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Comic Book Men Q&A – John Romita Jr. (Comic Artist)

Comic book artist John Romita Jr. talks about why Superman will always be relevant and what it’s like to follow in the footsteps of the great comic artists who came before him — including his father, John Romita Sr.

Q: In the episode, you reveal that you’re not really a Junior because you and your father have different middle names. Is there any more trivia about you that fans might now know?
A: I have an extremely damaged right wrist. I broke my wrist when I was about 8 years old. It was very, very mangled and it healed even worse, so it’s very hard to draw unless I have the desk at a very high incline. I have a lot of difficulty with certain angles and I rotate the paper constantly to get my hand in the proper angle. I’m not complaining, but that’s a piece of trivia that a lot of people don’t know. I’ve just learned to deal with it.

Q: You mention in the episode that you became interested in writing comics when you saw your father — comic legend John Romita Sr. — drawing a cover for Daredevil.
A: That’s correct! It was Daredevil #12. Ironically, it was a very short time later that I broke my wrist. I was around 8 years old when I started watching my father draw, and for the past few years, he had been drawing romance comics. I wasn’t paying much attention until one night, he was drawing the cover for Daredevil #12. I asked him what was going on and he went on to explain what superheroes were, who Daredevil was, that he was blind, and I think the top of my head just exploded. “What? He’s blind and he has to fight all of these guys??” From then on, I was hooked, and I sat down at his seat for quite awhile and drew.

Q: Then you grew up to actually create one of the most iconic Daredevil runs of all time, The Man Without Fear, which inspired the successful Netflix series. What’s it like seeing your work onscreen?
A: Here’s another piece of trivia: I actually haven’t seen a single episode. I just don’t sit down in front of a TV and watch shows anymore, and I didn’t have Netflix after my son went off to school. It’s lazy, I know. [Laughs] I’ll probably get the DVD collection and watch it en masse.

Q: Now that the Punisher, one of your father’s creations, is joining the Daredevil television series, what is it like having your work and your father’s work come to life together?
A: I didn’t think of it that way! It’s a great feeling, especially since Daredevil was the first character I watched him draw and he really caught my attention. I’ll have to talk to him about it! I wonder if he even realizes it.

Q: In the episode, you say that drawing Daredevil is “a pleasure.” What is it about a character that makes you connect with them artistically?
A: There’s something about the external lines of the character. The silhouette of Batman is very distinctive because of the cape and the ears, and the same thing goes for Daredevil with the two D’s and the horns. There’s something so simplistic, yet so moody and wonderful about it that a lot of artists – myself included – love drawing those characters.

You can play with them in so many different ways that you can’t with characters like Spider-Man, because of all the webs, and like Superman, because of all the bright colors. Those two — Daredevil and Batman — can be turned into such moody and mood-setting characters with the dark colors and the shadows. They also have half of their face exposed where you can show expressions, which you can’t do as well with Spider-Man and other characters with full masks. I think it’s their silhouette, the mood, the tonality of the characters, that I’m drawn to.

Q: Do you have a favorite run that you’ve worked on?
A: My heart goes out to doing Kick-Ass because I was part of the creation of it. But, the character I consider the best? Probably Spider-Man, because I was so attached to it as a kid. If I had to pick a run on any title, I’d say The Man Without Fear, because working with Frank Miller was probably the height of the business I’ve been in. The newer stuff is more fun because I’m more in control of what I’m supposed to be doing, so I’m excited about the new stuff, but I would have to say The Man Without Fear was my favorite run. I feel like I did everything right, and Frank had a lot to do with that.

Q: You just finished a run on Superman — what was it like drawing the most iconic superhero in history?
A: It still doesn’t change the fact that you’re one in a long line of much better artists on that title. At first I was really excited, but then it set in and I thought, “Damn, I’m number 235 on the list of guys who have worked on Superman.” It’s really humbling. And I would say that to anyone who is working on Superman who thinks, “I’m going to do something spectacular!” Well, 80 years of a character, I think spectacular has been done several times. I just keep my feet on the ground. Most everything has been done before and done very well. We did come up with something new and different, and I wish it could have been done for a longer period of time. But hey, you can’t tug on Superman’s cape or spit into the wind. He’ll always be that iconic character.

Q: There has been some chatter on the internet that Superman isn’t relevant to today’s world. What would you say about that?
A: I think it would be a great storyline. [Laughs] I think superheroes are always relevant, and Superman is the first, and could arguably be considered the greatest. People get cynical! If you were a sports fan of a sports franchise that won forever, then suddenly they stumble, everyone cheers. Superman is great, but he can be handled greatly and he can be handled poorly. I think that’s true of all characters. It could be done very well for an extended amount of time, it could be done poorly, but they always bounce back. I don’t think he’ll ever be irrelevant.

Comic Book Men airs Sundays at Midnight/11c.

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