I don't know if John Romita will EVER know the impact he had on my life and that's the understatement of all understatements. Allow me to break it down for you.
At the age of 12 years old I used to get dropped off at the barbershop (they used to call them that in the early 70's) tolerating the idea of the haircut because next to the barber was a stationery store with all the new weekly comic books waiting for me to twirl those racks and pick 6 comics for 90 cents. Later that night I'd be sitting in the back of the family station wagon at a drive-in in between a Planet of the Apes double feature and salivating while reading that Gwen Stacey had been killed by the Green Goblin! Oh my God!
You see, I used to pay attention to the artists, not many readers did that, but I knew that the first time I saw Mary Jane Watson, I immediately flipped to the front of the book to see who the guy was who brought this ravishing beauty to life. It was Jazzy Johnny Romita. Anytime afterwards, if MJ was drawn by another artist, I would learn to hate them in favor of Johnny's beautiful version of the paper goddess. She might have been my first girlfriend and John Romita brought her home for me.
Fast forward to 1984. Now 26 years old, I'm working as a manager in an art supply store, living at home, a BFA in illustration from the School of Visual Arts on my wall and not really sure what I'm going to do with my life...While killing down time at the store, I'm trying my hand at inking pencil samples over vellum tracing paper, thinking I'm really good with a brush. About 6 months earlier I had been at both Marvel and DC offices looking to try my hand at inking and was sent home with pencil samples by Irv Novick, Don Heck, Mike Zeck Secret Wars breakdowns and Brian Bolland Camelot 3000 copies.
I had been into DC offices a few times to meet and discuss my samples with then, new talent coordinator, Sal Amendola. After my meetings I would shoot down to Marvel and meet with Eliot Brown, who had told me about the beginnings of the "Raider" program and he secured my interest in the program.
During one non-eventful morning in the art supply store the phone rings. "Hi, this is John Romita at Marvel Comics. I'm looking for Mark McKenna."
I practically crapped in my pants. My heart started palpitating, I was a nervous wreck. This is the guy. THE GUY. Once I calmed down and John started to tell me about the program and my potential to get into this program, based on my samples, while it all made sense, I found out that the hourly wages were not nearly enough for me to commute from Suffolk County, Long Island to NYC every day. It broke my heart, but I had to decline the offer and ask John to put me on hold for the next opening. Eventually after 2 passes, I found my way into the offices and worked under John's guidance and tutelage and lasted over a year as a Raider, not bad considering it was a six month program. It was my home and I was afraid of the big outside, there was comfort there in the offices of the legendary Bullpen, along with my roomie and future assistant art director Tom Morgan.
John Romita, the man, the legend, the surrogate father. I love John Romita. John never had a bad word to say about anybody. NEVER. John is also a devoted Dad and husband to his lovely family. When you meet a person of legendary status, especially someone you grew up admiring from a distance, you don't expect them to be as thoughtful, warm and caring as John is. Forget that the man is one of the most talented people to ever grace a funny book. John is what you imagine you want your idol to be. Always smiling, always light-hearted even through back pain or a New York Met loss (I think he liked the Yankees too) on his portable radio. The perfect role model.
My time with John was relatively short. While so fortunate and blessed to watch this man work for a solid year, I was heart broken when my tenure with him was at an end. And you know what? John would give me tips and hints about staying in the editors eyes and minds, you just knew he was concerned about kicking one of his baby birds from the nest and what would happen to them with life outside the nest.
Had I been talented with my penciling abilities I probably could have been John's assistant art director. We had discussed that at a point, and we both knew we would have been great together, we were on the same page, but that wasn't the path I was to travel down.
I could probably write a short book about my time with John Romita and I don't think he'll ever know how thrilled I am to know him and have worked under him, at least he'll play it down. I am one of the second or third tier of graduating Romita's Raiders. Not many of us can hold our heads up high and proudly say that we made a living working in the comic book business, but thanks to John Romita I can say I was one of those guys.
JOHN ROMITA: I went to art school and graduated when I was seventeen. I took a job at a litho house, washing brushes and delivering packages. I started doing illustration and I wanted to be another Norman Rockwell. I started doing full color stuff, but I wasn’t making much money. A friend of mine who had graduated from school with me was doing work for Stan Lee. He was an inker and Stan had said that if he’d pencil then he’d get more work, so I met him on the train one day and he asked me if I’d ghost his story for him. I penciled a five or six page gangster story and Stan Lee accepted it, and my friend inked it and he presented it as his own work. I worked for him for about a year, so I was working for Stan for about a year without him knowing it. That was in 1949. Prehistoric times.
DB: It’s a long career you’ve had in comics.
JR: Oh yes, God yes. <laughter>
DB: Who were some of your early influences? When I look at your work I see a lot of very diverse influences.
JR: Because I started out in advertising and doing magazine illustrations, I had a sort of a commercial style. We used to call it the ‘toothpaste style’, meaning everyone had a full set of white teeth, everybody had a straight nose and I was doing generic people to do illustration. I was influenced very strongly in story-telling and in comics by Milton Caniff. I lived in the Terry & The Pirates strip for years. It was my whole life.
DB: I see a lot of Caniff in your early Spider-Man work. Not as much as people like Frank Robbins, but it’s still there.
JR: Yeah, I never could quite go the whole way. I would really have loved to draw exactly like Caniff, and all the other guys, like the Frank Robbins’ and the Lee Elias’ of the world. I found out later that the real influence came through Noel Sickles. Noel Sickles had influenced Caniff, and through Caniff he influenced a whole generation of us artists. Almost everybody in comics in the late ‘40s was Caniff orientated.
DB: I hear that a lot from different artists – Caniff and Burne Hogarth are the names that keep coming up.
JR: That’s right. There were a whole bunch of people who were Hogarth people, and some of them were Alex Raymond people, from Flash Gordon.
DB: Outside of Caniff who influenced you in the field of comic books itself?
JR: I was also influenced by Jack Kirby. When I was ten years old and Captain America came out in 1940 I was very affected by Jack Kirby. During my early teens I was a comic book freak, but when I got into high school I sort of drifted away from comic books and of course he didn’t keep up Captain America so I sort of drifted away from Kirby. I did notice when he did Fighting American and some of the other great stuff. I also remembered his romance stuff. Kirby did some wonderful romance stuff. Kirby was an influence on me when I was young. After I got into comics I met Kirby at Stan Lees and that was it.
