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CSBG Archive

50 Greatest Spider-Man Creators: Artists #6-4

In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of Spider-Man, we’re doing four straight months of polls having to do with Spider-Man, culminating with the release of the Amazing Spider-Man film in July. The last installment will deal with Spider-Man stories, but this month will be about Spider-Man’s writers and artists.

You all voted, now here are the results! Here is a master list of all the creators listed so far. We continue with Spider-Man writers #6-4…

Enjoy!

6. Ross Andru

I don’t know if I mentioned it in Sal Buscema’s entry or not, but there was a bit of a controversy over Ross Andru becoming the penciler of Amazing Spider-Man with #125. First off, this was really the first major departure from the John Romita style of artwork since Romita took over the book with #39 (Andru’s longtime inker, Mike Esposito, had worked on a bunch of Romita issues, but Espostio actually did not ink the first twenty issues of Andru’s run, oddly enough, so there was no real connection to the Romita era after the first two issues of Andru’s run, which were inked by Romita and Jim Mooney, who worked on a number of Romita Spidey stories). Secondly, Andru was an import from DC Comics (who had recently launched Marvel Team-Up as one of his first major Marvel assignments). So in his early years on Amazing, Andru actually got a good deal of grief over his artwork. Which is a ridiculous load of crap, as Andru was an awesome comic book artist for decades before he took over Amazing Spider-Man and he was an awesome comic book artist during his 60 issue stint from #125-185 (he missed only a handful of issues over that timespan). In that same time, he also drew FIVE Giant-Size Spider-Man comics! Plus, he drew the Superman/Spider-Man team-up!

Thankfully, the years have been kinder to Andru’s reputation as a Spider-Man artist (as seen by his high showing on this list). What’s interesting is that Andru was always given more credit for his work as an action artist on his superhero books, but I think his character-based work was given a bit of a short shrift. This is totally unfair to the other artists on the list, but since I already featured this in the Supporting Cast countdown (for Mary Jane Watson), I am going to post a three page sequence by Andru that is just mind-boggingly good…

That is some sensational sequential storytelling right there, folks (the inks were by Frank Giacoia and Dave Hunt, who were Andru’s inkers for the first twenty issues or so before Esposito became available). From an all-time great comic book artist.

EDITED TO ADD: Duh, as commenter trajan23 notes, you can’t mention Andru without talking about how awesomely he drew the architecture of New York City. Simply remarkable stuff.

5. Todd McFarlane

If you had to pick the three artists who most defined the look of Spider-Man, obviously Steve Ditko is one of them (since he, you know, created the look of Spider-Man) and then John Romita, for the changes he made to the book after he took over from Ditko that defined the look of Spider-Man for years, but Todd McFarlane is clearly the third. From the moment he took over Amazing Spider-Man with issue #298, the dynamic designs of McFarlane wowed comic book fans and literally changed how Spider-Man would be drawn from that point on.

From the little things (like drawing Spider-Man’s web line thicker) to the larger things (drawing Spider-Man as almost a contortionist in the air), McFarlane’s designs defined an entire generation of Spider-Man comic books.

Not just his character design work (which led to Venom becoming the breakout character that he was – without McFarlane’s design of Venom, with the spooky teeth, it is doubtful that Venom ever would have been so famous) but the way he laid out pages. He broke free of the traditional panel arrangement that most Spider-Man artists were using at the time and made the stories seem to fill to the edge of the page.

Here is a sample page showing all the things I mentioned (the webs, the contortions and the page design)…

What people now forget is just how TIMELY McFarlane was on Amazing Spider-Man. There is a good chance that the momentum of his artwork would not have had as much of an impact if he wasn’t consistently delivering it on time. He penciled Amazing Spider-Man #298-323 without missing a single issue. Most remarkably about that run is that #300 was 40 pages and that #304-309 were BI-WEEKLY! In fact, it was only a second bi-weekly event that saw him miss his first issue of Amazing, as Erik Larsen stepped in to alternate issues with him for a few issues.

