Modern Masters Volume 18: John Romita Jr.
by George Khoury and Eric Nolen-Weathington
Oh boy… another Modern Masters, but this time you will hear no complaints about the merits of John Romita Jr. receiving this hallowed title. He is one of the most prolific and consistent superhero artists in the last 20 years. What he is not is a great interview.
Interviewer George Khoury seems like he’s pulling teeth to get much insight out of Romita, who just isn’t an introspective guy. He draws 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, and pretty much goes from title to title whenever Marvel asks him to. His father is one of the most important American comic artists whose legendary runs on The Amazing Spider Man followed the great Steve Ditko and defined the house style at Marvel for decades. The good stuff we get out of this interview is how his father affected him while growing up.
Junior used to fall asleep listening to his father work through the night in the attic above him. The elder Romita originally didn’t want him to become a cartoonist because of the horrible pay and was not involved in Junior getting his first work at Marvel, starting as a production assistant in the late Seventies while his father was still the art director there. The younger Romita has the same intense work ethic as his father, and is extremely close to him, but he doesn’t share that intimacy in this book. Like any tough Sicilian from Queens, you are judged by your work, not your feelings.
Khoury does get Romita to admit he almost quit comics a few times because of office politics and annoying assistant editors, but he always remains the consummate professional and a brilliant storyteller. The original art in the book shows his evolution, his first few years being only responsible for breakdowns and inkers morphing his pencils into his dad’s style.
Romita hit his stride in the early Nineties with his work on Daredevil and has continued to pump out dynamic artwork ever since. Modern Masters does its typically great job of obtaining original penciled artwork and the art gallery is filled with pages of great art, but Romita just doesn’t open up in the interview — he prefers to let the art speak for itself.