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50 Greatest Spider-Man Creators: Artists #3-1

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 artists 3-1…

Enjoy!

3. John Romita Jr.

Amazing Spider-Man #208-218 (two fill-ins during this stint), 224-249 (two fill-ins during this stint), 290-291 (brought in to draw the proposal of Peter and Mary Jane)

Spider-Man/Peter Parker: Spider-Man (Volume 1) #64-91 (two fill-ins during this stint), 96, 98

Peter Parker: Spider-Man (Volume 2) #1-19 (four fill-ins during this stint)

Amazing Spider-Man (Volume 2) #22-27, 30-58

Amazing Spider-Man (return to original numbering) #500-508, 568-573 (New Ways to Die), 584-585/587-588 (Character Assassination – #586 was an interlude by another artist), 600 (a sixty-one page story!!)

Plus a handful of fill-in issues here and there (four fill-ins on Spectacular Spider-Man alone) and the occasional mini-series and Annual.

As you can see, John Romita Jr. has been one of the main artists on Spider-Man since the early 1980s, a remarkable achievement. Especially when you consider in that time span, he has also had signficant runs on about 653 other comic books from Marvel, including Uncanny X-Men, Dardevil, Iron Man, Punisher and Avengers.

Romita Jr. is known for two distinct styles. The one he used during his first run on Amazing (even then, you could see his current style peeking out – I think his inkers had more to do with the style looking different back then) and the one he has used for the past twenty years or so.

He was a great action artist then as he is now. Here is an example of a JRjr action sequence from the 1980s…

and one from the 2000s….

But Romita is also great with character work.

Here, from the 1980s…

And again, here from the 2000s….

I can’t wait to see what John Romita Jr. has planned for the Spider-Man titles in 2042!

2. Steve Ditko

As you get to the top of these lists, it gets somewhat difficult to talk about these guys, only in the sense that, do I really need to explain why the guy who CREATED Spider-Man’s look is important?

Steve Ditko is one of the all-time great superhero/supervillain designers, coming up with a variety of costumes that are basically used today to the TEE. Spider-Man has had another costume, but really, the blue and the red costume is what he wears in the comics today and in all of the media adaptations (although the new movie is slightly different). And 50 years later, it is still that same Ditko design. Characters like Elektro, Vulture and Mysterio have gone through various looks but they always return to that awesome Ditko design.

Green Goblin, Kraven, Fancy Dan, the list goes on of iconic character looks that Ditko created.

But not only that, Ditko is a brilliant sequential storyteller, able to pack in SO much story into every issue of Amazing Spider-Man. These things are like freaking TOMES! The origin of Spider-Man in Amazing Fantasy is, like, a page and a half (okay, 11 pages) and Ditko makes it feel like it is seven issues long. The same continued in his run on Amazing Spider-Man. He packed SO much story into every issue while never making the panels boring.

Also, he could tell so much just by his art. The classic “lifting machinery” scene from Amazing #33 was used in the writers section for Ditko/Lee, but I think the following sequence is underrated. Check out Ditko’s art here and see how you barely need Lee’s dialogue to get all the emotion Ditko pours into this sequence…

Powerful work.

1. John Romita Sr.

While Ditko created Spider-Man’s look, it was Romita’s slight re-designs that made Spider-Man the global icon that he remains to this day.

Ditko’s Peter Parker was a thin, frail fellow. Romita Sr. turned Peter into a heartthrob. Ditko’s girls…well…they weren’t exactly gorgeous. Romita’s girls? Well, as we see in a moment you all voted the most iconic panel in Marvel Comics history (from Amazing Spider-Man #42)…

It was Romita’s designs that inspired Stan Lee to give the youth of the book center stage. In addition, Romita’s Spider-Man went from being the lithe, angular guy that he was during Ditko’s time to being a full, powerful superhero in the Jack Kirby mold.

This take on Spider-Man is the one that was marketed to the moon by Marvel in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. Romita’s Spider-Man was THE face of Spider-Man in licensed products until pretty much the last decade or so (when Mark Bagley’s Spider-Man became the licensed version of Spider-Man – and Bagley’s Spider-Man owes a lot to Romita’s. Bagley’s Spidey is sort of a cross between Romita’s and McFarlane’s).

