Published June 15, 2023

Remembering John Romita Sr., 1930-2023

Marvel mourns the passing of John Romita Sr., an iconic comic book artist whose run on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN transformed Peter Parker and his supporting cast. Romita also co-created the Punisher and Wolverine during his legendary career, in which he also worked as Marvel’s art director and served as a mentor for countless creators during his decades-long tenure with the company. Romita was more than just an employee at Marvel. He was family. 

Romita was born on January 24, 1930 in Brooklyn and he entered the realm of comic books in 1949 when he sold a story to the comic strip anthology Famous Funnies, which ultimately went unpublished. Regardless, a chance encounter with inker Lester Zakarin led Romita to provide uncredited artwork for a story published by Timely Comics, the company that would eventually become Marvel. Romita continued ghosting stories for Zakarin, which led to his first meeting with editor-in-chief Stan Lee.

In 1951, Romita was drafted into the U.S. Army and his stint as a recruitment poster artist allowed him the freedom to approach Atlas Comics, the successor to Timely, for more comic book work. This briefly allowed Romita to work on new Captain America stories in YOUNG MEN (1950) #24–28 and CAPTAIN AMERICA (1941) #76–78. From the mid-to-late ’50s, Romita moved over to DC Comics and worked extensively on the company’s romance comic books, and that experience came in handy during Romita’s return to Marvel in 1965.

John Romita Sr. Artwork Banner

Although Romita initially desired to work as an inker, Lee convinced him to pencil DAREDEVIL (1964) beginning with issue #12. Issues #16-17, which featured Spider-Man as a special guest star, led Romita to follow Steve Ditko as the second artist on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (1963), in collaboration with Lee. Romita’s stint on the book redefined the web-slinger and his supporting cast. Romita’s talent for romance and soap opera stories allowed the series to flourish with the full introduction of Mary Jane Watson in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (1963) #42, which became one of the most famous panels in Marvel history.

Romita and Lee also introduced new villains for Spidey, including Rhino, the Shocker, and Wilson Fisk, AKA the Kingpin. Romita illustrated or laid out the art for 56 issues and drew over 50 covers during his first run on the book. He returned to AMAZING SPIDER-MAN for a second run from #105–115, before closing out this stint with #119. He also continued to contribute covers and occasional inking through issue #166.

During the ’70s, Romita became Marvel’s art director. In 1977, he also took on the artistic duties for the AMAZING SPIDER-MAN newspaper strip. Romita reunited with Lee for the comic strip, and he remained with it until late 1980, defining Spider-Man and his supporting cast’s look for generations. His was considered to be the definitive take. 

Romita’s association with Spider-Man continued long after he stepped back from regular artistic duties. For instance, he inked the first appearance of Monica Rambeau in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL (1964) #16, as well as the first appearance of Hobgoblin in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (1963) #238. 

For Spidey’s 30th anniversary, he illustrated a nine-page story called “I Remember Gwen” in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (1963) #365. Years later, in WEBSPINNERS: TALES OF SPIDER-MAN (1999) #1, he returned to pencil and ink the story of Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy’s first kiss. In 2003, he illustrated a very memorable four-page sequence in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (1999) #500, where Peter reunited with his uncle, Ben Parker.

Romita’s artistic peers have inducted him into both the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame and the Inkwell Awards Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame. He also mentored many young artists during their time as “Romita’s Raiders” in the Marvel bullpen. Some of the Raiders include Greg Capullo, James Fry, Tom Morgan, Mark McKenna, Kevin Maguire, Jose Marzan, Don Hudson, Chris Ivy and Rodney Ramos. His wife, Virginia Romita, also found her way into Marvel as the company’s traffic manager from 1975 to 1996. Romita’s son, John Romita Jr., followed in his father’s footsteps to become an acclaimed artist as well, with his own memorable runs on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. 

The impact Romita left on everyone he met at Marvel is undisputed. He was always kind and warm and served as an inspiration to all who knew him or followed his work. Romita helped build the Marvel Universe as we know it, and he will be greatly missed by everyone who had the pleasure of knowing him. He meant a lot to us, and the same is true for the many fans who enjoyed his artwork. Through them, and all of you, his legacy will live on.