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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #127

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.

5/7/07

127. John Romita Jr.

JRjr 1.jpg

(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.)

JRjr 4.jpgJRjr 5.jpg

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.

JRjr 2.jpg

JRjr 6.jpg JRjr 7.jpg

(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?):

JRjr 8.jpg JRjr 9.jpg JRjr 10.jpg

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.

29 Comments

A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man.

Surely this applies to JR Jr.

Rohan Williams

May 7, 2007 at 11:38 pm

One of my fondest comics memories is of absolutely loving the hell out of Spider-Man #75, despite the fact that it was written by Howard Mackie and concluded the Clone Saga. It was my favourite comic for a really long time, purely because JRJR’s art was so powerful and dramatic.

Amen to that!

My introduction to regular comics reading was the Stern/Romita Jr run on Amazing (still one of the best runs on the book), and then I went over to his first X-Men run, where he was starting to add weight to his art. I lost track of him for a while, but I remember seeing what he was doing on Daredevil for the first time. Was this the same guy? I liked it, but it took some getting used to. I’m not terribly a fan of his second X-Men run, but everything he’s done since is gold , in my opinion.

By the way, if you want The Free Image Manipulation Program That Will Change Your Life, get yourself a copy of Irfanview.

I loved his art on Daredevil: The Man Without Fear. The stuff he does these days is decent enough, but no-where near the same quality (for my tastes)

The Daredevil: Man Without Fear (aka Daredevil: Year One) mini with Frank Miller is one of my favorite comics too, it’s brilliant.
I picked up the two Wolverine: Enemy Of The State HC premiere editions mainly because he drew half of the MU in them, it was the first time in years and years that I read and enjoyed a Wolverine comic again. I also agree on your view of his ‘definitive Spidey’, he was one of the first comic artists I really started checking for and still is. I’m looking forward to his work on Planet Hulk!

John Romita jr

May 8, 2007 at 6:23 am

I have never been so flattered in all my life….Thank you all very much, especially you, Mr. Reed…..I don’t know what to write or say…..That, in and of itself, is amazing!
cheers,
JRjr

Cronin says he’ll shrink files for us. :)

Very nice piece, Bill.

Preach! I’m right there with you on the JRJr love. I don’t really have any interest in it, but his art alone is making me want to pick up World War Hulk.

John Romita Jr is one of my favourite artists and it is always a pleasure to look at his work. The guy is a living legend.

The Kirbydotter

May 8, 2007 at 7:12 am

I regret not having noticed JRJR on his first AMAZING SPIDER-MAN run. I vowed never to buy that title after the death of Gwen Stacy. I was a kid back then and they had killed my favorite girl, my first love… I wish I had picked up JRJR’s run because I keep hearing good things about it. The fact that it was written by underrated Roger Stern only makes me regret it even more. I still search for a complete run on Ebay from time to time.

The first time I really noticed JRJR was on STAR-BRAND. I feel he was starting to really develop his own style by that time, getting slowly away from a generic Marvel house style.

The I think it was really DAREDEVIL that made me a JRJR fan for life. With Ann Nocenti, they were the first to make Daredevil their own after the heavy mark Frank Miller left on the character. No small exploit! The exploration of the whole good vs evil vs shades of grey is one of the best run of Marvel history.

I think, was the Iron Man run with John Byrne. They revitalized Mandarin and Fin Fang Foom! JRJR made me buy IRON MAN for the first and only time in my life!

Since then, JRJR made me buy comics I would never had tried with any other artist on board. Punisher, Sentry, overexposed Wolverine, etc.

John Romita Jr.’s art IS the perfect Marvel style.
It’s the best elements from the most important influences of the Marvel style. It started early on with a house style mid-way between of John Romita Sr. and John Buscema. Then the more dynamic and raw power of Gil Kane and Jack Kirby was perfectly blended in. Or rather emerged in a synergetic assimilation. But, contrary to many artists of his and later generation, JRJR is not a clone. His style aknowledges the best of his many influences, but is unmistakably is own. Any character he draws becomes interesting. He is one of the very few (with Simonson, Mignola, Cooke) who can draw Kirby’s heroes and gods with the same majesty as the King. JRJR can make me give another chance on a character I have gave up hope for. JRJR makes reading a comic book an exciting and fun experience. Isn’t it what comics were ever all about? And it’s about time he made this column!

The Kirbydotter

May 8, 2007 at 7:14 am

Dang! I forgot to say that he also made me read THOR for the first (and only) time since Kirby!

^Ditto all the love for Man Without Fear. One of my favourite Daredevil stories ever, and incredible artwork from JRJR. I too loved Spider-Man #75, great artwork for JRJR and it ignited the hope that with the end of Clone Saga things would finally be looking up for Spidey. Mackie’s writing wasn’t too bad, but I think it’s hard to mess up a Spidey versus OG Green Goblin story.

I’m not buying any titles by JRJR right now, but his work during the 90s are some of my favourites.

My only complaint with JRJR is that he’s never done any work for DC. I’d love to see him do a run on Superman or Batman, just to see what he could do with it.

But yes, other than that very very minor quibble, one of the true greats, and far and away the definitive modern Spider-Man artist.

He’s older than I thought (born 1956, sez Wikipedia.)

I recently was reading my Fantastic Four DVD (the one reprinting 40 years of FF issues, ads and all), and particularly looking at the Bullpen Bulletin pages, which are interesting to read in order. Anyway, somewhere around 1969-1970, there’s a blurb about JRJR, noting that Romita Sr’s kid (who I guess would’ve been about 13-14 at the time) is already a talented artist following in Dad’s footsteps! Kinda neat to see that show up in print so early….

