“Un­til John Romita Jr draws Su­per­man, Make Mine Marvel…” Oh, hang on. John Romita Jr has jumped ship to DC. He tells Joel Meadows why he made the move

Comic Heroes - - Contents -

There are a few artists who be­come syn­ony­mous with a spe­cific pub­lisher. Their ca­reers be­gin there and they spend most of their work­ing life draw­ing for them. You couldn’t think of the sadly de­parted Joe Ku­bert with­out his work for DC, or John Buscema and his decades work­ing al­most ex­clu­sively for Marvel.

John Romita Jr’s roots are even more en­tan­gled with one par­tic­u­lar com­pany. The son of ’60s Marvel artist John Romita, he has a ca­reer stretch­ing back to the sec­ond half of the ’70s. Draw­ing ev­ery­thing from X-Men to Thor, Dare­devil to The Eter­nals, Romita Jr has be­come ar­guably the ul­ti­mate Marvel artist of the past four decades.

So the an­nounce­ment that he was go­ing to jump ship from the com­pany he and his fam­ily have been as­so­ci­ated with for decades (his mother Vir­ginia also worked at the Marvel of­fices) to draw DC’s flag­ship char­ac­ter Su­per­man came as quite a sur­prise. But he ad­mits to Comic He­roes that he has con­sid­ered work­ing for the com­pe­ti­tion be­fore.

“Ac­tu­ally, I al­ways imag­ined that if I worked for DC, it would be on Bat­man,” he re­veals, “be­cause phys­i­cally and vis­ually I just think it’s a great cos­tume. I never imag­ined it would be Su­per­man.”

“I was com­ing to the end of my con­tract at Marvel,” Romita Jr re­calls. “So I went to the San Diego Comic Con and I ran into Dan Didio [DC co-pub­lisher]. We started talk­ing as friends and de­cided to have break­fast and the con­ver­sa­tion came up about work­ing for DC. Some­thing came into my head about an idea that I had for a sto­ry­line that could ap­ply to Su­per­man. When I men­tioned it to Dan, he loved it and we went from there. We didn’t do that sto­ry­line be­cause we wanted it to be in con­ti­nu­ity. It’s some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent from what I ex­pected. I’ve been look­ing for some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent and here we are.”

I al­ways imag­ined that if I worked for DC it’d be on Bat­man

Su­per­man’s cos­tume has been re­designed for the New 52 and Romita Jr is us­ing Jim Lee’s vi­sion as the ba­sis for the way he’s draw­ing the Man of Steel.

“I was given Lee’s sketch of the cos­tume be­cause, to be hon­est, the ref­er­ence I have isn’t all that clear from panel to panel. So it might be off just a touch but if it is off, then it’s be­cause I’m a lousy artist!”

go-to guy

Romita Jr is work­ing with DC vet­eran writer Ge­off Johns on Su­per­man but de­spite know­ing each other so­cially, Romita didn’t re­ally have much of a

pro­fes­sional con­nec­tion with Johns prior to this project.

“Ge­off and I have only met at bars at con­ven­tions which is re­ally sad, but true. I’d heard all sorts of great things about him but I’d never read any of his books or his scripts. I don’t do a lot of read­ing – I usu­ally just look at the pic­tures be­cause I’m al­ways look­ing at the com­pe­ti­tion. When I was told that it was a pos­si­bil­ity that Ge­off could work with me, that ce­mented my de­sire to work on Su­per­man be­cause his his­tory goes back and his rep­u­ta­tion pre­cedes him. People said ‘That’s the guy you want to work with if you ever do work at DC’, and here we are. When I started read­ing his stuff I re­alised that what ev­ery­body was say­ing was ex­actly right.”

Klaus Jan­son, an inker who has worked with Romita Jr be­fore, most no­tably on Dare­devil, is also join­ing the new team. “He’s al­ways my first choice. I think he’s a bril­liant artist and just as good as an inker. It’s the same as work­ing with Tom Palmer on Kick Ass [co-cre­ated by Romita Jr and Mark Mil­lar]. They’re both artists who just hap­pen to be inkers so it re­ally helps out. They’ve also saved my ba­con on more than one oc­ca­sion with cor­rec­tions and re­pairs!”

mir­ror, mir­ror

Romita Jr is tight-lipped when we ask him about the up­com­ing Su­per­man sto­ry­line, but he does re­veal how much work he’s put in.

“I can’t say any­thing about the story as we’re try­ing to keep things un­der wraps. Un­less Ge­off Johns and the ed­i­tors at DC come for­ward with in­for­ma­tion, I’m not go­ing to do that. I’ve only just be­gun work­ing on it and I should keep my mouth shut.

“It doesn’t veer too far from what I’ve done be­fore, though: there is the su­per­nat­u­ral with the nat­u­ral. In all hon­esty, I have to keep look­ing at ref­er­ence for the new uni­verse and that makes things a lit­tle bit dif­fi­cult for a while. Once I get used to my sur­round­ings and the faces, it’ll get a lit­tle bit eas­ier. When I do get to that point, one thing I do like to do is use fa­mil­iar­ity, things around me, and the world that I’m in. I like to look at clothes and lo­ca­tions so I can use my mem­ory as op­posed to hav­ing to get ref­er­ence off the in­ter­net.

