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