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When I was eleven years old, Spider-Man got married. It was a big deal. The Silver Snail comic shop in Toronto had a huge event to celebrate, featuring a guy dressed as Spider-Man. But, more importantly, they had John Romita Sr., the cover artist of the issue in question, doing a signing.
Now, I’m a savvy eleven-year-old, with great ideas and, I feel, the art chops to become a part of the Marvel Bullpen. And John Romita is their Art Director. So, I take my best drawing of my original character, Uni-Squad, and lovingly staple it to a comic book backing board for optimum professional presentation. Do you remember Firestorm? The superhero who had two people in one? Well Uni-Squad was better because he had eight people in one.
“He’s more powerful because he has eight men inside him,” I told my surely concerned father.
“Does he … does he want eight men inside him?”
“Not always,” I sighed, indicating that I’d thought through what would make Uni-Squad a true Marvel character, his internal conflict and reluctance at having all these men inside of him.
So, my dad drives me and my little brother into Toronto (his least favourite thing to do), and while my brother is entertained by Spider-Man like an absolute simpleton, I wait in line to meet John Romita.
When it finally comes to be my turn, I quietly get him to sign my copies of the wedding issue. Then, I surprise him with the greatest artwork he’s ever seen.
“An artist!” He proclaimed.
“And this is your character?”
He studied it very carefully.
“Thank you sir”
Then there was a weird pause. The pause that was supposed to be filled with him offering me a job.
“Is … there anything else I can do for you?”
“I … can you … can you sign it?”
And that’s why I have a childhood drawing of mine that says
John Romita passed away this week. If you’ve ever visualized the character of Spider-Man, chances are you pictured Romita’s perfect, bold lines. He towered over popular culture but was never truly in the spotlight, save for those moments when he had to placate a nervous kid in a Canadian comic shop in order to keep the line moving.
He was one of the greatest artists to have ever lived.