Romita’s run went from #39-88, 93-95, 106-119 plus a number of fill-ins since then and his presence as an inker was on pretty much all of Gil Kane’s issues, so Romita was there even when he was not penciling). And when Romita left the book an an INTERIOR artist, he remained as the cover artist for years to come.

Basically, Romita’s Spider-Man was THE Spider-Man.

Romita knew how to design pages in a way to get the most powerful imagery imaginable. This led to a number of iconic sequences in his issues. Here is one of his most famous ones, from Amazing Spider-Man #50…

One of the most iconic images in comic book history (I think the Romita cover to Amazing Spider-Man #50 is one of the most iconic comic book covers EVER. I’d put it just behind Action #1 and Crisis on Infinite Earths #7).

46 Comments

Crisis #8? Crisis #7 I could see, but #8?

Crisis #8? Crisis #7 I could see, but #8?

Oops, yep, I meant #7. I’ll fix that. Thanks!

Franck Martini

June 1, 2012 at 7:57 am

That’s absolutely logical for me. Ditko created Spidey visually but Romita ‘owns’ it, like Otis Redding was the first to sing “Respect” but Aretha Franklin did THE version.

Nice top 5 in the end with a good mix of classics & moderns.

I’d say Amazing #50 is easily more iconic than the Crisis cover. It’s the kind of cover even non-comic book fans kind of recognise.

Glad Romita made number 1 – he’s THE Spidey artist as far as I’m concerned.

bluedevil2002

June 1, 2012 at 8:07 am

JRjr also did ASM 588 (the final part of Character Assassination), Spider-Man #57, and Scarlet Spider #2 (the clone version that replaced the Spider-Man series for two months…this issue was essentially his first in the run with Howard Mackie.)

It’d be nice to bring him back on a more regular basis.

I’d say Amazing #50 is easily more iconic than the Crisis cover. It’s the kind of cover even non-comic book fans kind of recognise.

I was thinking it being slightly ahead of Crisis until I figured that the MOST iconic visual from Amazing #50 is the interior splash page not the cover. The interior splash page is more iconic than Crisis #8 and while the cover by itself evokes the interior splash page enough that I’d still put it just behind Crisis, I think that knocks it down enough for Crisis to sneak by it. It is REALLY close, though.

I think the real question is, does JR JR have any kids? Can they draw?

I’m a little disappointed that there wasn’t any mention of JR JRs greatest achievement- Marvel’s reigning ‘hunk of the month’ from I think the early 80s to the mid 00s. Now that was funny.

Again, great list, Brian, thanks. I had fun anticipating these all month.

JRjr also did ASM 588 (the final part of Character Assassination), Spider-Man #57, and Scarlet Spider #2 (the clone version that replaced the Spider-Man series for two months…this issue was essentially his first in the run with Howard Mackie.)

Gracias, I amended the Character Assassination bit and changed the Spectacular fill-in reference (I initially intended to say “various fill-ins” rather than “various Spectacular Spider-Man fill-ins” but I see I did not actually do that).

Oh, and JR JR also did ‘the lost years’ limited series back during the clone saga. Although I guess that might not be strictly speaking ‘Spider-Man’ per se.

Pete Woodhouse

June 1, 2012 at 8:18 am

I voted for Ditko & Romita x2. Like I said in the Writers’ #1-3 (where I went Lee/Ditko, Lee & Stern) it doesn’t really matter where these 3 end up, they’re all Spidey legends.
Anyone with some knowledge of comics background or history would appreciate that this trio deserve their spot and I guess pretty much everyone who voted put at least one of these guys in their Artists #1-10, if not 1-3.

For me the top 2 was a coin toss. I think I said Ditko for #1 but on another day it’d be JR snr: Spidey as a brand, an icon is snr’s Spidey.

Oh, and JR JR also did ‘the lost years’ limited series back during the clone saga. Although I guess that might not be strictly speaking ‘Spider-Man’ per se.

That’d be part of the “various mini-series.” ;)

Wait, so Ditko’s Spider-man invented the ‘rope-a-dope’ technique that Ali used against George Foreman?
That’s pretty freakin’ cool!

Well, no shock that it came down to Ditko and Romita.The only thing to wonder about is which one will get the top spot.

