John Romita Senior started drawing after spending a year in commercial art. His first jobs were for Stan Lee's Atlas group in 1949. Romita drew mostly horror and romance stories, but also several war, western and crime features for Western Publishing. After the folding of Atlas, he went to National, where he did anonymous romance stories for eight years. He then went back to Stan Lee, this time at Marvel. His first works were inking 'Avengers' and pencilling 'Daredevil' comics.
His most notable work became the 'Amazing Spider-Man' comic, which he did from 1966. Under Romita's and Lee's guidance, 'Spider-Man' became the quintessential antihero of the late 1960s and early 1970s. He left the 'Spider-Man' comic in the early 1970s, to become an art director at Marvel, working specifically in the Special Projects Department. Romita Sr. was engaged in product illustration and special designs and as Art Director for Marvel Books, the short-lived children's book line. In 1977, he briefly did the artwork of the syndicated 'Spider-Man' newspaper comic. His son, John Romita Jr., is also a talented artist for Marvel.
John Romita was also a popular choice of inspiration for pop-art painter Roy Lichtenstein. Images from one of his 'Heart Throbs' stories inspired 'Knock-Knock' (1961), while one from 'Secret Hearts' was used for 'Crying Girl' (1964) and his 'Girls' Romances' work inspired 'We Rose Up Slowly' (1964). Issue 127 of 'Young Romance' was the source for Lichtenstein's 'Craig' (1964).
Charles Burns' odd comic strip 'Naked Snack' (1991) was based on a sketched out Spider-Man story by Romita from a 1980s 'Marvel Try-Out' book. In its original context readers could trace, ink and colourize the sketches into their own version. Burns took this amateur initiative to a different level and redrew everything into his own style. He changed the text in the speech balloons, the character and background designs and sometimes switched panels in the lay-out to fit his story better. The plot now became a story about people selling meat of sentient animals on the black market.