McFarlane then launched Spider-Man, which he wrote and drew, making it the highest-selling single comic book issue in the history of comics. He wrote and drew the book from #1-14 and then a finale in #16 when he left Marvel to launch Spawn for Image Comics.

4. Mark Bagley

Mark Bagley’s time with Spider-Man is fascinating in how his time was split between the distinct runs he did.

First off, he followed McFarlane and Larsen as the next “superstar” Spider-Man artist, drawing Amazing Spider-Man with very few breaks from #351-415 (Bagley also did a bi-weekly stint early in his Amazing run, although he took two issues off when it finished). Bagley’s dynamic but slightly restrained take on Spider-Man quickly became the face of Spider-Man in terms of Marvel’s licensed department. Bagley was the bridge between the McFarlane and Larsen art style and the Romita style, making his Spider-Man the perfect ambassador to the public.

Besides having a great take on Spider-Man’s look, Bagley was an accomplished storyteller, allowing his writers (David Michelinie, J.M. DeMatteis and Tom DeFalco) to tell whatever story they wanted, action-packed or character-driven, with full faith that Bagley would knock it out of the park.

After drawing Spider-Man for over sixty issues, Bagley left the book and launched Thunderbolts with Kurt Busiek. In 2000, though, he was lured back to do Ultimate Spider-Man. Bagley’s initial intent was to help launch this alternate universe take on Peter Parker and then leave. Maybe an arc. Perhaps two. Instead, Bagley ended up drawing 110 issues, making his run with writer Brian Michael Bendis one of the longest uninterrupted runs in comic book history (longer even than Jack Kirby and Stan Lee on Fantastic Four)!!! Bagley was so timely on the book that they began releasing more than 12 issues a year. 15 issues some years and in fact, I think one year they might have even put out 18 issues!! And he never missed a beat.

On Ultimate Spider-Man, the book was more a dialogue-driven title, so Bagley had to develop his talking head game and he really got great at it. Here is a bit from his final issue of Ultimate Spider-Man (#111 – he drew the first half of the book and new artist Stuart Immonen drew the second half)…

Bagley returned to Ultimate Spider-Man to give Ultimate Peter Parker a proper send-off in the Death of Spider-Man storyline. He’s currently working with USM writer Brian Michael Bendis on a creator-owned title, Brilliant.

46 Comments

Franck Martini

May 31, 2012 at 6:37 am

Very glad to see Bagley n°4. Well deserved. Will the Romita familly beat Ditko ? Suspense…

You might even say that McFarlane’s stint on ASM was … advantageous!

(Sorry, it had to be done, and I might as well get it out of the way.)

I hope Romita JR gets the number one spot. I’m sad that Alex Ross didn’t make it on the list.

Brian:”What’s interesting is that Andru was always given more credit for his work as an action artist on superhero books, but I think his character-based work was given a bit of a short shrift.”

Interesting, I’ve always thought that action was, relatively speaking, the weak point in Andru’s tenure on Spider-Man;his Spidey always seemed too earth-bound for my tastes. In contrast to Ditko’s Spidey (whose movements were unlike anything that a normal human could do), Andru’s Spider-Man seemed more like an enhanced gymnast, someone whose movements were just a little beyond the bounds of human possibility.

Andru’s strengths, to my way of thinking, were his character work (you are spot-on in this regard, Brian) and his uncannily realistic New York city cityscapes. Where Ditko and Romita offered us stylized takes on NYC, Andru gave us the city as it was in the 70s.

I can’t believe I forgot to mention how good Andru was at drawing cities! My bad. I’ll fix it now.

I don’t think Bagley belongs in the top 20. The above spread looks above average for him, and still everyone looks like a shiny, slightly disproportionate mannequin. I took a look at some Ultimate Spider-man issues, and people’s facial features change size and move all over the place. Storytelling-wise, he’s not doing anything terribly wrong, but not anything exciting either. Mostly, I wish he’d take the time to work more on the figure construction. I had a hard time reading his books, because it feels like reading Wonky Mannequin Adventures.

so this means either one of the romitas, gil kane, or steve ditko didn’t make the list. That kinda sucks.

