John Romita, Sr. (better known as simply John Romita) (born January 24, 1930) is an Italian-American comic-book artist best known for his work on Marvel Comics' The Amazing Spider-Man. He was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2002.
Romita is the father of John Romita, Jr., also a comic-book artist.John Romita graduated from the School of Industrial Art in 1947. He broke into comics on the seminal series Famous Funnies. "Steven Douglas up there was a benefactor to all young artists", Romita recalled. "The first story he gave me was a love story. It was terrible. All the women looked like emaciated men and he bought it, never criticized, and told me to keep working. He paid me two hundred dollars for it and never published it — and rightfully so".
Romita was working at the New York City company Forbes Lithograph in 1949, earning $30 a week, when a friend from high school whom he ran into on a subway train offered him $20 a page to pencil a 10-page story for him as uncredited ghost artist. "I thought, this is ridiculous! In two pages I can make more money than I usually make all week! So I ghosted it and then kept on ghosting for him", Romita recalled. The friend worked for Marvel's 1940s forerunner, Timely Comics, which helped give Romita an opportunity to meet editor-in-chief and art director Stan Lee.
Romita's first known credited comic-book art is as penciler and inker on the six-page story "The Bradshaw Boys" in Western Outlaws #1 (Feb. 1954) for Marvel's 1950s predecessor, Atlas Comics. He went on to draw a wide variety of horror, war, romance and other comics for Atlas. His most notable work for the company was the short-lived, 1950s revival of Timely's hit character Captain America, in Young Men #24-28 (Dec. 1953 - July 1954) and Captain America #76-78 (May-Sept. 1954).
He also was the primary artist for one of the first series with a Black star, "Waku, Prince of the Bantu" — created by writer Don Rico and artist Ogden Whitney in the omnibus title Jungle Tales #1 (Sept. 1954), and starring an African chieftain in Africa, with no regularly featured Caucasian characters. Romita succeeded Whitney with issue #2 (November 1954).
The Amazing Spider-Man #50. Cover art by Romita and Mike Esposito.
At Marvel, Romita returned to superhero penciling after a decade working exclusively as a romance-comic artist for DC. He felt at the time that he no longer wanted to pencil, in favor of being solely an inker:
“ I had inked an Avengers job for Stan, and I told him I just wanted to ink. I felt like I was burned out as a penciler after eight years of romance work. I didn't want to pencil any more; in fact, I couldn't work at home any more — I couldn't discipline myself to do it. He said, 'Okay,' but the first chance he had he shows me this Daredevil story somebody had started and he didn't like it, and he wanted somebody else to do it". He showed me Dick Ayers' splash page for a Daredevil [and] asked me, 'What would you do with this page?' I showed him on a tracing paper what I would do, and then he asked me to do a drawing of Daredevil the way I would do it. I did a big drawing of Daredevil ... just a big, tracing-paper drawing of Daredevil swinging. And Stan loved it.
Romita began a brief stint on Daredevil beginning with issue #12, initially penciling over Jack Kirby's dynamic layouts as a means of learning Marvel's storytelling house style. It proved to be a stepping-stone for his famed, years-long pencilling run on The Amazing Spider-Man. "What Stan Lee wanted was for me to do a two-part Daredevil story [#16-17, May-June 1966] with Spider-Man as a guest star, to see how I handled the character".
Coming to The Amazing Spider-Man as successor of Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko, Romita initially attempted to mimic Ditko's style, but brought his own clean, soap operatic style of illustration to the book, and made the character his own.
Romita was the artist for the Spider-man newspaper strip, from its launch in January 1977 through late 1980.
Marvel Comics art director
When editor-in-chief and art director Stan Lee assumed the position of publisher, he promoted Romita to the latter position. In that capacity, Romita played a major role in defining the look of Marvel Comics and in designing new characters. Among the characters he helped design are the Punisher, Wolverine, and Brother Voodoo.
Following his retirement from day-to-day comics work, Romita returned to draw his signature character Spider-Man on latter-day occasions. He was one of six pencilers on Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #121 (Dec. 1986), and he penciled a nine-page story "I remember Gwen" in The Amazing Spider-Man #365 (Aug. 1992, the 30th-anniversary issue) and an eight-page backup story starring the conflicted hero and supporting character the Prowler in Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man Annual #13 (1993).
He both penciled and inked the 10-page backup story "The Kiss — a flashback in which Peter Parker (Spider-Man) and his girlfriend Gwen Stacy share their first kiss — in Webspinners: Tales of Spider-Man #1 (Jan. 1999). He also drew an alternate-universe version of the Spider-Man characters in the one-shot Spidey: A Universe X Special (2001), and penciled the final four pages of the 38-page story in the milestone The Amazing Spider-Man #500 (Dec. 2003). Romita also drew one of four covers to the April 27 - May 3, 2002 issue of TV Guide.
Additionally, Romita contributed to multi-artist jams in commemorative issues. He did a panel in Captain America vol. 3, #50 (Feb. 2002), starring the first Marvel superhero he'd drawn; a portion of Iron Man vol. 3, #40 (May 2001), although the hero was not one of the artist's signature characters; a panel for Daredevil vol. 2, #50 (Oct. 2003); and a few pages featuring Karen Page in Daredevil vol. 2, #100 (Oct. 2007), done in the style of the romance comics he had drawn decades earlier. Romita both penciled and inked the cover of Daredevil vol. 2, #94 (Feb. 2007) in that same romance-comics style. The following year he drew a variant cover of his signature series, for The Amazing Spider-Man #568 (Oct. 2008)
In the mid-2000s, Romita sat on the board of directors of the charity A Commitment to Our Roots.