I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Rich Buckler and talk about his history in the comic book industry. Most comic book fans know him best for his run as the artist of the, “Fantastic Four,” in the mid-1970s, his homage panels that reflected many of the art of days gone past, and as the creator of Deathlok. Every year, the rumors grow and grow about an upcoming “Deathlok” movie where the cyborg will reign supreme.
LVP: Would you say that there is still a market for you style of homage pieces in the comic book industry today?
Rich Buckler: I never really thought that there was a market. The times in which I tried to invoke the early style of drawing comic books, or certain specific comic book artists was just me being a comic book fan myself. They were done from a fan for the fans.
I think that there would be a market for them today. You have to remember that going back to the past, and the way that things were in comic books and it is a big part of what today’s conventions are about. I think that they would be very marketable. I, though, never thought about those pieces in terms of the market, but I also don’t think in the terms of a publisher and making a buck off of all of it.
LVP: I have read that you are driven by moods when it comes to your homage pieces. Can you elaborate on that?
Rich Buckler: I am a creator and I draw about what I am interested in at the time. If I am on a certain kick in one area, it is going to appear in my work. I am always looking of new ways of giving a little nod to the past. I want people to remember the artists and writers that inspired me. In particular, I liked to give a nod to Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, and that whole group.
LVP: What do you think about those comic book fans that thought that you copied other’s work?
Rich Buckler: Some fans ended up wondering through my work, “Hey, does he know who he is?” I have always known who I was and am. It was just my way of giving a little nod to those who went before me. Some got it, others didn’t. If you want to move forwards, you have to look to the past. You do it, and move on.
LVP: What was your favorite part of your career?
Rich Buckler: When I had my run on the, “Fantastic Four,” that was me just having a whole lot of fun. It meant that I was finally qualified to be in the community (of comic book artists).
It should be noted that I am fully self taught as I have had no formal art training. I learned by imitating. I started out like everyone else…I sucked! Then, I learned how to get good at it by seeing what it was that these other guys were doing that I was not.
With the, “Fantastic Four,” I realized that I had learned how to pull it off on my own. I am really happy because a lot of fans still point out that they liked my stuff, and enjoyed it.
LVP: How did you come up with the look for Deathlok?
Rich Buckler: Deathlok was just an extension of a paranoid fantasy. He was a representation of part of my outlook and world view. He was a culmination of many of the messages in some of the music of the time. He was part of some of the things going wrong in our country at the time. Maybe he was the science that was going wrong.
It was a fantasy worry about Nazi-minded scientists do experiments on science and steroids. Maybe they were there throwing caution to the wind, or maybe they had plans that were more sinister. I don’t know. I wanted to explore all of that.
My character, Deathlok, was sort of an inversion of Captain America. In mine, the Captain America super soldier experiment went totally wrong, and into a completely different territory.
I had the story take place in New York. If you look at it, it is very similar to John Carpenter’s New York in the movie, “Escape from New York.” It was not exactly the same, but it came from my imagination as an artist. You take it somewhere, but it takes you somewhere at the same time.
I am a surrealist by nature. I take a little bit from here, and a little bit from there, and synthesize it differently than most people do and insert my imagination.
LVP: How much of, “you,” went into the creation of Deathlok?
Rich Buckler: I put a lot of myself into it. I was married to Porto Rican woman, where as Deathlok’s human character, Luther Manuel, was married to a black woman. There was nothing like that going on in the comics, but I was putting that in there because I wanted him to represent every person. Also, since I lived in Detroit, I had him born in Detroit. He was a side of me.
LVP: So, what is going on with the Deathlok movie project?
Rich Buckler: It has gone back and forth for so many years, I really don’t know anymore. I have gone up and down, but don’t know where it stands right now. I have thought it was getting close to a reality, only to find that it was tabled again. As the market pulls more and more movies from comic books, maybe they will take a look back at mine and go with it.
I did not create Deathlok for a movie, but I really think that it would transfer well. I think that the fans will continue to push for it. They can relate with the character, and that is what they want to see.
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