It wasn’t so much that Stan Lee asked us all to draw like Kirby, but he asked us to approach comics and storytelling like Kirby. That sort of cemented that. So I was sort of a cross between Caniff and Kirby for a long time. <laughter> Not too bad as influences.
DB: How did it feel drawing Captain America back in the Timely days after growing up reading it?
JR: That was like a dream come true. That was like hitting the lottery for me. I didn’t make a lot of money back in those days; we were just limping along on a few bucks, but to do the Jack Kirby Captain America. I was trying to make it look just like Kirby, but it ended up looking like a cross between Caniff and Kirby. I was dying to do it exactly like Kirby, but that was as close as I could get.
DB: Did you meet Kirby at that stage?
JR: No. I had a chance to meet him when I was doing that advertising stint. I answered an ad for a cartoonist and it was a Kirby operation. I got a page to ink as a trial. I inked it and worked all night on it and it was so bad I never brought it back. Years later when I told Kirby that I almost worked for him when I was eighteen he said, “Oh, it’s too bad you didn’t bring it in. It would have been fine. How bad could it have been? We were working with a lot of kids who couldn’t draw at all.” <laughter> They used to do in-between stories. They’d do a ten page story and Jack and Joe Simon would probably ink every other page and the other pages were done by amateurs. It was a clever idea. They called them in-between guys, like an animation set-up. So I would have had a shot there and he said, “Oh God, if I had gotten you when you were eighteen you would have been really something.” <laughter>
DB: As opposed to being just something. <laugher>
JR: Well yeah, just barely something. <laughter>
DB: You were working at Timely and then comics just kind of fell apart.
JR: I always thought I was in the industry on a temporary basis anyway. I never expected to be a comic book artist for my whole life because there were too many highs and lows. There weren’t many highs; there were a lot of lows. Sometimes you’d get a decent rate for a year and then you’d get cuts because sales were bad. Then, when the Senate Committee investigated comics and started to describe it as a destructive influence, the whole thing came crumbling down in the ‘50s. That was terrible. I thought I was going to be in advertising right there. And I actually did go to an advertising agency but Stan Lee talked me out of it and I had to cancel the appointment.
DB: What sort of a working environment was it like? A lot of artists that I’ve spoken to, contemporaries of yours like Dick Ayers and Don Perlin have all painted this picture of a climate of fear…
JR: It wasn’t so much fear as like flying without a parachute. The reason people like I gravitated towards comic books is because it was a way of getting an income without taking a job. The price was that you were on your own. If they decided not to give you work for one week then you were without any income. We had absolutely no security at all. I used to apologize to my wife regularly. I used to tell her, “I don’t know if I’m going to be making a living next month” Every story could have been my last, and I worked that way for fifteen years, with very low rates and no security. You worked from script to script and hoped that next week you’d get another script. And, of course, you were at the mercy of the whims of any editor that you working for. It was a scary thing.
DB: When Timely finally went under you went over to DC, but you didn’t do any superhero work there.
JR: My only contact up at DC was romance comics. I had done a couple of jobs for them while I was working for Stan and Stan has asked me not to take any other work so I had to drop it. So when he closed shop I had to go over there and I didn’t even think I was going to get any work from them, but thank God they needed somebody. Actually they paid me better than what Stan had been paying me, but it was deadly dull work doing just love stories.
DB: Did you have any ambition to write at that stage?
JR: No, I never wrote. I didn’t do any writing at all. What I was good at was I could take a script or a plot (this was before I was working from plots, I was working from full scripts at DC and Timely) and I have a knack of making a script better. Stan immediately spotted that and appreciated that. In other words if a writer had a gap or a flaw in his storytelling, I could generally bridge it or make adjustments on it. Sometimes I would add a panel, or take out a panel, or combine two panels into one. I was sort of laying the ground work for what I’d have to do later on at Marvel. I was editorializing in a way and redirecting a script the way a director would take a script and re-pace it. That was my forte and I think that’s what kept me working even when I was still rather crude as an artist.
DB: Which editor were you working for at DC?
JR: It was in the romance department and I was working for a series of women. I worked for about three different female editors. The one that I worked longest for was a young lady named Phyllis Reed. She was a very, very good editor. She worked on my weaknesses very gently, she was not harsh, and she also constantly encouraged me to the point where I got very cocky while I was doing that stuff.
I came close to being an editor there because when she decided to leave DC she was going to put my name up as editor of the romance department. The only reason why we decided not to go through with it was that she said, “I feel I owe to you to point out that if you do take the job as the editor you’ll be losing your best artist” <laughter> I was doing all the covers on about five titles and they were plotting story ideas based on my covers. She and I would work out a cover scenario and then they’d send plots out to the writers to use that cover scene as a plot. We were working very well together. For the last five years that I was up there she was working with me and it was a good arrangement. I was sort of the main guy in the romance department for about five years.
DB: Were you ever tempted to become an editor?
JR: I was in a way but only for security purposes but I immediately realized that editing was more like being a referee and a judge all the time. You’re the buffer between the publisher and the creative talent and you have to constantly be juggling between writers and artists. It was more of an administrative job that I really didn’t relish and I hated the idea. All the years that I was running a department at Marvel I hated the idea of hiring and firing. I did not like to fire people. It was a chore to hire people too. I’ve had a couple of opportunities to be an editor. I had that opportunity with DC and there was a time years later when Stan asked me if I wanted to be editor in chief at Marvel when he left. Roy Thomas had left and I think Archie Goodwin had also left and Stan asked me if I’d like to be editor in chief. The first thing in my mind was I didn’t think I was qualified because I had never written a script in my life and I certainly didn’t think I was qualified to criticize or proof anybody’s writing. He said, “To hell with that. You can always get an assistant to do all the literary stuff”, you’d have a script editor. I said, “But then I’d still be a referee and constantly be between the front office and the creative talent, and I’d be getting hit from both sides”. And I knew what Stan and Roy had gone through and I said, “I think I’ll pass”. It was a temptation because that would have been a very prestigious move, but chances are it wouldn’t have lasted long and I probably would have had a nervous breakdown.
DB: I think the closest you ever got to doing superheroes at DC was when they offered you Metamorpho.
