Friday, November 19, 2010

John Romita, Jr - Then & Now!

I'm well documented in my distaste for John Romita, Jr's work, much to the chagrin of one Remington J. Osborn. I think it's time for me to amend that claim - I like JR JR just fine...the old one, that is.

I went into Half Price Books yesterday and picked up a handful of old copper age Iron Man books by Michelinie and Layton. Good stuff. I was surprised to find that several of those issues were pencilled, and pencilled quite beautifully by none other than John Romita, Jr. The image above is the opening splash page from Iron Man # 146, circa 1981.

Now, the credits list Romita as doing the "pencil art", and Bob Layton as completing the "finished art", whatever that means. My interpretation is that Layton inked it, and maybe dressed it up a little. For all I really know, Romita just did the breakdowns and we're looking at Layton's work. But I doubt it.

I'm not sure that it makes sense to see muscle striations through an indestructible metal suit, really, but whatever. It might kick logic in the teeth, but it looks fantastic! Compare that with this shot of Iron Man from the cover of Avengers # 1:

It's hard to believe both pictures were drawn by the same guy!

I suppose some will claim that the Iron Man Romita was drawing in 1981 wasn't even really his own style, but a "house style" John Buscema knock-off, so they'll find the newer version superior since it represents Romita's true individual flair. Fine, I guess.

Tastes will vary, and I've spent the past half hour listening to songs off the "Vison Quest" soundtrack, so my taste is suspect. And listen, John Romita, Jr. can obviously draw however he wants, and artist of any stripe should evolve and progress. Great.

But when I look at the newer Iron Man, to me he looks chunky, clunky, and crude. The 1981 Iron Man looks like a sleek, dynamic, and detailed badass. I like that version better, that's all I'm sayin'.

I just thought it was an interesting juxtaposition, and worth amending my position - I like John Romita, Jr. just fine....I just need a time machine to find the version I enjoy.

- Ryan

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