Romita worked at DC Comics from 1958 to 1965, but he wasn’t drawing Superman or Batman at that time. No, he drew romantic comics; its covers depicted not heroes and villains clashing, but the tender embraces of lovers and young women gazing sadly at the objects of their desire. To draw romance comics, Romita’s characters had to look good — and he passed that test with flying colors. The days of romance comics in the sun ended in the 1960s (the Comics Code Authority’s strict censorship didn’t help) and when Romita joined Marvel, he was able to draw cape comics instead.
The artist was interviewed for the BBC documentary “In Search of Steve Ditko”, where he explained how his romantic style shaped Spider-Man. “When I pick up a book, all my heroes are beautiful, I can’t help it.” Romita says. Under Romita’s pencil, Peter ditched his glasses, got a “toothpaste smile”, and went from pencil-thin to muscular (especially noticeable when in a Spider-Man costume). Gwen Stacy’s features drawn by Ditko – thin face, pointed eyebrows, hard gaze – have softened. As for MJ, Romita based her on Ann Margret, who at the time was every American boy’s dream girl. More generally, the disheveled lines that Ditko had penciled on the characters’ faces disappeared, and everyone developed a square jawline or chin slit.
Romita, who had wanted to get closer to Ditko’s art, worried that his style was “killing” the book – apparently Stan Lee shared that concern. Instead, sales of “The Amazing Spider-Man” were even better from Romita’s pen than from Ditko’s.