Influencer Spotlight: Joe Romito

July 12th, 2013 by Allison Warmbir

Joe Romito

With both a B.A. and an M.A. concentrating in English, 24-year-old Joe Romito may first appear like one of many students with the same popular degree, if it was not for one distinguishing feature: comic books.

A Philadelphia native, Romito attended the University of Pennsylvania, deciding to combine a minor in classic Greek and Roman literature with a focus in graphic novels.

Although the combination was unique, Romito was not deterred when programs were scarce as he got ready to pursue a graduate degree. “Nobody really picked me up for a Master’s degree,” he said. “Initially, I was going to get my Ph.D, but I highly specialized in graphic literature, which is kind of a hard sell for universities right now.”

However, after graduation, Romito decided to move to New Orleans instead. His girlfriend was attending law school at Tulane at the time, so it made sense for the couple to move closer together. “I had no job,” he said, “and I said, ‘Screw it,’ and packed up all my stuff and got in my car and drove down here.”

Thankfully, Romito found a professor at the University of Chicago that specialized in comic book literature named Hillary Chute. “I thought, if she could do it, this might be a viable option,” he said. “In the end I wanted to teach about graphic novels, comic strips, graphic comic books, the whole medium.”

After receiving his Master’s, Romito ended up moving back to New Orleans and after a brief employment at a local restaurant, Romito decided to pursue a career that better suited his academic goals. “I was tired of being a dishwasher,” he said. “I was a dishwasher at Delachaise, and one day I thought, ‘Maybe a master’s degree student should not be here washing dishes.’ It was a little ridiculous, if thats all I was going to do.”

At the time, Romito was also freelance writing for Search Influence, and I decided to apply for an in-house position. He has now been a full-time IMA with the company for nearly 6 months and seems to much enjoy his new career choice.

“It’s just weirdly comfortable,” he said. “I don’t feel stressed out. I feel like if I was in one of those TV offices with the cubicles I would just feel bad. I like the open air feel. I think it really makes you feel like a team, opposed to if everyone was stuck in cubicles and had to pop over the top like meerkats every time they needed to talk to someone.”

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Romito has certainly taken advantage of the sense of community at the company, organizing  game nights with his fellow employees. “When I first got here, I played my favorite game, which is “Find the Nerd,” he said. “Whenever I’m in a new social situation, I don’t tone myself down at all. I just max out on how nerdy I am around other people, and I’ve found in like 99% of situations, someone responds with the nerdiest thing that they do back at me. And I’m like, ‘Ok, I found a nerd.’”

Romito found that the majority of the web developers in the office were interested in role playing games, so he decided to begin an inter-office game of “Dungeons and Dragons.”

About 7 people are involved in the game, including Romito’s girlfriend, who is also a freelance writer for Search Influence. “Every Sunday we meet up at my place and play “Dungeons and Dragons,” and drink beer, and hang out,” he said.

As far as pursuing his interest in comic books, Romito has not given up on the dream, he said.

In his free time, Romito plays around with ideas for sci-fi fantasy novels, novellas, and short stories. He also has a number of “art friends,” he said, so would have no trouble enlisting the help of an illustrator if he ever decided to seriously move forward with a project.

“I’m terrible at drawing,” he said. “I took drawing courses in college, and got good enough to know how bad I am. It was like, ‘Now I know enough to know this sucks.’ However, if I could ever get words on paper enough to actually say, ‘Hey, I got an actual, solid idea, do you want to get in on this project?’ I know I would be able to write it, and I would be able to get someone to do the illustrations.”

As for now, Romito remains a humble IMA for Search Influence. But look for him to accomplish great things in the world of science fiction in the near future.