web stats

CSBG Archive

Year of the Artist, Day 169: John Romita, Jr., Part 3 – Daredevil #260

daredevil6006 (2)

Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is John Romita, Jr., and the issue is Daredevil #260, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated November 1988. Enjoy!

One thing that you might not notice when you first start reading comics that you do as you get more experienced at it is the influence artists can have on each other (or maybe I’m the only one who never noticed this!). I read many of the Romita issues of Daredevil when they first came out, because my best friend had them and I used to read his. As this was before I even started buying comics, I didn’t think about too much other than “Hey, that looks cool.” Obviously, I didn’t know anything about Romita, but soon enough after I started buying comics myself I figured out who he was. It took me a lot longer to learn about the inker of this issue, because for a long time I didn’t think about inkers and colorists and letterers. When I did learn more about the inker, it was in the context of his older work, and I forgot that he inked a lot of this run. But it’s very cool to look at how he influenced Romita’s heavier line work, because while someone like Klaus Janson seems to fit Romita’s somewhat stocky style, it’s unusual to see Al Williamson unleashed on it. But that’s what we got with Daredevil, and the result is quite stunning. These days, of course, I recognize more of the continuum from Williamson’s work in the 1960s to this work, but it took me a long time. I don’t know if my journey is typical, but it makes me appreciate all aspects of comics more than just “Hey, that looks cool.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

daredevil1001

Romita does a really nice job with the action in this issue, in which several of Daredevil’s foes attack him at the behest of Typhoid Mary to soften him up for her (something that happens in one issue; it’s good that DC didn’t steal this idea and spread it out over the course of, what, a year?). This is “High” Romita style, when he was firing on all cylinders and his style hadn’t calcified a bit, which it has done over the years a bit (but that’s for another day!). So Bullet is a thick, blocky dude, all power, and even Matt is a bit more muscular than other artists have drawn him. Romita’s layout is nice – even though Bullet drives Daredevil the “wrong” way in Panel 1, the clothing whipping to the right helps move our eye that way. In Panel 2, the two men are centered as they smash into the water tower, which breaks and points to the right, leading us to Panel 3, which drives us downward. There, Bullet’s punch leads us to the right and toward Daredevil, which takes us off the page. Williamson’s delicate inking work is pretty amazing, as we’ll see throughout the book. He hatches the entire water tower, making it feel more “real” and therefore making the impact “hurt” more, and his line work in Panel 4 is beautiful, too, as the pieces of the wall flying out from where Bullet’s fist hits it are nicely delineated. Williamson’s lighter line makes the book both smoother in some places – like Panel 1 – but also grittier, as in Panel 4, because his details are so precise.

daredevil2002

Williamson doesn’t simply use thin lines, as we see here with Matt in Panels 1 and 2. He uses thicker blacks on Matt’s costume so that it’s a bit heavier than the surroundings, which are still solid but, due to Bullet smashing through them, look a bit flimsier than Matt, who remains resolute. Romita, as we see in Panel 1, draws Matt with slightly wider shoulders and bigger muscles than we often see on Daredevil, who’s usually more of an acrobat. It’s another nicely laid out page, as Bullet smashes through the wall in Panel 2, and we follow him down in Panels 3 and 4 until he smashes onto the car. Williamson gives us lots of vertical and horizontal lines, which are unnatural and symbolic of man-made structures, so Bullet blasting through them and around them makes his movement more chaotic. I really wonder how much of this is Romita and how much is Williamson – the spectators in Panels 4 and 5 almost look completely inked in with brushes, and I wonder if Romita simply drew vague people-like shapes and let Williamson have some fun.

daredevil3003

Here’s the first of two panels I’m going to show that shows how much an inker influences the art. I have no idea what Romita did in this panel. I imagine he drew the outline of the hands, the matchbook, the cigarette, and an outline of the head? Through everything, you can tell it’s a Romita head – it’s a bit square and wide, even in profile – but this appears to be mostly Williamson. He uses thick strokes on the man’s hand to rough them up a bit, and uses short, thick lines in the hair to get the same effect. We get motion lines around the matchbook, the man’s finger, the cigarette, and the man’s hat to show that he’s shaking. Either Romita or Williamson added the circles to show that Matt is perceiving the man through his radar senses, but then Williamson erases the holding lines to make it a bit more ethereal. The radar lines obscure the man’s jaw, but we see the short strokes creating the man’s beard clearly. At the very center, the light and smoke of the match and cigarette create a blank spot, and Williamson makes that circle by inking around it. Even down on the man’s neck we see small lines, again showing that Matt is “reading” the small imperfections in his skin. Christie Scheele goes the usual route by making Matt’s senses red, but she does a nice job using pink in the lighter areas, surrounded by a darker red. It’s a superb panel.

