Wednesday, February 6, 2008

John Romita Jr and Ron Frenz on Spider-Man in the 80s

There are two artists that defined the look of Spider-Man in the 1980s, John Romita Jr. and Ron Frenz.

While Steve Ditko was the original Spider-Man artist (and my favorite) it was the second artist on The Amazing Spider-Man, John Romita Sr., who created the iconic image of the character my generation grew up with. In the early 80s it was John Jr's turn to make his mark. John Romita Jr. made his first memorable mark as the regular artist on Iron Man (with Bob Layton whose inks defined the character for that decade). His first work on the regular Amazing Spider-Man title was issue #204 in 1980. His next issue was #208 and then became the ongoing series artist as of issue #210. With writer Roger Stern their iconic run included the iconic Juggernaut story (#229-230), The death of the Tarantula storyline (#233-236), some awesome Vulture stories (#224, 240-241), but most importantly the ultra-popular Hobgoblin storyline (#238-239, 244-245, 249-250).

Stern and Romita Jr. left Spider-Man two thirds into one of the greatest Spider-Man stories of all time. Their final issue together featured a cliffhanger ending against The Hobgoblin. The issue, #250, was inked by Klaus Janson, whom was most popular at the time for inking Frank Miller on Daredevil (and later on Batman The Dark Knight Returns). When Ron Frenz, with writer Tom Defalco, Janson's inks helped make issue #251 one of the most seamless transitions between creative teams ever despite being mid-story. That three part story is one of the greatest Spider-Man stories of all time.

Frenz first made his splash on Spider-Man in a backup story in Amazing Spider-Man #248 titled "The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man". That story, written by Roger Stern and which only featured the interaction and dialogue between Spider-Man and a young fan, is one of the most fondly remembered Spider-Man stories of all time. Frenz, with inker Joseph Rubenstein (inkers do make a difference) had a classic take on Spider-Man. His Spider-Man was a morph between Ditko and the elder Romita. With Defalco, Frenz's run included the Alien Costume Saga (Amazing Spider-Man #252-258), The Origin of Mary Jane Watson (Amazing Spider-Man #259), An awesome battle against the cosmic Firelord (#269-270) and the continuation of the Hobgoblin Saga (#251, 260-261, 275-276). Unfortunately the run came to a premature end due to some internal politics at Marvel but the stories leading up to that point are some of the best ever on the character.

The images presented here are two very rare Spider-Man posters published between 1983 and 1984. The first is a Hobgoblin poster illustrated by John Romita Jr. I first noticed this poster as a kid on the wall at Capital City Comics here in Madison. I wanted this poster soooo bad but I could never find it until about a year ago when I purchased the copy shown in this photograph on ebay.

The other poster here, Spider-Man Old and New, is drawn by Ron Frenz. The figures on the left side of the poster feature classic 1960s Spider-Man characters. The characters shown on the right side are the "modern" characters that were popular in the 80s. I actually had this poster as a child. The copy on my wall faced a lot of wear and was trashed. I started looking for it a few years ago and found it to be very hard to find. I've finally managed to get my hands on a couple of copies of it, one of which is in perfect condition. The poster holds so much esteem with me that I've created my own version of it, although it pales in comparison to this classic.

No comments: