Saturday, April 9, 2011

Spotlight On: John Romita, Jr.

Doug: Welcome back for another round-robin discussion of an artist who got his start in the Bronze Age, but is still in the public eye 30+ years later. John Romita, Jr. came to the comics-buying public's attention with his run on Iron Man (working with scribe David Michelinie and inker Bob Layton) in the very late 1970's and into the '80's. We've reviewed part of the stellar "Demon in a Bottle" storyline, and at the time remarked that the art was so strong. But, was it Layton's inks carrying the load? I'd have to think so, and we said it at that time.

Doug: Lately, John Jr. has developed a unique style, and saying that is certainly not meant to be complimentary. Young Romita shows a very sketchy, blocky, scratchy style, and his faces tend to be somewhat flat -- does everyone have the same nose? It's quite an odd cross between latter-day Kirby, latter-day Byrne (when he inks himself), latter-day Infantino -- it's just sort of a hodge-podge style. It's difficult for me to put my finger on just what it is about Romita's style... But whatever he's doing, I'm not a fan. I'll admit the sample below is not all that bad (anyone who draws Venom sans that ridiculous tongue scores at least some points in my book *EDIT: I noticed on 4/11/11 that the image I reference has been removed. Now I wish I'd saved it instead of providing a direct link...). Go ahead and do a Google image search for his work -- there are many, many samples of pencil and post-production work, for your examination.

Doug: So how about you? What are your perceptions of Romita Jr.'s work over the course of his career? High points? Lows? Give us an opinion, and thanks in advance for sharing!


J.A. Morris said...

High points:
His run on Daredevil with Ann Nocenti in the late 80s was good. All DD creative teams had the shadow of Miller hanging over them,I thought they did a great job without relying on ninjas or Bullseye. His "gritty"(for lack of better word)art worked well in Hell's Kitchen. I found myself buying DD for a while because I enjoyed his art. And 'Punisher:War Journal' from around the same time. I've never cared much for the Punisher(outside of his early appearances in 'Amazing Spider-Man'),but Romita's art looked good in the few issues I read of that title.

Low points:X-men. I almost quit collecting during his run on X-men. It wasn't all his fault,Claremont's stories were lackluster at this point(Fenris Twins? Nimrod? Rachel Summers in a studded-leather bondage suit?) too,but better art would've helped. I'm sure it was good pay day for Romita,but cosmic/epic/supernatural stories don't mesh with his style of art.

Okay points:His early run on ASM(1980-84)was good,but it's hard to say how much of this was because of Romita or his inkers. He tended to be inked by "heavy" inkers (his father,Jim Mooney,Klaus Janson)who overpowered Romita's pencils at times, just like Layton on 'Iron Man'. I was recently given a tpb of Romita's recent ASM work(written by Straczynski,it was the silly "spider-totem stuff), and his art was okay,not great but not terrible either. Which I guess is how I generally feel about his art.

I've never read 'Kick-Ass', so I can't comment on his art on that series. I'll say one thing for Romita, he's managed to stick around for 34 years in the business and collaborated with some of the biggest names in comics. At this point we can't just say it's because of his last name.

jefsview said...

He's certainly NOT his father.

He's never blown me away, and most of the time, there's a vaguery due to his "style" that hurts the eye and the enjoyment of the story.

His early Amazing Spider-Man work, as well as his Iron Man run were better, IMO, but that's mostly due to the inking.

His X-Men run, which is the beginning of his current style, was horrendous. And his debut, taking over from the aburpt departure of Paul Smith in the same issue, didn't help. But his art was stiff and his storytelling murky.

Not a fan.

Edo Bosnar said...

Not a big fan, but I don't dislike his work either. I liked his work on Spider-man in the early 80s, and obviously, he worked on what is my absolutely favorite run on Iron Man (although I agree with you that Layton really overpowered him - in fact, I think Romita was just credited with "breakdowns" while Layton did the "finished art"). Also, I thought he really did a good job in Gaiman's Eternals mini a few years back.
However, I agree with J.A. and jefsview in hating his work on X-men. I stopped reading the series someone during his tenure as artist, and although there were a number of reasons for this (like Claremont's increasingly complicated yet still somehow tedious stories), the art certainly wasn't helping.

Ram said...

In the X-Men he wasn't very good, In Spider-Man during the early '80s he was better.

EJK said...

I grew up reading JRJR's late '80s run on X-Men, so maybe I've got nostalgia-tinged glasses. He's always been one of my favorites and his take on the X-Men probably is as close to definitive (after Byrne and Cockrum) as one could get. Granted there's some filler from Claremont but that's not JRJR's fault. Maybe the worst aspect of that run was the print job by Marvel, as many of my issues are smeared.

I'll take a Romita any day over Frank Miller.

Terence Stewart said...

I'm another one who left the X-Men behind when Jr. started. I hated that he aped Paul Smith at first, and later his work just looked unfinished (was it Dan Green inking? If so, it might have been his fault, but that doesn't excuse Jr. entirely). I think the last time I bought a Jr. drawn comic was a Bruce Jones Hulk; it was better, but still far too flat.

Chris said...

Well to buck the trend on this thread - I'm a fan. I was there during "Demon In a Bottle" and enjoyed his first run on Spidey, then the X-Men, Daredevil etc. And I loved them all.

A favourite high point for me was outside the bronze age as I really enjoyed his work on Peter Parker:Spider-man in the 90's with Bob Harris writing (One of the few I guess). Inked by Scott Hanna I thought his art was great.

I'm surprised at the lack of love on this site as JR Jr has always been a strong modern artist with good storytelling roots based on the bronze age style.

Karen said...

Never been a fan of his work, but back in the 80s I could tolerate it. Now though, it's just scribbles -it looks like he just rushes everything, and his perspective is often way off.


Anonymous said...

There’s no point in discussing JRJR unless you add “...inked by...” He is basically a layouts man. Whereas most artists start out detailed and stylish and then end up resting on their laurels or being brought in to aid an ailing comic with their ‘breakdowns’ thereby denuding them of much of the detail and texture that made them revered, JRJR STARTED that way in the first place. His only good art is where he’s completely obliterated by the inker (esp. Layton). The rest of it just looks like ‘yeah, it might it might be OK ....when it’s actually finished’.

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