EXCLUSIVE: John Romita Jr Talks Odin Mini-Series, Superman, And Creator Owned Comics

We’ve returned with the second part of our exclusive interview with Kick-Ass co-creator and Spider-Man meister, John Romita Jr.  When talking to the veteran illustrator last week about Kick-Ass 2, we spared a few minutes to talk about his future, his favorite artists, and a bit of reminiscing on our favorite pieces.


UTF: One of my writers for the website, and we have about 40 volunteer writers for Unleash the Fanboy; he’s a massive, massive fan of yours. He wanted me to ask you specifically about the Amazing Spiderman number 38. It was the talk between Aunt May and Peter Parker?

I know it’s a few years behind you but how was it to draw such a powerful scene where Peter Parker comes out as Spidey?

JOHN: It was a story segment that was agreed upon by the editorial staff.   I don’t know other than having been told that that was going to happen in the book, there’s not much else I can tell you about it. I thought it was fine.

I remember thinking that Aunt May should be so delicate that she shouldn’t know but the fact that the woman’s gotta be 150 years old, her health  shouldn’t be a part of it. But I have no problem with it. Again, these are business decisions when you try to break a glass ceiling on some of these taboo Spider-Man bits. I think they’ve all been broken at this point. You can’t do it the same old, same old. So little jokes like that are worth trying, honestly.

UTF: I love that run right there. It’s one of my favorite Spidey’s although I’ve got to admit, Superior Spiderman is just … I don’t treat it as a 616 Spidey but it really interests me. What do you think about the way the Spiderman book has gone?

JOHN: All I’ve been doing is looking at the artwork. I only look at the pictures but I do like it when I pick up the book. The truth is, I am a fan of art. I haven’t really been reading dialogue in the books. I get thousands of books every month. I don’t know which ones to read. So I look at artwork. I look at the artists and I’m a fan of all the artists but I haven’t had a chance to read any of the Superior Spiderman. I’m disappointed and embarrassed to say I haven’t read any of them.

UTF: If I can make you piss off your friends really quickly, who are your top three favorite artists in the industry right now?

JOHN: My top three favorite artists? That’s a rotten thing to ask!

Romita Jr. Spidey is pretty damn awesome

UTF: I know, feel free to abstain.

JOHN: I’ll go by their work. First of all, I think Jim Lee is brilliant and always has been. I’m a fan of the Kubert Boys, a big fan of the Kubert Boys. I’ve got 10 favorites.  I have books and books and books of my favorite artists. I was always a fan of Frank Miller’s work but he hasn’t been drawing very much lately. I can’t think of anyone because there’s so many of them. I don’t want to insult some of the other guys.

UTF: All right, not to get too controversial again but I’ve got to ask you. You’ve collaborated a lot with Mark Millar. What other collaborations were you really fond of?

JOHN: I worked with Frank Miller. I worked with Neil Gaiman, Joe Straczynski. I’m about to work with Howard Chaykin. He’s already plotted or scripted my first big issue with Smuggy and Bimbo.

I’ve been blessed to work with some great guys. I really enjoyed with Straczynski on Spider-Man and I worked with Dan Slott in Spiderman. I can’t pick one writer but working with Mark on Kick-Ass has been a revelation in so many different ways and it’s not so much about story work with him as much as what it’s done to my life in general. So he’s been an intrinsic part of that. But I’ve worked with Neil on The Eternals and I’m fortunate enough to be able to work with him again in the not-too-distant future.

There’s also a chance to work with Mark Waid and a chance to work with Jonathan Ross, all of these guys. But the guy that I had the most fun working with particularly was Mark and then Frank Miller right behind. The most fun on another regular basis was Neil because it was only a miniseries (The Eternals). But Frank Miller because of Daredevil and The Man Without Fear. That’s about the same amount of time as the Neil Gaiman series.

I’ve been blessed with really quality writers that had wanted to work with me. I want to say that I’d work with them all again if I can.

UTF: I just re-read The Eternals book not even four weeks ago because I saw it sitting on my stack. I have the originals and I have the paperback version of the collected copies and there’s something about your art that just doesn’t age.

JOHN: Thanks!

UTF: Well, you look at artists sometimes and you’re like, “Oh well, this is distinctly from this era,” but yours is so unique and it’s still, it looks like something that could be published next year. Is there anything that you can say about that? What influences you? Is that something you’re constantly thinking of like I got to be cutting edge right now or I’ve got to …?

JOHN: I don’t know if the cutting edge term comes to mind.  I still have anxiety attacks and panic attacks if I’m running late. I have this innate desire to be the best someday and I also have my eyes wide open to realize that there’s too many good artists around for that to happen. But I’m forever moving the goal posts and always raising the bar so that I can’t reach it but I always want to reach it.

I don’t think that as an artist in this business especially, that anybody could get complacent. Though I think a combination of growing up as my father’s son, also being in business with so many brilliant artists and being completely greedy, I want to be able to be the best someday. So if I work hard enough, it’ll happen. I hope it never gets to the point where it occurs to me that I’m the best because then I will suck the very next day.

It’s always some ego. I’m an artist and I’m proud to be an artist. I’m a good artist. There’s so much involved in keeping your feet on the ground. I do this every month. I’d look at reviews of the work that I have, that’s just been out. The reason I do that is not to be reinforced. It’s to get my knees cut out from under me because I know that there’ll be critics. I know that they’ll generally hate it. All it does is it allows me not to get complacent.

