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 mixed 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 artist 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 panic 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?
Our collaborators, Martinex1 and Redartz, have opened a new blog called Back in the Bronze Age... If you have liked the sorts of topics seen here on Bronze Age Babies, then you are going to feel right at home at Back in the Bronze Age... Give them a visit!
Karen and Doug
Bronze Age Babies, Unite!
On Sunday, 4/23/17, Martinex1, Doug, and Redartz gathered for a day of fun at C2E2 in Chicago. It was great to finally meet in person after years of online cameraderie.
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Karen and Doug met on the Avengers Assemble! message board back in September 2006. On June 16 2009 they went live with the Bronze Age Babies blog, sharing their love for 1970s and '80s pop culture with readers who happen by each day. You'll find conversations on comics, TV, music, movies, toys, food... just about anything that evokes memories of our beloved pasts!
Doug is a high school social science teacher and department chairman living south of Chicago; he also does contract work for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He is married with two adult sons and a daughter-in-law.
Karen originally hails from California and now works in scientific research/writing in the Phoenix area. She often contributes articles to Back Issue magazine. She is married. She hangs out with Joe Biden occasionally.
Believe it or not, the Bronze Age Babies have never spoken to each other...
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Dig Karen's Work Here? Then You Should Check Her Out in Back Issue!
BI #44 is available for digital download and in print. I've read Karen's article on reader reaction to Gerry Conway's ASM #121-122, and it's excellent. This entire magazine was fun! -- Doug
Back Issue #45
As if Karen's work on Spidey in the Bronze Age wasn't awesome enough, she's at it again with a look at the romance of the Vision and the Scarlet Witch in Back Issue's "Odd Couples" issue -- from TwoMorrows!
Karen's talking the Mighty Thor in the Bronze Age!
Click the cover to order a print or digital copy of Back Issue! #53