“But the ca­sual mo­ments are the same way as be­fore. I find my­self do­ing fa­cial ex­pres­sions in the mir­ror and the same with hands and el­bows and so on – I have a full length mir­ror in my of­fice. When it comes to cloth­ing, ev­ery year I up­date my fash­ion ref­er­ence and that’s es­pe­cially rel­e­vant for Lois and the char­ac­ter Jackie that we’re in­tro­duc­ing. They have to be more cos­mopoli­tan than reg­u­lar fe­males be­cause they are who they are. So I like to have ref­er­ence from fash­ion mag­a­zines. Clark is a lit­tle bit of a ca­sual kind of guy, sneak­ers ev­ery once in a while which is great, while Jimmy Olsen, of course, is for­ever a teen so there’s a lot of ref­er­ence I’ve got to get and I em­brace that. But un­til I get com­fort­able with the faces and their apart­ments and so on, I’m still very much in the learn­ing process.”

So how dif­fer­ent is it work­ing for DC rather than Marvel? “There’s no dif­fer­ence in the job. Work­ing for two dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies, two sets of people, ev­ery­one is nice. Ev­ery­body’s al­ways been nice. Not when I first started at Marvel, of course. I was a lit­tle punk kid then. But now I know so many people and I’ve been around long

enough, so people have ex­pe­ri­enced my work and there’s a com­fort zone that way. But the phys­i­cal na­ture of the job stays the same. You get a script or you get a plot. You story tell, and you draw, and you get it right and in on time, and you make people happy.”

sales talk

The busi­ness has changed sig­nif­i­cantly since Romita Jr made his comic book de­but back in 1977 (with a six-page story called “Chaos At The Cof­fee Bean!” in The Amaz­ing Spi­der-Man An­nual #11) but he sees those changes as a good thing.

“My sto­ry­telling has im­proved be­cause I’ve be­come a stu­dent of sto­ry­telling and that was due to not be­ing that good an artist in the first place. I needed to rely on one thing that I could do strongly and that was tell a story. But what has changed is the qual­ity of the writ­ing. Be­cause of the close­ness of the movie in­dus­try to the comics in­dus­try, screen­writ­ers use the in­dus­try so to speak and comic writ­ers and comic artists use the movie in­dus­try. So the sto­ry­lines and the char­ac­ters have im­proved be­cause of it. And as an artist you have to raise your bar to meet those sto­ries.

“With some­thing like Mark Mil­lar and Kick Ass, the chal­lenges on that book are hard to de­scribe, and the scenes that he asked for… when I worked with him on Wolver­ine, he asked for some amaz­ing scenes. That’s changed from the ear­lier years. I spoke to my fa­ther and he laughed. He said, ‘No­body ever asked me to do some­thing like this!’ Al­though when he worked with Stan Lee, there were chal­leng­ing mo­ments. It’s just that the size and the scope of the sto­ries has changed: it’s ba­si­cally Ce­cil B DeMille with a cast of a mil­lion. And the more you put into it, the more re­ac­tion you get from sales. And that is the ul­ti­mate change. They pay bet­ter if your sales are higher and you bust buns and get down to dol­lars and cents. It’s an over­all rais­ing of the bar. Ev­ery as­pect of it, in­clud­ing print­ing, colour­ing, pro­mo­tion and mar­ket­ing, draw­ing and writ­ing.”

Romita Jr wouldn’t be drawn on the length of his con­tract with DC but he seemed hope­ful it would last for a while.

“It should be a year or two, depend­ing on how many is­sues we get through. There is a set amount of time that I am sup­posed to be on it for, and that could change depend­ing on the cre­ativ­ity. As long as I don’t go dancing round Man­hat­tan in my un­der­wear, I’m sure DC will keep me!”

With a book fea­tur­ing such a well­known char­ac­ter, there is bound to be ex­tra

You story tell, and you draw, and you make people happy

at­ten­tion fo­cused on its artist but Romita Jr seems to see that as a pos­i­tive as well.

“There’s the pres­sure that I put on my­self – I should never have done this but be­fore I even pen­cilled the first page, I read a cou­ple of re­ac­tions to the an­nounce­ment. I’ve been in the busi­ness long enough and I also carry a lot of his­tory and that means that there’s more people to like me and more people to hate me. The people who aren’t fans of mine are louder and more bois­ter­ous than the people who love me. So I did read a cou­ple of neg­a­tive re­ac­tions but all it does is in­spire me.

“I shouldn’t pay at­ten­tion to it but I do be­cause it keeps my feet on the ground. I still have to pay the bills, I still have to do work. I told a few fam­ily mem­bers that I’m work­ing for DC now and the con­tract was a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent and they said: ‘Boy, it must be great know­ing that you’re in that com­fort zone.’ So I said, ‘No I still have to work. I don’t get paid if I’m sit­ting at a desk do­ing noth­ing.’ People for­get that. What keeps writ­ers and artists on their toes is if you don’t pro­duce and you don’t sell, you don’t get paid.”

Su­per­man #32 – the first by Johns and Romita Jr – is on sale now.

Above left:

Who’d have thought it…? John Romita Jr draw­ing Su­per­man!

Above: We do know that Su­per­man gets a new foe in the form of gold­en­haired Ulysses.

Above left: The grunt­faced, slob­ber-filled cover of the all-new is­sue #32.

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