Modern Masters Volume Eighteen: John Romita, Jr. by George Khoury and Eric Nolen-Weathington (book review).

John Romita, Jr. has very big shoes to follow as his dad, John Romita, was already a famous artist at Marvel Comics and didn’t really want him to go into the industry because of the long hours and low pay at the time. There was also a little matter of nepotism as his mother, Virginia, was also a production manager at Marvel.

However, it was neatly avoided with all but some of the younger artists who thought he had a leg up. Reading the interview in ‘Modern Masters Volume Eighteen: John Romita, Jr.’, it quickly becomes apparent that JR, Jr asked for no favours and literally worked his way up from the bottom and a few years before he began drawing at Marvel, first with sketches for Marvel UK and the layouts. Seeing the pencil layouts here and they are a detailed as any others I’ve seen.

Oddly, when they get to discussing JR, Jr’s tenure on the X-Men, there is no reference to the fact that he drawn them before in Uncanny X-Men Annual # 4. Much later in the book, he does point out he does tend to be embarrassed by his early work but I suspect that is true of most artists.

Looking at his pencils and fully inked art, outside of ‘Daredevil’, he doesn’t use many spot blacks, that is where parts of the picture are just black. Although it gives a clean line style and a variety of shade tones, this is probably what makes JR, Jr stand out from other artists. Even so, I often felt it tended to add too many fine wrinkles to female faces.

It’s occasionally very weird reading the interview. It comes over pretty much as JR, Jr sees himself as an artist-for-hire to interpret the plot than contribute towards it. He also shrugs off things that happened years ago as not worth thinking about that should make most people envious. There also appears to be a pattern of him being bullied throughout his school days and career which I can appreciate.

I wasn’t aware that he actually co-created ‘Grey Watch’ with Glen Brunswick, although it doesn’t appear to have a graphic novel release. Unusually, he use of line seems to minimalise in the samples shown here, no doubt differentiating from his Marvel work, although he was doing both at the same time. Seeing his work ethic at home. JR, Jr certainly does long hours. It is interesting that he’s another artist influenced by Andrew Loomis and George Brigman.

The 38 page Art Gallery at the end of the book does disprove something in that he does use chiaroscuro more than fine lines from time to time. I love his pictures of the fallen Thor and another posed for battle.

John Romita Jr. has and is enjoying a long career and if you do want to succeed as an artist in the comicbook trade there is a lot to learn from this book.

GF Willmetts

March 2020

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing, 2008. 135 page illustrated softcover. Price: $14.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-893905-95-5. Direct from them, you can get it for $14.95 (US))

check out websites: www.TwoMorrows.com and https://twomorrows.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=95_70&products_id=661


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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