Tag Archives: John Romita Jr.

Today’s Super Comic — The Amazing Spider-Man #229-230 (1982)

Spider-Man is best as the underdog. Against the unstoppable Juggernaut, yeah, he’s very much the underdog.

In The Amazing Spider-Man #229, Juggernaut pursues the psychic Madame Web, and only Spider-Man is available to come to her aid. But he’s totally ineffectual against an invulnerable opponent who’s as strong as the Hulk. He seeks help from other superheroes, but they’re all out of reach (conveniently for the story, inconveniently for Spidey). It’s all on him. He tries. He fails.

But for Spidey, failure is motivation. Someone was counting on him, and he let her down. That hits hard, especially given his previous failures in life. So he picks himself back up and resolves to capture the Juggernaut, no matter the personal cost, and issue #230 shows Spidey giving it all he’s got until he prevails.

It’s a great structure for a two-parter. The hero fails, regroups, and perseveres, because like hell he’s failing again.

A textbook example of a superb superhero story.

Writer: Roger Stern

Penciler: John Romita Jr.

Inker: Jim Mooney

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 9 and up

Today’s Super Comic — The Amazing Spider-Man #38 (2002)

In the category of “long-overdue conversations” …

Aunt May discovers that her nephew Peter is Spider-Man—which means he’s been lying to her for years. It’s the sort of thing that requires setting aside some time to chat…perhaps an entire issue to chat.

The Amazing Spider-Man #38 (or #479, since the cover plays it both ways) features no super-heroic action whatsoever. It’s just Peter and May talking. Between all the history behind the conversation and how well J. Michael Straczynski writes it, it’s engaging throughout, full of emotion rather than melodrama. Both characters have been holding secrets in, and the release is scary, relieving, and scary all over again.

A nice touch is how much credit the story gives Aunt May. She had often been portrayed as elderly and frail, but here Straczynski gives the impression she’s a remarkably resilient old lady, and she would have to be to single-handedly raise a teenager after her husband’s murder and in the face of repeated health problems and financial troubles.

The issue doesn’t reach any tidy resolution. There’s no happily ever after—there’s just moving forward.

Straczynski had a memorable run on Spider-Man a few over fifteen years ago, and this was the best thing he did with the book. It needed to happen (though I’m pretty sure it was retconned along with Peter and Mary Jane’s marriage, alas).

Writer: J. Michael Straczynski

Penciler: John Romita Jr.

Inker: Scott Hanna

Cover: Kaare Andrews

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in The Amazing Spider-Man vol. 2: Revelations (TPB)

Today’s Super Comic — Uncanny X-Men #211 (1986)

uncanny_x-men_vol_1_211Mutant Massacre, the title of a classic X-Men crossover, sounds dark and violent…and it is. Pointless murder, defeat, and critical injuries all occur. But it’s less about that and more about fighting to overcome such darkness, no matter how bleak the situation gets.

We don’t see graphic images or gore (it was a more kid-friendly era of comics). But, particularly in Uncanny X-Men #211, we do see the X-Men risking their own lives to protect the innocent Morlocks from the vicious Marauders, and doing so despite their own preexisting injuries. Things actually go pretty poorly, and how they handle defeat shows us how heroic the X-Men truly are.

It’s one of their worst days, but because of the goodness they demonstrate along the way, we continue rooting for them. A fine example of how to balance hope and darkness.

Writer: Chris Claremont

Pencilers: John Romita, Jr. and Bret Blevins

Inker: Al Williamson

Cover: John Romita, Jr. and Bob Wiacek

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in X-Men: Mutant Massacre (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Uncanny X-Men #183 (1984)

uncanny-x-men-183One of the nice things about comics—if a character acts like a total jerk, someone like the Juggernaut comes along to beat him senseless.

Uncanny X-Men #183 expertly blends soap opera and comic book sensibilities into a memorable outing. Colossus breaks Kitty Pryde’s heart (though seriously, that was a creepy relationship—he was 19 and she was 14…creepy), so Wolverine takes him out to a bar to chat man-to-man (with Nightcrawler tagging along/chaperoning). And by sheer random happenstance, the Juggernaut is there and Colossus bumps into him. Barfight ensues.

A nice touch on writer Chris Claremont’s part is having Wolverine decide to keep himself and Nightcrawler out of the battle—let Colossus endure the punishment he deserves for his heartlessness and maybe learn a lesson in the process.

It’s a classic issue, and the sort the X-Men excel at. Not every battle is about good vs. evil.

Writer: Chris Claremont

Artist: John Romita, Jr.

Inker: Dan Green

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Essential X-Men vol. 5 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comics — Daredevil: The Man Without Fear #1-5 (1993-94)

Daredevil_The_Man_Without_Fear_Vol_1_1Frank Miller redefined Daredevil over a decade earlier, and he returned for an encore with The Man Without Fear.

The miniseries retells and updates Daredevil’s origin and early days, working characters such as Elektra and the Kingpin into the narrative (they weren’t part of Daredevil’s world when Marvel introduced the character in the ‘60s—Miller created Elektra and drafted the Kingpin).

These five issues feel like a movie version of Daredevil, and the actual movie would’ve been far better off using these pages as its storyboard. (Thank goodness for Netflix. Fun fact: The black outfit Matt wore throughout the first season comes from this miniseries.)

Like any great action movie, these comics build and sustain incredible momentum throughout. It’s all very kinetic, both in terms of Miller’s writing and John Romita Jr.’s artwork. Their styles fit together perfectly. Romita in particular is in top form here, producing amazing images that pull you through the story while maintaining an appropriately dark, gritty atmosphere.

If you’ve never read a Daredevil comic, you have several options for a great place to start. This is one of them.

Writer: Frank Miller

Penciler: John Romita, Jr.

Inker: Al Williamson

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; Daredevil: The Man Without Fear (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 14 and up

Today’s Super Comic — The Invincible Iron Man #150 (1981)

Iron_Man_Vol_1_150Iron Man vs. Doctor Doom…in Camelot.

Yep, it’s classic comic book action that places its protagonist out of his element, doubly so. Not only is the electronically powered superhero stranded in a pre-electronics era, with no way to recharge his armor, but he also has to battle magical forces, which are basically the opposite of his comfort zone.

And Doctor Doom fits very well as an Iron Man foe, representing the dark side of technology. And yet he’s also perfectly comfortable with mysticism in a way Iron Man will never be, giving the bad guy a distinct advantage. (All of which is why Doctor Doom has been a welcome addition to recent Iron Man issues.)

The Invincible Iron Man #150 holds up as lots of fun, though it’s easy to picture how differently it would be written today. Tony Stark of the 1980s was much more Tom Selleck than Robert Downey Jr., and an adventure of this scale could easily fill six issues or more, rather than being set up in #149 and playing out in the double-sized #150.

As it stands, however, it’s a memorable time-travel story with a ridiculously fantastic premise and enjoyable execution. It’s not literature, but it sure is a wild ride.

Writer: David Michelinie

Penciler: John Romita, Jr.

Inker/Co-Plotter: Bob Layton

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; Iron Man vs. Doctor Doom: Doomquest (HC)

Appropriate For: ages 9 and up