Monday, November 15, 2010

It's a Fine Line: The Amazing Spider-Man in the Bronze Age (part 2)

Karen: Welcome back as we finish our look at the various artists who have drawn the web-head over the years. When we left off, we had finished discussing Gil Kane. Now, we move on to the man who drew the adventures of the web-head for a good chunk of the 70s: Ross Andru.

Doug: I can't recall what my first issue of ASM was, but I'd bet a dollar to a donut that the artist was Ross Andru.

Karen: I've always had mi
xed feelings about Andru. While I thought he was dynamic and talented, I never really warmed to him. I guess I couldn't get Romita Sr. out of my head. I can enjoy Andru's work much more now than I did back in the days when he was drawing the book. His Spidey was certainly agile and exciting, as illustrated here in this scene from ASM 129.

Doug: It's really quite subjective, how we view certain artists. Because Andru was my first guy, his interpretation was the way I thought Spidey was supposed to look. It was only later on that I saw some of the earlier work from Romita, Kane, Buscema, and Ditko.

Karen: He had a hand in a number of important storylines, such as the introduction of the Punisher and the beginnings of the Clone stories -if only it had been left where Conway and Andru stopped!

Doug: I really love the first clone saga. It was one of the first epic storylines that I can recall firsthand. Great cast of super-baddies, the slow reveal of Gwen, and the uncertainty at the end concerning which body actually went into the incinerator -- Peter or his clone? Yep -- should have left well-enough alone. Lordy, how that second clone-saga sucked. Badly. Mega-badly.

Karen: Perhaps the biggest difference for me between Andru and Romita was in the way Andru drew Peter and his supporting cast -let's face it, Romita drew some beautiful people! Andru's Spidey cast were acceptable but not eye-candy, as seen in this example from ASM 141. Still, Andru had a pretty long run on the book -he was the main artist from mid-1974 to late 1978. That's certainly nothing to sneeze at!

Doug: Andru's faces could seem very harsh, as in the panel at left. Let me say this about him, too -- I really only liked him on the Spider-Man books. I've seen his work on the Fantastic Four, Superman, and Wonder Woman -- just don't really care for it. Faces aside, his style seems made for Spider-Man.

Karen: Spider-Man appeared in more than just his main title in the 70s -he also was the star of Marvel Team-Up and
later, Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man. With the arrival of these two titles, an even wider assortment of artists would get a chance to draw the wall-crawler.

Karen: Over in MTU, Sal Buscema would draw a good chunk of the stories. He also worked on Spectacular Spider-Man. Sal was always a steady guy and while I bought a lot of Spidey books with his artwork, I have to say he never really struck me as being a great Spider-Man artist. Don't get me wrong, I've always thought Sal was a great story-teller, but his Spidey just never did anything for me. Here's some art from SSM #1.

Doug: Sal's just steady. I'd agree that he probably doesn't make my top 5 Spidey artists, but he has to be lurking there at #6. He just never mailed one in -- I always felt like I got a solid effort out of Sal for my quarter, or 30c, or whatever.

Karen: Another a
rtist who would spend time on both MTU and SSM was Jim Mooney. Besides penciling issues of these titles, he had also inked issues of ASM, as well as the rest. Mooney was another acceptable, workman-like artist. One thing I've noticed is that when he inks someone, whether it be John Byrne or John Romita, they all tend to wind up looking like Jim Mooney! To the left are a couple of panels from SSM 30.

Doug: I actually like the images you've chosen -- and if I had to compare them to the Sal Buscema panels I think I like Mooney's better! You make a spot-on claim about Mooney's inks, which we somewhat addressed in part one of this little inspection. Solid artist, nothing spectacular. Oh, and by the way, since you chose Carrion as the subject of your sample, I'd add that I did enjoy that storyline in SSM, and did not feel that it diminished the clone saga. It was another nice build-up and fairly decent pay-off, if I recall.

Karen: Speaking of John Byrne, he drew a number of issues of MTU. The stories he did with Chris Claremont were -in my opinion -some of the best in the title's history. I really liked the look of his Spidey -muscular but still prone to fits of Ditko-like athleticism! Here's some of his work from MTU 62, with Spidey and Ms. Marvel facing off against the Super-Skrull.