Ditko: The guy who created the classic look, a costume so perfect that it has only been slightly tinkered with over the years (the eyes getting bigger, underarm webbing being reduced in size/eliminated). Besides his sheer storytelling chops (seriously, Ditko could convey more narrative info in a panel than most other artists can convey with a page), there was also his mastery of mood, his ability to convey tension and menace.

Romita: The guy who brought warmth and beauty to the title.Ditko’s Spidey lived in a grim, alienated universe, but Romita’s lived in a romantic, sunlit world.

Interesting that the Romita Jr. entry only uses examples from the 80s and the 2000s, because I thought his 90’s stuff (including the Clone Saga era stories) was actually his best work on Spider-Man. His style was in sort of a transitional phase then, midway between the more traditional style that harkened back to his dad and the looser, more geometric figure approach he’s been using for the last decade plus.

Brain:”Ditko’s Peter Parker was a thin, frail fellow. Romita Sr. turned Peter into a heartthrob”

“In addition, Romita’s Spider-Man went from being the lithe, angular guy that he was during Ditko’s time to being a full, powerful superhero in the Jack Kirby mold.”

There is a lot of truth to this, but the difference was not quite this dramatic.If you compare Ditko’s Peter/Spider-Man in his last few issues to how he looked at the beginning, you will note that Ditko’s Peter did get better looking over time, and his Spider-Man did get noticeable more muscular.Of course, Romita did accelerate this trend (and carry it further than Ditko would have), but the tendency was definitely in place before Romita’s debut.

We’re calling Fancy Dan “iconic” now?

Also, I like that MJ kept her key to Peter’s apartment, even after she dumped him and left town, and that he didn’t change the locks on her. It’s odd, but definitely in character.

Glad Romita is number one. Sad to see inkers get the bum’s rush on one of these lists again. Esposito, Giacoia, and Mooney all deserve a mention.

I can’t see how anyone could look at the Ditko pages and the Romita pages above and choose Romita over Ditko. In-sane. (Yet utterly predictable. Most people like their entertainment to be as bland as possible.)

Glad Romita is number one. Sad to see inkers get the bum’s rush on one of these lists again. Esposito, Giacoia, and Mooney all deserve a mention.

Mooney nearly made it (he’s either #27 or #28).

Esposito got more points than Alex Ross!

Jim Mooney was a pretty good Spidey artist in his own right. He did a sizable amount of work doing pencils and inks on both MTU and Spectacular, as I recall

Meaningless Albert

June 1, 2012 at 10:45 am

Romita Sr. was my number one, and Romita Jr was my third. Ditko didn’t appear at all. But of course I expected him to show up here, and I know that he deserves it. It’s just not for my taste.

Mike Loughlin

June 1, 2012 at 11:18 am

Romita Sr.’s Spider-Man is prettier, but he couldn’t touch Ditko for sheer inventivenes and storytelling. Ditko (with Lee) made me care about Peter Parker & Co. and brought me into their world. Romita did a great job illustrating & co-plotting (also with Lee) Spider-Man stories that didn’t have nearly the same impact on me.

The above Ditko page is awesome, but nothing in the art sugests Spider-Man was catching his breath. I think Ditko had him getting pummeled by the goons until he is inspired by Aunt May’s plight to find the strength to win. The thought balloons seem superfluous, and I think Lee fit his own story in the margins of Ditko’s.

By the way, Brian, how close was it between Ditko and Romita for the top spot?

Mark Flanagan

June 1, 2012 at 11:39 am

I’ve no problem with the order of Ditko and Romita, but what’s being praised here is Romita’s more obviously commercial take: he took the original idea – a brainy, not too muscular youth as a constantly overwhelmed hero – into something more acceptable for a Saturday cartoon.

Ditko’s Spider-Man was interesting because he had to really struggle for his triumphs while Romita’s – well, not so much, although Lee kept the soap opera elements strong to give Peter continued causes of grief. For me, Ditko would get the top spot because of the originality of his Spider-Man – and Romita number two because he did a superb job with the more traditionally superheroic Spider-Man and the increased focus on romance and melodrama.

But it’s almost six of one and half a dozen of the other. I just like the rather tough row Lee and Ditko set for themselves to hoe and consider their work a true innovation in comics. But it’s tough to argue with the much more sustained effort put in by Romita.

