EXCLUSIVE: John Romita Jr On KICK-ASS, DAREDEVIL And CAPTAIN AMERICA
We talk with the living legend, John Romita Jr. about all things Kick-Ass, his upcoming work on Captain America with Rick Remender and even squeeze in a bit of Daredevil nostalgia.
The 10,000-Hour Rule - the school of thought which specifies that it takes 10,000 hours of practice at a specific task to become a master. That roughly breaks down to 10 yrs of practice, IF you're practicing part-time. John Romita Jr. has been an artist at Marvel Comics for 35 yrs. Over the course of those years, there's been some great runs at Marvel- Frank Miller on Daredevil, Chris Claremont on X-Men, JMS on Spider-Man to name a few and guess who was supplying the art on these titles? These days, John brings his distinctive style to Kick-Ass and Hit Girl with Mark Millar and the Avengers vs X-Men series which wraps this October. In the near future, you'll receive more JRJr art in Captain America, where he and Rick Remender take over the series this November as part of MarvelNOW! Recently, John was gracious enough to join me for a lengthy 40 minute chat where we touched on a number of subjects. We'll be breaking that into multiple installments with the first segment below focusing on Kick-Ass (comic series), the sequel film and his work with Remender on Captain America.
ComicBookMovie.com Exclusive Interview With John Romita Jr. by MarkJulian
enough. In my heart-of-hearts I wish I could've gotten the whole series done instead of 3 or 4 or whatever it was by the time they got to the filming. (That way) they could've at least taken whatever they wanted from it.
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|Mark Juian: Kick-Ass 2 begins shooting next month and we already know that it combines bits of the Hit-Girl solo series and Kick-Ass Vol. 2. What's the collaboration dynamic between you and Mark Millar like on the comic book series?
John Romita Jr: He sends me a script/plot or plot/script and pretty much lets me run with it. And I think that's been the collaboration from the beginning. I get a great idea in its infancy and then we play with it. It has worked out because its such a...I'm loathe to say- such a nasty story. When I first started it was such a departure from what I did, the interesting thing was how unique it became because it was something unfamiliar which I applied my normal stuff to. I think that's the collaboration, Mark is so far out there and I was such a mainstream artist/storyteller at the time, instead of being concerned, I applied my normal process to it and it happened to work out really well. He sends me all of these strange machinations and scripts and plots and I try to apply whatever normalcy is in my head. Although after working with Mark for three years, there's not much normalcy in my head.
MJ: Looking at the first film, were you pleased with the plot changes or do you look back and wish the book had been finished so the film would've aligned more with the comic?
JRJr: I'm torn. Because it wold be really presumptuous of me to believe that if I had finished the whole series earlier that they would've used it.....Regardless, I wish I had gotten it all done because then they could've chose or Mathew (Vaughn) could've chosen. He did use quite a bit of it visually in the beginning of the film. Unfortunately, it was such a breakneck pace....the process became such a breakneck pace that I really couldn't get it done quick enough. Not because there wasn't enough time per say (but) I was doing another title at the same time and Marvel was kind of looking down their sleeve at me saying 'Keep up on your deadlines' (laughs). I just couldn't seem to work fast enough, then there was work to be done on the film which also threw a monkey in the wrench, I had to work on the animated scene. So, I was going back and forth via the internet, flying over there and it really mucked things up schedule wise. I couldn't get it done quickly
I'm actually at a point (now) where I'm within about 30 pgs of artwork to finish the Hit Girl series and its going to be close and I probably will be done before they begin the filming or I'll just about be done with the fifth issue when they begin filming. Maybe they'll use some of it, maybe they won't-it's better to have that opportunity for them to choose from. Jeff Wadlow is a very very talented guy, did a great job with the screenplay based on Mark's synopsis. I've been sending him artwork and scans of the pencils for quite a while now, he's got a lot to go by. The only hold up I think is because we're doing things out of order in a certain respect, I have to finish the Hit Girl series because that's the first half of the film story wise.
MJ: At one point,there was going to be an animated segment in the sequel but it seems like things have been scaled back on the production-
JRJr: No, there was discussion with Jeff Wadlow about possibly doing something for the sequel; money had nothing to do with it. He mentioned it early on when he was first picked and no one knew. (We) had an early conversation via email that 'he would love to do something like that in the second film', it hasn't gone any further than that. All I said (in an earlier interview) was that the director had discussed it and nothing was decided on. Now ,there' is something that he's asked me to do, that I can't discuss, that's not an animated sequence but (requires) artwork to be done. Again, that could change, there's still a year before that film comes out, who knows what they could throw into it. Right now, 'whatever he has me doing' is not an animated sequence.
MJ: Jumping back to the comic book, Kick-Ass Vol. 3 is reportedly going to be the last volume in the series. What are your thoughts on that and do you think that's truly the last we'll see of Dave Lizewski?
