Exclusive Interview: Artist John Romita Jr. Talks Marvel’s Heroic Age, ‘Kick-Ass’ and More

After many years of happily reading John Romita Jr.’s work on Wolverine’s “Enemy of the State” Arc, Spider-Man and Kick-Ass, I was thrilled to be able to interview John Romita, Jr. (or JR. Jr.) for Marvel’s return to a bright, new day with the “Heroic Age.”

I caught up with the delightful John while he was working hard on the Avengers.  It seems this is one man who can draw and answer in-depth questions at the same time.

As always he was humorous, insightful, and well…in need of a nap.  Read on, true believers, and enjoy the latest from the desk of the modest legend himself.

The Flickcast: Marvel takes the entire Avengers line of titles into “The Heroic Age.” You’ve been paired up with Brian Michael Bendis on the core “Avengers” title; is your opening run contained to the first arc or two, or do you plan on being involved for the foreseeable future?

John Romita, Jr: In the first year I’m doing it [Avengers] for a minimum of 2 arcs and I’m enjoying myself.  If the book is still doing well, I’ll do it for a second year.  It’s so difficult, though, that I may not survive the first year— it’s intense work.

I have to finish 25 pages in the next 17 days.  So, after doing Avengers, I may want to sleep for a year.  But doing the Avengers with Bendis is an amazing experience.  If I get through the year and I’m still healthy enough, I will do another one.

TF: What are the benefits and challenges of drawing iconic characters like Thor, Spidey, Iron Man, Wolverine, and Captain America vs. drawing characters you create?

JR: Oh, that’s on a strictly selfish scale, it’s much more fun to do a character you create because you create them and there’s a lot of gratification for that, but working on iconic characters is like driving your father’s classic car, it’s spectacular and fantastic, but it’s better off when it’s your own.

TF: How do you visualize iconic characters and make them your own?

JR: Aside from a costume alteration that might happen, I think it’s just your own portrayal of the character, your own version, that makes it yours.

TF: “The Heroic Age” has been promoted by Marvel as returning to a world of hope and light and giving the good guys their time in the sun. How does this brightened tone play into your work?

JR: I think the Heroic Age is a self-explanatory word [to describe the tone].  For the longest time there was a lot of dark and this [age] returns the character to their roots.  It allows you to be more heroic in the storytelling.

TF: Marvel Studios has announced plans to film Thor, Captain America, and the Avengers.  Do the films effect the look of your work on the current books or vice versa?

JR: I hope the later, I would love to know the film would be affected by my work.  No, I don’t get effected by what the film could look like, unless there’s a strict costume adjustment for the film.  It would be extremely flattering if the film would be affected by my work, but I don’t expect that to happen.

TF: Do you have discussions with Marvel regarding the correlation of comic books and film?

JR: Nothing yet, I don’t expect that to happen just before the film, and any adjustments would most likely be the costume.

TF: Hollywood’s looking to reboot both Spider-Man and Daredevil. With your experience on both of those properties, in what direction do you feel the studios should take that would jump-start them into viable franchises while remaining close to the ideals each character represents?

JR: Ultimately it is the story and it [the film or comic book] gets affected by the quality of the story.  No matter how goofy the character looks, it’s defined by the story.  A good story makes the comic that much better, even despite the artist in some cases.

TF: Wonder Woman’s costume has recently been re-vamped for a more modern approach.  What do you think of comic book companies that decide to do a complete overhaul on their classic characters?

JR: Over time it has to happen, unless the character is consistently done well story- wise over 40, 50, 60 years, and still there’s always ebbs and flows. Listen, the brain trust has got to do something. I do understand reboots and complete re-dos of characters and I understand it’s business wise.

TF: What are your future projects?

JR: Other than the Avengers and the second Kick-Ass comic book arc, I have two other creator-owned projects.  One I’m working with writer Howard Chaykin called Shmuggy and Bimbo.  I created the treatment and passed it on to Howard, but that’s not until after I’m done with Kick-Ass and Avengers that I’ll do that.

I’m doing a treatment for another project, but that’s further down the line.  During the week I’m working on Avengers and on nights and weekends I’m working on Kick-Ass. So, I’m working 7 days a week!

TF: Since the Kick-Ass film was produced prior to the initial arc of the Kick-Ass comic being published, what do you think of the plot and ending of the film?

JR: Interestingly enough and ironically, had I not worked on the film, I could have worked on the arc and put more of the series in the film!  I thought the movie was great and I really enjoyed it.  It’s unfortunate though that one word [in the film] turned off a portion of people, that’s ludicrous, but, I’m really proud of the film.

TF: Do you have any future plans of working with Mark Millar again?

JR: After Kick-Ass is done with and by the time I get back around to working on another one with Mark Millar, but he might be so rich he doesn’t want to do it.  But if the second movie does well, I’ll do a third arc.  He has so many great artists to work with, he might not want to use me.

Aw, that’s just not true. After all of John’s spectacular work on Spider-man, wonderful work on Wolverine, and kick-ass work on, well, Kick-Ass, I know of no one who wouldn’t jump at the chance of working with this multi-talented man.

And until Wolverine and Spider-man take a job babysitting Hit-Girl, Make Mine Marvel.

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