Earlier today, it looked like it was unofficially “Spider-Man Day” here at Comics Should Be Good. Far be it from me to pass up on some bandwagon jumping (I kid, I kid), here’s a Spidey-related entry about one of my all-time favorite comic book artists.
127. John Romita Jr.
(Click that one to embiggen it, but be warned; it’s gigantic.)
John Romita Jr, or JRJR, as his friends call him (personally, when we hang out, I call him “JR squared” and occasionally “J-Ro: The Sequel”… or I would, anyway, if it weren’t for the restraining order*), played a big part in the love story between me and comics. I’m sure you all know his background– son of John Romita Sr, once considered the handsomest fella in the comics industry (I mean, look at him. The ladies dug him more than the Hoff, or even Erik Estrada!), has drawn everything in the Marvel Universe– but I’m going to get a bit personal in today’s column. Indulge me for a moment.
Let me take you back a decade, before I truly followed any series, back when I picked up whatever looked good off the shelf. I first noticed Romita Jr’s art in a 1997 issue of Peter Parker: Spider-Man. Oh, I’m sure I’d encountered his work before, but it was here that it really struck me. I’d picked this book up because it was the second chapter of a two-parter, and the first issue had hooked me. The first part, however, had been drawn by a different artist, so I was floored upon viewing the raw, blocky style of JRjr’s art. His Spider-Man wasn’t a smooth webswinger, but a creature of bone and muscle, bulky but lithe, if you catch my drift. I read that comic so hard the cover fell off. For a lot of readers, it’s not Romita Sr’s, but Romita Jr’s Spidey that is the definitive interpretation of the character. He draws Spidey better than just about anyone. (Fun fact: When he was a kid, he came up with the idea for the Prowler. His dad liked it, took it to Stan, and blammo! a story was born.)
I’d later come to discover that Johnny’s style had loosened up over time. Back in his earlier days, when he was drawing Spidey and the X-Men as they were rising in popularity, his work was tighter, smoother, and more like that of his father. However, he’s evolved over time, into a style that is not beloved by all, but which I adore– his “deadline style,” as he calls it (he is, after all, one of the few artists who can still do two books a month if he wants to). His father’s influence is still evident, but I also see Jack Kirby and Frank Miller touches.
Then there was his Thor, a title and character he relaunched with writer Dan Jurgens in the late 90’s, and into the early 00’s. This was *the* title I followed as it was coming out, and it became the impetus for my Thor love, which only served to further my love for comics in general. I own hundreds of Thor issues now, and I have to thank JRjr, who instilled a ton of thunderous power into the god. It also helped that he was inked on this by Klaus Janson, who is the best inker for Romita’s work. (Janson quickly became my favorite inker– you’ll probably see him get his own column one of these days.) John’s stuff was so great, I tracked down the Rough Cut edition of Thor #1 just to see his pencilwork. The following art is from Thor #5 and 25. I’m tossing some of my favorite scenes at you, now.
(Feel free to click on those to enlarge them, but my God, are the original files huge. Sorry about that. I’ve become a dunce with the scanner due to lack of use.)
So, alright, there was Spidey and Thor, and I’ve already mentioned the X-Men. What else has JRJR done? Well, there was his run on Daredevil with Ann Nocenti, but I have to say it’s the mini he did with Frank Miller, subtitled Man Without Fear, that I love the most. It’s one of my favorite comics of all time– a fully-evolved origin story for Matt Murdock that sprung from a film pitch. Have some pages (they’re also humongous, sorry; how do I shrink the files without making them illegible?):
John Romita Jr has also pencilled runs on Star Brand, Iron Man, Hulk, Dazzler (!), and the Punisher (which was gorgeous). Let’s not forget the Amalgam one-shot Thorion of the New Asgods, either. There’s also his recent work on titles like Black Panther, Sentry, Eternals, and Wolverine. And I have to mention his creator-owned mini-series, Grey Area, from Image. He’s done a few things besides this, of course; a checklist can be found at the Wiki.
Maybe it’s a shame he’s never really drawn anything for DC, besides one crossover. I’d love to see him work his magic on those characters. It’d be a major coup for DC, though, and I don’t think it’ll ever happen– John seems perfectly happy at Marvel. They have, after all, gifted him with a Marvel Visionaries hardcover of his very own, and just recently put out a one-shot tribute for him this year, his 30th anniversary of working with the publisher.
You can all look forward to his upcoming work on the World War Hulk mini! The art will certainly rock. And maybe we’ll be lucky enough to experience his return to the Spider-books. Let’s hope.
Thanks for everything, John. Your work has captivated me, and I’ve become a lifelong fan. Because of your art, I fell that much deeper in love with comics, and you’ll always have my eternal gratitude. Keep on drawing and I’ll keep on reading. I look forward to whatever you choose to draw (and, perhaps, write?) in the future, and I’m sure many others do, too.
*Surely, I jest. It hasn’t gone through yet.**
**Still kidding. We’ve never even met. This makes me cry myself to sleep.***
***I’ll stop now.