JR: They offered me Metamorpho after I’d made a verbal agreement with Stan to do Daredevil. When I left I went around looking for editors but nobody was there. It happened to be July and I think a lot of them were on vacation or none of them seemed to be looking for me. I just put my tail between my legs and went back to Stan at a loss of income. A couple of weeks after I’d accepted the daredevil assignment the Metamorpho editor, George Kashdan called me up and said that he didn’t know that I’d left DC and that if he’d known he’d have immediately offered Metamorpho. It was very flattering and I was sort of wishing I hadn’t promised Stan because I would have loved to stay with DC. I thought DC was the Cadillac of the industry and I thought it would have been the smarter thing to stay. I know they paid more money at the time. I half wished I hadn’t promised Stan but I was a little bit miffed at DC because I thought at least two or three editors would try me out on superheroes before they let me go and nobody even spoke to me. I’ve often wondered what would have happened if I’d taken Metamorpho on, if I’d have gotten any shots at the big characters.
DB: I’ve always found it unusual that you’d been there that long and never did any superhero work.
JR: They were very cliquish. In other words the editors had their pet artists and some artists were very protective of their stature and position. There wasn’t a lot of friendly encouragement going on. They were a little bit too bloody for me. <laughter> The editors were almost competiting for artists time and a lot of them would play you off against another editor and see whose work you would do first, or whose work you would do better. It was a little bit scary up there. DC never looked like a happy place to work for me. It was a good place to work for money, but it didn’t look like a friendly environment for me. I need a lot of peace and quiet to work.
DB: You moved from DC back to Marvel in the mid ‘60s. What prompted that move?
JR: I called Stan up. It was my own fault. I had taken a job at an advertising agency to do storyboards. I just called him up, because I had spoken to Stan and told him that I didn’t want to pencil because I was a little bit burnt out and that I was getting out of comics and I was going to do advertising. He said, “Let me take you to lunch first” and that was my mistake <laughter> either that or it was the best move I ever made. I went to lunch with him and he talked me out of the advertising job and I had to call them up and embarrass myself and tell them that I had changed my mind from Friday to Monday and I wouldn’t be going to work for them. It was terrible. <laughter>
DB: Had you kept up with what Marvel had been doing with the superhero revival?
JR: I hadn’t kept up with them at all. I had never even heard of Spider-Man. I had never heard of the Fantastic Four. I was not a very bright comic artist. As a comic artist with business in mind I should have been up on all the stuff that was selling very well. I was very parochial. Over the eight years that I was at DC all I looked at were DC books. When somebody told me that Stan Lee was selling books I was mildly surprised but I didn’t even pay attention. I never once cracked a Spider-Man; I never once looked at the news-stands to even see a Spider-Man. It was very strange and very stupid of me; I should have been up on them.
DB: You say you were burnt out penciling, but after inking one Avengers job Stan assigned you a penciling job.
JR: It’s funny. He promised me he would only give me inking and I was happy because what I found was that I was suffering. At the end of the fifteen years that I was a freelancer working at home I found two things. I found it was very hard for me to discipline myself to get enough work out to make a living. I would be easily distracted and kept away from the drawing table. The other thing was I had the blank page syndrome for about six months and it was very hard for me to start a story. I would sit there and stare at the blank page and nothing would come. At one point it was so bad that I had to ask Don Heck to break down a story for me because I couldn’t get it out in time. I had lost about two or three days and was unable to do anymore. It was an artist’s block and we called it the blank page syndrome. So I told Stan, “If I stay in comics I will ink but I’m not going to pencil anymore” because I felt I was burnt out. I figured I had done fifteen years of penciling and a lot of inking, and I figured inking I could do because once I saw something on the page I could ink it, but if I have a blank page I’m dead. So I really thought I’d never pencil again and he promised me. He said, “OK, you can ink” and four weeks later he tells me, “We’ve got a little trouble with the Daredevil book, do you think you can handle it?” I must have been asleep or something because I said, sure, I’ll try. That shows you how clever I was. <laughter>
DB: You worked over Jack Kirby layouts on Daredevil. Being a Kirby fan how did that feel?
JR: That was very interesting because there wasn’t any drawing or breakdowns; they were sort of just diagrams. They were like directors notes telling you, ‘this is a close up, this is a long shot, a scenic shot, and this is a set of eyes’. He would do diagrams and label them with initials, say this is Matt Murdock and this is Karen Page, and all he would do would be silhouettes. On a couple of panels he really triggered my excitement with a little bit of detail which was nice. Most of it was very rudimentary, but it was a pacing guide of how to approach storytelling. How to open up excitingly, how to keep it moving, how to bridge the gaps, all those things. Immediately, in those two issues, I learned everything Stan and Jack had instilled in Marvel to make it great.
DB: The one thing that comes through about that time is that they were told not to draw like Kirby, not to swipe, but to get the feel of Kirby. Was that the easiest way to get that feel?
JR: That was the easiest way for me. Stan had already re-enforced that with additional conversations. He’d tell me when the page was dull and why it was dull and what I needed to do to instill some excitement to it. The whole key of dynamics, and the word dynamics kept constantly popping into my mind; it was the dynamics of storytelling. Meaning how to keep it hopping and moving and how to make it very clear that if the reader didn’t want to read all the balloons he would still know what was going on. I was also very much a child of the cinema. I was a movie buff and almost immediately that kicked in. All the things that I had absorbed through my pores from when I was eight years old started to come out in my storytelling. Every movie that I ever saw started finding a way of influencing me. Between Caniff and the movies I was a storyteller before I was an artist.
DB: Do you consider Kirby to be the pinnacle of comic book artists?
JR: Well it’s not so much the artwork. A lot of people have said that his artwork was a little bit disconcerting because it was so formularized. The truth of the matter is that Jack Kirby threw away more good ideas than I ever had in my life. To me that kind of creative ability is so tremendous, in comics especially. Whenever I was asked to create a character it was like pulling my teeth. It was very hard. I labored over it. Kirby could knock a character out off the top of his head in two minutes and the next day, instead of remembering the costume, he’d create a new costume for the character. For me costumes were very hard to do, and new characters were equally as hard.
You’ve got to remember, this is a guy who created a living planet as a villain. And Galactus, who ate planets for a living. I always say that Charles Schulz is the most free-spirited creator I ever saw. If you think about it, when you see Snoopy on his doghouse, to me putting Snoopy on top of that doghouse is the most brilliant, freedom making thing an artist can do. I always point out that I don’t think there’s another artist in the world who’d have thought of that, except maybe Jack Kirby. He types up there, he lies down, he walks across it, he becomes a World War I pilot, all because Schulz put him on top of that doghouse. I would have put the dog peeking out of the doorway of the doghouse because I’m too mired in reality. Schulz, brilliantly, freed himself for fifty years by putting the dog on top of the house. To me this is the most spectacular example of free thinking I ever saw in my life and Jack Kirby was just as good. Just think of creating a character that uses a surfboard to travel through space, and Galactus, his boss, is larger than life and eats planets. And then Ego: The Living Planet. The characters that Kirby created are so extraordinary and people take them for granted.