Andru continued the atmosphere of Romita, as a reader it made a smooth transition. Trajan, very good point, his Spidey was less action oriented and more in character situations.

McFarlane’s woven spider web was an interesting innovation, but since it’s now required drawing, it is really annoying.

“I hope Romita JR gets the number one spot. I’m sad that Alex Ross didn’t make it on the list.”

I don’t recall Ross actually drawing a Spider-Man story per se, though he did draw a Marvels issue where Spider-Man and Gwen were key guest stars (technically it was still a Phil Sheldon story). Even if you count that one, his body of work on the character is probably too small to be considered a Spider-Man artist, though I did like the way he drew Spider-Man in Marvels

so this means either one of the romitas, gil kane, or steve ditko didn’t make the list. That kinda sucks.

It would if it were true. ;)

Matthew Johnson

May 31, 2012 at 7:48 am

Andru may also be the only artist whose work was definitive for both Spider-Man and Superman (I still see Andru Superman drawings on licensed merchandise.)

I’ll admit to being one of those who undervalued Andru’s stuff. He was the ASM artist when I first started reading comics as a little kid and his stuff just didn’t really do much for me. But they say age brings wisdom, and I’ve really grown to appreciate his work

Todd McFarlane, however, not so much. I honestly still don’t get the hoopla over his work (on Spider-Man or anything else). Just not my cup o’ tea.

Josh, looks like you missed Gil Kane at #7, which, as luck would have it, leaves three spots open for the other names you mentioned.

I still can’t believe Bagley beat Todd. It’d be unthinkable in the 90s. I guess not doing too much drawing over the past decade takes its toll. Good point on McFarlane’s timeliness. He originally seemed kind of like a poor man’s Arthur Adams, but instead of one annual and a bunch of covers ever year, we got at least 12 issues a year. He was also drawing Amazing at a time when Sal Buscema and Alex Saviuk (who are both awesome, but decidedly non-flashy and really old school) were drawing the other monthly Spider-Man comics. There’s a lot of flaws in his work, but it was pretty exciting when I was twelve.

I think it was DeMatteis’ run on Amazing that Bagley did, not De Falco? Could be wrong, I suppose, but I do remember Amazing 400 pretty clearly.

I’m darn happy Bags made it this far. I always counted him in my top 5, no just for Spidey but in general, but a lot of people on here like to run him down, so I worried.

And I’m sure I won’t be the only one to mention that the McFarlane art samples here just sort of made me gag. Apparently McFarlane had to draw Venom scary and badly proportioned, because he drew everybody that way.

Sorry for the negative vibes, just…ick.

I think Todd McFarlane is a liiiiiiiittle overrated. The drawings are cool, but he overrendered most of them, and the storytelling suffered for it.

His run on the “Spider-Man” title – the stuff he wrote himself – looked miles ahead of any of his ASM work.

By the way, “with the tongue and everything” – actually McFarlane didn’t stick the tongue in there. That was Erik Larsen. McFarlane just took the existing black Spider-Man costume and gave it muscles and teeth. I think McFarlen and Michelinie are both given way too much credit for Venom – the very idea of the suit being alive came entirely from Roger Stern!

@phred McFarlane is probably the most influential Spidey artist since Romita – the way he drew the webs, and the mask, and the choreography of the character – all things that were reimagined by him and carry through to today’s comics. And for a while in the 1990s there was a whole swathe of artists on the Spidey books who would just ape his stuff. (Tom Lyle in particular.) So while his work isn’t really to my taste, there’s no denying he deserves a place on this list.

wait Gil Kane was 7? I’d easily count him up their with Ditko and Romita.

Here’s how I hope the final 3 will look like:

1. John Romita, Sr.

2. Steve Ditko

3. John Romita, Jr.

Meaningless Albert

May 31, 2012 at 9:49 am

I voted for all three. Bagley’s Venom is THE Venom for me.

Bleh!

IMHO, Amazing Bags was way better than Ultimate Bags. In Ultimate Spider-Man, everybody had the same exact face. Pete, MJ, Aunt May… They just have different hair.