Stern was closer to Lee/Ditko in the writing category than Ditko was to Romita (JRjr was also closer to Ditko than Ditko was to Romita, but not by a lot).

The artist voting came in basically eight tiers.

Here they are:

TIER 1
1 Romita Sr
2 Ditko
3 Romita Jr

TIER 2
4 Bagley

TIER 3
5 McFarlane
6 Andru
7 Martin
8 Kane
9 Buscema

TIER 4
10 Byrne
11 Larsen
12 Frenz
13 Zeck

TIER 5
14 Ringo
15 Ramos

TIER 6
16 Bachalo
17 Immonen

TIER 7
18 Buckingham
19 Rivera

TIER 8
20 Deodato
21 Pichelli
22 McNiven
23 Dodson
24 Pollard
25 Saviuk

Brain:”Ditko’s Peter Parker was a thin, frail fellow.

People always say this, but for most of Ditko’s run Spider-Man was quite beefy. Even for like the six issues of so when he was skinnier, Ditko pretty much drew everyone else skinnier as well.

Weird weird weird. How does Romita beat Ditko for artist, but Ditko/Lee beats Lee/anyone else, but mainly Romita for Writer? Especially when it was with a weird rule that couldn’t have been noticed by every voter? Were people leaving Lee by himself off their list entirely?

Were people leaving Lee by himself off their list entirely?

Some, but mostly Lee just was voted lower on people’s list than Ditko/Lee.

So a typical list would be:

1. Ditko/Lee
2. Lee

or

1. Ditko/Lee
2. Stern
3. Jenkins
4. Lee

or whatever.

People followed the rule well, particularly since pretty much everyone else agreed with it (as well they should).

@Steve… I just presumed it was another manifestation of the “Stan-Lee-is-the-devil-because-of-creator-rights-issues.”

This list is almost perfect. Except that Ditko is too low.

I know there are going to be people who get worked up not to see Ditko at number one, and hell, I can even see their point. But it was the Stan Lee / John Romita era that always hit me as the characters best period. Good writing, and incredible art combined to make what was in many ways the best comicbook run of the 1960’s. So yeah, I agree with John Romita at number 1.

Ed (A Different One)

June 1, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Well, we’ve got a Ditko sandwich at the top (if you order a Ditko, you have to have it on Romita . . . )

OK, bad jokes aside, I’m not surprised by the top 3 but a little surprised at the order. I thought Ditko would get it on the sheer fact that he designed that oh so iconic costume, not to mention his incredible storytelling chops. However, I always did personally favor Romita more – just a personal taste thing, and I don’t think you can argue that either one is not worthy to be considered #1.

And JRjr smoked the late 90’s rock star artists – loving that for my own personal (albeit petty) reasons. Still love his older style the best. I distinctly remember that panel above when MJ abruptly walked back into Petey’s life. Right after he got done trashing the Thinker’s Battle Droid, if memory serves correctly . . .

Great poll Brian. Thanks!

Brian, didn’t Romita Jr. also draw ASM #250? Some pages seem to be mostly Janson, but the Romita Jr. faces & action layouts shine through.

I doubt anyone is surprised at how the top three came out! This is definitely my top tyhree, although I just might slip Ditko in at #1… I still don’t think his Spidey has ever been improved on.

I don’t like Romita, jr’s current style at all. His early stuff was good enough, though not as good as Ross Andru or Ron Frenz. But I do have to give him credit for fixing Peter’s hair. Until he came along, Peter’s hair had always looked like molded plastic or something.

I grew up with the more muscular and realistic version that Romita Senior gave us, but I would have given Ditko the top spot simply because he drew the very first 39 issues (I’m counting Amazing Fantasy #15) that launched most of the iconic characters. Still, I do prefer Jazzy’s Spidey. Somehow, the image of Mary Jane’s reveal being drawn by Ditko isn’t quite as fetching.

Romita Junior’s early 80’s style was highly dynamic and suited Spider-Man very well. (Especially with Dan Green inking him, although I love Senior’s inks over Junior’s pencils even more.)

I would have rounded out my top five with Andru and Kane, both of which followed Romita’s style very faithfully until McFarlane took us back to a far cartoonier, Ditko-like Spidey in the late 80’s. I don’t think we’ve seen the classic Romita Spidey ever since, not even when Junior returned to the title a decade later.

