Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pierre Speaks: Jim Aparo

Having just bought the volume 3 of the Brave and the Bold Showcase with some AWESOME artwork by the legendary Jim Aparo… of course I have to write a Blog about whom I think was the definitive Batman artist.

I know that many will argue against that.

To some, the definitive Batman artist is Neal Adams, although others may root for Marshall Rogers, or Tim Sale, or Jim Lee.

To me, it is Jim Aparo.

I loved his work and his interpretation of the Batman.

Ironically enough, for the longest time, I had only a handful of comics with his work in it.

Why that is?

Batman was translated in French in Belgium if I am not mistaken, but sometimes it would be available in Quebec. That is how I discovered Jim’s work in the Batman and Robin comic issue #44.

It was featuring amongst other tales “Death has the last laugh” which was originally featured in the Brave and the Bold #111.

Then the next issue I saw by Jim Aparo was Batman #84 (by then they had dropped the “and Robin” part of the title) with Mr. Miracle in “The Impossible Escape”, which was originally featured in the Brave and the Bold issue #112.


How can this be??

Well it is something that sadly often happens when you read foreign translations of American comics.

The Batman and Robin comic was an odd mixture of stories from the Batman, Detective Comics, and The Brave and the Bold comic.

So thanks to that… for too long those were the only 2 comics I had drawn by Jim Aparo.

Heck for the longest time I had no idea who the artist behind such masterpieces was since too often in those comics, the credits were missing.

Until I started buying the American version of Batman which was, as fate would have it, Jim Aparo’s first issue. That was a good day. Loved that issue.

Then I got more Aparo goodness in “The greatest Batman stories ever told”. Although just one issue is by Aparo… I loved it.

Then I got “The greatest Joker stories ever told”. With my luck, it had “Death has the last laugh”, one of the few Jim Aparo stories I already had. Oh well.

Then I got “The greatest team-up stories ever told” with another tale by Aparo.

Then DC reprinted the “Wrath of the Specter”. Damn that was good. It was hard to believe that these tales were originally done more then 10 years before I read them.

Then in the early 2000s, the assistant director on a project I was working on was getting rid of a truckload of comics he had.

So I got the entire run of Jon Sable, Dreadstar, a truckload of Nexus comics, some The Maze Agency…

… and a pile of Brave and the Bold by Jim Aparo.

Now that was some great stuff. No longer did I have just a few Jim Aparo comics.

Life was good.

Then I managed to find a few Phantom comics he drew.

I even got my hands on a rare treat, “The Untold Legend of the Batman”. The first issue is penciled by none other then John Byrne inked by Jim Aparo.

And lately, I got the Phantom Stranger Showcase… and now…

The Brave and the Bold Showcases.

I would be tempted to say that Volume 3 features Jim Aparo’s best work. But then again I am still missing the work he did in Detective Comics (although I do have one issue) and surely a truckload of other comics.

For some reason, I seem to be one of the few Jim Aparo fans. I did not see many who were fans of his work.

Sadly to some, he seem to be little more then a lesser copy of Neal Adams, which might be why Jim Aparo does not get his own page in the book “The Great Comic Book Artists” by Ron Goulart. L Or that he barely gets mentioned in “Batman; The Complete History”.

I was heartbroken when I saw that book and that there was so little mention of the greatest Batman artist out there. : (

I can’t help but feel that his work has been greatly underappreciated. His work has been a great inspiration to me. His use of black, crosshatching and shadows to convey mood and atmosphere to a page is nothing short of breathtaking. And his work is even better in black and white.

Hopefully, others will be able to discover his work in the various black and white showcases in the years to come.

We shall see.

Here is a small homage to such a great artist.

Hope you guys will like it. ;)


RKB said...

He's my favorite Batman artist too. I first notice his work in the early '90's when a purchased his and Marv Wolfman's 3 part story of batman comics where Batman fought the demon in Russia. I also have a anniversary issue of detective that reprinted Batman's first story and had Denny O'Neil's, Alan Grant and Norm breyfogle, and Jim Aparo along with Marv Wolfman doing their takes on "the chemical syndicate" I enjoyed Aparo's story the best by far. His top work with me is the 'a death in the family story' he should get more recognition.

cash_gorman said...

