By high school, I was interested in working at in the industry, Marvel specifically, and Frank Giacoia was the art director there in 1970. I had sent a bunch of inking samples in, and Giacoia wrote back and said, "As soon as you're out of high school, come to New York and you'll be working for Marvel Comics." This was at a time when breaking into Marvel was a difficult thing to do. Giacoia was willing to train me, but fate had other plans: He left and John Romita took over as A.D..
I showed up at the offices that summer in conjunction with my trip to Seuling’s NYC Comic Con. He looked over my feeble portfolio, made several valid points, and ended with “Why in the world would you want to be a Comics artist?
“I wouldn’t want my son to be a Comic artist!”
Kind of stuck in my craw. Here was a guy who got to do the thing he’d always wanted to do, yet disinterested in some young pup’s dreams. Okay, it wore you thin, but please allow me to achieve, or be ground to a nub, but let me figure that out for myself.
Now, to put this all into perspective, I have to take you back to a guy named Al Hewetson. He’d been part of the bullpen for a while, but left Marvel around early-1970, and as a going-away gift, John Romita did a drawing of Mary Jane Foster, SPIDER-MAN’s main squeeze, buck-naked, full-figure, sans pubes. The F.F.C.G had certainly been in contact with him because he was the fan go-to-guy for info on the coming books, and now he was in contact with us. He had a lot of stuff from Marvel and wanted to unload it for cash.
I called John at Marvel, and asked if it would be alright to print it, and he hit the ceiling.
He said, "Absolutely not! Hewetson never should have sold that stuff to you. Send it back to me, immediately!!!" But we'd used forty-dollars of the F.F.C.G. funds to buy this stuff; if Romita was pissed-off, we wouldn't print it, but we weren't going to send it back to him for nothing.
That would take a club vote, and M.J. nude wasn’t really going anywhere, much to my woe.
I’ve got the feeling Romita held that against me for years. Once a month I’d show up at Marvel and show my new inking samples, and he’d say I was almost ready, or that he was looking for a start-up assignment for me. After eighteen appointments, I said “Look, if you don’t want to hire me, tell me, and I’ll quit coming in.”
“No, no, no, not at all. I just don’t have anything for you now.”
The last time I auditioned, he looked at the work and said “I’m still not sure about your secondary figures.”
I pulled several pages of Crusty Bunker inked Xerox pages, and indicated that I was already in the system.
“Let me see if I can find something. Call me next month.”
I called the next month, got the same answer, and gave up.
Unless I had friends in high places, I wasn’t getting into Marvel through John Romita’s door.
Curiously, a few years later, on Christmas day on my way to my in-laws, we pulled the car in for gas. As per, I was half-dazed in the back seat from working too late the night before. Roused from visions of Sugar Plum Faries, I became aware of a gas-pump tantrum. Angry voices disputing something. I slowly peeled myself off of the back seat, and squinted out of the window into late-morning sunlight to see what was going on. The pump customer was very red-faced, and it took a moment to register the idea that it was John Romita in a dither. He squaked for a few more seconds, then targeted on my frowning squint: “Made” as an Italian/Christian Scrooge who hadn’t learned his lesson on Christmas morning.
He suddenly broke into a half-hearted smile, shrugged, and quieted down. Oddly, John always treated me better after that, but still never gave me a job.
As an artist the guy was a giant.