Yesterday, CBR News spoke with Editor Nick Lowe about “Eternals,” the six-issue mini-series from writer Neil Gaiman and artist John Romita Jr. which reintroduces readers to the race of god like alien immortals and brings them to the forefront of the Marvel Universe. Today we continue our spotlight on the mini-series by speaking with John Romita Jr. about the project.
Once the “Eternals” mini-series was green lit, Marvel didn’t have to do much to convince Romita to take up the artistic duties for the series. “They know what I think about Jack Kirby’s work and his characters,” Romita told CBR News. “So it was an easy conversation. Then when they told me Neil Gaiman was attached to it, that was a home run right there.”
Romita had been looking forward to working with Gaiman and collaborating with the writer on “Eternals” proved to be as enjoyable as he hoped it would be. “I can reach him any time I want to.” Romita said. “So, we talk constantly. I have questions and I ask his opinions about things. He’s very easy to work with and he’s a great guy. I really enjoy working with him.”
Gaiman is well known for his ability to ground his fantastic stories in a realistic seeming world with human like characters and Romita really wanted to highlight these elements in his artwork for “Eternals”. “What I wanted to do the most — and this is something I’ve always attempted to do in my work — was to come as close to reality as I can in this fantasy,” Romita explained. “Since one of the characters is an intern at a hospital, I’m getting reference on the regalia, the machinery, and the inside of a hospital, little things like that. I’ve always attempted to do this, but more so than ever on this one. Neil is such a brilliant writer and his work is so widely known internationally that it’s important that I get the realistic part of this very accurate so that the fantasy becomes even more fun.”
In addition to working with Gaiman, the other fun aspect of “Eternals” for Romita was working on characters originally created by Jack Kirby. “I was always a fan of Jack’s stuff, anything that he’s done, if it’s not story wise than it’s visually that I’m crazy about,” Romita stated. “His stories are an acquired taste and his dialogue is an acquired taste, but being a fan from when I was young of his ‘Fantastic Four’ stuff, his ‘Silver Surfer’ stuff, really anything he’s done, when he came back to Marvel and did ‘The Eternals’ I read it and enjoyed it. Now that I’m referring to it and basing the new costumes on his old stuff, it’s a lot of fun. When I did ‘Thor,’ I plastered my office with references. It’s a lot like doing this. I’m taking old issues and ripping them up and putting them all over the place so I can look at them.”
Those old issues that Romita looked at helped him with the artistic style he’s employing on “Eternals,” which he dubbed deadline style. “It’s whatever I can get done on time,” Romita said. “That’s a little bit facetious, but I do specifically recall being told by Quesada to put maybe a little bit extra into this one. I’m not treating this one as a monthly. It’s treated as a special project. I do a normal amount of intense work and I’m trying harder to add a little bit of extra detail to some scenes. There’s nothing about this that calls for easy panels. Let’s just say there are some scenes in it that recall ‘War and Peace.'”
For Romita, the most difficult aspect of working on Eternals was probably the intensity of the assignment. “I don’t mean in my head. I mean the amount of extra work that goes into some of these scenes,” he explained. “We are talking about The Eternals, who are immortals, and then the Celestials and the recreation of mankind. But these Celestials are a mile tall so there are scenes with The Celestials walking prehistoric Earth and showing animals and mountains dwarfed by them. Then showing the Deviants and the battle against them. There are scale and design problems that have to be solved, which if you do them wrong then the scale won’t be quality. So to have a mile tall Celestial in the same panel as a lion or a tiger or even a humanoid is tough to accomplish. There are some scenes that have been tough to design but they got done and they worked out great. And of course having Dan Miki ink is a pleasure. He’s brilliant. Wait till you see the finished product.”
If Gaiman decides to do a sequel to “Eternals,” Romita would look forward to being part of that project. Working on the series has been an incredibly rewarding experience for him. “When I’m done with all six, issues the most rewarding thing will have been to have worked with Neil and to have worked on Kirbyesque characters,” Romita explained. “It’s always a pleasure working on Kirbyesque characters. I came in as a young artist with that feel of Kirby, John Buscema, and John Romita. When I worked in the industry as a kid, those three guys were the most prominent in my mind. So having worked on John Romita Sr.’s characters after him and having John Buscema’s characters in my mind from working on ‘Conan’ briefly and ‘The Punisher,’ it’s the same thing with Kirby. Having worked on ‘Thor,’ ‘The Hulk’ and now ‘Eternals,’ this is the most rewarding thing because it’s a roots thing. And then there’s working with Neil, who is a modern day great. It’s humbling and really rewarding to have positive feedback from Neil and then to have positive reactions from the guys who sign the checks is even more fun.”