daredevil4004

Matt gets pummeled by some villains, and he ends up in an alley where he sees his dead father, because if there’s one thing Daredevil writers like to do, it’s have Matt and his dad spout clichés about getting up and fighting when the chips are down! Romita, as we’ve seen, is really good at laying out a page. He begins in close-up, showing how badly Matt has been beaten, and then he pulls back quite a bit to show the street. Slowly he moves in as Matt crawls into the alley, until we’re close enough in that we don’t know whose voice it is in Panel 5. Then we get Matt in the foreground, looking down the alley at his dad, who sits in the background on the right, leading us to the next page. And once again, Williamson does a marvelous job. In Panel 1, he might not have inked in the blood, but I think he did, and it’s very nicely done. Matt has small black dots on his skin alongside the thicker hatching, showing the small wounds he’s sustained as well as the major injuries. We see the thick hatching on his costume, which again makes Romita’s stockier Matt a bit rougher and more solid. Finally, while Romita’s layout in Panel 6 moves our eyes from the front to the back, Williamson gives us the thick lines on the wall leading back to Battlin’ Jack and the heavy horizontal planks of the fence behind him, stopping us in our tracks. It’s pretty neat.

daredevil5005

This is another single panel that shows Williamson’s influence. Romita is not someone we associate with delicacy, so the fact that Williamson takes a thin brush to Jack’s hair and gives us this windblown look is nice – it gives us a different hair style than a lot of the characters in this book, most of whom have very thick hair, and it also adds to the intangibility of Jack, as he’s, you know, not really there. Romita, I assume, put in the blacks instead of eyes, but Williamson, I imagine, added the smudging on the borders of the eyes, which hollow them out even more. Williamson, like the other inkers we’ve seen on Romita, puts rather severe cheekbones on Jack, but the lines look a bit thinner than when, say, Janson does it. Williamson’s intermittent hatching on Jack’s towel gives it a nice terry cloth feel, which is pretty cool.

daredevil6006

daredevil7007

daredevil8008

Like yesterday, I thought I’d finish up with three consecutive pages that end the issue. Mary finds Matt as Spit and Jet (really?) are about to drop him off a bridge, and she stops them … temporarily. Ann Nocenti is never the most subtle of writers, but she does a nice job with Mary’s odd personality problems, as she’s torn between her love for Matt and her desire to kill him. Yeah, that sucks. Romita does a nice job, especially on those final two pages, as Matt falls to his death (well, not really, of course) and Mary weeps before sucking it up and moving on. Romita uses those thin panels very effectively, because all we need to see is Matt falling and that tiny section of Mary’s face with the tear rolling down it. As usual, Williamson does a lot of nice work here too. I have no idea if Romita drew in Mary’s hair or if that’s all Williamson’s work, but I love the details (even if it’s so 1988 it’s painful). The little ringlets around her face, slowly becoming more straw-like toward the back, speak to the chaos of Mary’s life really well. In Panel 3 of the first page, we again see the thick blacks of Matt’s blood and the smudging all over his costume Romita, it appears draws him a bit puffier than usual – his lips and chin are oddly Bachalo-esque, almost. Given the large knot over Matt’s eye, I have to think it’s deliberate. Meanwhile, Williamson does some beautiful work on the final two pages, turning Matt into an impressionistic figure as he plummets, while giving Mary those gorgeous lashes that makes her tears somehow even more tragic. It’s a great sequence by two artists working really well together.

Romita and Williamson worked so well together that Frank Miller – or perhaps a Marvel editor, but I can’t believe Miller didn’t have something to say about it – worked with them on Daredevil: The Man Without Fear, which is also pretty beautiful. But I’m not showing that tomorrow, I’m going to show Romita paired back up with Dan Green, returning to the title that made his reputation (probably, although maybe we can consider Amazing Spider-Man as that book). Whatever you think of it, be sure to come back and take a look! And don’t dismiss the archives, because there’s a lot of cool stuff there!

26 Comments

Imraith Nimphais

June 18, 2014 at 3:00 pm

My very first exposure to JRJR was coming on to finish Paul Smith’s UXM 175 and I was not too happy, truth to tell. I fumed and silently raged for a few months until I saw UXM 180 and while I grew to adore him on his early Uncanny X-Men run with Dan Green inking. I was positively obsessed with him on Daredevil with Williamson on inks. (I only started to read Daredevil for the first time starting with the Typhoid Mary arc, because of JRJR and W.) OBSESSED I TELLYOU! Oddly enough, on doing a “side by side” comparison with yesterday’s Janson/Green pages…the overall art here looks a bit “sloppy” and “rough” because the inking is so fine and sketchy/delicate but, there is a level of dynamism and energy that is somewot lost under the heavier, more precise earlier inks.