By the way, “with the tongue and everything” – actually McFarlane didn’t stick the tongue in there. That was Erik Larsen. McFarlane just took the existing black Spider-Man costume and gave it muscles and teeth. I think McFarlen and Michelinie are both given way too much credit for Venom – the very idea of the suit being alive came entirely from Roger Stern!

Wow, you’re right, I never noticed that the tongue didn’t show up until Larsen. Good job by Larsen! Still, the point stands that without McFarlane’s design, no way does Venom become such a big character. It wasn’t like his personality was all that thrilling. The visual, though, was killer.

Tom Daylight- No, I agree entirely with what you and Brian said. He was dang influential and made a huge contribution. I voted for him as well, and if he didn’t make the list I would have protested. But dang, that is some ugly, influential art.

I don’t know if McFarlane expected to make the top 3, but I guess he’ll just have to…

RISE ABOVE IT ALL

> In Ultimate Spider-Man, everybody had the same exact face. Pete, MJ, Aunt May… They just have different hair.

I was going to call you out on this, because if you look closely, you’ll see that in some panels above Aunt May has slightly thinner eyebrows than Peter. But then I realized that that counts as hair.

Brian:

Since I’m 99% certain that he didn’t come in the top 3 spots, can you reveal what place Larry Lieber would have taken (if he’d received any votes, that is… I forgot to vote for him, but I should have)?

Bagley is a terrific artist and a real professional in an era where there are a lot of truly UNprofessional artists…but I have to agree there’s a little too much similarity in the way he draws faces. That said, his run on Ultimate Spidey was excellent, and he did a great job drawing teen Peter Parker/Spider-man so that he looked like a teen.

McFarlane is still a polarizing figure. I loved his action shots, but the huge eyes on the mask always bothered me. The webs were great, but I hated how different his MJ looked (especially the hair), to the point that I didn’t realize who she was when I first picked up a McFarlane Spider-man.

Juan Carlos Montiel

May 31, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Mark Bagley is one of the best artists who drew Spider-Man, because he’s not as muscular as some other characters. After all, Peter Parker is a science nerd. Also, it shows that Spider-Man can go up against opponents who are bigger than him, and come out on top. Isn’t that what makes a super hero?

I don’t want to be negative, but I’m puzzled by why Bagley is so well-liked. Could someone explain to me what they see in his art?

As I wrote, one of the main things that bother me is that eyes, noses, etc will change size and move around from panel to panel, giving the characters an inconsistent and slightly grotesque look. I made an animated gif to show what I mean – I took a fairly typical picture of Gwen as drawn by Bagley and then added a version where I’ve rearranged the facial features into more Romita-ish proportions. It flips between them every 5 seconds: http://imgur.com/pZVE8

If you’re a Bagley fan, do you think the original looks better? Or is it just that it doesn’t bother you if faces look wonky, because you appreciate something else about his art? Or do you like him for reasons unrelated to the art itself – it seems like many people like him because he drew a lot of books quickly and on time? I’m honestly curious.

Ross Andru did some very nice work. Nice to see him ranked so high.

McFarlne’s art is fr from my favorite, but his influence definitely secures him a place as one of the character’s most beloved creators.

Similarly, I’ve always found Bagley’s art to be, well, just plain ugly, but he has a great work ethic, and he’s just done far too much work on the character NOT to be ranked highly.

That page by Andru is really decompressed.

I’m not the biggest fan of Ross Andru, but yeah, those pages are amazing (zing!).

Nice to see Todd MacFarlane get his due. Some find it easy to bash him, but when he debuted in ASM it really made you sit up and take notice. No disrespect to Ron Frenz, Sal Buscema, Alex Saviuk, and the rest, but Todd’s rendition of Spidey was dynamic. No love for his dialogue though …

Nice to see Mark Bagley placing so high. If I recall correctly, didn’t he win a try-out contest or something like that? I was a big fan when he was on ASM, however, I’m less impressed with his USM work. As others said, too much similarity in the faces, plus the photoshopping was out of hand in many issues.

My prediction for top 3: Romita Jr, Ditko, and Romita Sr. taking top spot in an upset.

