John Romita was the artist that as a kid I recognized as THE Spider-Man artist. It was around that time that instead of buying a comic book because of the character (Spider-Man, Batman, etc.) I started following the artists.
The following is a pic from 1993 when I was on staff at King Features. It was at some cartoon art exhibit (I forget where). My friend Jerry Craft made a point of taking the picture as I could barely get out the words, “Me like your art good.”
Jump ahead to 2002 and I’m the writer/artist of the Flash Gordon newspaper strip, and being that I had decided not to renew my contract, my tenure on the feature was winding down. I was able to get some pretty high profile artists in the past to do a guest spot with the art chores (George Evans and Al Williamson), so for my final year I solicited a few more of some of my favorites.
As King didn’t pay me much for Flash I couldn’t offer Mr. Romita much money – his decision to do it pretty much hinged on the fact he grew up on Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon Sunday page. To grease the wheels some more I also mentioned that Joe Kubert had done the strip just a few weeks prior. (More on that in a previous post.)
Romita’s Flash Gordon Sunday page came out shortly after the first Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie came out in 2002. In one of our talks over the phone he mentioned that one of the things he really took pride in was the prominent role Mary Jane had in the movie as he was the artist that brought that character to life in the pages of the Spider-Man comic book. (More on that in a previous post as well.)
As mentioned, I grew up on Romita’s artwork. His graphic design sense and storytelling ability is a constant source of inspiration. And to work with him on a Flash Gordon page was one of those high water marks that professionally just can’t be beat.