Tuesday Q&A: John Romita Jr.

Tuesday Q&A: John Romita Jr.

By Chris Arrant

Next month, the biggest heroes of the Marvel Universe face off in AVENGERS VS. X-MEN. On the creative side of AvX, the biggest creators have been recruited, with one of Marvel’s most tenured talents, John Romita Jr., leading the charge with issue #1 on April 4.

Romita got his start under the guidance of his father, comics legend John Romita Sr. JRJR got his start doing a short story in 1977’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #11, and has gone on to become one of Marvel’s key artists on everything from IRON MAN to DAREDEVIL to UNCANNY X-MEN. After co-creating the Icon series KICK-ASS and directing a segment of the feature film adaptation, Romita returned to Marvel as artist for AVENGERS as they entered the Heroic Age.

And now as Romita helps balance the delicate and explosive nature of AVENGERS VS. X-MEN, Marvel.com talked with him by phone about the nature of event series, the characters he’s drawn to the most, and what it’s like to be drawing what’s becoming the most high-profile book of his career.

Avengers Vs. X-Men #1 preview by John Romita Jr.

Marvel.com: John, you have a long history drawing both the Avengers and the X-Men long before AVENGERS VS. X-MEN. What’s it like to be drawing these two families of characters sharing—and fighting—in the pages of this series?

John Romita Jr.: I’m finishing the third issue now, and it’s something else. Doing each of the groups individually is one thing, but doing them both all in one book is bigger than anything I’ve done before. It’s very daunting, because I’m joining in on the story without knowing much about the build-up. It’s like hopping on the expressway riding a tricycle, so I just have to pedal as fast as I can. It’s difficult but rewarding, and that’s why I’m doing it.

One of the unexpected challenges of this series is the number of new costumes on characters since I’ve drawn them before. On both the X-Men and Avengers side there’s been new costumes implemented, and I almost have to use reference for each costume on every single panel. And there are a trillion new mutants since when I was drawing X-Men.

I’m not really complaining, but quantifying what it’s like for me.

Marvel.com: Although the story of the series remains under wraps, can you give us a glimpse and tell us maybe some special moments that you took to heart the most while drawing them?

John Romita Jr.: I don’t know if I can disclose the big ones, but there are a couple cool vignettes that have some nice character moments. The first meeting between the two teams is pretty exciting. And there are a couple of other images I’m [particularly] proud of, with hopefully more to come. I’m only about three-fifths of the way done with the series, so a lot more to come!

One thing I’m really enjoying is working with the writers. I’ve worked with Brian Michael Bendis before, but the others are pretty new to me. Ed Brubaker in particular, has been fun to draw from.

Avengers Vs. X-Men #1 preview by John Romita Jr.

Marvel.com: Who do you enjoy drawing most in AVENGERS VS. X-MEN?

John Romita Jr.: The Red Hulk; he’s just a big guy in a pair of pants and glowing eyes. If you’re going to ask who’s the hardest, I’d say Danger from the X-Men. She’s so intricate, and she’s been drawn different ways before so finding the right way to depict her has been tough.

Doctor Strange is another one I’ve enjoyed drawing. He’s one of my favorite characters of all time. And also Magneto and Colossus/Juggernaut. I wish I could do more on each of them, so it’s bittersweet to draw them as much as I have.

Marvel.com: And there’s always the catalyst of this series, the Phoenix Force. This isn’t the first time you’ve drawn the return of the Phoenix; I remember you drawing UNCANNY X-MEN #199 which saw the Phoenix return in the body of Rachel Summers. As someone who’s spent their entire career here at Marvel, how would you describe the specialness and uniqueness of the Phoenix Force returning here today?

John Romita Jr.: The Phoenix is one of the more brilliant creations in comics in modern history. I have to tip my hat to Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum, rest in peace, for creating the Phoenix Force. To me, it’s tantamount to what Jack Kirby and Stan Lee did in the best of FANTASTIC FOUR. With how the Phoenix Force is set up, the recriminations and reverberations it’s caused in the Marvel Universe have shaped the way these comics have developed.

And that image of the flaming phoenix bird, really fun to draw.

Marvel.com: With arguably the largest cast of characters for any event series in some time, have there been certain pairings or face-offs in AVENGERS VS. X-MEN that you are interested in drawing the most?

Avengers Vs. X-Men #1 preview by John Romita Jr.

John Romita Jr.: There are some great match-ups, but I can’t reveal them just yet. There is a nice large duke-out with a couple characters early on, and there’s a couple scenes with the lead heroes going one-on-one that are great.

Marvel.com: On the creative side, Marvel’s using five writers to plan out this event series. How would you describe how you’re taking to that, and how you as the lead on the art side of things balance it all?

John Romita Jr.: The conversation pretty much goes like this. An editor tells me: “Romita! Hurry up, you’re late!” Then I retort, “I’m going as fast as I can!”

As far as the other artists, I haven’t really been in touch with them directly. We’re doing an event in April in New York that I hope to see them all at and commiserate things so far.

Marvel.com: You’ve drawn a number of high-profile series, from CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS to DAREDEVIL: MAN WITHOUT FEAR to more recent ones like WORLD WAR HULK. In terms of history, how do you think AVENGERS VS. X-MEN matches up with what’s come before?

John Romita Jr.: It’s all about scale. You mentioned CONTEST OF CHAMPIONS, and while that was full of characters, some of them were pretty obscure. AVENGERS VS. X-MEN is all of Marvel’s mainstream characters going at it. Definitely the biggest thing of my career so far, and then some.

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