Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Original Art Stories: Ross Andru's Amazing Spider-Man #162

"I inked many of Ross Andru's pages myself, and was impressed by the amount of research he did on the locales he depicted." --Jim Mooney

This one should knock your socks clean off your feet. Amazing Spider-Man #162, the issue that I'm going to focus on here, is listed over at the Grand Comic Book Database as being credited to Ross Andru, naturally, however instead of the penciler credit that he should have gotten, they've listed him as providing breakdowns and Mike Esposito as being the final penciler.  I have some bad news for them - they're slightly wrong, in fact, more than slightly wrong.  For, you see, as will be shown very shortly, Ross Andru provided full pencils.  Mike inked the issue, and more than likely utilised the services of Dave Hunt to assist him on the backgrounds, as was his wont at the time.

How do I know this?  Simple - I have scans of two pages of Ross's pencils from the issue in question.

"It’s high time someone mentioned the fine job Ross Andru has been doing on SPIDER-MAN. Not since Ditko has there been a conscientious a penciler on the strip, nor one as successful in capturing the mood and style that made the strip the most popular of them all. Comic book fans are rarely as appreciative of honest craftsmanship as of flashy techniques or special effects, so the care and skill Mr. Andru has brought to the strip have gone largely unnoticed.

"Sequences like page fourteen of SPIDER-MAN #165 demonstrate what can be done with a simple conversation. The variations in perspective and design and the attention to backgrounds evident in the scene are heartening to the enthusiast, showing that there is a good deal of thought and research behind the strip." --Frank Miller (1977)

Pencil art from Ross Andru is neigh on impossible to find and very little of it actually exists now.  I own a good selection of Andru pencil art, mainly in the form of rough sketches on the back of existing (finished) art and also newspaper strips, such as Garlic Man and Pellucidor, strips that Ross began with Mike but never finished once they weren't picked up.  Still, they're a rare beast indeed, and Andru Spider-Man pencils are amongst the rarest of them all.  These two pages show an artist at the peak of his powers, with not a wasted line and it also shows how vital a strong inker, such as Mike Esposito, was to translate Ross's pencils.

Think I'm joking?  Try and ink these two pages and see if you can do it better than Mike.  Good luck!

"Todd McFarlane was always given huge credit for creating so many wildly impossible poses for SPIDER-MAN but managing to make them work. Ross Andru did the same thing when he worked on the book. He put the character in some really wild poses that no one had managed to do up to that point. And there was a dangerous quality to his drawing style.... his bad guys looked CRAZY and very intimidating. You could certainly believe that when one of them was out to do SPIDER-MAN in, he meant it." --Mike Weiringo

Ross Andru's Spider-Man run is one of those runs that people either love or hate - there seems to be no middle ground.  What I discovered when I wrote the book on Ross and Mike is that artists love the run, fanboys don't.  You can work out what that means.  In the meantime, enjoy this rare glimpse into the world of Ross Andru's Spider-Man!

"...Ross Andru, in my version, was at Alex Toth’s level, even though Alex influenced him in some ways. He had a capacity that Alex didn't have; he had a sense of full volume drawing that Alex never had. And he was a brilliant composer, one of the best designers I ever saw in my life. He was totally underrated because nobody ever saw his pencils. All they ever saw were people inking him." --Gil Kane


"Issue #162 was a great issue and a personal high point for me. Spider-Man and the Punisher are escaping from Roosevelt Island to Manhattan in a tram and Nightcrawler was there. What Ross did was to take a Polaroid camera and he sat in the actual tram and he took pictures from every angle while his wife was sitting there with him. She’d hold the camera and he’d direct her to do this or that. Then he’d use the sky above and the angles when he did his job. He was very thorough that way. He spent half a day going back and forwards across the river taking photos." -- Mike Esposito

"John Romita took over from Steve Ditko on Spider-Man. Ditko was a stylist. The art was very flat in a way and when John came in suddenly Peter Parker lived in this three dimensional world. A lot of people saw that, but at the time I didn’t, and it was only when I met John that I could look back and see what happened. I think Ross did it differently. John’s world was a fantasy world; Ross brought it into the real world. The real New York city, the real Coney Island. Ross made you believe that the Kingpin was a real huge guy. John still had that sense of fantasy about comics whereas Ross really brought it very close to home and that’s the difference between those two." --Dave Hunt

So, in closing, as you can clearly see from those two pages, what Ross did on Amazing Spider-Man #162 was anything but breakdowns, unless you consider your breakdowns to be as detailed as those two pages.  Ross 'The Boss' Andru was anything but a hack, no matter how you want to look at it.

