie in the 1970-1975 period. He created the superhero 'The Demon Hunter' for Atlas/Seabord Comics in 1975. The series remained limited to one issue however, because the publisher went out of business shortly afterwards. He later revived the character as 'Devil-Slayer' in Marvel Spotlight #33 (April 1977), after which he became a member of 'The Defenders'.


All-Star Squadron #4

At DC, Buckler drew cross-over stories of 'Superman' with 'Shazam!', 'Mr. Miracle' and most notably 'Batman' in the All-New Collectors' Edition (1978) and World's Finest Comics (1979-1981). He also drew stories with the classic Siegel and Shuster creation for its own title in the early 1980s. He had a somewhat regular run with Gerry Conway on DC's superhero all-star team 'Justice League of America' from March to June 1981, and from January to March 1983. The title also featured the first appearance of the World War II superhero team the 'All-Star Squadron', which Buckler created with Roy Thomas in August 1981. After an initial story in JLA #193, the team got its own title in the following month. Buckler provided the pencil art for the first five issues until January 1982, after which Adrian Gonzales took over. His later DC credits include issues of 'Warlord' (1985), 'Tales of the Teen Titans' (1985), 'The Omega Men' (1986) and 'Hardware' (1993-1994).


Saga of the Sub-Mariner #3

Rich Buckler remained active for Marvel in the 1980s, starting with several issues of the 'What If?' title in 1980 and 1981. He contributed a 'Hulk' story to 'The Incredible Hulk Annual 1982', drew eight new issues of 'The Fantastic Four' (1989), and contributed to 'Iron Man' (two issues, 1985), 'The Avengers' (three issues, 1989), 'The New Mutants' (two issues, 1989) and 'Captain America' (two issues, 1980, 1989) throughout the decade. With debuting writer Peter David, he made the 'The Death of Jean DeWolff' storyline in 'The Spectacular Spider-Man' between October 1985 and January 1987. His first issue was #107, in which the character begins wearing his black costume. Notable was the 12-issue maxiseries 'Saga of the Sub-Mariner', which he made with inker Bob McLeod and writers Roy and Dann Thomas from November 1988 to October 1989. Known as Marvel's oldest mutant - he was created in 1939 by Bill Everett - the character had a long and varied publication history. The Saga-title provided a retrospective of the past adventures, and tried to resolve loose plot threads and contradictions which had accumulated over the years. Buckler and Roy Thomas did a similar effort for another Marvel character from the "Golden Age of Comic Books" on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of 'The Human Torch'. The four issue mini-series 'The Saga of the Original Human Torch' (1990), recapped the career of the original version of the character, created by Carl Burgos in 1939.

With writer Howard Mackie, Buckler made the 'Pharaoh's Legacy' story starring the 'X-Men' character Havok for Marvel Presents in 1989. Buckler provided lay-outs, while Joe Rubinstein did the finished art. With Tony DeZuniga, he penciled the two-issue movie tie-in comic book 'Freddy Krueger's A Nightmare on Elm Street', based on Wes Craven's movie franchise in that same year. Buckler also provided pencil art to the 'Spider-Man'/'Captain America' cross-over 'Dr. Doom's Revenge', which came with the computer game of same title from Paragon Software in 1989. Rich Buckler remained active for Marvel until the mid 1990s. His final work include issues of 'Black Knight' (1990) and a long story with Robert E. Howard's sword-and-sorcery hero 'Conan the Barbarian' in 'The Savage Sword of Conan' (1991) with writer Doug Murray and his regular inker Romeo Tanghal.

Galaxia magazineReagan's Raiders

Buckler and Tom Sciacca edited the sci-fi/fantasy magazine Galaxia Magazine through Astral Comics in June 1981. Buckler served as editorial director, and also provided comic stories with the characters 'Sojourner' and 'Bloodwing', the latter being another rendition of his 1975 creation 'Demon Hunter'. In 1983 and 1984, Buckler worked for the Red Circle Comics superhero line of Archie Comics, mostly editing, writing and drawing 'The Mighty Crusaders', but also some stories with 'The Fly'. Buckler's team on Red Circle further included artists and writers like Rudy Nebres, Carmine Infantino, Alex Toth, Steve Ditko, Trevor Von Eeden, Robert Kanigher, Jack C. Harris, Robin Snyder and Cary Burkett. He was the editor of a short-lived line of comics by Solson Publications, for which he created 'Reagan's Raiders' in 1987. This short-lived and peculiar comic featured U.S. President Ronald Reagan and members of his government administration as a superhero team. Through a technological experiment all of them received muscular young bodies and instant combat training. Reagan and his team fought "evil" and most of the dialogue referenced pictures from his movie career.  Too serious and respectful to be interpreted as satire 'Reagan's Raiders' just looked as ridiculous as it was pointless. As a result it flopped after three issues and nowadays only lives on as a curiosity.

For Continuity Comics, he drew two issues of 'Hybrids: The Origin', starring Neal Adams' characters, in 1993. With scriptwriter Ron Fortier he made the sci-fi feature 'The Big Bang' for several titles published by Big Entertainment in 1995-1996. His final known comics work is a 'Red Sonja' story for Dynamite Entertainment in 2015. Besides comics, Buckler has furthermore been active in film productions and stage shows. He started a martial arts actors' repertory group in New York City in the 1980s, for which he wrote and directed several shows. He was later also active as a painter of surreal oil paintings.


All New Adventures of the Mighty Crusaders #2

Rich Buckler's work for Marvel has been preserved for new generations through its inclusion in the 'Essential' series in the 2000s. His 'Black Panther' work was collected in the 'Marvel Masterworks' series in 2010, while a complete collection of 'Deathlok the Demolisher' was released in 2014. Much of his DC work has appeared in the 'Showcase Presents' reprint series. Although Buckler is the author of the books 'How to Become a Comic Book Artist' (1986) and 'How to Draw Super-Heroes' (1987), his career has not been without controversy. He has regularly been accused of copying other artists' work, most notably Jack Kirby and Neal Adams. In the August 1983 issue of The Comics Journal, Buckler is accused of plagiarism and discrimination in his work for Archie Comics. The writer, Bob Greenberger, states that the artist completely swiped panels and entire pages by especially Jack Kirby from the original Red Circle Comics line, and even signs them as his own! Buckler reacted in the November issue of that year, expressing his annoyance over Greenberger's agressive tone, and stating that the tried to pay homage to the comic book greats in his work and that his "reasons for emulating Kirby were personal", although the "hasn't made a career out of it." The January 1984 issue mentions that Buckler is suing the paper and two of its editors for libel, but by September of that year he had dropped the suit.

The incidents have left no lasting mark on his career, however. Together with his son Rick Buckler and Walter McDaniel, Buckler formed Visage Studios in the 1990s. It became a training ground for up and coming comic book artists in the New York area. He has been a major influence in the comic book industry, helping to launch the careers of Todd McFarlane, Jim Lee, Mark Texiera, Klaus Janson, George Perez, Jackson Guice, and many others. By 2015, he became and Inkwell Awards Ambassador, and a scholarship at the Joe Kubert School is being established in his name posthumously in 2017. Rick Bucker passed away from cancer on 19 May 2017, at the age of 68.


Self-portrait

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