If you’re in a situation where you have to create a new character and you’re trying to knock people’s socks off, you’re never going to match what he did. So Kirby’s got nothing to do with drawing ability, it’s got to do with his imagination, his brilliance and his wide range of thinking. He thought up more things in a year than some of us do in a lifetime, and he threw away more too. <laughter>
DB: The story I’ve heard about you getting Spider-Man was that Steve Ditko walked in one day, handed in the latest issue and quit on the spot.
JR: He had sort of hinted that was going to happen. Sol Brodsky was aware that he wasn’t happy and I think he used to tell Stan that Steve was getting ready to bolt. Stan tried everything. He let Ditko plot completely from scratch. He gave Ditko every opportunity to do whatever he wanted and the bone of contention was what Ditko wanted was to plot the stories and for Stan to not even change a single thought in the plot. Stan immediately changed everything because he had his own agenda. Ditko was trying to get political and social overtones that were different to what Stan felt were good entertainment. Stan was not a political writer; he just felt that the most important thing was entertainment. Ditko was more interested in using his politics and social outlook to try and send a message through his comics. That’s where they separated. Stan couldn’t let him do that because he wanted to entertain his readers knowing that was the only way there was a future. Ditko didn’t care about the readers; he just cared about doing the story the way he wanted it and not having it changed. I guess they could never work together after that.
DB: How daunting was it to step into the shoes of what was arguably Marvels most popular book of the time?
JR: It was not only daunting but my gut feeling was that I coudn’t believe it. When you’re a comic artist for fifteen years you yearn for a successful character and a successful run on a book. You want ten years, or twelve years on a book, which is money in the bank, security. So when you see a guy like Ditko who after years of what they call being a club fighter, doing war stories, westerns, horror stories and crime stories and trying to make a living. If I were in his position after years of getting short stories and never having any security, if I suddenly found myself with a three year success story I’d have never given it up, no matter how painful it was. In the back of my mind I thought, “Well this is temporary, Ditko is going to come back. Who the hell is going to give up three years of success?” That was my gut feeling. So I figured I’d take it and do it on a temporary basis. It surprised me when a year later he never came back. It just shows you that again, I had no judgment in those days. <laughter> The reason I wasn’t fully daunted was because I think I was too stupid to be scared. I was thirty five, that’s comparatively young, and I don’t think I had the sense to realize that I had anything to be scared of. I just figured I’d do my job for a few months and then somebody else would take it over and I’d go back to Daredevil. That’s what I really wanted to do, go back to Daredevil.
DB: When I look at those early Spider-Man stories the Spider-Man character himself looks very Ditkoish…
JR: Yeah. I was trying to do a ghosting job because my experience in comics was that if you took over a syndicated strip you had to ghost the original artist. I felt obliged that the readers would not have any kind of interruption in their month to month enjoyment so I would make it look as much like Ditko as I could. I think I got closer to Ditko than I ever got to Kirby. A lot of people have said no, they saw as being different from the first day and I thought I was doing an absolute knock off job on Ditko. I’m glad you thought it was Ditko like.
DB: I thought the Spider-man figures were very Ditko, yet the supporting cast, especially when you introduced Mary Jane and Peter Parker himself, when he was out of costume, looked very much like Romita – if that makes sense. It was a combination of styles.
JR: That’s interesting. I didn’t realize that. I always felt that the generic style that I thought I’d had for years was true in my comics. I used to feel that I had no style. I used to envy people like Ditko, Kirby and Don Heck and Gene Colan who were real stylists. In other words you could not miss their stuff. You could see from across the street whose work it was. I always felt a little generic. I always felt that my stuff was, as I said toothpaste smiles and straight noses and I thought nobody would ever notice my stuff. Down through the years I realized that people said that they recognized my stuff from the beginning, which was a surprise to me. I was always the last to know. <laughter>
DB: You were the first one to give Mary Jane a face.
JR: That’s right. I don’t know if Ditko and Stan couldn’t agree on how to do her or what. I know that they had talked about introducing her for months before. When I took it over it took three issues to introduce Mary Jane, but all the time we were talking about her.
DB: You never saw her in the Ditko issues, but it was built up in such a way that Peter Parker thought she might be a bit of a dog. Was it a conscious thought to make her as stunning as she ended up being?
JR: Well it was conscious with me. I hadn’t really read every page of the books that I had to study up, but somewhere around issue 28 or 29 there were references to Mary Jane in one page where I think Betty Brant and Liz went to see what she looked like for some reason. They said, “Wow! She’s a knockout!” I never read that page and Stan completely forgot that he wrote that. Believe it or not when we were plotting issue 42 he said, “Well what do you think? Should we make her good looking or make her a girl with glasses who looks like she’s hiding her beauty?” That would have been cliché to me, to put glasses on her and make her look prim and later on have her untie her hair, take her glasses off and look like Anne Sheridan or somebody. I said, “I think we have to make her good looking because if she’s a dog it’ll be just another bad break for Peter Parker. Let’s give him a break for a change.”
By the way it was John junior’s feelings that I think affected me because he kept asking me when he was nine or ten years old, he would read the books and say, “Gee, why doesn’t Peter Parker ever get a break? He’s always got hard luck” He said, “Why don’t you get an issue where everything goes right for him?” <laughter> Nine year old kid talking! I told Stan that and he got a kick out of it. I sort of insinuated that in a plot, that maybe we should give him a break and chances are he’d never be able to obtain her, but she’ll always be there as some kind of a treasure that he’s after. That was the thought. I didn’t project into the future what Stan had in mind for her. At the time there were Go-Go dancers in all the television shows. These girls would get into these skimpy costumes and just juggle and dance on platforms and cages and every night-club had Go-Go dancers. Stan felt the need to be current, so he said, “We ought to get a Go-Go dancer in there, so we’ll introduce this girl and make her a Go-Go dancer. She’s gonna be like an air-headed girl who jumps into a dance every two seconds and smiles her way out of all her troubles” And that’s what we did and thought she was going to be a temporary character. I never thought she was going to last.
