13 COVERS: A SAL BUSCEMA Birthday Celebration

Dig this SPECTACULAR work…


One of the titanic testaments to Sal Buscema’s tenure as a Marvel legend is the man’s amazing work on the Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man title, a run that stretched over 20 years, on and off, through pulse-pounding plots and cataclysmic challenges for the webslinger. What better way to celebrate Sal’s birthday — he was born 87 years ago on Jan. 25, 1936 — than to delve into the incredible wealth of covers he did for the book during that time?

This is where I usually say how difficult it was to pick just 13 images to illustrate my point, but listen, True Believer, if you think it’d be easy, you pull up that gallery and tell me that to my face!

So, without further ado, let’s Shout Out to Sal and sit back for some spectacular Spidey stories—because these covers tell more than a few of those.

Spectacular Spider-Man #1 (Dec. 1976). Right out of the gate, Sal knocked it out of the park with his rendering of the Tarantula. Not only did we get the point, but so did Spidey.

Spectacular Spider-Man #138 (May 1988). Twelve years later and the Tarantula’s still giving our hero something to sweat about. There ought to be a law against it.

Spectacular Spider-Man #145 (Dec. 1988). Sal was awfully good at putting Spidey in the worst positions. This one is going to take a good chiropractor to fix.

Spectacular Spider-Man #148 (Mar. 1988). Everyone loves a good “hero crawling from the grave” shot, right? Just look under Spidey’s mask, amigos—Sal loved the little gruesome details.

Spectacular Spider-Man #157 (Nov. 1989). Electrifying!

Spectacular Spider-Man #158 (Dec. 1989). Simple, straightforward, unadorned Friendly Neighborhood Cosmic Spider-Man.

Spectacular Spider-Man #168 (Sept. 1990). Nothing misogynistic about it. If I remember, Shulkie deserved it. And besides, Sal could really pack a punch with these covers.

Spectacular Spider-Man #172 (Jan. 1991). Didn’t you ask to see Puma up close? Who asked you, anyway? Aren’t you an animal-lover?

Spectacular Spider-Man #186 (Sept. 1991). Y’know what, bunky? Sal drew one helluvan evil-looking Vulture.

Spectacular Spider-Man #190 (July 1992). What was it with Sal and these villain close-ups on these covers? It was because the guy knew how to sell a book, that’s what.

Spectacular Spider-Man #196 (Jan. 1993). See my previous comment. (Remember “Maximum Carnage”?)

Spectacular Spider-Man #206 (Nov. 1993). Nothing says, “Hey, I just killed your favorite hero!” better than a bad guy holding up a tattered mask and smiling. At least, I think that’s a smile…

Spectacular Spider-Man #211 (Apr. 211). All right! Spidey got his mask back! Sorta.


— The TOP 13 SAL BUSCEMA HULK Stories — RANKED. Click here.

— SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN Gets First-Ever Omnibus Edition. Click here.

JIM BEARD has pounded out adventure fiction since he sold a story to DC Comics in 2002. He’s gone on to write official Star Wars and Ghostbusters comics stories and contributed articles and essays to several volumes of comic book history. His prose work includes his own creations, but also licensed properties such as Planet of the Apes, X-Files, Spider-Man, Kolchak the Night Stalker and Captain Action. In addition, Jim provided regular content for Marvel.com, the official Marvel Comics website, for 17 years.

Check out his latest releases: Rising Sun Reruns, about classic Japanese shows on American TV; a Green Hornet novella How Sweet the Sting; his first epic fantasy novel The Nine Nations Book One: The Sliding World; and the most recent Batman ’66 books of essays he’s edited: Zlonk! Zok! Zowie! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Essays on Batman ’66 – Season OneBiff! Bam! Ee-Yow! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Essays on Batman ’66 – Season Two and Oooff! Boff! Splatt! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Guide to Batman ’66 – Season Three.

He’s also published novels about a character very much like G.I. Joe (and Big Jim and Action Jackson): DC Jones – Adventure Command International.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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    • Happy Birthday to Sal Buscema. Love his Hulk, Defenders and Rom too !

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  1. Thankfully, Marvel has made much of Sal Buscema’s work on Spec. Spider-Man available in collected editions. Oh wait, they haven’t. 🙁

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