10 comments:

inkdestroyedmybrush said...

pretty interesting to see the pencil scans. I've never seen Andru's pencils before that i can remember!

while i'm not the biggest andru fan (sorry), i do admire the structure that he put into his work and i agree with Kane - he did have a fullness to his drawing that Toth did not. Its why i tend to think of Toth designing the pages, while i would think of andru illustrating the story.

and will the writer shut up? I can't believe just how much real estate of the page is taken up by endless captions and dialog. Wow, puts the modern sensibility of balloon placement into context!

thanks for sharing! cool stuff.

Robert Thomas said...

A consistently good, solid, story-teller who understood pacing and how comics should "move" and direct the reader from panel to panel. If John Romita represents (rightly so)the "Golden-Age" of Spider-Man, then the Ross Andru period should be dubbed "Gem-of-an-Age" of Spider-Man.

Great article!

Robert Thomas

Anonymous said...

Ever since I read Gil Kane's comment that he kept photocopies of Andru's pencils, I've wanted to see them. I was hoping the Andru & Esposito book would feature them, but it didn't. Thank you for remedying, in some small way, a major oversight.

Daniel Best said...

I'm totally NOT to blame for that oversight. I supplied these scans, and other Ross Andru pencil scans, to the publisher of the Andru & Esposito book, but much like everything I supplied the publisher decided that he'd use art that he owned - such as Mike Sekowsky pages inked by Joe Giella, over Andru & Esposito art.

I am sorry that the publisher went the way he did, he had the makings of a killer book and decided to dilute a hell of a lot.

Andrew Wahl said...

Still not a huge fan of Andru's work but really respect the effort. I'm guessing his work will grow on me when I dive back into the ASM's of that era. Thanks for sharing the pencil scans!

Andrew Wahl
ComicsBronzeAge.com

Spider-Man Reviewed said...

I'm not a huge fan of the issue in question - mostly because the Punisher's in it - but I am a huge fan of Ross Andru and it's always nice to see him getting the credit he deserved. Thanks for posting this.

Anonymous said...

"Pencil art from Ross Andru is neigh on impossible to find and very little of it actually exists now."

Any idea why that is? It's not like he wasn't producing sufficient output.

Thanks for the scans, though - I'd wondered what his pencils looked like after seeing that first Defenders story inked by Bill Everett, and reading the story about why it looked the way it did.

Daniel Best said...

The simple answer is that the pencils were almost always inked. When Ross was at his most active - the '60s and '70s - not many pencils were photostatted before inking and the concept of inking the pencils via a lightbox or vellum wasn't considered. Virtually everything that Ross penciled got inked.

Having said that there are a few examples of Andru pencils out there, mainly on the backs of pages, a few sketches and some unfinished art. I have some Garlic Man newspaper strips that Ross began but Mike never finished - they look very interesting indeed.

Anonymous said...

The care and high level of quality Mr Andru put in his work didn't go unnoticed.
I love his Spider-man.
In my opinion, he was, with Gil Kane, second only to the character's creator, Steve Ditko.

When Ross took over the art after Kane, I was a bit upset… and it lasted for one complete issue!
See? It didn't take him long to win me over. When he quitted the character, 5 years laters, nobody could replace him.

Not a big problem, mind you, because I still have every issue Ross Andru pencilled, for me to read whenever I want.

TD said...

Well, I certainly wasn't one of those ''people'' who only noticed the inkers on Andru's art. I noticed both I'd say. I picked up my first spider-man mag in '78, I was 8 years old and it was (Danish) Spider-Man no 8 (no superstition here)
What I DID notice about the inkers though, was how well both Giacoia's and Esposito's inks suited Andrus' style - while Mooney's did NOT! But then I always hated Mooney's inks. Sorry, but that guy could drain all life out of any good artist's work. Just check out ASM volume 83, which says art Romita sr. and inks Mickey Demeo - now, I'm quite sure that Demeo had nothing to do with the inks on King Pin's wife on page 6, bottom left - that looks like ALL Romita (now, Romita was a geat inker - as well as penciller, of course) - then compare it to Mooney's inks on the same lady in vol 84, page 16, bottom panel. See what I mean? Or try Mooney's inks on Gwen Stacy on page 5 in that same volume. What a difference! Point proven, right?
Back to Andru: as a kid I didn't really ''notice'' how crazy his backgrounds were. They sortta just layed the foundation for another great episode of Andru's, like the one in which Spidey finally catches up with Shocker out at that powerplant, remember? It was more those amazing poses. Now I appreciate both, his backgrounds were amazing too, and it's good to hear from nobilities like Kane and Miller that they too admired his work
An artist for the artists? Glad to hear that too, since I draw myself, hee-heee-heeee
(Jackal laughter)

TD