SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING came out last week and once again everybody is buzzing about their favorite neighborhood hero. To capitalize on the new movie, New York City’s The Society of Illustrators has opened an exhibit titled The Art of Spider-Man. The exhibit features the original Spider-Man artwork of John Romita. Spider-Man and Romita expert Mike Burkey has loaned this artwork to the Society. The exhibit also includes original artwork by Steve Ditko, Todd McFarlane, Gil Kane, Ron Frenz, and John Romita Jr.

The Art of Spider-Man
Amazing Spider-Man artwork by John Romita. Image Courtesy of Marvel Comics

On July 8th, I got the chance to visit the exhibit. It was the day after I had seen SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING, so the web-slinger was fresh on my mind. I left the exhibit having a greater appreciation for how John Romita, and other artists, influenced and created Marvel and the Spider-Man we know today.

The Marvel House Look

John Romita took over the artwork on THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN in 1966 after Steve Ditko left Marvel. Romita had joined Marvel a year before this and had second thoughts about taking over for the iconic Ditko. Soon Romita learned to create his own style while drawing the famed hero. His art on SPIDER-MAN was characterized by its warmth, approachability, and pleasing look. Romita’s art helped define the character of Spider-Man and make him a global icon. It also helped create the Marvel House Look.

READ: SPIDER-MAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES’s animation is reminiscent of Romita’s style. See our thoughts here!

The exhibit shows Romita’s art in full splendor in black and white original prints. We see his name signed “Best John Romita” often with notes from Stan Lee and bits of whiteout. In Romita’s drawings, we witness a campy but absolutely delightful and entertaining version of Spider-Man.

The Art of Spider-Man
Marvel Mag Advertisement. Image Courtesy of Marvel Comics and Society of Illustrators

Here Peter is the high school student who struggles with girls while fighting colorful villains like the Green Goblin. Stan Lee’s writing is often frivolous but also exhilarating. It is defined by a pre-DARK KNIGHT RETURNS playfulness which encapsulates every panel. Through this duo’s work you can easily how Spider-Man became the crown jewel of Marvel Comics.

Witnessing the Process

One of the best things about “The Art of Spider-Man” is seeing the different steps that the artists and writers would take before publishing the comic. For example, we get to see the process of how writer Roger Stern and artist Ron Frenz created the iconic comic “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man.” We first get to see the original script written by Roger Stern and sent to Ron Frenz. Then we see Ron Frenz’s initial pencil drawings before Terry Austin adds the ink.

The Art of Spider-Man
Amazing Spider-Man #248 “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man. Image Courtesy of Marvel Comics and The Society of Illustrators

It’s also great to see the artistic evolution of Spider-Man from artist to artist. Each artist has their own idiosyncrasies like how Ditko draws more lines on the costume or how McFarlane elongates the hero’s body. Finally, there are more contemporary artists like John Romita Jr. in the early 2000s who show a more modern and mature representation of Spider-Man. Despite the differences, you still get to see a throughline with what Ditko and Romita originally set up in the 60s.

The Art of Spider-Man and SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING

I fell in love with the Tom Holland Spider-Man costume after seeing it for the first time in the second trailer for CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. After going to “The Art of Spider-Man” exhibit I had more appreciation for what the people at Marvel Studios did with this iteration of the Wall-crawler. Unlike the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield versions of the suit, which felt unnecessarily busy and had the raised web-linings, the Tom Holland suit fully honors the legacy of Steve Ditko and John Romita. It has eyes that can change shape to show Spidey’s emotions and simpler black web-linings similar to the original comics.

READ: Love the movie? Here’s our SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING review!

Moreover, SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING completely captures the exciting and cheerful tone established in these comics by Ditko, Romita, and Lee. It was amazing to see how well the movie drew on the influence from Spider-Man’s early comics.

Final Thoughts

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #500. Image Courtesy of Marvel Comics and Society of Illustrators

Going to “The Art of Spider-Man” exhibit was an extremely rewarding experience. It reminded me why I loved this character so much and why he continues to delight fans across the world. Furthermore, the exhibit reminds us to never forget the artists who worked tirelessly to craft our favorite characters. Without people like John Romita, we would not have the Spider-Man we so enjoy today. For anybody who has some time and is in the New York area, I very much recommend checking out this exhibit at the Society of Illustrators.

The exhibit will be opened until August 26th, 2017. The Society of Illustrators is located at 128 E 63rd St, New York, NY 10065

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