John Romita

Cartoonist Jim Keefe (age 13) in the Minneapolis Tribune

Time for the Wayback Machine, Mr. Peabody, to a chilly winter’s day 34 years ago…

Back in 1978 – waaaaaaay before I had the inkling that I’d eventually have a comic strip of my own in the newspaper – the Minneapolis Tribune ran the following Spider-Man cartoon of mine.

Minneapolis Tribune – December 3, 1978

This being my first experience with newspaper reproduction, I was amazed at how the lines I had carefully rendered on Spider-Man’s costume came out as just one big black blob. Bleaahhhh…

Some backstory…

I had been clipping the Spider-Man newspaper religiously for two years – artwork by none other than the incredible  purchase generic Lyrica John Romita!

Spider-Man newspaper strip by John Romita – 12/12/1977

Then suddenly – out of NOWHERE – the Tribune decides to drop it and replace it with…
(Wait for it.)

Encyclopedia Brown.



From Dick Cunningham’s editorial:

Wright (managing editor) and Wallace Allen, associate editor of the Tribune, think they have found a suitable replacement in “Encyclopedia Brown,” who appears for the first time in the Tribune today.

Brown is a boy detective confronted with a new crime each Sunday. He solves it by Saturday. Readers are given the same clues that Brown has and are invited to see if they reach the same solution.

“It’s kind of fun,” says Wright.

It’ll have to be to satisfy Keefe. “Woe be it to you,” he wrote. “May Dr. Doom trample your upholstery, may the Rattler bite your dog and may Mysterio make mincemeat of your hamburger.”

I must say, I was quite the master of hyperbole at age 13 – but to no avail. They ended up dropping Encyclopedia Brown years later as well, but Spider-Man was never to return.

The story does have a happy ending though. My Aunt Pat who lived in Boston got wind of this and sent me the Spider-Man strip out of her newspaper for the next two years (pretty much the rest of Romita’s run). My Aunt Pat was pretty great that way.

An added bonus was that the Boston paper printed their comic strips much bigger than the Tribune – so take THAT Mr. Wright and Allen!!!

And I still have those scrapbooks. 4 years of Pad Īdan stellar Romita art and lots of fond memories.

My three scrapbooks – the first one signed years ago by John Romita himself!

For those of you who DIDN’T psychotically and laboriously collect the strip as a kid, and still would like to have a collection of them, check out IDW’s Spider-Man Comic Strip  collections.

Image from

They did a beautiful job on them and I can’t recommend them highly enough.

Last but not least, I later paid homage to my Aunt Pat by giving her a cameo in Flash Gordon (she’s the one next to the pumpkin in the third panel).


Proving once again that no good deed goes unpunished.
For more backstory on my Aunt Pat’s page, go to Uncle Whit and Aunt Pat.

-Jim Keefe

Artist Spotlight John Romita

John Romita – The Crying Game

John Romita’s artwork is pretty much a staple of romance comics from the 1950s on, and for good reason. Here’s a quick sampling…

When Romita took over drawing Spider-Man from Steve Ditko, it was inevitable his strength for the Sturm und Drang of romance comics would be thrown into the mix.

The following examples are from the Spider-Man newspaper strip.
Click on artwork for larger image.

So when I needed to up the ante for Hil and Nona in the March 25, 2017 Sally Forth strip I leaned heavily on Romita for inspiration.

So much so I even snuck his name into the last panel as a tip of the hat.

Need more of a Romita fix? Check out the following…

For more of Romita’s Spider-Man comic book work: John Romita

For more comic strip art: Holiday Greetings – Stan Lee & John Romita

And last but not least, for some video of Romita at the drawing board…

John Romita

Happy New Year 2017!

John Romita drawing from the Mighty Marvel Calendar for 1975.
(With a quick type change for 2017.)

John Romita Ramblings & Reviews

The Requirements For Being Cast as Mary Jane in a Spider-Man Movie

Mary Jane's first appearance. Amazing Spider-Man #42 – November 1966
Mary Jane’s first appearance.
Amazing Spider-Man #42 – November 1966

As with any superhero movie these days, there are those fans who have a problem with casting before the movie has even seen the light of day. The most recent is Zendaya as Mary Jane in the upcoming Spider-Man film starring Tom Holland.


For the Twitterverse argument, check out the following from Mic Network Inc.
Zendaya is Mary Jane in ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming,’
so of course there’s racist backlash

For my two cents worth let’s go back to the very beginning shall we…?

Here’s John Romita  (who first drew Mary Jane) on creating the character.

“…I think I based her partially on Ann-Margret. I used Ann-Margret’s dimples and a cleft in the chin and some of the full faced smile that she had, cause we were trying to make a girl that was very with-it, and very modern.”

If you watched the previous video clip, you saw a little bit of a 22-year-old Ann Margaret – the very definition of with-it and modern for the 1960s.

Now compare it to the following clip of Zendaya dancing with Tom Holland and ask yourself if she fits the role in 2016 for “very with-it, and very modern.”

Courtesy of Deja Carter‘s Instagram

And if you need any further convincing, here’s a quote from Stan Lee (Mary Jane’s co-creator) regarding Zendaya being cast (from the Toronto Sun).


“If she is as good an actress as I hear she is, I think it’ll be absolutely wonderful.”

If you have any other arguments, it is now moot.
Nuff said. Excelsior!


Update: I’d like to clarify that I don’t think that anyone who objects to the casting because it’s not the original look of the character is a racist. That’s absurd.

My point is that the character of Mary Jane was created as a vivacious, fashionable modern woman – and in adapting that character to film her hair and skin color aren’t necessarily the defining elements. That’s my two cents worth at least.

-Jim Keefe

Flash Gordon John Romita

John Romita Draws Flash Gordon

Flash Gordon Sunday page for December 1, 2002.
Art by John Romita Sr.

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.”

Fledgling artist, Jim Keefe,  with John Romita Sr. - May 1993
Fledgling artist, Jim Keefe, with John Romita Sr. – May 1993

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.)

Flash Gordon Sunday page for November 10, 2002.
Art by Joe Kubert

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.

-Jim Keefe