DB: Of course she ended up superseding Gwen Stacy.
JR: <laughter> Yeah. It was a nice contrast with Gwen. I loved the contrast too. Stan always wanted me to make Gwen as glamorous as Mary Jane. The problem was that I had a terrible affliction. If I established a character in my mind as a well educated, well brought up young lady who’s the daughter of a police captain, I could not make her as wild looking, as glamorous as Mary Jane for some reason. Remember we gave them the same hair comb. Ditko had done an old fashioned hair comb with a part in the middle and things like. I had to give her Mary Jane’s hair comb, which is very strange to me, except that one was a platinum blonde and one had dark red hair. We got away with that. I even once gave Mary Jane a perm in an effort to make her look different and to make Gwen look more glamorous than Mary Jane, but it never worked. It’s strange, but we had no control over our own characters.
DB: Did your time doing romance comics hold you in good stead when it came time to doing to background soap opera of Spider-Man?
JR: Absolutely and it was just one of those lucky breaks that I was in the right place at the right time. The background characters in Peter Parkers life became very important with Ditko and Stan right from the start. The thing that differentiated Spider-Man from other heroes was how much of a home life he had and how much personal confusion he had around him. So they established the side characters as very important and the kids dove in with both feet and loved it. What I did was I glamorized it a little bit and then Stan started constantly jumping on my back saying, “I want more mini-skirts. I want more goofy clothes. I want everything modern” He used to bring me the Women’s Wear daily every time he could and put it on my drawing table saying, “use this” and “use that” Crazy designs, crazy patterns and crazy textures. Suddenly I was a fashion maven and I ever even bought my own clothes. Virginia had to buy my clothes. I have no idea what’s modern and what’s not. So the strangest person of all became a fashion maven. People said that they thought my fashions were sensational and I was just trying to come up with the craziest things I could. It was a crazy time.
As for the romance stuff, not only did it help me with the girls in the story, it also helped me with the romantic triangle stuff. When you’re doing those panels they can be very dull. When it’s called talking heads, when you’ve just got two or three teenagers and a couple of adults talking, it’s talking heads. When I was doing romance for eight years if I didn’t want to go out of my mind then those talking heads had to be interesting. If they weren’t interesting then I didn’t feel like I was doing my job. Even without being goaded into it I felt obliged to make a romance story look like more was happening than there actually was, because never was ever happening in those stories. It was just a few tears, a lucky break and you’re back together again in ten pages. My efforts to make an excitement out of nothing, in other words, a guy and a girl just talking and walking in a park, well I’d shoot them through the trees, I would shoot them passing a fountain. I would do all sorts of exotic backgrounds and then I would have her hair blowing and her scarf blowing. I would get excitement when nothing was happening and I felt that helped me when I was doing the personal stuff in Spider-Man. That’s where people think, ‘oh wow, look at all that’s happening’, all I was doing was the same tricks I’d done for eight years in love stories.
DB: It’s interesting, because you say that you’re trying to find action in a romance…
JR: Well you’re just trying to find something interesting to look at rather than just people’s dull expressions. When you’ve got a crying girl, how many ways can you do tears?
DB: Sometimes I’ve found myself looking at the Spider-Man stuff and thinking that you found a way to make action fit into a romance book, as opposed to making romance fit into an action book – if that makes sense.
JR: That’s interesting because for twenty five years the Spider-Man newspaper strip that Stan does is still being published. I did it for four years after it started and one of the bones of contention between myself and Stan in that situation was I wanted to get more fantasy characters involved. I wanted to get Dr Strange, and Sandman and all the exotic characters that were the fantasy characters. Stan kept saying “No, no, no,” he really said, in essence, that this was going to be a soap opera with an occasional appearance by a guy in a costume. You hit it right on the head.
There were times when Stan wanted to do nothing but a soap opera and just have Spider-Man as the spice. In other words, ‘this is the fruitcake, and this is the guy who’s the raisins in the fruit’. I used to fight that. I told him that even in the newspapers the only thing you’ve got going that’s different from every other newspaper strip and every other comic book, is you’ve got the combination of Spider-Man, which is a sensational thing because anytime you want you can hang him from a building, hang him from a web in the middle of times square, other characters don’t do that and why not use it every chance you get? Then the villains should be just as fantastic as Spider-Man. He disagreed with that. I did four years on the strip and I had to quit because he was driving me nuts. I was doing my personal life in the daily strip than I was Spider-Man.
DB: I don’t know if either approach is the perfect approach, but by having Spider-man appear sporadically it gives it more impact.
JR: There was a basis for that. I remember when I was a kid there was a strip called Ms Fury which came out in the late ‘40s and was done by a female artist called Taupe Mills and it’s the costume I used later on for the Black Widow. It was a very clever strip and I think it affected Stan sub-consciously because this girl was in a cat costume going to a costume ball and she witnessed a crime. She had to fight like a devil to save her life because the killer saw her as a witness. She became a costume heroine strictly by accident, just by going to a costume ball which was a very clever gimmick. They very seldom had her in costume, only occasionally would you see her in costume, the rest of the time she was a girl who was fighting to stay alive, and I think that you’re right. That’s the element that Stan wanted in Spider-Man, that the personalized part became such a great gimmick that we didn’t need to do Spider-Man; we didn’t have to do a million variations on the same theme. So that Spider-Man coming in occasionally was like Zorro. When Zorro was in costume it was a very small part of the story, he was generally the foppish Diego. It goes back to the Scarlet Pimpernel. It’s the same thing. The Scarlet Pimpernel is the same premise. Zorro and all the others followed from the Scarlet Pimpernel. He was only in a cloak and a mask occasionally, the rest of the time he was in his normal mode. So yes you’re right, I think that Stan had the same influence that the rest of us had.
DB: It’s like the Shadow…
JR: The Shadow too. He only occasionally used his powers. So we were not breaking new ground. <laughter>
DB: Well you were in some ways because Marvel at the time appeared to be all about, especially with Kirby and the Fantastic Four, action action action, and on Spider-Man you were almost doing a romance book with a superhero in the middle of it.
