The Greatest Spider-Man Artists
Over the 55 years Spider-Man has been swinging around New York City and battling bad guys, he has attracted some of the best artists in the comic book industry. Nobody can deny the strong visual elements associated with the Webhead is sure to be a fun challenge for any illustrator out there. Not only do you have the intricate design of his costumes to illustrate; but also the cityscape of New York City as well as a colorful cast of villains and supporting characters. In honor of the artists who have left their imprint on Marvel’s top Web-Slinger here, in no particular order, are the greatest Spider-Man artists of all time.
Steve Ditko: Naturally the artist who co-created the character should be the first on this list. Comic lore states that the great Jack Kirby was initially tasked with creating the look for Spider-Man but everything he came up with had the look of traditional superhero rather than awkward teenager. Enter Steve Ditko who perfectly captured a superhero unlike any other when he gave life to Spider-Man. Originally just an inker, the quirky artist took Stan Lee’s concept for this new superhero and ran with it for 40 issues. In the early “Marvel style” of creating comics, Ditko would plot out Lee’s ideas of a teen hero balancing his personal life with his heroics. Even now over half a century after his run on the book, the image he drew of Spidey putting all of his might into lifting heavy machinery off of himself while water pours down is one of the most iconic visuals in the history of the medium. His contributions were so vital to the early years of Spider-Man that he was even credited as a plotter at one point on the Amazing Spider-Man. Sadly like other artists who collaborated with Stan Lee, the working relationship ended poorly and Ditko abruptly left Marvel and in the years which have followed has become noted for his reclusiveness.
John Romita Sr.: Comics legend Todd McFarlane once called John Romita the Norman Rockwell of Spider-Man, adding that if you closed your eyes and thought of Spidey it would be Romita’s interpretation which popped into your head. Coming from a background illustrating romance and Western comics, Romita brought a certain humanity to the Amazing Spider-Man. When Steve Ditko, abruptly left Marvel in the 60’s Romita was brought in to keep the series going. Originally planned just to fill in for a few months until a new artist was found John Romita’s style caused a boom in Spidey’s popularity. His introduction of Mary Jane Watson to the series is an image which has gone down in comics history. Many fans and comic historians have argued that John Romita is the definitive Spider-Man artist as the illustrator drew the adventures of Spidey across multiple titles and even in the comic strips.
Todd McFarlane: Since I have already mentioned McFarlane it is time to add his entry to this piece. For an entire generation of the comics boom during the 80’s and 90’s his kinetic and modernized take on the Webhead is the one they hold as their version of the hero. Under his pencils, Spidey gained some of his most iconic elements which remain to this day; his eye lenses became bigger and more bug-like, he also gained the “spaghetti webbing” which remains a staple. Every panel he drew was packed with detail to keep readers’ attention. Through all of his contributions, McFarlane will no doubt go down in history for his hand in introducing readers to the popular villain Venom. His run on Amazing Spider-Man was so popular, Marvel added another Spidey book to the publishing line simply titled Spider-Man, to serve as a showcase for the artist.
Humberto Ramos: Artists have often talked about the fun of drawing the quirky physicality of Spider-Man being one of the best aspects of the job, and few artists have taken advantage of this like Humberto Ramos. There have been many fans and critics who feel that Spidey was the character Ramos was born to draw. The Mexican-born artist drew attention by doing covers for Spider-Man 2099 and later Peter Parker: Spider-Man. In 2003 he was made artist on the Spectacular Spider-Man alongside writer, Paul Jenkins. This proved to be a Spider-Man Dream Team as the two reintroduced Norman Osborne and Venom to Spidey’s rogues gallery. He would return to Spider-Man years later to provide artwork for Dan Slott’s run on Amazing Spider-Man. The cartoonish and kinetic style, Ramos utilizes has created some very memorable moments throughout his tenures on Spider-Man that fans will not soon forget.
Gil Kane: One of the great legends of the industry, Kane’s pencils touched every franchise from; Green Lantern to Captain American to Captain Marvel. It should come as no surprise he left a major imprint on Spidey during his career. Penciling arguably the most popular story in Spider-Man history “the Night Gwen Stacy Died”, Kane pulled out all the stops to ensure this would be a memorable tale. Filling in the gigantic shoes left by John Romita Sr., Kane proved more than up for the task. In 1971 he and Stan Lee challenged the rules of the Comics Code Authority by openly featuring drugs in one of their story arcs. In refusing to back down, the Code had to be rewritten to accommodate stories of that kind.
Mark Bagley: Regarded as one of the best storytellers in the industry, Bagley’s career has long been intertwined with Spider-Man. Beginning in 1991 with Amazing Spider-Man #345, this Atlanta-based artist made Spidey his own. Throughout the 90’s, his illustrations of Spider-Man appeared on everything from t-shirts to coffee mugs cementing him as one of the most marketable talents at Marvel. In the early 2000’s when Brian Michael Bendis brought a fresh new take on Spidey’s early years in Ultimate Spider-Man, Bagley was once again tapped to bring Spider-Man to life for a new generation. Along with Bendis, Bagley’s run on Ultimate Spider-Man lasted a full 111 issues setting a new record at Marvel Comics for writer/artist team to create the most issues of a series in a row.
Ross Andru: If you read Spider-Man during the 1970’s you no doubt were fan of this Russian artist who illustrated the Amazing Spider-Man for 5 years. Andru began his work on Marvel doing artwork for different anthology and team-up books, showcasing a talent for drawing Spider-Man which did not go unnoticed by higher-ups. In 1973 he was made the artist on Amazing Spider-Man where he remained through most of the 70’s, culminating with the 1978 crossover between Spider-Man and Superman. Andru brought a versatile action-pakced style during his run on Spider-Man.
John Romita Jr. : Much like his father before him, John Romita Jr. has left an indelible mark on the history of Spider-Man. His initial work on this franchise was during the 80’s and he would serve intermediately for the next several years on the various Spidey books. He is best remembered for his stint serving as the artist during J. Michael Straczynski’s storied run on Amazing Spider-Man. Romita used a style which would draw no comparisons to his famed father and was uniquely his own. Embracing the grittier aspects of Spider-Man’s world John Romita Jr. created a visually striking style very different from other illustrators.
Erik Larsen: After making a name for himself at DC Comics with an ability to draw young heroes in dynamic fashion, Erik Larsen was brought to Marvel to tackle the Amazing Spider-Man to see what he could for them. When Todd McFarlane left Spidey Larsen was brought in permanently with a cleaner and crisper style than the Spawn-creator. Eventually he became trusted as a writer as well, and penned several story arcs in the Amazing Spider-Man. During his long career, Erik Larsen has come back time and again for stints on the character who made him one of the most popular artists in comics.