Romita first worked for Marvel from 1951 to 1957, drawing war, western, crime and horror genre stories and features Captain America, Western Kid, "Greg Knight" and "Jungle Boy". He was laid off in 1957 when publisher Martin Goodman drastically cut his comic book division a result of his distributor going out of business (known by comic book aficionados as "The Atlas Implosion"). Romita found work at National/DC, drawing stories exclusively for the romance line. In 1965 Romita returned to Marvel, at first inking but soon taking over the art on Daredevil from the departing Wally Wood. At the time of this article Romita was working at Marvel for less than a year and had recently taken over the reigns of Amazing Spider-Man when Steve Ditko quit (judging by Romita's comments he was likely working on Amazing Spider-Man # 41 at the time). While hardly an in-depth discussion, this peek into a specific point in Romita's career by a teen aged fan reveals a few surprises, which I'll discuss in greater depth below.
On page one of Bob Sheridan's article, "Rambling with Romita" the artist makes a revelation that I believe has heretofore been unknown. Bill Ward apparently pencilled a few pages of Amazing Spider-Man to help Romita out on a deadline. This was not an unusual occurrence in comics; assistants (or ghost artists) were often uncredited in both comic books and comic strips.
Bill Ward was a comic book artist dating back to the early 1940s, working for Fawcett, ACG, Feature Comics and Quality, notably on Blackhawk. Ward is also noted for creating Torchy, a comic strip featuring a sexy blonde that was produced while serving in the Fort Hamilton Army base in Brooklyn, New York during World War II. The strip was soon syndicated to Army papers throughout the world. Torchy later became a feature at Quality comics and received her own title for a period in the late 1940s. In the 1950s and beyond Ward began working for Abe Goodman at Magazine Management (the parent company of Timely/Atlas/Marvel) on digest mags such as Humorama, where he drew one panel gag cartoons featuring his specialty, sexy women. His other major account was for Cracked magazine, where he drew humor features for many years.
Bill Ward's statuesque Torchy blended sex and humor, as seen on this splash page from Torchy # 4, May 1950. Image from Comic Book Plus.
Since Ward continued to work on Goodman's digest mags in the 1960s (including an episode of Pussycat, a strip that appeared in Male Annual and Stag Annual and was reprinted in a one shot magazine in 1968), it's logical that he was available to assist Romita. From what I gather by Romita's comments Ward worked on Amazing Spider-Man # 41, dated October 1966. After closely examining the art I suspect Ward contributed to the five page fight sequence with the Rhino (pages 13-17). As Romita noted, he touched up some of Ward's art (and may have provided breakdowns). Below are examples of a few pages from that sequence, all with inking by Mike Esposito.
Page 13 is the beginning of the Rhino sequence, and may be where Ward began to assist Romita. Panels 1 and 6 look a bit awkward by Romita's standards, although the other panels may have been revised by Romita.
Page 15 opens with a large panel that captures a sense of dynamics typical of Romita. The figures of the Rhino in panels 2-3 and Spider-Man in panel three are a bit stiff and unlike Romita's style.
The last three panels on page 16 employ cartoony figures, ala the "Jack Davis style" Romita refers to in the article.
In my estimation page 17 is a clear sign of another hand involved in the art. The awkward position of the figures (particularly panels one and two), the appearance of the characters and the linework differ from Romita's usual clean and stylish pencils. Again, Romita may have provided Ward with a rough pencil breakdown to work from, but the overall art is choppier than usual.
On page two of the article Romita speaks of his predecessor on Spider-Man, Steve Ditko. His observations are likely based on discussions with Stan Lee, maintaining his view on their relationship. What is most revealing is Romita's statement that it was Ditko's choice to make Norman Osborn the Green Goblin and Ditko "drew the mags so that Osborn HAD to be the Goblin". This corresponds with Ditko's later accounts:
“I even used an earlier, planted character associated with J. Jonah Jameson, he became the Green Goblin.” Steve Ditko, the Green Goblin, Robin Snyder’s the Comics, July 2001
Amazing Spider-Man # 37, June 1966
Ditko's penultimate issue of Amazing Spider-Man pointed suspicion directly to a man who had been appearing as a background character in Jameson's men's club for many issues, often in stories that also featured the Goblin. His son Harry, a fellow student at Peter Parker's college, is seen in panel two.
"I planted the GG’s son (same distinctive hair) in the college issues for more dramatic involvement and story line consequences" Steve Ditko, The Ever Unwilling, Robin Snyder’s the Comics, Mar 2009
Romita’s later testimony parroted Lee’s, which is understandable since Romita would not recall events he was not directly involved in. This early statement by Romita, a short time after he had completed the Green Goblin's identity revelation with Stan Lee (Amazing Spider-Man #'s 39-40) is critical, since events were fresh in his mind. In my estimation this confirms Ditko's accounts that there was never any clash with Lee over the Goblin's identity.
For a more detailed account read my article "The Urban Myth of Lee, Ditko and the Green Goblin" in Ditkomania # 82, Oct 2010 (a fine fanzine which you can purchase through publisher Rob Imes) https://www.facebook.com/ditkomania
On the last two pages Romita discusses many topics, including the upcoming Marvel Super-Heroes cartoon, the Batman TV show (which he could finally watch in color - a big event in that period - note the new set that the author helped him with) his former employers, National/DC and Jack Kirby. His admiration for the work of Kirby shines through, along with his disgust with editors who didn't appreciate his monumental talent.
The Marvel Super-Heroes cartoon Romita discusses arrived on television screens in September of 1966. The animation was crude and barely animated, but it did employ the art and (truncated) stories from Marvel's comics. I still have a soft spot for the series, perhaps because I was at just the right age to be enthralled by these characters coming to life in my living room each night. Ad from Amazing Spider-Man # 43, December 1966. Art by Jack Kirby, Gene Colan and Marie Severin; inks by Chic Stone, Vince Colletta, Jack Able and Don Heck.
John Romita grew up with and admired Jack Kirby's artistry, drew Captain America in the 1950s and, along with Milton Caniff, was a clear influence of his style. In 1965 he had the opportunity to work with the master on a number of occasions. Here Romita works over Kirby layouts on a Hulk story and the work speaks for itself. Tales To Astonish # 77, March 1966.
John Romita worked at Marvel for decades, as artist, art director and go-to guy. His clean, distinctive line, superb sense of storytelling and exceptional, poster like cover art drew readers in and sold comics month after month. On a personal level Mr. Romita is a true gentleman who loves talking about the business and celebrating the work of his peers. Now retired, Romita's work continues to be studied, respected and, most importantly - enjoyed.