The passing of a comic book legend: John Romita Sr's best works


John Romita Sr was responsible for some of the most iconic images of Marvel superheroes ever created. — Photos: Marvel Comics

The comic book industry lost a true legend recently – artist John Romita Sr. His son, John Romita Jr (who is also a legendary comics artist in his own right) confirmed that his dad passed away peacefully in his sleep last Monday (June 12).

Whenever Marvel’s Silver Age history is discussed, the two names that usually surface are Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. However, not many people know that there was a “third force” in the House of Ideas’ foundation years and his name was John Romita.

So low-key were Romita Sr’s contributions to the House Of Ideas that even the most hardcore true believer would not have realised that they were appreciating a character that the man had conceptualised, case in point Wolverine, Punisher, Mary Jane and many many Marvel characters in the 1960s and 1970s.

Marvel Studios president Kevin Fiege calls him “an incomparable artist who brought so many iconic Marvel characters to life on the page and set the tone and look of Marvel’s comics for decades”.

“His version of Spider-Man has inspired so many of us at Marvel Studios,” Feige said in a report on Marvel.com.

Marvel Entertainment editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski also paid tribute to Romita Sr, saying that his work “influenced generations of comic book artists”.

“His style was such a departure from what had come before, which John did say made him nervous, but one that came to define the look of Peter, Spider-Man, MJ, Gwen and everyone else in their orbit,” Cebulski said.

The cover to Amazing Spider-Man #39 has been homaged many a time over the years.The cover to Amazing Spider-Man #39 has been homaged many a time over the years.Romita Sr was born on Jan 24, 1930 and began his comics career as a ghost artist for Timely Comics (precursor to Marvel) in 1949. His first superhero work was a 1950s revival of Captain America.

After working for Timely and Atlas Comics, he secured an exclusive deal with DC Comics from 1958 to 1965 focusing on their romance comics – a stint which unlocked his talent in drawing beautiful women, which came in handy in making over many Marvel female characters.

In 1965, Romita Sr joined Marvel as the artist on Daredevil #12 but it was his following year’s stint on the pages of the Amazing Spider-Man #39 to #58 that propelled both the artist and Spidey to the next level.

For his contributions, Romita Sr was promoted to Marvel’s art director in 1973. The position allowed him to heavily influence the look of Marvel comics throughout the 1970s and 1980s. In recognition of his contributions to the comics world, he was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2002.

In memory of the legendary artist, this week, let us take a look at some of his most iconic works.

Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #39

This was Romita Sr’s first Amazing Spider-Man cover and one that has been homaged many times.

Though he admitted that he was initially intimidated having to take over the reins from Steve Ditko (Spidey’s co-creator), Romita Sr eventually stamped his mark as one of Spidey’s best artist.

Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #135

Romita Sr’s cover for Amazing Spider-Man #151 is one of his best.Romita Sr’s cover for Amazing Spider-Man #151 is one of his best.The use of vignettes on covers is common now (and even in the 1970s), but this one just blows the competition away. Personally, the appearance of The Punisher (in only his second appearance ever) is the main attraction.

Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #121

Another historic issue of Spidey, which featured the iconic Death Of Gwen Stacy story. Romita Sr contributed the cover and interior inks (with Gil Kane on pencils) for an issue that would come to define the Web-Slinger for years to come.

Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #100

Romita Sr made Spidey’s 1st century issue even more memorable with a “floating-heads” cover featuring all of Spidey’s allies and enemies.

Marvel Treasury Edition #1

Before Todd Mc Farlane’s “crouching” Spider-Man #1 pose, this was the Spidey pose throughout the 1970s and 1980s!

Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #42

The late artist really hit the jackpot with this first reveal of MJ.The late artist really hit the jackpot with this first reveal of MJ.After “teasing” readers for more than a year, Romita Sr helped complete a Steve Ditko “unsolved mystery” by drawing Mary Jane’s full image. Romita Sr. really hit the jackpot with this iconic reveal of one of Spidey’s most famous love interests!

Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #151

Depicting the Wall-Crawler emerging from the sewers into a new era of the superhero, this one’s got my vote as the best Romita Sr comic cover ever. Nuff said!

Creating Wolverine

Wolverine is one of Marvel’s most popular and iconic characters, so it should come as no surprise that Romita Sr had a hand in designing the soon-to-be X-Man for his debut in The Incredible Hulk #180 back in 1974.

Romita Sr was Marvel’s art director at the time, and he was the one who designed the character’s costume, a conceptualisation that aptly sums up that they are both uniquely known for – being the best at what they do!

Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #50

Daredevil and Spider-Man and two characters that are most synonymous with Romita Sr’s work.Daredevil and Spider-Man and two characters that are most synonymous with Romita Sr’s work.While this issue is synonymous with Wilson Fisk aka The Kingpin’s first appearance, for me, it’s Romita Sr’s cover and the interior page where Peter dumps his costume into a garbage bin (which was recaptured in the Spider-Man 2 movie) that truly immortalises this issue.

Daredevil (Vol. 1) #16

Romita Sr lent some star quality to the Man Without Fear’s first meeting with Spider-Man. These two characters would go on to become the heroes who are most synonymous with Romita Sr’s works.

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