Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Every day this month, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be doing theme weeks, with each week devoted to a single artist. This week: John Romita Jr.! Today’s page is from Amazing Spider-Man #243, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated August 1983. Enjoy!
As far as I can determine, this issue is the first one where we can definitely see the “Romita style” that has come to define John Romita Jr.’s career in comics. Issue #242 (inked by Kevin Dzuban) had hints of it, but Peter’s hair, for instance, was still a bit helmet-like, as it had mostly been presented in his publication history. This issue (inked by Dave Simons) shows Peter’s hair a bit more disheveled, looking more like a hip 1980s kind of guy rather than some square from the 1960s. That’s not the only indicator, but it’s a fairly prominent one.
ASM #243 was written by Roger Stern, lettered by Joe Rosen, and colored by Bob Sharen. It’s in the middle of one of Spidey’s Golden Ages (some might say the Golden Age) and this scene is one reason why. Stern continues a scene from the previous issue, in which Peter found himself, classic sitcom style, macking on one girl (Amy Powell) when another girl (Mary Jane Watson) enters the apartment, using her key that Peter gave her back when they were a couple (they no longer are). It’s goofy, but it’s emblematic of how Peter’s life was back then, and this kind of issue is one reason that Mr. Quesada and his unholy minions decided to wipe Peter’s marriage from existence a few years ago, because you just can’t have these kinds of shenanigans when your protagonist is all married and boring. Wait, where was I?
Romita shows his natural talent at placing figures in a confined space, as he manages to put three grown people in this panel and still give us a sense of perspective, as the door to Peter’s apartment, as marginalized as it is, still appears to be opening toward us. There’s even a sense of depth, as we see Peter’s kitchen behind the three people and Peter’s foot is “in front” of Amy’s (from our perspective) even though she’s “closer” to the reader than he is (indicating that he had moved his leg around hers and implying an enjoyment of said macking). He also continues to show that he understands fashion – Peter is wearing a normal shirt, Amy looks very early Eighties with her tight jeans and off-the-shoulder fuzzy sweater, and MJ looks rather smart in her outfit. Romita and Sharen put MJ in green, which is a clichéd color for red-heads (because it works, of course). Another interesting point about Ms. Watson is that Romita has never, ever drawn her any differently – he was still drawing her hair like this 20 years later when he returned to the title. That Mary Jane – when she finds a hair style, she sticks with it!
For a simple static drawing, Romita does a lot with what (presumably) was in the script. Of course, after this, he decided this new style was working for him, and he ran with it. We’re going to see more evolution from this to his current work … coming up next! If you can’t wait for that, you can always look at the archives, if that’s your bag.
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