I don’t get the Andru love at all. His work looks so average. It might have been good in its day, but it doesn’t compare to guys like McNiven and Byrne and Marcos Martin. People are voting for him because he was the artist on Spiderman they grew up with, the same could be said for a lot of the artists and writers on this list. It’s a celebration of nostalgia, not an actual representations of the best artists.

Ross Andru was the Spiderman artist when I first read Spiderman. When I imagine Spiderman and his world, it’s Ross Andru’s art I see.

Steve
May 31, 2012 at 6:21 pm

I don’t get the Andru love at all. His work looks so average. It might have been good in its day, but it doesn’t compare to guys like McNiven and Byrne and Marcos Martin. People are voting for him because he was the artist on Spiderman they grew up with, the same could be said for a lot of the artists and writers on this list. It’s a celebration of nostalgia, not an actual representations of the best artists.

No, it’s a representation of people’s subjective tastes, preferences, and likes, which is all it was ever going to be. There are no objective choices to be made here.

> I don’t get the Andru love at all. His work looks so average. It might have been good in its day, but it doesn’t compare to guys like McNiven and Byrne and Marcos Martin.

I honestly prefer Andru to all of them. Well, I think Byrne’s best FF art is better than Andru’s best Spider-Man art, but when Byrne started drawing Marvel Team-Up, his art was still often stiff and awkward, with weird flat faces and bad compositions. He improved over time, but by the time of his Chapter One run, his art had turned slightly worse again.

Andru at his best drew both faces and action in a way that felt very organic – the characters looked alive in a way that few artists manage to achieve. His art didn’t have a very flashy surface, but it had depth, his anatomy was solid, I love many of his action poses, and I think he was above-average both when it comes to compositions and storytelling.

McNiven? He draws a lot of surface detail, and on occasion he produces some really good-looking pictures, but then he has this weird thick jaw thing going on, and his compositions and poses look worse than Andru’s to me (not to mention that his art is often obscured by the coloring – it’s possible that that has affected my assessment.)

Marcos Martin? He’s decent, but I don’t really get the love – I’d actually assumed that people like him out of nostalgia, for his Ditko-isms. My quibbles with him are that he’ll often draw action from far away – making it look flat and unimportant – and his faces look cartoonified in a way that I’m not crazy about.

When I was a kid, I read Spider-Man comics in Sweden, where they were published out of order. I grew up with Ditko, Pollard, Buscema, etc – the Andru issues were older and I had to go looking for them. Which I did, because the art stood out to me, and still does.

Ross Andru ruled! I didn’t grow up with him at all, but just reading the essentials has made me a HUGE fan. When I find his name on a showcase or essential, I pick it up.
And someone thinks mcniven is better, heh. to each his own, i suppose.
As someone who grew up on late 80s, 90s books, Mark Bagley used to be great in Amazing. I dont know when he decided everybody needed that one face, but he needs to get over it.

Ed (A Different One)

June 1, 2012 at 1:26 pm

I’m no art expert, but Andru’s art just had a steady quality to it that I loved. Not quite as fluid as Romita, but more “pristine” if that makes any sense. Also loved his work on the first Spidey vs. Superman book that was like the Holy Grail to me when I was a kid. Glad to see he made the upper tier!

And who would have thought back in the day that Bagely would rank ahead of McFarlane in a poll? I drifted away from ASM during the Frenz/DeFalco run because I thought, in error, that I was getting too old for comic books. Then in the late 80’s I picked up an issue of ASM on a whim just to see what was up and had a jarring WTF moment when I saw McFarlane’s art. It looked horrendous to me. Childish almost. I threw the issue (which was probably worth some serious coin not long after that) and swore that I would never buy an issue of ASM again. When I got into college, I had some friends formally introduce me to the whole McFarlane phonemenon and I still didn’t buy in, but maybe didn’t hold it in as much disdain as I did during my first vicereal reaction to it. But it’s funny, at the time they were really down on the fact that McFarlane was no longer drawing Spider-Man and that it was instead being drawn by some bum named Bagley. To be honest, I didn’t think much of Bagley either but liked it much more than the McFarlane stuff. Now, lo and behold, Bagley is, more or less, considered on par with McFarlane or perhaps superior when it comes to his standing in the Spidey pantheon. Amazing how tastes change over time.

