Born January 24, 1930, during The Great Depression, John Romita was raised in Brooklyn, New York City alongside a brother and three sisters by Sicilian-Americans Marie and Victor Romita. He graduated from Manhattan’s School of Industrial Art aged 17 and on his birthday, he got his first work as an artist from a very unlikely source: an anesthesiologist at the Manhattan General Hospital. Romita was paid to craft a medical exhibit based on pneumatology medicine, an obsolete study of the “spiritual beings” and “air” sciences.
Romita entered the comics industry in 1949 but was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1951. After showing his art samples, he was asked to make recruitment posters. Meanwhile, he met Stan Lee while working for Timely Comics, the precursor to Marvel Comics. While he mostly did war, horror, romance and Westerns, Romita did get a chance to work on the short-lived “Captain America” revival in 1954. He also married during that time — to Virginia Bruno in 1952, with whom he had two sons, Victor, and John Romita Jr. (1956).
Soon, Romita Sr. transferred over to DC Comics, where he toiled in the romance genre hoping to land a superhero comic one day. But when that didn’t pan out, he got a job at a plush ad agency. When Lee heard Romita Sr. had left DC, he took him to a three-hour lunch and offered him “Daredevil.” “The first chance he had, he shows me this ‘Daredevil’ story somebody had started and he didn’t like it […He] asked me, ‘What would you do with this page?’ […] I did […] just a big, tracing-paper drawing of Daredevil swinging. And Stan loved it,” he told Alter Ego.