JR: It’s true. For some reason when I did Daredevil for a short stint at the end of ’65, Karen Page became a more important character than what she was previously. That’s because I was doing it I think. Stan constantly told me that I made incidental characters so interesting that he built them up because he thought they were too interesting to ignore. If you do a character passing somebody on the street, if I made them too interesting then Stan would say he wanted to write a story about that character. <laughter> If we gave him something different he immediately seized upon it and built on it. He was a very clever editor and writer, probably without any equal in the business. He was able to do that. A lot of editors would have squandered what Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and I did. They would have just ignored it. Whatever brilliant and strange departures that Jack Kirby would bring in, Stan would build on them rather than tear them down or ignore them. You’ve got to give credit to Stan. I think very few editors and writers would have had the sense to, no matter what we threw at him, whatever goofy thing we came up with in our effort to be different, he used it rather than discard it or ignore it.
DB: You worked with full scripts at DC and then went to the Marvel method. How much of a culture shock and a change was that?
JR: That was a physical shock. I felt like I was being executed. It was terrible. I was scared stiff. In the long run it became good. That whole thing that he and Jack started was strictly for expediency because he didn’t have the scripts ready. That’s the reason. It was not done out of any stroke of genius, it was done out of expedience. Jack would call up and say, “Stan, I didn’t get the story yet, or the script” and Stan would say, “Ok, what I’m going to do is describe the first five or six pages in action for you, do them without words and when you send them in I’ll put the words in” That’s how it grew into the Marvel method of art first and script second. It was like sunlight had come into the room because this was a visual medium that had become a verbal medium for fifty ears, and suddenly it was the visual medium that it had intended to be in the first place. I think that the biggest thing Stan and Jack contributed to the industry was that. Visual first was a huge step forward; it was like a quantum leap.
DB: When did you start plotting?
JR: <laughter> I was plotting from Daredevil. It was done from plotting, not from a script. That’s why I was completely befuddled. I even did a romance style splash on my first Daredevil, but Stan liked it so much that he accepted it and said it was a good counterpoint. Instead of having an action splash he had Matt Murdock looking back up at his office in the building and Karen Page looking out the window at him. In fact he utilized it and wrote, “Don’t let this pastoral scene disturb you, the action is coming soon enough”
He was always very clever that way. So he accepted my splash but threw out the next three or four pages that were dull. <laughter> And that’s where Kirby came in.
DB: You were part of, what I consider to be, the second wave of Marvel artists in the 1960s. Were you working at Marvel or freelancing from home?
JR: That’s the other crazy twist in my career. Because I had been burnt out, and also because I couldn’t discipline myself at home I told Stan was that the reasons I was getting out of comics was number one, I had an artists block, number two, I could not be disciplined at home. I had to work in the office. I told him that’s the reason why I took the job at BBD doing storyboards. He said, “Ok, you do comics and you can work in an office. I’ll have a room for you, and a desk and all the supplies. You won’t need to buy your supplies” That was a big savings right there. If I didn’t have to buy my own paper, ink, pens and brushes, that was like a raise. So he guaranteed me the same salary I would have started with at BBD and I could work in the office anytime I wanted to and not be bound. I didn’t have to come in everyday, but if I found trouble working at home, I could come into the office. There was a desk and materials waiting for me anytime I wanted. So I couldn’t pass that deal up. The big, strange departure was that I was an artist, the only artist at the time, who was not working from home. I was working in the office. I started Spider-Man in ’66 in the office, in the production room, at a drawing table in Marvel. That was the first time that had been done. I know there were Bullpen artists back in the old days, in the ‘40s. Remember the famous Bullpen with Bill Everett, John Severin, and Joe Maneely…
DB: Mike Sekowsky…
JR: …Sekowsky. They were doing artwork there and that was so Stan could keep an eye on them while they were doing the artwork. It wasn’t their necessity, it was Stan’s necessity. They were also able to switch pages and all gang up on a late book and finish it together. It was sort of a good trick, but I think after about three or four years there they disbanded it and that was one of the first slumps in 1947. They never had a Bullpen like that after and I sort of was the first of a new Bullpen in the ’60s, which was like twenty years later.
DB: Of course other artists followed. Herb Trimpe started coming in...
JR: Yeah, well Herb Trimpe came over from Tom Gill. John Verpoorten, who was an artist and a production man, became our production man, they came over and we started to form a Bullpen because then Marie Severin came over. She was doing coloring and production at first, but then John Verpoorten took the production problems away from her and she became a colorist and artist. Marie Severin, Herb Trimpe and I were the basis of the Bullpen. Then Larry Lieber started coming in everyday. He was doing work at the time. He was doing the Rawhide Kid, and writing some stuff for Stan. That was the nucleus of the new Bullpen and we had a lot of people coming and going. Frank Giacoia would come in for months at a time. Mike Esposito would come in. So we did have a Bullpen of sorts, but I was the only guy doing a major title at that time. Then later on Marie did the Hulk, Dr Strange and a lot of other great books, so Marie, Herb Trimpe and I were the only artists not working from home. We were working in the office. It was a new thing and a very clever thing.
DB: At the time Jerry Siegel was working at Marvel.
JR: For a short time there was only a thin partition separating our cubicles. He was on one side of the wall and I was on the other. He was only there for a few months, I think six to eight months. He was proof reading for us, which was like all the clichéd stories you hear about the world-wide famous guy who suddenly is doing a tedious job. And here I was saying, “This is JERRY SIEGEL next to me! This is the guy who created Superman! He’s about eighteen inches away from me and his chair is backing on mine.” I got such a kick out of that. Then Bill Everett came into the Bullpen and here I was with Bill Everett, and Jack Kirby coming in every couple of weeks, and Jerry Siegel right near me. It was like WOAH, I felt like I was in Valhalla. <laughter> It was the biggest charge I’ve ever had in comics.
DB: What sort of a person was Jerry Siegel at that stage?
JR: Very soft spoken. He had been through so many successes and then a few failures, and I think he only did it because he probably needed the money, because he had gone through the Ziff-Davis fortune and I’m sure he was just reduced to having to do proof reading because he needed the money. He was quiet, and rather subdued. We didn’t have a lot of conversations because when you’re a proof reader you can’t stop to talk to anybody. So he’d just sit there and proof read all day and we didn’t want to bother him. I certainly didn’t want to go over there and ask for his autograph, I felt sheepish about that. <laughter> I felt like bowing to him every time I passed his cubicle.
DB: How did you go from being an artist to practically running Marvel?
