New York Comic Con, Day Two: John Romita Jr on "The Eternals"

Sat, February 25th, 2006 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Jonah Weiland, Executive Producer/Publisher

John Romita Jr, left and Glen Brunswick, right.
Saturday afternoon, during the Cup O' Joe panel at the New York Comic-Con, Marvel Editor-In-Chief announced that the publisher has signed already-exclusive artist John Romita Jr. to a new, five-year contract. As if that news isn't big enough, he went on to reveal what Romita's next big project will be-"The Eternals" with writer Neil Gaiman. The seven-issue series is set to launch in June of this year. Each issue will be 40 pages and priced at $3.99.

CBR News caught up with Romita earlier this week by phone to discuss the new contract and working with Gaiman. Look for a full report from the panel a bit later today.

Hi, John. So you've signed a new exclusive contract with Marvel. Now, you were already under contract, right?

Yeah, I was under contract when they called me to discuss this new contract. When they called, I was working on some outside projects with some screen writers that didn't come into effect. What happened was I was able to do some things with some screen writers, which was separate from Marvel and that was fine, but Marvel approached me out of the blue and wanted to discuss the contract and some upcoming projects a year before it was actually expiring. They shocked me when they came to me with the idea of the extension. They went out of their way and made me feel good about it.

And I'm guessing creator-owned projects along the lines of your 2004 series "The Gray Area" are still a possibility for you?

Yes.

Do you have anything like that set up at the moment, or is Marvel keeping you busy?

Marvel's got my hands pretty full right now, but I have one hand full and the other one is always available. I have things that are up in the air that I worked on in the past when I had a little bit of spare time, so maybe someday I can return to that and it'll all work out. Maybe it won't. It's just nice to know it's a possibility.

Now, Marvel has signed you to a five year contract. That sounds somewhat unusual because it seems most artists sign a two or three year contract. Five years shows a great deal of faith in you from Marvel. How does that make you feel?

Really good. Really good. The way they've worded the contract, it's very, very comfortale. If something comes up where I say, "Listen, I'd really like to work on this…" Short of working for the competition, there's always the opportunity for discussion. But, they have the right of refusal. If I have an idea, much in the same way they gave me the opportunity to do "The Gray Area," as long as it's a limited series or only a short term commitment, they'll be OK with it. They're very amenable and they've been great to me. They've really made me feel happy.

I understand your first big project under this new contract is a new "Eternals" series with writer Neil Gaiman at Marvel. Tell me about how this came together?

One of the carrots Marvel dangled in front of me is that they had an opportunity for me to work with someone they thought was a home run. So, they that carrot up for a while because they weren't positive about the writer. Then, one day I went in for lunch, when we were in the middle of contract negotiations and they pulled Neil Gaiman out of the hat for me. And, of course, you can't turn that down.

Nope!

Yeah, that was your basic home run. I was very happy to hear that. I get the chance to work with Neil Gaiman, which is great. I guess because of my work on "Thor" in the past, Marvel thought I'd be the guy to put on it. I've done some preliminary sketches and am working on the cover. In about 2 weeks I'll begin work on it. I'm already really jazzed. I've been using some of Jack Kirby's former work as reference or inspiration, if you will. To have Jack Kirby's visuals in the back of my mind and then Neil's story in the front, it's a nice soup on the kettle.

What kind of discussions have you had with Neil thus far?

One phone conversation and it was about the characters themselves solely. I wanted a little bit of his input visually, although that's dangerous because sometimes you get that suggestion in your mind and you can't shake it, but with Neil you can't go wrong. So, I asked him for a couple of his visual ideas. What Neil did was just described the characters without giving actual visuals. That's perfect because I can work from that. It's like being given the name of a great idea for a character and going from there. He had already sent me several type written model sheets, modern day versions of these characters and the premise of the whole story. Then he called and we started to discuss the characters in depth. While he did not describe what he'd like to see in the costumes, he called after I had put down a couple of sketches and altered some things, like the hair style on one character. For instance, there's a young character and Neil has an 11 year old daughter and he said, "Listen, I know what these kids look like these days. Try this." That was about it. He gave me enough of a basis to work on for the visuals, then with some of Kirby's old costume designs, I patched it together and came up with some really cool visuals. I'm really excited about it.

Will you be working on anything else at the same time?

This will be my focus. When I finish the "Sentry" series, which should be in about 10 days, there are a couple of options I can explore before starting on "Eternals."


CBR's coverage of the New York Comic-Con is Sponsored by Comics Unlimited.

 
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