His work in the 70's was definitely top notch. One of my favorite artists. I loved his Phantom Stranger work which you didn't mention here as well as Aquaman and the Phantom.

As he got older and needed inkers, I was never that happy with DeCarlo's inks, he was ok on Perez, but I felt he subtracted from Aparo. His inking style tended to add a glossy plastic feel to characters which was at odds with what I felt was Aparo's strength, a certain grittiness. Someone like Terry Austin I think would have been a better fit.

I think Aparo gets underappreciated is the fact that until the later days, most of his Batman stories were Brave & Bold as opposed to either of the main Batman titles.

Reno said...

Jim Aparo is my fave batman artist, too (although Don Newton is a close second). Although by the late 80s to the early 90s, his stuff seemed to look stiff, compared to the dynamic work he did on Batman from the 70s. As cash gorman said, it might have been because of the inks.

Although during those latter years, I saw his style bore a resemblance to Milton Caniff's style (Terry & the Pirates and Steve Canyon). Was he influenced by Caniif in his later years?

Jim Shelley said...

@RKB - Yeah, his death in the family story was a really nice way to wind up his career I think. I've never read the chemical syndicate (my Batman buying in the 90's was spotty, as I was busy buying crappy Image comics. Hey, we've all been there...)

@cash_gorman - I would love to see DC put out a nice color edition of the Aparo Phantom Stranger stuff. I think it would be perfect for one of those DC Hardcover editions they've been putting out lately.

@Reno - you know, it seems to me I read an article in BackIssue about Jim Aparo and there was some mentio of Milton Caniff! - checking...nope, that's not where I saw it. I'm gonna have to see if I can find where I saw that...

Pierre Villeneuve said...

RKB: The NKVDemon. I remember that story.

Yes the Death in the Family was pretty good too.

Cash: That might be the reason why. Although he did some Detective Comics.... or am I mistaken??

Reno: I have to admit... I have NO idea about where he got his influences from.

Dennis said...

I'm also a childhood fan of Aparo, especially his Brave & Bold work from the seventies and early eighties. He's one of my "great six" Bat-artists. The other five are Neal Adams, Dick Giordano, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, Marshall Rogers, and Don Newton. To me, these six, with their similar interpretations of the batman universe, defined the look of Batman, and I don't think any other versions have matched this period, which roughly stretches from 1970 to 1985. This period is now often refered to as the bronze age, but if it works why fix it ?. That is not to say that characters can not indergo an evolution, but that evolution should always be in tune with the essence of the characters, and I have too often felt that later interpretations have violated characters I grew up with. Aparently, it is considered creative to kill characters off or let them become cripled or become psychotic cyborgs, etc. There is a reason why certain characters become classics, and I do believ there is room for evolution (for example Bill Mantlo's version of The Hulk, which took the charcter seriously and gave it more depth), but again, keep in tune with the basis of the characters. This goes for artists, writers, and editors alike.

The six, and, for the most part, the writers they worked with (Englehardt, Wein, Conway, etc) did great work. Brian Bolland had a good visual style for the character, but I think Moore went overboard with shooting of Barbara Gordon. The worst violation though came with Frank Millers depiction of The Catwoman, and also to some degree The Joker. I can't stand that. To me he paved the way for the Image boys (who turned the X-men into crap).

Back to Aparo. Jim was not flashy but he could tell a story his style of drawing tough guys really fit characters such as Batman and Wildcat, and also villains such as the Penquin, and he could also handle more humorous charcters such as Plasticman and Metamorpho. If I would have one small thing to critizise it would be that his female characters lack the beauty as when handled by Garcia-Lopez, Giordano, or Newton, but he could do so much else.

Dennis said...

Aparo has mentioned Milton Cannif,Alex Raymond, Marc Raboy, Jack Davis and Wallace Wood as influences.


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