John Romita Jr. has been drawing for Marvel Comics more than three decades, with stints on pretty much every major character, from “Spider-Man” to “Iron Man” to “Daredevil,” to name a few.
And he’s a legacy: John Romita Sr. is one of the most important “Spider-Man” artists and a long-time art director at Marvel. Romita Jr.’s mother, Virginia, was Marvel’s traffic manager.
But now Romita Jr. is drawing for the competition, DC Comics, where he’ll begin penciling the Man of Steel in a new story line beginning in issue 32 of “Superman.”
To put this in context: Imagine if Mariano Rivera signed with the Red Sox.
So why did Romita Jr., make the shift?
“It wasn’t so much that I preferred anybody over anybody else,” says the Long Islander. “I’ve been doing it a long time with one company, and I wanted to try some different things.”
Romita Jr., 57, had done some creator-owned work — he is the co-creator on “Kick-Ass,” a series of three miniseries, which also spawned a pair of blockbuster films — but his work with DC characters was limited to crossovers with Marvel Comics.
When Romita Jr. was originally in talks with DC, he expressed interest in drawing the company’s other huge star: Batman.
But Batman was busy.
During a breakfast chat with DC co-publisher Dan DiDio, Romita Jr. was talking about an idea for a potential story line he had been toying with for other characters. When he mentioned that it would apply to Superman, DiDio asked to hear the pitch.
“All of the sudden, I realized I never considered doing Superman,” Romita Jr. says. “All the more reason to try it — it’s completely different.”
That story line was put on the back burner. Instead he was paired with Geoff Johns, DC’s chief creative officer and one of the most popular comic writers, for a Superman story involving a familiar, yet new character who shares a common experience with the Man of Steel. The artist is reunited with inker Klaus Janson, who he worked with extensively at Marvel.
Strangely, for an artist with many high-profile gigs on his resume, Romita Jr. says he was met by a lot of fear taking on Superman.
“The fear is, ‘Oh my god, now the spotlight is on me and people are going to be staring at me,'” he explains. “I don’t like to make a lot of noise, but in order to do this type of thing, it’s gonna make a lot of noise.”