I absolutely loved the Romita Jr & Williamson combination. Willaimson was every bit as good an inker as he was a pencil artist. It would be great to see coverage of his solo work or his work with Rick Leonardi in future editions of this feature.

I loved this period. I will say this entry has not nearly enough beating Ultron to death with a stick, though.

what butler said.
This is definitely my all time favorite run of comics.
As hyperbolic as Nocenti could be with her writing, I think it was so allusion and idea packed it didn’t feel obvious because of all the things she was referencing and various ways it could be interpreted.
JRJR was the perfect artist for her–the right place at the right time for him too, a great learning ground.

And yea, those couple issues with Ultron and that cloned woman, so good.

We need this run collected Marvel, new editoions please

Daredevil by Ann Nocenti, John Romita Jr & Al Williamson is such an incredible, underrated run. I agree that there should be trade paperbacks of these issues. I’m thrilled that Greg spotlighted one of JR Jr’s issues from this book.

DD #266, “A Beer With The Devil,” is one of my all time favorite single issues. JR Jr’s redesign of Mephisto is grotesquely awesome, and the dialogue that Nocenti gives the lord of lies is simply brilliant….

http://benjaminherman.wordpress.com/2013/12/24/christmas-with-the-devil/

This, right here, is one of the 101 reasons the ’80’s were the true Golden Age of comic books.

” not nearly enough beating Ultron to death with a stick ”

I grew up reading french-canadian translated comics in the 70s-80s, but that company stopped publishing in 1987, and original English language comics were scarce in my small town, so I was more or less “off” comics for a couple years.
Then in a used bookstore I stumbled upon that issue with DD holding Ultron’s head on a stick on the cover and holy crap…. I didn’t understand much of what was going on, it was part 2 of a story, ‘Acts Of Vengeance’ blurb, Inhumans, that quirky Number-Nine girl, Ultron talking all crazy… but damn if I didn’t love the hell out of it!
Took me a while to realize this was the same guy who drew Amazing Spider-Man, which was the last time I’d seen his art before this. (X-Men in French never got as far as his run on it)

It actually took me a few years after that to collect the whole Nocenti/JR Jr run, but it’s one of my favorites.

What no original run Uncanny X-Men JRjr issues ?

(also mostly uncollected!)

I’ve just started taking interest on comic books when I visited a comic book store with my little nephew. This looks great. Can you suggest good reads for those who just started getting into the comic book scene?

A great choice, Greg. The JRJr/Nocenti run is great, especially when DD goes to hell with the Inhmans… some trippy Romita stuff there.

@Phillip Ayers — I was disappointed too. But with a 30-year career to cover, and with the DD run being so close stylistically to the X-Men run, I magnanimously accept the decision to cut one of the two.

I’m a little disappointed with the heavy focus on his inkers, however. I wish the column helped me understand more about the pencil work, and what makes JRjr unique. Clearly, it can be difficult to tease out who did what on the page, but I feel like it’s an absence in this particular column.

Philip: Sorry! I had to make tough choices with Romita, and I decided to show some of his later X-Men work, which will be up today.

Jeremy: Not really. It’s way too vast a subject. It really depends on what you like – whether superheroes or not, which character you like, whether you like writing or art more. Sorry!

Nu-D: Part of the problem with Romita is that he doesn’t ink himself, so it’s very hard to figure out exactly what is his doing and what is the inkers’. I honestly don’t know, so while I write a little bit about his faces and the way he designs, say, weapons (which we’ll see the next two days), it really is difficult beyond the page layouts to figure out how much is Romita and how much is any particular inker. When I was writing these, I was actually fascinated by the different ways his art looked with different inkers, so I focused on that a bit more. Today and tomorrow’s entries, while still about the inking a bit, is a bit more about Romita himself, so I hope you’re happier with them!

@Greg,

Thanks for the explanation. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, since I’m enjoying the series tremendously. I’m just eager for more about JRjr specifically, since his first X-Men run is one of my favorites, and I’d like to have the enhanced appreciation that comes with better understanding of the techniques and style. But if the information is not really available or discernible, well, así es.