JRJr: I have no idea if that's the last we'll see of him. Even if I knew-no I do know the ending but I'm not going to say anything. I don't know what goes beyond the third series. There's so much attachment to this because of that film- I love the characters so much because of the film. (The movie) made it more tangible than the average comic books series. Regardless, even when I do a regular series for a year, two years, three years, I get a certain attachment to it. Mark throws so much of his own personal life into it and I do the same. So much of the visual in the book comes from my own personal belongings, clothing, settings- the area for Kick-Ass, the home base and the locations are Queens, where I was brought up. There's an attachment to it but it's (also) an easier reference point than taking the internet apart to get reference on a street. In Kick-Ass, I use my own memory so there's an attachment to it,just like there's an attachment with Spider-Man, Daredevil and Punisher. But this goes a little further with the film, getting my ugly mug in the first film and my name on the screen might have something to do with it. It's a little bit of a 'chest inflater' I guess so there's more than just the average attachment to a comic, this is an attachment on a personal basis. When it ends it will be a sad day for me because I enjoy working on it so much. I don't know what goes beyond the third, Mark hasn't discussed that, he hasn't asked me for any story ideas. I know what's in the third series but I don't know what goes beyond it.
MJ: How did you come to join Rick Remeder on the Marvel NOW! Captain America series?
JRJr: I'm finishing the second issue (now) and this is about the largest departure from Kick-Ass as you can get it, it's a huge departure from Kick-Ass. The character is different, the costume is different, I'm struggling with the new costume and setting. I got a great, detailed tome containing a synopsis from Rick in advance of the first script and its like reading a short novel, its incredible. It's really out there and- I don't wan to give anything away but it takes a lot of work to get all of Rick's story- its a story-telling challenge. There's a challenge with Mark but its' a different kind of challenge. I'm a little bit more familiar with Mark, I'm feeling my way with Rick. (For example) I'm getting through the second issue and when I finish it, I feel like I've given a pint of blood- 'ok, let me drink some orange juice and relax here and then go out and drink to excess' (laughs). Rick is an artist, was an artist/is an artist- I guess you don't stop being an artist and he's a brilliant writer. We're feeling our way with each other and it's as close as having a tequila nightmare as you can get in some of these scenes.....and that's a compliment.
MJ: How does a title and character like Captain America inform your style as an artist versus something like Kick-Ass?
JRJr: My first impression...my first thought of doing anything, including any design of a panel begins with that. I'm trying to do something that I haven't done before. Now that's almost impossible, just about everything has been done before. I've probably (personally) done everything several times. But it doesn't mean that I can't try to do different stuff. When I started on Kick-Ass, I didn't want to go right into doing the same old visuals, I really wanted to make it look different. So I spoke to Tom Palmer and told him that we would eliminate any black fields, no black shadows, no black shading, all linework. And for me, that was an attempt to make it look distinct (which) I think it ended up looking. The funny thing is the first reaction I read about Kick-Ass artwork was from a lady that wrote a review that said, ,Not a big fan of Romita's work on Kick-Ass, the characters look too wrinkled. There's too much linework on the costumes, everybody looks wrinkled.' And I said, well that's what I was going for, a wrinkled, distinctive look. Tom Palmer is a brilliant-I cant say it enough- brilliant artist; and Dean White is an artist on top of that. So, (Kick-Ass) looks different but that was the intent, to make it different from what I was doing normally. Captain America is a single character as opposed to my previous insanity of doing both Avengers and Avengers vs X-Men while still doing Kick-Ass. I think that's a death wish, I've been told that doing group books is going to kill you so why not add a double group book and do the Kick-Ass title at the same time -listen, I think Mark is trying to kill me so that he can make more money (joking). He put the penultimate scene in Kick-Ass in Time Square along with every cop in the city and every would-be vigilante/superhero. Now most people wouldn't do that to the average artist, ya know? Give a brother a break here, let me live to my sixty's? While I was (working on that scene) I was doing Avenges vs X-men so I didn't sleep much. Now, with me doing breakdowns instead of 'tight-tight' pencils- I'm (really) giving Tom less than that and he's filling in, he and Dean White- the two of them are absolutely knocking it out of the park, they are absolutely brilliant on this.
MJ: I was going to say that's your M.O. you're known for being the guy that meets his deadlines-
JRJr: (laughs) I have missed deadlines, let's just put it that way, I've not been perfect. There's been deadlines I've gone 3 days without sleeping to make- not 3 days, more like 3 hours of sleep in 3 days. I've gone that way to make deadlines but there's been deadlines that've been impossible. I've come close but I haven't made some of them. But thats beside the point (laughs). I tried my best.
MJ: As artist on the seminal Daredevil origin story (in my opinion), Man Without Fear and with all the hoopla surrounding the character at the moment, what did you make of Joe Carnahan's sizzle reel and do you think the character would work better in a film or television show?
JrJr: I don't know if I could chose between the two, depends on the vision of the director and the funding I guess. If you have the right amount of money you can do anything visually. I honestly couldnt chose between the two unless I saw it. Tv is no longer a limited visual, I'm watching Falling Skies with my wifre the other day and I realize its got high-quality production and its not even on a regular network. All of these secondary cable channels have great budgets, I think they're miniature films. I don't think there's a big drop-down unlesss (a film) has a $250M budget. I'm good with either one, I'm sure it will be quality either way.
Again, this is just the first part of our interview with John. Keep your eyes peeled to CBM, you won't want to miss the next installment!
John directed this animation sequence in the first Kick-Ass film with animation studio Fido.
John and Rick Remender are taking over Captain America for Marvel Comics this November.
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