Comics: Chatting up 'Kick-Ass' guru John Romita Jr.

  • Article by: ANDREW A. SMITH , Scripps Howard News Service
  • Updated: August 22, 2013 - 2:50 PM

Everyone wants to know what John Romita Jr. has to say. As the co-creator (with writer Mark Millar) and artist of “Kick-Ass,” Romita is in demand due to the new film “Kick-Ass 2.”

Romita grew up at the feet of legendary artist and longtime Marvel Comics art director John Romita Sr., whose run on “Amazing Spider-Man” set the standard look of the character. Now, 37 years later, Junior has had his own successful runs on popular titles such as “Amazing Spider-Man,” “Daredevil” and “Wolverine,” and drawn at one time or another virtually every Marvel character.

But the “Wolverine” story he drew — “Enemy of the State,” written by Millar — proved most fateful. It was a long series, he said, where he and Millar got to know and like each other.

“One of us mentioned, or both, about doing something creator-owned,” he said. “And he had an idea that might be worthy. And it’s a chance, because the only way to get it published was to take no money upfront, a complete gamble on sales and so on.”

That turned out to be “Kick-Ass.” It was published by Marvel’s Icon imprint, which allows for creator ownership. Romita was so pumped up that he changed his style.

“I was consciously wanting to have a physical difference in the artwork,” he said. “So I made a subtle change. … I literally left out all dark fields; no black, no shading. I wanted just linear — lots of line work. A real illustrative look.”

Romita struggled with the graphic violence in “Kick-Ass,” he said, and finally opted to pre­sent the material within the bounds of his normal work for Marvel Comics. So, unlike the film, in the comic book, it’s more often implied.

“A scream off-panel or off-camera — a bloodcurdling scream — is still effective,” he said.

Not that he’s condemning the movie. He was thrilled to see characters he’d drawn, and some actual scenes, up on the screen.

“Wow!” he said with a laugh. “I saw my name on the screen … and I still wanted to jump out of my seat and scream.”

It’s an experience he might have again, with “Kick-Ass 3,” which is “better than the first two combined, as far as Mark’s words,” he said. “Just brilliant, brilliant stuff. The story is set up beautifully, and it’s a nice completion to the arc. And I’m trying to keep up the quality of the artwork, with the quality of the story. He really nailed it.”

Then there’s “Gray Area,” a creator-owned work Romita wrote and drew in 2004; it now has a screenplay, director and production company attached. “We’re going to republish the graphic novel in time for the second draft of the screenplay,” he said.

But the big question in Romita’s future is that his latest contract with Marvel has lapsed — and that competitor DC Comics has made an offer.

“I’ve always been fascinated with an idea that would apply to Superman,” he said. “My lawyer is working out things with Marvel, and my lawyer is working out things with DC. I’ve no idea what the future holds. But I wasn’t fascinated with Superman until about two months ago, and now I am.”

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