Although Spider-Man sprung to life as the creation of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, no other artist has defined Marvel’s webslinger like John Romita Sr. Romita’s history as a romance comics artist served him well when he took over from Ditko on The Amazing Spider-Man. Peter Parker’s colorful life became even more vibrant with villains like the Rhino, the Shocker, and the Kingpin. However, it was the introduction of Mary Jane Watson that proved to be Romita’s most lasting contribution to the lore of Spider-Man. MJ went on to become the leading lady of the title, with a fan following all of her own.
Regardless, Romita never truly felt at home on Spider-Man until his second stint on the book. It was at that point that Romita realized he had the freedom to forge his own path with the characters.
“I always felt like a visitor on Spider-Man, like I was always doing Ditko somehow,” confessed Romita. “I was trying to keep the characters consistent. So I didn’t plunge in there as John Romita, I was doing my duty as Spider-Man. So all the early [issues], I’m doing duty. But by the time [Issues] 108 and 109 [came] around, when I’m doing my second turn on Spider-Man, then I’m different. I’m a different person.”
Romita’s take on Spider-Man became so iconic that it defined almost two decades of Spidey licensing art. If you saw Spider-Man on a T-shirt, Underoos, or a poster in the ’70s or the ’80s, then there’s a good chance it was illustrated by Romita.
But perhaps Romita’s greatest legacy is his son, John Romita Jr., who followed his father into comics and forged his own unique style as an artist. This father-and-son duo have left a huge impact on the comic industry, and their work will be remembered for generations to come.
For more details about Romita Sr. and an interview with the man himself, check out the latest episode of SYFY WIRE’s Behind the Panel!