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Monday, March 22, 2010

Rich Buckler's Skywald Fan Informer Cover Art

I bought this cover art, as drawn by Rich Buckler in 1971 (dated) a while back.  At the time I was told that the image was of a character called 'The Moth', but, for the life of me, I could never find any details about either the character or the cover.  Faced with a lack of knowledge I decided to email Rich himself and ask him if he remembered the art, something I'm always loathe to do as it's one image from forty years ago.  The odds on anyone remembering that, especially someone as prolific as Rich, is always a needle in a haystack quest at the best of times.  Rich, to his credit, came back immediately with the following response, "It is indeed something that was drawn by me, from my early days at Skywald. It was Butterfly, a character I drew for them (but didn't create)--and I had given her a makeover (made her and supporting players more black). I also wrote the story (but not the final script) that dealt with the KKK and corrupt politicians.

"This was, I believe, the first black super-heroine in the comics, and I thought I was doing something important for them. I got flack for this and Bill Everett was hired to touch up many of the faces (to make them look more white--go figure), and I quit when I saw the final result.

"This would be even more frustrating for black artists (which I am not) who were hired to draw black characters. This was early 70's when racism was still an embarrassing reality in publishing and entertainment (embarrassing for me, but to them this was normal). I remember getting some negative editorial feedback on Black Panther for Marvel (again, character looked too black). Later I was in trouble again for introducing to comics the first interracial marriage (in Deathlok, with Luther Manning being married to a black woman).

"In a perfect world none of that would have happened--not like it did anyway. But, then again, we don't live in a perfect world, do we?"

Founded in Detroit, the The Fantasy Fans and Comic Collector's Group (FFCG) published their own fanzine, titled 'The Fan Informer', which featured this art as a cover. I'm not sure what issue it came from, but it did come from a period when Greg Theakston was an active member of the group, and also an active contributor. Considering that both Buckler and Theakston were living in Detroit at the time, along with a number of other members of the comic book industry, I expect that Theakston arranged for Buckler to provide the cover art.

Butterfly, on the other hand, was a back-up feature to Skywald's Hell-Rider feature.  Hell-Rider was drawn by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito.  The first Butterfly story was written by Gary Friedrich and drawn by John Celardo and Esposito, the second issue of Hell-Rider contained the second Butterfly story, credited to Rich Bucker and Gary Friedrich as writers and Rich Buckler as the sole artist.  The art to the left is from the first issue and you can see the difference between Rich's cover art and the first story.

Still, as one mystery is solved, another begins.  To solve that one I need to know, does anyone have details on what issue of The Fan Informer features Rich's cover art, and do they have a scan?  Get back to me.

In the meantime, feel free to visit Rich Buckler's web-site and while you're there go ahead and arrange a commission.  Rich is avaliable and is still producing high quality artwork, so strike while the iron is hot!  As Rich is fond of saying, "With over four hundred comic books drawn by me the fans have a lot to choose from."  Indeed they do.

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