All it’s done is to get better. I read the critics because some of them might have a valid point and those that do, I take a point and I look into it. Those that don’t, it makes me realize that there’s still going to be. It’s like across the United States, half the country’s going to hate you but half the country’s going to love you.

UTF: What are your plans for the future? I know you’ve got a contract that is completed with Marvel. Do you want to go the indie route? Are you interested in writing for DC?

JOHN: I honestly would like to do everything and anything. But I don’t know in which forum so it’s very simple. I have a lawyer that’s working things out contract-wise and there’s no solution just yet.

I know what I want to do and I know what I have to do meaning that I want to do a lot of creator-owned properties and I’ve come up with a bunch. I might be able to connect my creator-owned properties with some quality writers. I mentioned the names previously. Two of them are very excited about it, one with Neil and one with Jonathan Ross. I started with Mark Waid and of course, the one with Howard Chaykin. I want to do all of the above.

I also know that I’m not going to rely solely on creator-owned because that’s a little bit self-serving and also a little bit egotistical to think that I can just turn the industry art’s head by doing creator-owned. The old book rule is out of sight, out of mind. I don’t want to leave the mainstream work. Work for hire is still in me. The characters I love, I still desire to do them. I just don’t know which order I’m going to do them in.

That’s pretty much it. The contracting will be worked out with some combination of everything. But I still have the ability to do a good amount of work monthly and I still have the burning desire to do some works for hire. But the bigger, greater desire is to do the creator-owned ideas that I’ve come up with and I’ll develop it with some writers.

But with writing, I don’t think dialogue is a part of it. I still want to learn how to be a good artist.

UTF: Can you hint at all about what kind of books those creator-owned properties may be?

JOHN: What kind? They’ve never been our superhero costumes per se. They’re all supernatural in some manner/science fiction fantasy but it’s a nice combination of reality and fantasy and with a little bit of religious figures involved. I don’t mean religion per se. I don’t mean any kind of moral religion or religious moral standing. It’s all of figures and fantasy of each. It’s my youth being involved in this, growing up in certain religious education and fantasy. We add evil and good. I’ve always loved the good and evil dynamic. So without the use of costumes, I’ve approached this grey area with a little bit of that. It’s based on what I went through with it as a child growing up in a Catholic private school. It’s the same kind of thing. It was fun when I was young, the things that scared the hell out of me when I was young. I touched on those.

UTF: It sounds awesome!

JOHN: It’s less about supe-hero costumes and more about supernatural and fantasy.

UTF: Actually, that reminds me. I was reading the Thor Godkiller arc recently and I was like, “You know, this would be a really great time for for you to return to Thor.” Because they got a great writer on there right now and he’s doing some really fun cosmic-style stories. I really enjoyed that. How long has it been since you were on Thor?

JOHN: Wow, I think it’s been 10 years at least. I think I did it ’98 through 2000? It might have been 13 years? God, it’s been a long time. Mangog was in it and Loki was in it. We did the other gods, the evil gods when Odin was captured and held captive. Poor Odin, Odin was the best thing about Thor as far as I’m concerned.

I loved Odin. I would love to have done Odin simply series.

UTF: Really?

JOHN: Yeah, only because I loved that size of character. Odin and Zeus and the demi-gods and reading up on what the lore of those characters is pretty amazing. I really loved Odin.

UTF: What would you focus on? Would you focus on the younger years of Thor or before Thor was even born?

JOHN: No, I wouldn’t worry about Thor. I’d do something about Odin. Assuming that how powerful Odin is and was, I was just struck with Odin. Again, that’s the kind of thing I like to think about is higher than the norm, about ancient beauties and gods and so on. I like that stuff and bring the reality to that. The reality in that is it’s less about the fantastic and bringing the characters. For instance, if God were a human being, let’s say, he’ll talk about the world of religion. That’s what I’m talking about, where would God be walking around, where would he hang around, that kind of thing.

UTF: Now, I’m going to ask you, since your contract is ending, say you were given the opportunity to draw for Superman. Would you take that opportunity even though it’s the New 52?

JOHN: I would. Yeah, definitely if it’s on the table. I would join anything. I have ideas for several characters that could apply so I mean absolutely. I have nothing against Superman. Interestingly enough, I was told it was a silly character and then applying an idea I had to it would make it more fun to do. But again, who knows what’s going to happen? I have no way to know what’s going to happen in these couple of months. I’ve got to finish Kick Ass and the order of things will be worked out with my lawyer and the suits.

I have no idea what’s next and I’m looking. That’s what’s exciting, it’s not knowing what’s next.

UTF: It sounds great. I could sit here and ask you like for the next two hours, what if you tackled this character? What if you tackled that character? So I’ll try and refrain.

JOHN: I have plenty enough. I have ideas about all of them but I never had the chance to work on so many of that. I have worked on ideas about each and every one of them.

UTF: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Do you have anything on your mind that you may want to talk to our readers about or say to our readers?

JOHN: You did a great job with the questions. I honestly don’t want to say anything that would get me in trouble so I won’t say anything. I think the Kick Ass will be the champ and I think that everybody should see it, everybody. Even if they don’t want to see it, they should go see it because I’m asking them to.

UTF: Thank you so much for talking to us.