My favorite is still the early JRjr stuff (with Stern). I’m gratified that at least both of the Romitas are likely going to place higher than Bags and McFarlane . . .

while I enjoyed McFarlane’ss run I chalk it up to the writing. His panel layout was dynamic and influential but Venom was just the black suite symbiot with a toothy grin…it looked great but not much of a creation. The thing that gets me is that everyone give him credit for the “spaghetti” webbing, big eyes and crazy poses but as someone hinted at earlier,he was a Art Adams clone. Art did it all first in the Longshot mini (#4) cover dated Dec 86.. Todd’s 1st issue (298) is from Mar 88. Again I like his art but he was not the innovator people give him credit for.

Those pages from Andru really are effin’ brilliant! Andru was one of the greats.

The thing about McFarlane is that perhaps he suffers from some backlash from all that popularity back in the day, combined with his self-indulgence and hypocritical self-righteousness in his Image years. But he really was good, very good. He just needed someone to… guide him a bit.

Timothy Markin

June 3, 2012 at 12:48 pm

When I started reading Spidey in 1975/76, Ross Andru was on the book and I was totally into it. Over the years, you’d hear people cut down his work, but holy smokes! Look at his amazing panel to panel storyteling ability. After I became an artist, I noticed the subtleties to his “quiet” moments that really enhanced the art. I can recall one sequence in particular (in maybe issue #165 or so) where Peter and Mary Jane are talking for three pages while walking down the street and Andru changed the camera angles and panel sizes and totally made what could have been a talking heads sequence interesting! The only drawback to his art is the way he would draw smiles. I never liked it during his run on the Flash and didn’t like it in his Spidey run with those weird toothy smiles he gave everyone. But Andru is great and the way he drew Spidey’s mask is one of my favorites, up there with Ditko.

I love Andru’s run, an amazing look for the comic. But according to this very list, he was lower ranked than JRsr—so it’s not so strange that it was a controversial “downgrade”. But Andru is so great, how could anyone complain…

As for Bagley… yeah, he was the artist when I really got into Spidey, when I got my subscription. He’s been so dedicated and that really helps when it comes to creating a consistent world.
I prefered his look on Ultimate over Amazing, but I’ve never really been a big fan. He has a very unique drawing style, almost a genre of its own, so I wouldn’t know who to compare it with, though.

As for “shiny mannequins”, that’s more the fault of the colorist, don’t you think?

Mark Bagley drew the definite Spidey for me.It was the perfect cross between John romitas realistic proportions and Mcflarnes modern style.His work on Ultimate Spiderman I’m less fond of.

Alot of Todd McFarlane haters in here, in case you don’t remember before Todd got on ASM it wasnt doing so good sell wise once Todd got on sales went through the roof, & if he’s such a bad writer & artist why did Marvel give him his own Spider-Man book? it lasted 16 issues he only did 1-14 & 16 oh & it sold millions breaking records his Spider-Masn #1 is one of the best selling comics of all time, so i guess millions of people don’t agree with what you guys are saying, he should be #3 on this list, he made Spider-Man how is today the webbing, the big eyes, more webbing on the costume, & putting Spider-Man in spider like positions… Marvel doesnt give many artist their own Spider-Man book & they damn sure dont give them to bad artists…. oh & he left Marvel & took 6 other artist with him & made this comic book company called Image where he made a hero called Spawn & Spawn #1 sold millions breaking records again, its the most selling independent comic of all time, & he made McFarlane toys which make toys look real…. so keep hating & Todd will keep selling millions & you, you’ll keep hating on people that your jealous of…… you love to hate him. peace & GOD bless

Ed (A Different One)