JR: That’s one of those flukes. Stan, from the time I knew him in the Timely days, had what I would call an indoctrination speech. He would get a young artist and he would get him into the office and tell him, “Here’s what I want you to do. Never accept your first thought. I want you to always look for a more exciting, active, dynamic way doing what you’re doing on this page. And always do the extreme.” One of his key phrases used to be, “Think silent movies.” The reason for that was because you’re doing a silent picture version of this story, so think silent movies for another reason. The silent actors, because they didn’t have dialogue, used to act with their bodies. The silent screen method of conveying to the viewer what you want them to know is to use the body in a dynamic and very picturesque way. It was like they were doing ballet on the screen all the time. The way a silent actor over-reacts, if a silent actor is pointing at someone he doesn’t just raise his arm and mildly point with a limp finger, he shoots his arm out into the horizon. That was the way Stan used to indoctorate young artists. He’d say, “Here’s what you’re doing: you’re doing everything too mild and you’re doing everything straight up and down. You need to get more dynamics. Move the figures at an angle. Try diagonals. Try more motion. Try more foreshortening, where the hands are coming out of the page at the reader.”
Because I was in the office I had heard that spiel so many times and when Stan wasn’t around I would give the young artist the same story, the way I just gave it to you now. Very soon Stan realized, “Hey, I don’t have to do this anymore. I’ll just send them into John Romita.” So here he was, I was trying to turn out Spider-Man and he’s sending young artists in to me saying, “Stan wants you to tell me how I did this page wrong and what I should do in the future.” So I would have to drop my Spider-Man stuff and spend a half hour or an hour with the guy and I’d kill an afternoon sometimes.
A lot of young artists have told me that they were very grateful for the fact that I was able to go in there when Stan was too busy to give them the story; I would give it to them. After a couple of years, Stan sort of deferred to me as much as possible and I ended up being a defacto art director in an emotional way. It expanded. He also used to use me to make corrections anyway. Since I was in the office I was an easy target. He could come next door to me and give me something and say, “John, I gotta ask you a favour. Jack Kirby did this girl with a frown on her and I need her with a smile,” because he was changing the dialogue, from whatever the original plot was Stan was going to change the thrust of that panel, so I needed to put a smile on a Jack Kirby face. That grew into entire figures and sometimes an entire page would have to be re-done. I would be the sucker because I was there. Sometimes when I wasn’t around Marie would do, and sometimes Herb Trimpe would do it.
Traditionally, even in the early days when I was going in with stuff at Timely, there were times when he would ask for changes. There were other times when he would take my stuff without any changes but he’d ask me could I change something that Joe Maneely had done. I was a sap, and I didn’t want to alienate the guy who was controlling my income, so I would do it. I would make a minor change on everyone else’s artwork while I was there. This transformed and just grew into a full time obligation that I was the art director. Then, suddenly, they were bringing toy design questions to me, and I was designing costumes for all the editors. Stan at first, then two editors and when it became seven or eight editors they would come in ask me could I design a costume for Wolverine, or the Punisher, the Black Widow – whenever they needed a new costume they would come to me. If I was busy I would hand them off to somebody who could do it. I was the defacto art director. I didn’t get an extra penny out of it and that’s because, as I told you, I’m not a businessman and I was taken advantage of constantly. <laughter>
DB: You had your hand in a lot of costume designs over the years.
JR: Did you see the poster I did with Alex Ross?
JR: That had fifty four of my characters and there’s at least a dozen more that I didn’t want to put in there, first of all because I didn’t have room. I started out with forty characters and Alex Ross kept goading me into adding characters he liked, even characters I didn’t create like Sub-Mariner. I said, “I’m not doing Sub-Mariner because I didn’t create him.” He said, “No, but you created that costume.” He dogged me until I finally got the Sub-Mariner in there. So it was fifty four characters and those were the ones that only I would accept, although I didn’t even want to put the Gibbon in there and Brother Voodoo is still one of my funniest creations. I put fifty four of my creations into that poster and there’s at least ten more I could have put in there, so that’s how many characters I created, well, at least the costumes.
DB: I’ve always liked that Sub-Mariner costume.
JR: When I did it everybody laughed at it. Marie Severin and the people in the office made such fun of it that I was embarrassed by it. Years later Jim Lee told me he was going to use the costume, I said, “Hey, don’t you think that’s silly?” and he said, “No, I love it.” <laughter> I liked it but they made me feel so bad about it that I was ashamed of it. <laughter>
DB: You don’t get much of a creators byline on projects.
JR: It’s funny; everything you create while you’re working for salary belongs to the company. All the characters, from Mary Jane to the Kingpin to the Rhino to the Shocker to the Prowler and the Punisher, those characters belong to the company. I have no hold over them, I have no claim on them, but I tell you all of my colleagues know that I’ve done them. And after my sketchbooks everyone is aware of it now. It’s a comfort, and it’s certainly never done me any good money wise, they paid me some megre salaries while I was doing these characters that have probably earnt them quite a bit of money. The Spider-Man movies we never made a penny on.
DB: The Spider-Man movies are all your stories and concepts. When I watched them all I could see when Spider-Man himself on screen was a Ditko comic come to life, and the rest of the time it was pure John Romita to me.
JR: You’re right, and I kept thinking to myself, “There’s my shot, there’s my shot.” In the second one the interesting thing is that Stan and I came up with that plot of Spider-Man no more back in issue 50, which was the late ‘60s. Sam Rami said that’s what he wanted. He wanted to use that as the gimmick for the whole story. I’ve done a poster for Dynamic Forces that shows that scene in the rain with his costume in the garbage.
DB: It’s an iconic shot that they used in the movie. It’s an exact swipe.
JR: Yeah. I got such a charge; you have no idea what a charge I got out of that. It was the same feeling I got when Wolverine in the first X-Men film unsheaves his claws for the first time. I jumped out of my seat, and I leant over to my wife and said, “That was my idea! Retractable claws was my idea!” But I don’t get money out of it. <laughter>
DB: The initial idea was to have the claws permanently out.
JR: When I did the drawings with the claws being out I made them come over his hands so at least he could scratch his nose without cutting his eye out. I also felt that this guy wasn’t going to be able to tie his shoelaces without hurting himself, so I told Len Wien that I think that the claws should retract into his forearm through the back of his hand. Mostly that’s because when I design a character I try to make him as functional as possible. If you’ve got spikes coming out of your body, permanent spikes, you’re going to have a hard time folding your arms. <laughter> So whenever you design a character you have to make him functional, whatever weapons he has have to be useable when he needs them and out of sight when he doesn’t need them. Every time I see in a movie, something that I’ve contributed to, and all I get is a physical charge, but no money. <laughter>
DB: All that time in the ‘70s and ‘80s did DC ever approach you?
