Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Johnny Romita: Who Made Who?

My friend, the writer Mark Ellis, was discussing Stan Lee’s contributions to comics recently on his Facebook when an official card-carrying representative of the Jurists and Archivists of Credits for Kirby’s Overt Fundamentalist Fans (aka Jackoffs) swooped in with a standard-issue hysterical invective against poor, benign Stan. Why? Because, in certain Groth-pocked social-network circles, praising Stan Lee for even the ability to tie his own shoes is taken as an affront.


“All [Lee] he wrote was dialogue,” opined the acolyte, “but he stole pay and credit for the whole writing job, in order to pad his bank account, and later, as a way to ensure the company owned the Copyrights. THAT's why they started pahying [sic] him a million a year-- so they wouldn't have to risk losing what they STOLE from other people. The sick thing is his fans not only refuse to see this, they also INSIST that the uncalled-for changes he increasibngly [sic] made toward the end of the 60s to other people's perfectly-good already-finished stories were somehow ‘improvements’, when in truth, they resulted in countless plot-holes, continuity problems, and characterization inconsistencies. Considering this guy to be some kind of creative genius, and brilliant writer, is the worst sort of self-delusion.”

The educated Mr. Ellis was quick to assign the vitriol to its rightful place, responding “I'm tired of opinion masquerading as fact. Opinion isn't indisputable, no matter how vehemently you frame it… Until someone puts forth some documentation or old movie film that shows Stan forging Jack's signature on a contract/check or stealing his wallet, all of this sturm-und-drang is based on speculation, conjecture and opinion.”

I’ve known and faithfully corresponded with Stan for three decades. I've also read numerous interviews with him. Never once heard any attempt to remove Jack’s all-important contributions from the creative history of Marvel Comics. But who cares what I’ve read? I’m just another face in the crowd.

But Johnny Romita isn’t.

Indeed, Romita’s position at Marvel was likely as close as anyone would ever again come to replacing Kirby’s all-important role as Marvel's unofficial chief creative officer. So I asked Johnny to go on record regarding his own contributions, and the “process” with Stan.

“Stan would leave a note on my board with a name,” writes Johnny. “The Shocker, the Rhino, the Kingpin, the Prowler, the Kangaroo, the Schemer, the Gibbon, Hammerhead, the Tarantula (not all brilliant)... The other editors would ask for costume designs like Wolverine, Punisher, and a few more… hardly any questions or suggestions… flattering to the ego… also did new costumes for older characters (Black Widow, Falcon, Submariner, etc... Luke Cage, Ms. Marvel also original...over 30 designs). Check out the poster with Alex Ross. He kept reminding of more and more as I sent sketch after sketch… biggest surprise was Roy Thomas and Len Wein not demanding a mask for the Punisher (never a word)… is this enough words? John R”

Further deponent sayeth not.