December 6, 2012 at 7:54 am

Robert: Well you’ve certainly hit upon 2 indisputable facts re: Todd McFarlane

1. His work on ASM and Adjectiveless Spider-Man in the late 80’s and early 90’s sold a jazillion issues

2. He’s very polarizing.

While there’s no doubt Todd had a sizeable impact on the character, the fact remains that his work has not held up well over the years (otherwise, he would be higher on this list and STILL selling jazillions of issues). I kind of liken the McFarlane phenomenon to, say, Fleetwood Mac in music. They also sold a jazillion copies of their most popular work (Rumors) back in the late 70’s/early 80’s. This granted them a certain status in the music industry and even a spot in the R&R Hall of Fame (and let’s not go into the merits of that particular institution). However, would anyone now look at Fleetwood Mac as the “be all and end all of pop music”? As one of the top 5 acts of all time? I don’t think you’d find many who would (or many who would endorse other popular acts from the past – New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys – and who will be defending the artistic merits of One Direction in fifteen years?). So does Todd belong on the list. Sure. Somewhere. But it’s clear that the majority of fandom doesn’t thing he belongs in the upper tier and Todd’s success in his heydey hardly translates seemelessly into “best of all time status”.

You also have to take into account the effects of the “speculator boom” during that time period as well. I was in college during that time and believe me, people were buying insane amounts of comics not because they necessarily liked reading them (as is evidenced by the fact that the same buyer often bought several copies of the SAME issue), but because they thought they could make money reselling those issues over time. ASM was hardly a low seller during the Stern/JRjr run or even the Frenz/DeFalco runs that immediately preceded Michlinie/McFarlane. I did not bother to look up the #’s from that time period but I have a strong recollection of ASM still being in Marvel’s top 5 selling titles pretty consistently (Uncanny X-Men dominated pretty much every sales chart back then) and outsold pretty much everything DC had out. While I do think that the McFarlane stuff still would have sold a lot of issues, and probably would have out-sold the runs immediately prior to him, there’s no doubt that the record-setting heights Todd achieved on ASM, Adjectiveless-SM and even Spawn were due, in large part, to the fact that a finite amount of buyers were buying insane amounts of issues on the basis of speculation -a phenomenon that just didn’t exist (at least at early 90’s levels) during the Stern/JRjr and DeFalco/Frenz runs on ASM. And as far as the post-speculator’s bubble crash, well, some of the best creators in history are still trying to slog their way out of that even today.

Now compare Todd’s work to work that both sold a lot of issues and is still highly regarded from a technical/artistic standpoint (the earliest Lee/Ditko ASM, the later, even higher selling Lee/Romita stuff, and the Claremont written Uncanny X-Men franchise that was a cash cow for almost a decade-and-a-half) and you can see that those runs had both commercial success and critical standing. Todd’s work lagged behind those others in that latter element. Was his work devoid of critical value? No. It just didn’t have the level of critical value that some of those other “giants in the field” had.

But, yes, Todd had an undeniable impact on the character that we still see today. But many, many more of Todd’s defining elements of the character have fallen by the wayside and would be seen as hopelessly outdated if they still clung to the character today (the eyes have moderated in the last decade and a half as well as the poses. And his version of the Spider insignia on the chest is long, long gone – as is his take on MJ and some of the signature villians). To be honest, I think it is the “spaghetti webbing” that has been the most enduring. The other stuff comes and goes as fads change and not much of it is seen today.

But if your point is that Todd definitely had a tangible impact and deserves to be in the conversation – I wholeheartedly agree. If your point is that he automatically deserves to be top 5 because he sold a jazillions issues – that’s definitely arguable, and a part of what makes these lists so much fun.

firstly, this is hands down the most civil comments section i have ever encountered anywhere on the internet. it has actually rekindled my faith in humanity that i just read 45 comments without anyone telling someone else to f themselves and die for having a “wrong” opinion. a couple comments seem a little overly agitated but for the most part everybody here was incredibly friendly and respectful. bravo.

secondly, my interest in comics (particularly spidey, my favorite) has recently and unexpectedly been resurrected after nearly 20 years of dormancy, and it’s articles and sites and forums like these that have helped fuel a rediscovery of my love of comics as well as bringing to my attention of all kinds of stuff i was never aware of as a kid–like all this great info about great artists.

so thanks to everyone for your contributions.

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