John Romita

John Romita – Creating Mary Jane

Shortly after the first Spider-Man movie came out in 2002 I had the fortunate opportunity to work with John Romita on a Flash Gordon strip (more about that later). One of the things he really took pride in regarding that first Spider-Man film was the prominent role Mary Jane had.

Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane - Spider-Man 2002
Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane – Spider-Man 2002

Romita did so as he was the one who created her in the comic book. The character had been alluded to during Steve Ditko’s run, but Romita gave her life.

An iconic moment from Spider-Man #42 - November 1966
An iconic moment from Spider-Man #42 – November 1966

Here’s John Romita talking about his inspiration for Mary Jane. The clip is from the 1992 series Comic Book Greats with Stan Lee. This particular episode focuses on the Romitas – Junior and Senior.

Note: Inserts from “Bye Bye Birdie” and Romita’s original art were not in the original version.

In a previous post I mentioned how much easier a character is to write and draw once you have a clear image of them in your head – that it ends up changing your story in ways you hadn’t ever imagined. I’m sure when they initially introduced Mary Jane, Lee and Romita never imagined this…

Promo piece done by Romita for Peter Parker and Mary Jane's wedding - 1987.
Promo piece done by Romita for Peter Parker and Mary Jane’s wedding – 1987.

During his three decade tenure at Marvel Comics, John Romita would be a guiding force – drawing and/or designing almost every major character. The best cartoonists are the ones who introduce characters that set the standard for the ones to follow – one of John Romita’s is Mary Jane Watson.

John Romita's model sheet for Mary Jane.
John Romita’s model sheet for Mary Jane.

UPDATE: Just got word from Mike Burkey that he actually owns the Mary Jane artwork featured in this post. With that said, if you want to check out the mother lode of Romita art, check out Mike’s site at:

By Jim Keefe

Jim Keefe is the current artist of the Sally Forth comic strip. From 1996-2003 he was the writer and artist of the Flash Gordon comic strip. A graduate of the Joe Kubert School, Keefe likewise teaches Comic Art. Teaching and speaking engagements include SVA in Manhattan, Hofstra’s UCCE Youth Programs, and most recently the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

2 replies on “John Romita – Creating Mary Jane”

Hey. Jim —

Bravo! I’ve interviewed John “Ring-a-Ding” Romita at least twice, maybe three times in the past five years. He’s a great a guy as he is a great talent, and that’s saying something! An excellent and well-deserved tribute you’ve assembled here; thanks! And Happy Christmas to you and yours —

— Bruce Canwell
The Library of American Comics

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