1970s Marvel and DC Comics mainstay Rich Buckler died yesterday after a long battle with cancer, the news confirmed today by friends of the family and Roy Thomas, who worked with him at both Marvel and DC. Buckler worked on a wide range of titles such as Fantastic Four, Jungle Action, and Astonishing Tales for Marvel, Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane and Jonah Hex for DC, and Mighty Crusaders for Archie, among numerous other titles. Buckler was 68.
Buckler broke into comics with Flash Gordon #10 in 1968 for publisher King Features. At Marvel, he worked on the Black Panther title Jungle Action with Don McGregor before starting a two-year run on Fantastic Four in 1974. Buckler and Roy Thomas created the All-Star Squadron for DC Comics in 1981. After a brief stint at Archie Comics, Buckler returned to Marvel and teamed with Peter David for the Death of Jean DeWolff storyline in Marvel's Spectacular Spider-Man title.
But it is Deathlok for which Buckler is best remembered. The reanimated cyborg character first appeared in Astonishing Tales #25 in 1974. In an extensive commentary on his work posted on comic historian Daniel Best's blog in 2010, Buckler recounted how Deathlock came about:
In creating Deathlok, what I came up with was so surreal and "out of left field" that I wondered if it even fit in with Marvel's universe of super-heroes. Actually, I strongly suspected that he wouldn't. He wasn't a hero, that's for sure.
The concept would have elements of mind control, military black ops, terrorism, science gone mad, and a dark apocalyptic future scenario with a main character who was a computer-programmed assassin gone rogue. As the idea developed it began to take shape and form as a wild paranoid fantasy that I thought fit perfectly with the times we were living in.
It seemed to be a time for the creation of a new archetype – one that would reflect the technological age we all were headed into (or, rather, the future that our world leaders seem to be making sure we are heading into). Maybe not exactly a new Superman – or maybe something even beyond the "superman" concept! – a character who would encounter much of the insanity of the modern world that I perceived even in my early twenties.
Buckler will be remembered as an important artist of his era. During the peak of his career throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, he worked on an incredible number of Marvel and DC's best-known titles, at one time or another. As such, he was an influence on numerous artists of the subsequent generation — including George Perez, who broke into comics in 1973 as Buckler's studio assistant — along with many others who followed.