A typo: You still refer to this as #4-6 at the top

Yeah, I bet Spidey fans wish JRJR was still doing him in 2042 – the question is what media would he be working in – digital holo-comics? The change in ink & paper quality made his art between the two periods allowed his art to truly pop, and evolve into its modern form.

He’s a good example to use when trying to show some of the younger readers why they should appreciate just how good some artists were before the late 80s, despite the limitations of the old printing styles and paper used.

I haven’t seen much praise here for Gil Kane? He would have been #3 on my list (though i love JRJR). For me, as a little kid, Kane was the first artist I recognized and his Death Of Cap Stacy issue was a gateway drug to the Marvel U. He was able to somehow synthesize many of the storytelling qualities noted for Ditko & Romita Sr – while also having his own, unmistakable style. I still remember being devastated by Gwen’s death – as much because Kane left an issue later as the storyline itself. He kept doing covers and i’d peer inside hopefully, only to be disappointed by Andru’s art. Nothing against Andru – he was a pro – but up until #125, every artist on the book (even John Buscema who didn’t make the list) brought something new & exciting to the look of Spidey or his landscape of characters and skyscrapers. Despite some great art & stories since then, for me, Spider-Man somehow became more generic, less amazing after that.

Ed (A Different One)

June 4, 2012 at 11:06 am

@adami – “every artist on the book (even John Buscema who didn’t make the list) brought something new & exciting to the look of Spidey or his landscape of characters and skyscrapers.

I very well could be wrong, but my rather strong impression is that John Buscema never drew Spidey other than in the second Spider-Man/Superman crossover that was written by Jim Shooter. His brother Sal did extensive work on the character though . . .

I’m far from an expert comics historian though, so I could be wrong. But I know I’ve often wondered why a giant the stature of John B. never did draw Marvel’s flagship character all that much . . .

I very well could be wrong, but my rather strong impression is that John Buscema never drew Spidey other than in the second Spider-Man/Superman crossover that was written by Jim Shooter. His brother Sal did extensive work on the character though . . .

Buscema was the first fill-in artist during Romita’s run. Romita only did full pencils on his initial run through issue #56. Then he went to layouts with others penciling his layouts (Don Heck and Jim Mooney) until around #71. Then Buscema did layouts for Romita to do finishes and the next issue (#73) Buscema began an extended stint where he and Romita traded issues doing layouts with Jim Mooney then doing pencils. Finally, Buscema did two issues of pencils over Romita’s layouts (#84 and #85) and that was it for Buscema (when Kirby left, Buscema was the main replacement for Kirby on many titles, so he was too busy to also help on Amazing Spider-Man. I also get the impression that if Buscema had a choice, he’d much rather do books like Thor and Fantastic Four that had a slightly less superhero angle to them.)

Ed (A Different One)

June 4, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Well there you have it. I figured if anyone knew it would be Brian. I guess his work was not extensive enough on the character for anyone to really think of him as a “Spider-Man Artist”. But John Buscema does have to be among the Top 3 or 4 artists who ever worked for Marvel.

At least he got a “shout out” in the comments . . .

I remember remember J. Buscema’s work on Spider-Man mostly because he did the issues that featured the first appearance of the Prowler. As I remember the credits it was Buscema/Romita on layouts/pencils (don’t recall who did which, but both their names were credited), and Mooney inks.

I’m glad to see John Romita sr. at #1. I think he is the quintessential Spider-Man artist. When I picture Spidey in my head, I picture him as pencilled by JRS.
I’m not a big fan of John Romita jr., though.
I dislike Ditko’s drawing style, but he is an absolutely brilliant designer.

Ironic how they don’t show you a single panel from romita that actually has peter as spiderman.

My first introduction to Spiderman was with issue #48 so I was most familiar with the John Romita Sr era and he was my favourite Spiderman artist. He seemed to just know how to draw women and it was JR Sr that gave Black Widow her new sexier look back in Amazing Spiderman #86. I always thought Steve Ditko’s Spidey was awkward looking whenever I saw his stories published in reprint titles such as Marvel Tales, however it’s with hindsight that I look upon his era with a newer appreciation. I didn’t really care much for the later Gil Kane runs on the title either as good as he was and it always annoyed me whenever John Romita Sr wasn’t the penciller..

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