web stats

CSBG Archive

Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 48: Amazing Spider-Man #243

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!

Oh, Peter, you scamp!

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.

15 Comments

Definitely starting to be recognizable as the JR Jr. style I can’t stand. Isn’t Peter’s head about twice as large as it should be? And there’s something just wrong about MJ – chin too big? Shoulders too high? Can’t quite tell what it is, but she just looks wrong.

We may be seeing more of Romita at this point because he’s not being overpowered here as he was for most of his Spidey run by Jim Mooney. Peter’s head IS huge!

Funny that I really liked JRJr on ASM back then (even though this panel did look a little lopsided). To me he was one of the “real” Spidey artists. I did not however like the work on the Uncanny X-Men a few years after this (right after Secret Wars I, during the early Rachel Summers issues), and really disliked the style in modern JMS Spider books.

243 is a good choice, but… while there was an artistic change in Romita Jr’s work between Amazing Spiderman #230-#251 there seemed to be an ethos of keeping the Romita Sr. feel to the Spiderman book. As early as #240 you see the definative Romita Jr. female cheek lines, as well as his Parker “crazy moused” hair, but as late as Amazing # 247 (finished by Romita Sr.) the pages looked like classic 70’s Spiderman. It was in the final pages of Uncanny X-Men #175 where Romita Jr. clearly set a style for himself, seperate from his father’s (within the issue, his drawing seems to morph from the art of Paul Smith to that which would be the signiture X-Men look for the next 3 years). I’m probably wrong, but am in someway affected by the dissapointment in reading that X-Men issue as a kid and finding that Paul Smith left.

These were good days for comics. I have all bar about 3 issues in the 200s (all if you count reprints) and they were indeed good days. Great things were happening in Spectacular back then too.

I absolutely adore JRJR’s art. I know it’s not for everybody, but it’s distinctive, stylish and sometimes awe-inspiring.

I think it’s not just that Spider-Man was in a Golden Age, but that Marvel was during the Shooter era. Actually, if you want to get technical, I think Marvel has had 3 “prime” periods of general quality and creativity– their “Golden Age” was when Lee/Kirby/Ditko basically created the Marvel Universe between about ’61-’68; Marvel’s “Silver Age” was the Shooter era (almost immediately after Shooter was replaced at Marvel, coincidence or not, DC became the better company with their post-Crisis heyday), and Marvel’s “Modern Age” was the Quesada era. Now, I’m the first person to say the Quesada era had some serious flaws, but it’s pretty undeniable to say that virtually every one of Marvel’s main titles had better quality in 2006 than in 1996. I think the key to the Shooter era’s greatness was that, even though the editors were heavily involved, you got the general feeling that the writers were able to do more or less what they wanted and tell the stories they wanted. Simonson Thor, Byrne FF, Claremont X-Stuff, Dematteis Cap, Mantlo Hulk, Miller DD, Stern Spidey, Stern Avengers, Layton Iron Man… all of the major changes that hit the characters during these classic runs had the feeling that they came from the creators. Marvel didn’t have “architects” back then creating gimmick stories; they just had a highly talented crew of writers and artists allowed to tell the stories they wanted to.

As for your selection Greg, I think this is a pretty good call for the emergence moment of JR JR. Just looking through the covers of his run, I think #244 is the first cover that unmistakably looks like him.

The Crazed Spruce

February 18, 2012 at 1:14 am

I actually prefer this intermediate style of his, at the time when he finally started growing out from under his father’s shadow. His artwork’s not quite as stylized as his current stuff, but not nearly as rough as his early Iron Man issues. This run was definitely among my favourite of his work.

[…] Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 48: Amazing Spider-Man #243Comic Book Resourcesby Greg Burgas 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, … cardiograph, Frantic, lines, scratching […]

Brutal anatomy drawings.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out what Pete’s got going on next to the door. Was he attempting to build his own fireplace? Maybe he just keeps a pile of old bricks around….. If anyone can tell me what that thing is I would appreciate it greatly.

Seth: Who knows, man! It’s the Eighties! Up was down, white was black, A Flock of Seagulls had a big hit – who knows what’s going on with that structure!

@WackyWally – I believe in Uncanny X-Men #175, Paul Smith handed over penciling duties to John Romita Jr. mid-issue, but the transition was rather seamless. And I think it’s safe to say Smith’s short run echoed the lasting quality of the John Byrne era. And as much as I am a fan of JRJR, that stretch of issues never really clicked with me.

And @Sean McFarland, it’s the time-tested bohemian tradition – making a bookshelf out of some planks and a pile of bricks.

I was looking through my old Spider-man comics from the 90s and came upon JRJR’s old stuff from around 96, the time Spider-man was single and named Ben Reilly. It was really cool. Sure, JRJR’s people are a big ‘angular’ or ‘blocky’ but it was solid and you had him drawing cool stuff like Mysterio without his bubble, he’s got smoke coming out of there. It’s a great visual. Ben’s got a gangsta roommate. Let’s seem do that today. Great stuff.

“For the life of me, I can’t figure out what Pete’s got going on next to the door. Was he attempting to build his own fireplace? Maybe he just keeps a pile of old bricks around….. If anyone can tell me what that thing is I would appreciate it greatly.”

Looks like some kind of cheap shelving – a couple of old boards with bricks holding them up.

Leave a Comment

 

Categories

Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives