Sunday, May 13, 2007


Possibly the finest Super-Hero artist of his generation, John Romita Jr has always been horrendously underrated. He had his Dad's famous shadow to struggle with, his early work, while solid and consistent, lacked personality, and he has always been Mr Marvel-contract, meaning that he gets shuffled around, not always sympathetically, by his editors. But his style began to emerge during his run on Amazing Spider-Man, solidified on Uncanny X-Men, and since then hes just pumped out the quality work at a rate that must terrify artists like Travis Charest and Bryan Hitch - Romita seems capable of doing three monthly books concurrently with no appreciable drop in quality. Hes sustained that over a 20 year period, too. Probably the best work he has done was on Daredevil with Ann Nocenti, but hes worked on nearly every single one of Marvel's big characters, and his big, dramatic style probably was best suited to the more widescreen characters - I have a special fondness for his short second run on Iron Man during Armour Wars 2 - but for me his Spider-Man is just about the definitive portrayal of the character. You can make arguments for Steve Ditko, Gil Kane, John Romita Sr and Todd McFarlane, but Spider-Man just should look the way JRJR draws him. His work also unites two contrasting aesthetics: he is obviously influenced by Jack Kirby, with all those blocky figures, dynamic compositions and delight in portraying the epic and collossal, but there is also something almost indie in his line, in the somehow disciplined looseness of the linework in his mature period, and the ease with which he communicates emotion through facial expression. His figures always move with a grace and lightness - despite that Kirbyesque musclebound quality most possess - which reminds me of nobody so much as the great David Mazzuchelli. In short, hes an excellent craftsman but also a great artist, a rarity in modern comics. What this collection of splashes and covers can't really hope to communicate is how fantastic - and effortless - his story-telling is.

If you're used to Romita's work for Marvel, then his weird version of Batman from the Batman/Punisher crossover was almost shocking. It looks like nobody elses :

But it just about outdone by his version of the Joker, a somehow Italian white-skinned, green-haired clown :

And just a tiny slice of actual sequential panel-to-panel goodness:



Blogger Monsterwork said...

He is a badass, the badass. I used to take issue with his tech, it seemed to be his one flaw, but even that I came to recognise was stylish and distinctive. He's one of those artists best suited to showing weight and strength in characters. There's nothing glossy about his fights. Sometimes his poses are clunky and a bit awkward, but still way less than the Jim's Larson and Lee, MacFarlane and Silvestri. And given his output outshines theirs in both quantity and quality, it's hardly worth commenting on.

2:35 pm  
Blogger daveysomethingfunny said...

I like the drawings.

The Spider-man one I've seen before somewhere, he looks more insect-y than other ones I've seen.

When I think of the Joker I get a horrible image of Michael Jackson in my head as he is now...but with green hair and and a purple suit.


8:31 pm  
Blogger Beezer B said...

He's the finest old time superhero artist of modern times. He'd be that just based on his work rate, that he's also a fantastic artist is icing on the cake.
One of my favourite things about him is how his costumed characters all look like they're wearing costumes rather than that they just ARE yellow and blue. They look like humans in costumes. His villains all seem to be humans underneath. Rhino is a human not a monster. Its a small thing but it makes a lot of difference. His Spider-man is always Peter Parker, with the mask on or off.

If he drew Spider-man all the time I'd read it indefinitely.

The only complaint about him that I think sticks is that he creates quite poor villains. He's great at drawing existing villains but when someone asks him to draw a new one it's invariable a goth with superpowers or a nondescript robot. If you apply his style to other people's characters it works out great but his own style applied to his imagination turns up some mundane shit.

I'm with you on the indie-ness of his work. Can't foget what a big influence Klaus Janson was on his work.

I like him A LOT more than Frank Miller.

10:51 am  
Blogger David N said...

Yeah, you're right about his creations. He created a couple of villains for Daredevil and they were both just drab - Shotgun and another guy, big and in a blue tracksuit - Avalanche or something, he was called? Typhoid Mary is probably the best villain hes created, and I don't particularly care for the character...but his interpretations of old characters is sometimes incredible : the Living Laser in Iron Man, Mephisto etc.

Klaus Janson could make bad pencillers look good, so he made JRJR look amazing. Al Williamson and he were a pretty good match, too...

11:52 pm  

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