Friday, February 23, 2007

Partners For Life - Questions Part I

Recently I was asked a series of questions about Ross Andru on a previous post. Said person asked for answers, so here we go.

"First, what about that story about Bill Everett being, well, let's say, ornery, inking that first Defenders story over Andru? He was so pissed over the sketchiness of the pencils that he inked them literally instead of, essentially, re-rendering the pencil art.

"And if the pencils were too hard for Everett to ink, then what about that Spider-Man story a couple of years earlier (showed up, IIRC, in Marvel Super-Heroes???) IIRC, those inks were, well, normal, let's say. (Must say I somewhat liked the Defenders art....)"

I've pointed this very topic out many times in emails, letters and even in the book itself. It wasn't that the pencils were too hard to ink, it's just that Everett decided to ink everything on the page. By all account what happened was that Everett was indeed angry about being assigned Andru as his penciler. he'd been copping some flack about his skills as an artist and decided to ink Andru's pencils as they stood. The result was the closest example we have of Andru pencils in a mainstream book - Everett inked every line on the page. It remains a very jarring example of Andru art and it doesn't fit in with what other inkers had been doing, and were doing, with his pencils at the time.

As for the earlier story. The Spider-Man story was Ross's first for Marvel and the popular story was that Stan Lee shelved it because of both the way Ross penciled it and the way Everett inked it. Ross took too many liberties with the art and Everett's inks were poor. Roy Thomas, speaking to Jim Amash, said the following about it, "I doubt Stan disliked it - but he must've decided he didn't want it as a fill-in issue of Amazing Spider-Man, for which it had been intended. I really don't think John Romita sprained his wrist or whatever, as a caption said. That became probably the best-selling issue of Marvel Super-Heroes, if not the only good-selling issue." (Alter Ego #50). That's more likely the true reason why it appeared down the track. My theory is that Lee was trialing other artists for the Spider-Man book. Lee would use his brother, Larry Lieber, to pencil an annual and both Don Heck and Jim Mooney would also start drawing (or assisting) with John Romita very shortly after. Lee was clearly looking for a replacement, or, at the least, an assistant, to free Romita up to draw more.

So why did Bill Everett draw those early Defenders stories like he did? Who knows? Perhaps he felt that since the Spider-Man story was shelved (thus costing him a chance to be the inker on one of the best selling Marvel titles of the day) these stories would be shelved as well. Perhaps he was sick of being criticized for his work? He might not have been in the best of health. Whatever the real reasons we can look back at those books and see almost pure Andru.

"Next question is output -- which may be addressed in the book. In the 50s/60s, A+E seemed to be, well, pretty productive. Ca. 70-71, Ross comes to Marvel. Art pages are now smaller yet his output dwindles to a book a month, pretty much. Why? Working in the Marvel style slowed him down? Something else? Age??"

What slowed him down? Two things. First: Skywald. Andru & Esposito were approached and took the jobs as being the art directors for Skywald when it started up in 1970. Despite there being an excellent book on Skywald (Skywald Horror-Mood) it focuses on the great Alan Hewitson days and pretty much skips over the early days of the company and the involvement of Andru & Esposito. But working for Skywald in such a capacity did slow both men down as they were effectively running the art side of things, plus they had creative freedom to write and draw as they saw fit.

Second: Up Your Nose And Out Your Ear (I'm going to be revisiting and expanding my original article very soon). In the early 1970s both Ross and Mike were shopping around their idea for a new satire magazine and that took up a lot of time. DC were also going through a transition where they were getting rid of some of the 'older style' artists (Jim Mooney etc) and replacing them with a house style (Curt Swan, Nick Cardy, Al Plastino). Not to knock Swan, Cardy or Plastino but Andru was never going to look like that. That meant that they work was slowly drying up and Ross was free to move to Marvel. Before he did make the final move the magazine happened.

Setting the magazine up, writing and drawing the first two issues, getting it distributed and then the resulting fall out made life a bit busy.

"One of the cool things about Andru's few years at Marvel in the early 70s was seeing various inkers on him."

Can't argue there. I always thought that with the right inkers Ross could, and did, outdraw anyone. You look at what Tom Palmer did to his pencils - the result was just as good as Neal Adams at the same era. Same with Dick Giordano.

That's not to dismiss Mike's own efforts. There were two kinds of inkers for Ross. Those who could ink his work and those who couldn't. There were many, many inkers who fell into the latter category but few who fell into the former. Mike was certainly one of those who could ink Ross Andru and make sense of the art and make the art shine. When people knock Mike I say this - each time when Ross had his choice of inkers he went for Mike. He didn't always get Mike, but it speaks volumes that he'd ask for him anyway. Another classic example is John Byrne. Talented artist but the one book he inked over Ross looked like mud. Now if Byrne couldn't ink Andru successfully and Esposito could, what does that tell you?


Jimmy T said...

Heading out to the new York show I will look him up. Jimmy T

The Seditionist said...

Thank you, Daniel, for the response! See ya on the Timely-Atlas lists! -- /\\.

Anonymous said...


Just finished the book and enjoyed it, even though I think it would have been better with more of the supplementary material that we've seen here. Although I'm not a great fan of either Andru or Esposito, I find their story fascinating and Mike Esposito added to the book considerably with his inner view of what it was like working for the different companies, the problems the team faced and the different personalities involved. Mike comes off as a very nice guy.

Ross Andru is a fascinating character that I'd certainly like to learn more about. Don't shoot me, but I never cared for his run on Spider-Man, although I thought he knocked himself out on the SuperMan vs Spider-Man book. He certainly had a great work ethic and put a lot of work into adding perspective and angles in his storytelling. I would have liked to see him do a run of Sub-Mariner, but thought his style (and Esposito's) very much suited the Metal Men.

Thanks again for providing a fascinating look into the lives of two prolific artists.

Nick Caputo