Doug: John Byrne is just such a morpher. It really depends on what point of his career you want to examine him, who his inker was, etc. When I look at the panels at right, I think the Spidey could be anyone's; there's no mistaking the Super Skrull for Byrne's pencils, however. I don't think I'd care to see Byrne drawing Spider-Man during the second run he had on the FF -- where he inked himself and his figure-work often became elongated and wiry. I know -- that's Spider-like. But I just don't think I'd have liked it.

Karen: Frank Miller might not immediately pop into mind when discussing Spidey, but he did draw a few issues of SSM early in his career. These issues also featured Daredevil, and I'm sure they started the wheels of fate rolling! In SSM 27, Spidey has been blinded. You can see his pa
nic in the splash page presented here. The issue is inked by Frank Springer and is awfully murky at times. But I thought Miller did a decent enough job.

Doug: Wow -- talk about a morpher! Frank Miller early, or around the time of Dark Knight? Shoot -- during Dark Knight! Compare what he did in the first issue of that story with how his art ended up! And you can say that about his Daredevil, too -- the stuff he did on Elektra in the 1990's looked so much different than what he had done on DD a decade or more earlier. The panels at left, though, are from his pretty-straight super-hero period.

Karen: Finally, we return to the original title, Amazing Spider-Man. With Ross
Andru's departure, a number of artists would try their hand at the web-slinger. The first up would be Keith Pollard. It's kind of funny, Pollard drew a lot of titles for Marvel but I honestly can't mentally picture his style. There's just nothing about it that stands out to me. On the other hand, there's nothing wrong with it either -it just doesn't do anything for me one way or the other.

Doug: You'll get no argument from me. I see him attempting to ape Ditko with the angular feet while Spider-swinging. I think Pollard often found himself in between runs by other artists who were perhaps more memorable. Strong artist, not stupendous -- just getting it done. I guess that's not so bad.

Karen: And with that, at the end of the 70s, we'll wrap up our little feature. So let us know -who was your favorite artist? Who could you not stand?


Fred W. Hill said...

Can't find anything to dispute about either of your assessments of the various Bronze Age Spidey artists. Despite Romita Sr's early fade out in the era, he remained the gold standard and those Marvel Tales reprints were available for those of us who mostly missed out on his Silver Age run. Andru's art didn't sparkle the way Romita's did and some of his faces looked odd to me, although I thought he did a great job depicting Peter's mental anguish after coming face to face with Gwen's clone, as well as that look of sheer insanity on Harry's face when he sneaked into Peter's room and found the Spider-Man costume.
Regarding Sal Buscema, while his work was never spectacular, I usually liked his art, although I've seen examples of his work, particularly in the late '80s & '90s, that appeared very rushed and mediocre, with minimal backgrounds. Serviceable but blah.
Overall, tho', at least in these Bronze Age artists depicted their characters, super-powered or not, with reasonably normal proportions rather than with basketball-sized biceps or breasts and all that silliness that seemed to dominate comics in the '90s.

Edo Bosnar said...

Too tough to pick a favorite Spidey artist, either among those mentioned in part 1 or here; I really enjoyed both Andru and Buscema in the various Spidey titles, and the MTU issues penciled by Byrne are lovely.
I guess I can say that Mooney and Pollard don't stick out in my mind as anything more than serviceable, while the Frank Miller art in those issues of Spectacular SM is surprisingly unspectacular. In fact, I remember I always thought Spidey's head looked really weird in that splash-page you posted here - almost like it's upside-down or something...
By the way, speaking of Keith Pollard, there is at least one book I can think of in which his art is just gorgeous: that Silver Surfer graphic novel from around 1990, "The Enslavers," written by Stan Lee.

david_b said...

Wow.., great subject to comment on..: Agreeing totally on both Romita and Andru's appraisals. I started bowing out of ASM just before the Clone arc, and enjoyed Romita in all the reprints.

Like Fred, I personally never warmed to Buscema's rendition; Sal was awesome on Cap and Avengers, but just couldn't adjust to his way of doing Spidey, JJJ, the whole gang. I liked a few other 'one-shot' artists, but I agree Romita was the best, with Andru doing great work in the 70s.

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