John Romita has been my comic artist hero since childhood. I began collecting comics when I was in grade 1 and realized almost immediately that Spiderman was the coolest character ever. I spent an awful lot of birthday, Christmas and allowance money on Marvel comics at that tender young age, and poured over every drawing of Spidey in The Amazing Spider-Man, Marvel Tales and Marvel Team-Up. In grade 2 I began studying the credit block that appeared on the splash-page of every Marvel comic. It was a revelation to realize that different artists were responsible for drawing different comics - even when they featured the same character - and I began scrutinizing the artwork in my Spider Man comics in greater detail. If I found a particularly good drawing of Spidey, I'd ask my mom or dad for a piece of carbon paper and a sheet of typewriter bond and trace off the drawing. For this young art connoisseur, the best Spidey artist to trace over was John Romita.
By the time Marvel began advertising these medallions below in their comics in 1973 I knew two things: that the artwork was by John Romita and that I absolutely positively had to have one.
The following summer at the Canadian National Exhibition I experienced the happiest day of my life.
I was ten years old. Yeah, I knew the guy in the suit wasn't really Spider Man, but wow, that medallion - and as a bonus, my parents bought me the same Romita art on an accompanying t-shirt. I was in heaven!
Flash forward 35 years. By chance, I recently found a terrific blog put together by Dave Karlen, who is a dealer in original comic art. Dave has been posting about various notable members of the National Cartoonists Society - and one of his posts was about John Romita. You may recall that I was accepted into the NCS last year and attended my first Reubens Awards ceremony in New Orleans. With this year's Reubens almost upon us, I thought it would be nice to spend the week showcasing some NCS Luminaries. With Dave's generous assistance, that's exactly what we'll do!
From Dave Karlen's blog:
"This is one comic artist that I have unfortunatly never met but would love to do so, since I respect his work so much. After a short stint in commercial art..."
"... John Romita broke into comics in 1949 working for Stan Lee on various war, western, romance, crime and horror titles at Atlas."
"When that company folded he went to National to perfect his slick illustrative style doing mainly romance stories for a few years..."
"... before his return to Marvel jumping head first into super-hero titles like Captain America, The Avengers, Daredevil, and his best know work, Spider-Man. Leaving that title in the early seventies Romita became an art director at Marvel working numerous special projects and overseeing Marvel's children's book line, before returning to his signature character illustrating the popular Spider-Man syndicated newspaper strip."
For his NCS bio, John Romita wrote:
"Born in Brooklyn, New York, January 24, 1930 to Vic and Marie Romita. who eased me thru the Depression and set me on a good course. New York School of Industrial Art (now Art and Design) forged and launched me into comic book art. Marvel Comics' rise to prominence and collaboration with Stan Lee, creative force behind that rise, led to Spider-Man strip team-up of Lee and Romita in 1977. Handled by King Features Syndicate, the strip appears in over four hundred sixty papers. My wonderful Virginia has made it possible to meet deadlines - her support and patience cannot be gauged. She has also blessed us with two sensational sons, both well on their way to successful careers - Vic, a fine teacher, and John Jr. doing a great job as a comic artist."
Many thanks to Dave Karlen for allowing me to 'reprint' his terrific post about one of my life-long inspirations, John Romita.
Oh, and by the way... I still have that medallion.
* The Captain America original art scan above is courtesy of Dave Karlen Original Art
* The Spider-Man newspaper clip and the 1954 Captain America clip are from the John Romita interview in Alter Ego # 9, still available for sale.
* The early advertising art example near the top of this post is from The John Romita Sketch Book, also still available for sale.