At San Diego Comic Con, Bleeding Cool broke the rumour that John Romita Jr, dissatisfied with contractual arrangements with Marvel, was considering not renewing his Marvel contract, and taking up DC Comics' offer of Superman.
We were told by Marvel reps that it was just a mix up over e-mails and everything would be smoothed over. Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso took to the stage to eulogise Romita and his work. Eric Rezsynak wrote for Bleeding Cool at the time;
The panel was moderated by Axel Alonso and he and JR Jr. could not have been more friendly. Each of them slathered the other with glowing praise. In fact, Axel said that when he was brought over to Marvel more than a decade ago to take over the Spider-Man books, he cleaned house of everyone except JR Jr. He referred to him as the "one good thing" on the books at that point. He has continued to work with Romita on multiple projects, including pushing for him when senior management did not want him. (Romita made numerous comments about the fact that Bill Jemas was not a fan of his — and the feeling was clearly mutual.)
Throughout the panel, which also featured "surprise guests" Reginald Hudlin ("Black Panther") and John's frequent inker, Klaus Janson, Romita spoke positively about Marvel and the opportunities working for the company has afforded him. He also said that working in comics has allowed him to have a strong bond with his parents (his father is obviously a comics legend, but his mother ran the Marvel production department for years and was at one time John Romita Jr.'s boss).
The only hint of displeasure with the company came in his answer to a question about whether or not he gets to choose his own projects now. Romita answered that due to the "weight of his contract" (I interpreted this to mean his substantial page rate) he largely goes where editorial wants him. But he did tell Alonso point blank that he would very much like to do a monthly Doctor Strange book, and Alonso seemed open to the idea.
It seemed like the schmooze-fest was in. And in CBR's arranged regular interview with Alonso this week, he talked about his decision to keep John Romita Jr on Amazing Spider-Man, when the book relaunched with JMS as writer;
I was tapped to revitalize the series, in a down market, which almost always means cleaning house and getting new talent on board. I knew Joe [J. Michael] Straczynski was going to be my writer, but I hadn't locked down my artist. The safest play would have been to go to someone from my Rolodex who I had a strong relationship with — like Frank Quitely, who ended up doing "New X-Men," or ["100 Bullets" artist] Eduardo Risso. As I pored over at Johnny's work, though, it became so clear that he wasn't the problem with how the book was performing. It occurred to me that a new inker and colorist and an inspired script from the new writer might be enough to do the trick. And, of course, John proved me right and rose to the challenge — including adjusting to working from "full script," after years of drawing only "Marvel-style" — and delivered some of the best work of his career.
Lots of positive coverage. But it looks like it just wasn't enough. In an interview with ComicBook.com, he stated;
ComicBook.com: What are the odds we'll see you outside Marvel?
John Romita, Jr.: Yeah, there's a good chance I'll do some work for DC. There's a better-than-good chance now. It really just came up because we couldn't agree on a contract with Marvel. And there wasn't any kind of nastiness or anything like that, just a disagreement here or there. DC is anxious to do something and I actually had a story idea they really liked that applies to Superman.
So the peripheral conversation started just before the San Diego con but it's been a real long time since my contract expired and Marvel has been waiting for me to finish all the work that I wanted to finish. And they've been touching on contract talks over the summer but nothing of substance, so we're at this point. There's interest from DC that I have to consider and there's interest from other people as well–from Image and Kirkman–and I've got to look at them all. There's a possibility of just going freelance and playing around.
Though he lays out that Marvel wouldn't be happy with him freelancing for both Marvel and DC.
Marvel would not be thrilled if I went freelance and worked for both companies. I don't think that would be kosher with Marvel–I mean, not even DC but I know Marvel would be against that.
Which is odd, because Marvel seem to be okay with Matt Kindt and Charles Soule doing that sort of thing.
But right now, as co-creator of Kick Ass, with the new movie coming to cinemas worldwide, the world is his oyster… and he has plans.
All the creator-owned projects that I have lined up with writers that I have been absolutely enthralled to work with, are all about a year down the road before they're prepared. Neil Gaiman, Mark Millar, Mark Waid and so on–so those guys won't be ready until a year hence. Which means I can do one of two things–just go freelance and play around or I can just sign a one-year contract with somebody to do a storyline that I want, which is a good possibility because I have a couple of plots lined up that I'm really fascinated. One of them applies to a couple of characters, one of which is Superman, and I'm excited about the storyline. It would apply to Superman very well. It would apply to Silver Surfer, it would apply to Doctor Strange, but I'm fascinated at the thought of doing something like applying this to Superman. So there's a good chance. And I'm excited by any kind of challenge and any kind of change.
Jonathan Ross is also going to work on me. I can't forget him because the two projects that I've got going with Neil Gaiman and Jonathan Ross are my two pet projects that I've had going for a while in addition to Shmuggy and Bimbo. I came up with them on their own, I did the notes on plane rides and scribbled on the backs of napkins and typed them up.
That's Shmuggy And Bimbo, which was scheduled for this year with Howard Chaykin from Image… and looks like it's still coming out.