JR: Only one way. Carmine Infantino was a friend of mine from when I was around twenty one years old. I was in the army with his brothers. I admired Carmine and I was crazy about his work. He and Alex Toth are the reasons why I wanted to work at DC because they were the best in the business. Carmine Infantino became the president of DC and when we got together at a convention, or a social event, he’d come over and say, “When are you going to come home to DC?” and I’d say, “Make me an offer. Put some money down, make me an offer right now and I’ll let you know.” He never made an offer. He kept hoping that I would go back just for loyalty’s sake, but I wanted money. <laughter> I said, “Why should I get used to a whole new cast of characters if there’s no money involved in it?” But he and Joe Orlando never quite got to the point of making a physical offer. That’s why I never went to DC.
DB: If they’d made an offer, would you have gone?
JR: That’s the question, and I don’t know if I would have done it. I might have, for good money, and maybe if they’d said, “We’ll let you do Batman” or something like that, then I might have done it. I wouldn’t be sure because my natural tendency is not to make waves. My tendency is to wait until the company closes down and then I’m out of work. <laughter>
DB: I think the only work you’ve done for DC since you left is the recent Supergirl cover.
JR: That’s interesting. When Virginia ran the production department in the Bullpen this young lady, Lisa Hawkins, was one of her assistants. She went to become an editor at DC and she called me up and I did it strictly as a friendship thing. I did Supergirl because I thought it’d be cute to do it and that’s the only thing I’ve done for them in forty years. I will tell you, I recently got a nice fat residual check from DC. It’s the first money I’ve ever gotten from DC since I left in ’65.
DB: I’ve always thought it was a shame that certain artists never crossed over. I’ve always wondered what would a John Romita Batman or Superman look like, what would a Curt Swan Fantastic Four or Spider-Man have looked like, or Jim Aparo...
JR: What about Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, who I think is one of the best artists who ever lived? I often think of that. I’ve always wondered why Stan never got Joe Kubert. Kubert was the counterpart to me. He was the DC man and I was the Marvel man. I loved Kubert’s stuff, from the time I was in junior high school, and he was just a year older than me, maybe less, and he was doing Hawkman and I was still in junior high! <laughter> I’ll never forget that.
DB: The closest we came to seeing Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez at Marvel was when he drew that Batman-Hulk cross over.
DB: His Hulk was just so stunningly perfect.
JR: He is a sensational artist. I’ve often wondered, if I had done Metamorpho and drifted over to Batman or Superman, or Green Arrow or something like that, then what would have happened to me, where would I be now. Would it have been good, or would it have been bad.
I also had another what if? When Jack Kirby left Marvel in the early ‘70s to do work at DC he called me up a couple of days after he left and asked me would I be interested in working for him on a personal basis. He said, “John, I want to write more and I want to draw less. I’m going to do about three or four features in a series and I want guys like you to do them.” In other words he wanted me to do one of the Fourth World titles. First of all I was so flattered. I had spoken to Jack many times and he knew I admired him and he was always very generous to me with his compliments. He used to tell me to throw my eraser away so I could turn out more pages. He and Buscema were always on my case because I was not fast. I was very painfully slow and they wanted to get more pages out of me. So Jack said, “You come over and I will keep you in artwork. I will supply you with artwork for as many years as you need it.” I was very tempted. I told Virginia, “Jack Kirby just called. He made me an offer that teases the hell out of me.” She said, “If you go there you’ll be a Kirby clone.” I said, “No, no, he’s not asking me to draw like him, he’s going to give me one of his features.” She didn’t believe it. She didn’t buy it and she said, “I think you’ll be very sorry if you did that” and the truth of the matter is, as a business move, I think it would have been a mistake because when Jack was dropped from the DC line about three years later I would have been out of work. So I did the right thing. Here’s the what if: I will never know, if I had gone over and helped Jack with the art, there’s no telling what would have happened to that line. It may have succeeded more. I know that sounds immodest, but the fact is I could have helped him. I could have worked hand in hand with him and we might have had a different product. I love the product as it was, but I might have been able to make the storytelling better, who knows.
DB: It would have been very interesting.
JR: Wouldn’t it have been something? It will always haunt me that I will never know what would have happened if I had done that. That was 1971.
DB: At one stage Jack was also sounding out Steve Ditko, so it would have been Kirby, Romita and Ditko… you could have ended up doing Jimmy Olsen.
JR: That’s true. I might have done Jimmy Olsen, God forbid. <laughter>
DB: I’ve always thought that for one month Marvel and DC should have swapped artists.
JR: There was a time when DC was in very bad straits. There was a time when Marvel had a chance to buy every character except Batman and Superman from them. It was almost going to be like a merger. There’s no telling what would happened. It was a fleeting opportunity and suddenly Warner Brothers whipped them into shape and they stayed alive. But I remember distinctly, somewhere in the late ‘70s I think, DC was on very bad ground and we almost bought every other character, which would have been Green Arrow, the group books, the Justice Society and League, the Legion and all of that stuff. It came very close and Stan Lee once came in and said. “How would you guys like to be working on some of the DC characters next year?” and we said, “Give us a shot.” But they never pulled the deal off. I can’t remember if it was Martin Goodman or Perfect Films at the time, but they said they wouldn’t make a deal unless they got Superman and Batman too, and DC pulled out. So you almost got your wish.
After that down through the ‘80s and ‘90s I was doing all sorts of goofy stuff, like toy and designing balloons for the Macy’s Parade and things like that, and training young artists. I had this wonderful experience with the apprentices which were called the Romita’s Raiders. We had about thirty five guys go through that process, where they would work anywhere from six months to a year. Out of thirty five I think we turned out twenty eight guys who were earning a live at any one time in the business. I was very proud of that program.
The other thing that I’m most proud of, in all those years, was the five years I spent supervising the Spidey Super Stories for the Children’s Television Workshop. I was very proud of those books. Some educators have given us credit, in letters, saying that they thought we contributed to the increased reading abilities of an entire generation of children. I tell you I was puffed up, I couldn’t get any buttons buttoned up on my chest. <laughter>
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THE COPYRIGHT STUFF
THANKS TO MARK McKENNA, JOSE MARZAN Jr and MIKE BURKEY without whom etc etc...
All images courtesy of John Romita, Mike Burkey and Jose Marzan Jr