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…
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.