Friday, August 24, 2012

Making a Splash: When John Romita Drew the Fantastic Four

It could have been the end for Marvel Comics. Jack Kirby had left The House of Ideas for their biggest rival (DC, duh!). The co-creator of Marvel's greatest characters--first and foremost the Fantastic Four--had left the building. But somehow, Merry Marvel marched on.

Now, Li'l Groove was just seven or so when all this went down, so I didn't know a thing about it. I just knew that I liked the FF and really dug Sub-Mariner (I was digging his cartoons on WXIX-TV out of Cincy at the time), so I traded one'a my second grade pals some coverless Superman's and a copy of Amazing Adventures #3 (I had doubles) for issues 102-104 of the FF. I did notice something different about the art between 102 and 103, but didn't know enough to figure out what was going on. Now if I'd been eight when this went down, then Li'l Groove would'a been in the know...

What was the difference? Aw, you already know! With FF #103, Jazzy Johnny Romita took over the art chores of the World's Greatest Comic Magazine. For four short issues, the Jazzy One tried to recreate the magic he'd made when he followed in Spidey co-creator Steve Ditko's footsteps. Now, Ol' Groove still doesn't know what happened sales-wise with FF numbers 103-106 (July-October 1970) do know that I dug 'em way back then. These sensational splashes should give ya an idea why!


  1. FF #106 was my introduction to the Fantastic Four when I was about 4 or 5 - I'm not quite sure when it was due to the vagaries of Marvel's distribution into the UK. What I do know is that I loved it then and still do now. From Reed's moral dilemma, to Johnny's "flame-out" in the skies over NYC, to Sue's valiant attempt to contain the "monster", this is a masterpiece in Silver / Bronze Age story-telling. And that Romita / Sinnott artwork kicks ass!

    I'll have to go and re-read the thing now!

  2. This may sound sinful as a once-upon-a-time-loyal-Marvelite, but I actually preferred Romita's Fab 4 to Buscema's later rendition. Romita seemed more modern than Buscema, with a more urban sleek look, the kind of sheen I imagined the team needed.

    Rip Off

  3. Thank you,Mr Groove!
    Lovely large scans!
    Regarding #105;is this some inside joke among New Yorkers?Are the hot dogs sold famously cold,so that you need to warm them up?
    /Mr Anonymous

  4. Let's be honest. Romita's issues were better than most of Kirby's recent issues then because Jack's heart hadn't been in it. My only real complaint is his obvious attempt at being Kirby-like. He had learned from Kirby quite a bit but by that point Ol Ring-a-ding had his own unique style and he was stifling it here. If he had been allowed to run with it, I would have loved to see what he would have come up with. As it is, John Buscema's new look worked for me at the time but, looking back now, seems to have been a long, relatively bland rehash of earlier stories while we waited for Byrne, Ordway and Simonson.

  5. All of the artists mentioned did terrific work. Kirby and Ditko certainly were pivotal to Marvel's initial look in the early to mid '60s, but then Steranko came along and shook things up, and Gene Colan, Neal Adams, and others began pulling out the stops and moving in new directions. By the early '70s John Romita (Sr.) had become THE house style for Marvel, though others (Gil Kane and John & Sal Buscema, for instance) were prolific on covers and interiors as well.

    Roy Thomas had by this time already assumed Stan Lee's mantle as Stan had moved from writer to editor and, in 1972, to publisher.

    A different flavor from the Silver Age Marvel as they moved into the Bronze, but quite good!

    Regarding the NYC hot dog on #105's splash, no they're not served cold; it's just a joke (not a very good one).

    Chris A.

  6. Kirby was a tough act to follow on FF, but Jazzy John did a great job keeping the faith, and I've got to break with Rip on Big John's version. His issues were tops with me!

    1. I'm with you Chuck! John Buscema's run inked by Jolt'in Joe Sinnott! With covers designed by the great Marie Severin! Marie always seemed forgotten sadly. Joe Sinnott was the cement of the FF. He inked the FF non stop basily for 12 years! YES!! 12 years!!

  7. Wow...i had this run of the Fantastic Four when i was a kid. I had read some of the Lee/Kirby issues but this storyline caught my attention.Romita came in and did a wonderful job taking over for Kirby...similar to his artwork on Spidey, this had clean,crisp illustrations. Great time to be reading Marvel comics!

  8. At this point Romita (Sr.) became THE house style for Marvel, and it was necessary for him to step up to the plate since Kirby and Ditko had left. Buscema and Kane were right behind Romita in continuing that look, but with their own personal dynamics shining through. So went the transition from the Silver to the Bronze age at Marvel, and I for one quite liked it!

    Chris A.

  9. It's interesting because, when I was a kid, John Romita Sr. was actually the first artist I could identify without looking at the credits. He may have been trying emulate Kirby (and I guess he was in the layouts), it's still all Romita to me.

    And that ain't bad.

  10. Romita said in an interview that "I could simulate Kirby. I did three or four issues of Fantastic Four in exactly the Kirby style."

    Personally, I see a clear difference and prefer Kirby's work; Romita's FF art seems like a slightly slicker, simplified and less interesting version of Kirby's raw, unbridled inventiveness.

  11. I picked up three of these issues last year out of a 2 dollar box and was absolutely surprised and delighted to find Romita. I had no idea! I think he did a great job of channeling Kirby, particularly in the use of Kirby’s style of perspective. A lot of it looks like Kirby inked by Romita and, um, er, inked again by Sinnott. Hall of Famers all!

  12. I didn't care for Romita's Thing until Sinnott started inking him on his final issue. Would have been interesting to see how Romita would have developed the look of the FF.



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