Annoyed Grunt

May 8, 2007 at 9:12 am

Okay, this is killing me. In that first Spider-man pin up there’s a green guy with a glowing eye at the right side of the page. Who is he? I thought it was the Scorpion at first, but he’s somewhere else.

Anyhoo, I dig JRjr’s stuff. His run on Punisher War Zone was the first thing I ever remember going from shop to shop trying to track down.

Dario Delfino

May 8, 2007 at 9:55 am

I second the love for Ann Nocenti’s run. I love Man Witout Fear of course, but that was just as good (just very different).

Romita owns my ass, your ass, pretty much everyone’s ass. He owns a house down the shore filled with everyone’s asses. He sets one on fire to light a cigar with it on special occasions.

Dario Delfino

May 8, 2007 at 9:56 am

Oh, and that green guy you’re talking about, Annoyed Grunt, is Digger.

http://spiderfan.org/characters/digger.html

Mobelius Rodelius

May 8, 2007 at 11:04 am

Peace to Dario and the Kirbydotter; I’m thirding the props for the Nocenti/JRJR Daredevil run. The qualities that make him (in Reed’s opnion) the best spidey artist really make him the best DD artist. Nobody else has ever captured the lithe acrobatic quality of DD in costume while still giving the character a sense of solidity and three-dimensional bulk. Have any of those DD issues been collected in a trade?

Awesome artist. My first X-Men issue was 176 which was his first full issue. Loved his Cable LS, his Wolverine run with Miller is the best Wolverine story in many a year, and he looked great on Eternals.

I wasn’t a big fan of his X-Men work, which I came across after losing interest in the title for a while, but The Eternals was a revelation. Splendid work.

The Kirbydotter

May 8, 2007 at 4:56 pm

I never was much into X-men either Patent Dragon, so that may be one of the few things that even JRJR couldn’t make me buy. He did get me to buy the Cable (gasp!) mini-series though… Well, it was only two issues anyway!

And as I said, I never got to try out the Spidey stuff even if JRJR art looked so good that I almost cracked! But the Clone saga and the Howard Mackie stuff wasn’t my cup of tea. And Straczynski wasn’t either and will never be after I read somewhere that retroed an unheard fling between Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn!?!? And they had two kids!?!?! What a friggin’ stupid @%!#! idea! Gwen was never that kind of girl!!! (okay, I’ll go take my pill now. thank you, move along, nothing to see…)

One of my fondest comics memories is of absolutely loving the hell out of Spider-Man #75, despite the fact that it was written by Howard Mackie and concluded the Clone Saga. It was my favourite comic for a really long time, purely because JRJR’s art was so powerful and dramatic.

Wow – I had the complete opposite reaction – I quit reading comics for a few years right after that one came out. I loved the art on the Spidey books during most of the clone saga (both from JRJR and Mark Bagley, who I love even though he seems to get little respect online) and I still think that The Scarlet Spider / Ben Reilly was potentially one of the coolest characters ever. But the horrible handling of the whole saga ruined that character (as well as Peter Parker and Spider-Man), and the bad writing made it hard to appreciate the great artwork.

Colossus 2000

May 8, 2007 at 6:07 pm

First noticed his work on Punisher War Zone, and I have to say, this man should never have anyone but Klaus Janson inking him… the two are made for each other.

But am not a big fan of his ‘everyone has the same sqaure nose’ effect…

But he is one of the few artists who does a great version of everyone in the Marvel universe. Ron Lim came close, but couldn’t handle the Hulk. New guys like Copiel and the guy who did Civil War are good, but not a patch on JRJR.

Another vote for P:WZ 1-6, still the only Punisher books I like. Janson is indeed the best inker his style, in my opinion; I remember seeing JRJR’s UNCANNY X-MEN run a year or so later (inked by Terry Austin) and thinking “What the #$%^ happened?” It’s what made me understand how important an inker can be.

Heck, I bought PUNISHER VS. BATMAN, a $6 book starring two characters I caresd almost nothing about, just to see the team of Dixon/JRJR/Janson together again. And I loved it.

I think it was in SPIDER-MAN: THE LOST YEARS where JRJR has Spidey in the rain. It just…well, I didn’t know people could draw that awesome! He has that rare ability to absolutely nail an image, to culminate a crescendo of plot in a searing vision of a single panel. Besides him, only Miller, Simonson, and Perez can do that. One of the greats who I think only now are we coming to appreciate him.

John Romita Jr. pencilled six issues of Starbrand, a title which I understand has never been all that popular, and even worse, disowned by creator and writer Jim Shooter. But I love Starbrand, and I will always love and remember John Romita Jr. as an artist, if only for that.

I have never been so flattered in all my life….Thank you all very much, especially you, Mr. Reed…..I don’t know what to write or say…..That, in and of itself, is amazing!
cheers,
JRjr

Oh my God. John, thank you so much. Your blessing and support means a lot to me. Trust me– you deserve the praise.

I have been a fan of JOHN ROMITA JR.’s art since mid-70′s, and have just about every IRON-MAN issue out. One of my all-time favorite issues is #149-150, where he fights DR. DOOM in Camelot. I learned to be an artist because of his extraordinary talent, and I will ALWAYS consider him one of the GREATEST COMIC BOOK ARTIST OF ALL TIME!!

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