Holiday Gift Guide 2015: IDW’s Sal Buscema Incredible Hulk Artist Select Series + an interview with IDW CCO Chris Ryall

The folks at IDW are masters of the high quality historical comic. By that I mean that they’ve been putting out expansive (and expensive) books that highlight legendary artists and comic book runs. Their Artist Editions are simply works of magnificent art – I’ve got a few of them on my shelf, including ones reprinting in all their oversized glory issues from John Romita, Jack Kirby, Dave Mazzuchelli and Gil Kane.

IDW’s latest high end compilation is the Marvel Artist Select Series, a limited print run book celebrating a specific artist in beautiful and vibrant color. In this case, the first artist is Sal Buscema, who had an impressive run on The Incredible Hulk and is viewed by many as one of the character’s definitive interpreters.

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For Hulk fans, this first Artist Select title is really a must have. With just 999 copies out there, signed and numbered by Buscema himself, this is clearly a collectors item that fans of the green Goliath will salivate over. But this isn’t simply a high end collectible that will gather dust on your shelf (though it’s lovely Hulk vs Abomination dust jacket will keep this tome clean and safe) – this is a book you’re going to actually want to look at and read through. There are some pivotal moments captured throughout the book’s nearly 400 pages, including the opening two issue psychological battle between Bruce Banner and the Hulk that arguably has informed subsequent interpretations of both.

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This Artist Select title also includes an interview with Sal Buscema and IDW CCO/Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall, who edited the title and clearly knows his Hulk and Buscema. One aspect I like most about the interview is just how clear it is that Chris is a fan (and not in a Chris Farley sort of way); his joy at talking to one of his comic heroes is palpable, and sets the book off on a joyous tone.

You can order the Sal Buscema Incredible Hulk Artist Select Series from IDW here.

To find out more about the title, here’s an email interview I did with IDW’s Chris Ryall.

Andy Burns: Congrats on the gorgeous Sal Buscema edition in the Artist Select Series – it’s really beautifully put together. I’ve got a variety of Artist Editions in my library – what was the impetus for the Artist Select Series?

Chris Ryall: We love doing big art books that spotlight amazing works by past creators, and since we’ve had good responses to the IDW Limited books we’ve done that include signed tip-in plates and hand-drawn original art, we looked to combine those things into additional projects with Marvel. They responded to the idea, so we set about finding the right projects where we could involve the original artists in whatever ways they wanted to participate, notably hand-picking the stories for their books, as well as contributing things like signed plates and original art pieces.

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Andy Burns: Why was Sal the right artist to have his work highlighted in this format?

Chris Ryall: The impetus behind these books, beyond just being projects with stories hand-picked by the artists, was to do books that featured stories from long, notable runs on a particular title. And Sal Buscema had a beloved ten-year run on Incredible Hulk that remains many peoples’ favorite era (another of those early favorite artists, Herb Trimpe, will be getting a similar focus, although we only got a very limited number of signed pieces from Herb since he was working on these at the time he passed away).

Sal’s run on Hulk was where I started reading the comic, so it’s always been a personal favorite, and it was fun to serve as Editor on the project, to help select some of the stories (well, recommend some, anyway, but Sal had full voting and veto power and changed some picks to best reflect his favorites.) An added bonus for me on this one was that the book, while being focused on the artist, would also include stories, and therefore payment, to Bill Mantlo, whose work meant a lot to me and whose medical care now is always in need of more help.

Andy Burns:  What was the process like in putting the book together – how was it determined which stories would be included? Were issues cleaned up at all for the format?

Chris Ryall: It all started with me suggesting some stories to Sal — I tried picking issues that showed Sal’s work with various inkers over his years on the book, and some where he inked himself. I always loved Sal’s work best when he inked himself, and for some reason, he agreed with that…

Sal liked some of my choices, suggested some others — he always loved issue 260, and is most proud of his work penciling and inking the Hulk Annual included in the book. So the lineup started as “Chris’ mix-tape” of favorite Sal moments and then turned into “Sal’s favorite issues, which coincides with most of Chris’ favorites, too.”

Marvel then ratified our choices and sent over all the files, which had already been cleaned up for other assorted collections.

Andy Burns: I enjoyed the interview between you and Sal that begins the book – it’s clear you’re a fan of his work. What is it about Sal’s art that resonates with you?

Chris Ryall: I think it helped a lot that Sal worked on so many books I loved as a kid — whether Hulk or Rom, Spaceknight or his long runs on Spectacular Spider-Man, not to mention tackling so many other Marvel characters in books like Avengers and Marvel Team-Up — his work was instantly familiar to me, full of action and great storytelling. And he’s one of those guys who changed with the times in a way that updated the look of his art while still staying true to what he did before. His second run on Spectacular, filled with MacFarlane-esque flourishes, was nevertheless still very much “Sal.”

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Andy Burns: What’s next in the Artist Select Series?

Chris Ryall: George Perez’s Avengers, and then the Herb book and another one I’m very excited about that just got signed, too. The Perez book again contains some of my very favorite comics of all time, so it was equally thrilling to work with George on that one. We spent a good 90 minutes on the phone last week talking about his work on different eras of that title.

Andy Burns: Finally, what are you hoping to see under the tree this holiday season?

Chris Ryall: Is there a way to package time away from devices to just read, write or spend time with my kid away from deadlines and distractions? If so, then that. And if not that, I seem to have a bottomless appetite for books and music…

Thanks to IDW’s Dirk Wood, and to Chris Ryall for his time and for supplying the images in this article.

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