Nu-D: Oh, no worries. My problem still remains that I haven’t sat down with any of these artists, so I have to do things by supposition. Sometimes that’s easier with pencilers than not, and with Romita, it was difficult for me to separate the pencils from the inks. I’m with you, though – it was a bit frustrating for me when I was writing them! :)

I’m not big on commenting, but I must say I’m loving this series, Greg! I must say, though, and this might seem like sacrilege to a lot of fans… JRJR had a really nice peak in the 80’s/really early 90’s. He really got his own style going while having some classic touches, and I really enjoy his work from then. But I’m not a big fan of his later stuff (beginning with the Punisher and then going from there), as it’s a bit too boxy and looks unfinished. I understand it’s just my preference, though, and that a lot of people adore his art now. Regardless, I really appreciate that you’re highlighting Daredevil, as I love this run, so thank you!

rdsthebarbarian: I agree that Romita’s peak was mid-1980s to early 1990s, but it was a very nice peak! I still liked him in the late 1990s and into the 2000s – World War Hulk, for instance, is pretty cool – but I do agree there was a bit of a downturn in quality. We’ll see that today and tomorrow, as I move on from this period to stuff that might not be as great.

Thanks a lot for the nice words. I appreciate it!

Greg: I look incredibly forward to it. You are very right: World War Hulk was quite good. I just don’t understand why they have him doing “headline” titles like Avengers, Spider-man, etc., when the guy is clearly past his prime and phoning it in. But I digress, as we’re not his editor, it’s just our opinion, and he still is a very well respected artist with a unique style. Anyway: I can’t wait to read more, and keep up the good work!

tom fitzpatrick

June 19, 2014 at 6:55 pm

My favorite DD issue of JRjr’s run is the one where Matt goes to confession – I forget the issue #.

Too bad you’re not showing this one, it was awesome. Not as awesome as #260, but pretty damn close.

It’s worth noting that this issue is sort of a twisted homage to Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1, and uses the “villain splash pages” technique as each of the baddies takes his or her shot at DD.

LouReedRichards

June 20, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Dang it Burgas, you would cover this while I’m away from my computer. You’re devious like that!

I’ll just add to the chorus and say that this era of Daredevil is simply incredible.

This issue was my first exposure to the Nocenti, Romita, Williamson team and I was blown away by it.
Just brilliant stuff.

BTW: I got this issue for Christmas in the big bulk Marvel comics package you could order from either Sears or
JC Penny. Anybody else here ever get those for Christmas? I must have gotten them for 4 or 5 years in a row.
It was a great way to sample various comics across the Marvel spectrum.

While I was just complaining about a gaunt Aunt May in today’s post re: JRjr. on Captain America, I came back to this article and checked out Typhoid Mary. She’s not gaunt, but she does have high cheekbones – and it seems (from memory) that a lot of his female’s do. Interesting, I hadn’t noticed that before now.

I love this era of JRjr and DD. It was the Inferno issue (#262) which featured a cover of DD being choked to death by (what I thought was) a demonic vacuum cleaner that got me to pick it up. I’d never read DD before, and I was instantly mesmerized (by JRjr’s art).

Good days!

Greg I can’t believe you couldn’t recommend any comics to a new reader.
Jeremy-try Batman Year One. It’s new reader friendly and not very long. Same goes for the Wolverine limited series by Claremont and Miller.

rdsthebarbarian: I don’t know if JRjr. is just phoning it in, but I can see how you might think that. Especially from reading this series, I think that is just how his style has evolved over the years, but it’s been a slow change for the last decade or so.

I was thinking about your comment and thinking about another artist who I felt similar about, several years ago. This was Sal Buscema’s run on Peter Parker Spectacular Spider-Man (in the early 90’s with JM DeMatteis as the writer). It took a long while for it to grow on me, and at the time I did not know Sal was a long-time Marvel artist. I remember a few times thinking “Who is this crummy artist?” It kept going for issue after issue and I really though the guy must be phoning it in. Luckily I was intrigued by the story and eventually I came to like the art as well. Then at some later point I found out Sal Buscema had drawn a lot of Marvel comics prior to that Spect. Spider-Man run, and all of them in a fairly good standard Marvel style (I can’t qualify further because my art knowledge is poor and so is my Marvel artist history!). I guess he made a radical change to his style for this Spectacular Spider-Man run. I haven’t done any research, maybe it was to change it up so that he didn’t feel like he was phoning it in?

My point being, I think JRJR has at least stuck to the path he has been on since becoming somewhat blocky, his style seems to have naturally evolved along that direction and not made any sudden shift to whole new style. Maybe that seems it is phoned in? Or maybe it’s just that the change has been so gradual that it seems like it’s not changing much and is more of a thing of the past (ie, 90’s-00’s and not necessarily the 2010’s)?

Just jottin’ down my thoughts! Something in your note jarred my memory of Sal Buscema, so I had to get it down. Hopefully I was not sounding argumentative, as I wasn’t trying to be! Thanks for provoking my memory!

@DavidTheGrey Oh man, Sal Buscema! Of course you don’t sound argumentative, as we all have our preferences, and it really is fantastic that JRJR has kept with his style, and it’s admirable.

Not bad, i actually love this series, am not addicted to comics like some here, am just a simple Garfields kind of person, so i think this is great.

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