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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #66

Mike Week, Day Four. Let’s talk about a dearly departed artist who would be one of the current greats if he hadn’t passed away at such a young age. I hope you all know and love the Mike of which I speak– and I hope you’ll come to understand why this one became such a personal piece for me.

3/7/07

66. Mike Parobeck

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Mike was a terrific artist, and I absolutely adored his work. His style was bright and clean– “cartoony” if you will– which is why he found himself on some light-hearted material, but he also packed more heart and expression into his few lines than any other artist at the time. He was the antithesis of the 90’s penciller– no cross-hatched, scratchy, beefy Image style, but a simple, dynamic way of storytelling that blew me away when I first encountered it.

For me, he’s one of three definitive Batman artists: you’ve got Jim Aparo, Norm Breyfogle, and Mike Parobeck. I’d go so far as to say that the Kelley Puckett/Mike Parobeck run on Batman Adventures is maybe the best extended run on the character ever. Those comics made me love the medium. I’d put them in my top ten of all time, and that’s a mightily elitist list.

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Let’s not forget the other books Mike drew, though. He got his start on El Diablo with Gerard Jones, and they later teamed on an Elongated Man mini-series which I loved. Elongated Man is my favorite comics character– and that series (and Justice League Europe, in which Parobeck drew some great scenes during the major final arc in #45-50) is responsible for my love of Ralph and Sue Dibny. I’ve managed to accrue three copies of #4 over time. I picked up all four, together, for dirt cheap– literally the cheapest comics I ever bought, at about 8.25 cents each, as the four-pack was in a three-for-a-dollar box as one item– but, to me, the series is priceless.

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Mike also provided the art for two Len Strazewski-written series: The Fly, for !mpact Comics, and Justice Society of America. I know there are those of you out there who have loved what guys like Roy Thomas and Geoff Johns have done for the JSA, but believe me, this incredibly short-lived (ten issues, cancelled because the higher-ups figured no one wanted to read about old folks, and not because of the sales figures) series is the best JSA ever.

Mike Parobeck put his heart and his soul into his comics work. The cancellation of some of the series he worked on took a heavy toll on him; he took it personally, because of how much of himself he poured into his art.

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Mike passed away from complications of Type-1 Diabetes in 1996, just short of his 31st birthday, I believe. Behind him, he left a legacy of terrific artwork that paved the way for future “cartoony” artists. It’s still a damn shame to have lost him, even ten years on; when I first heard the news, years after the fact, on the internet, I was crushed. Mike Parobeck’s art represented a period in my young life in which comics were brilliant, shining artifacts delivered from on high to brighten my life. Because of Mike Parobeck, I love comics. It’s that simple. The industry misses him.

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Please, DC, collect some Mike Parobeck works. Let’s see all of Batman Adventures in print. Let’s get JSA into a nice and tidy trade. They’re great works that deserve praise and appreciation, as well a new and wider audience to carry the memory of these fantastic comics into the future.

Last year on Newsarama, there was a terrific piece on the life, work, and death of Mike Parobeck. Click here to read it. I recommend that you do so. It holds far more information than I can provide in this short space, and expounds further on the great legacy Mike left behind him.

A couple more bits of art, because I love them so:

Parobeck 2.jpg

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Tomorrow: Mike Week continues!

21 Comments

Amen to THAT

I don’t mean to be crass, but here’s a guy who COULD have lived and chose not to. He was a good artist, but a foolish person. Someone should have smacked him on the head and told him to get with it. I can’t shed tears for someone who ignores the complications from a life-threatening disease when there are people struggling with it and beating it all the time.

I really enjoyed his art (the Elongated Man miniseries is a particular favorite of mine). It’s a shame things worked out the way they did.

Annoyed Grunt

March 7, 2007 at 6:18 pm

I never knew that he died. I’m reading through the comments on the Newsarama artcle and Jim Valentino mentioned that they were going to work on a Simpsons/ShadowHawk crossover together. That may be the craziest idea this side of Archie meets Punisher.

I loved that version of the JSA–it had such promise, and was a great start–the end was a bit abrupt–due to shortsightedness on DC’s part–if they hadn’t canned that series I would have bought comics longer–I believe.

David Frankel

March 7, 2007 at 6:41 pm

Greg Burgas, you may want to go back and delete your post; it is not just crass it is downright ignorant and rude. There are thousands of people in the world, who whether in denial or just disturbed fail to take care of their health. This is seen particularly often in silent diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, with few obvious symptoms.

Although, I only met him in passing, Mike Parobeck was a kind and talented man, and this isn’t the time or place to piss on a gracious memorial.

David – I don’t mean to be rude, and I don’t think I’m being ignorant. He KNEW he had diabetes and refused to do anything about it. That’s foolish to me. I’m overweight and don’t exercise enough, and if I develop a heart condition, I will be foolish too, because it’s my fault. At least I’m trying.

I’m not trying to piss all over a “gracious memorial,” because I loved the post itself. It IS a shame that Parobeck died, because he was such a talent (and it sounds like he was a wonderful guy, so the people he knew are lessened because of his death). But he had a choice.

Popping briefly — as a huge fan of Parobeck, I was waiting for this tribute and am very happy to see it — but yeah, Greg, I see where you’re coming from, but that’s a serious case of wrong time, wrong place.

Then I’ll shut up, Patrick, because you’re right. I just never knew how he died, and found the circumstances of it very interesting. It’s a shame, because his style is more popular now than it was a decade ago, and he probably could have had a big impact in the field. We’ll never know.

There are still comic fans who really, really don’t like any art that’s “cartoony”, so it may be a while before someone like Parobeck gets just recognition.

‘El Diablo’ to this day, remains one of my all-time favourite comic series.

The Mad Monkey

March 8, 2007 at 5:06 am

Okay…this may come off as being really corny…but, hey…it’s the truth.

I had become an instant fan of Mike Parobeck when I saw his art for the first time. The very reasons why are exactly what Bill described in his loving tribute above (thank you, Mr. Reed).
When I heard of Mike’s passing, he became the first comic creator of the modern age that I shed a tear for.
I did the same for Kirby, Gardner Fox, Bob Kane, and Julius Schwartz (there are so many others of that era too). And now, I’m not ashamed to say, that Mike Parobeck has a place there with them.

I could continue to memorialize the man and his work. But, I think I’d rather just re-read Bill’s column.
It says it all.

That Justice Society book was just awesome on every level.

I’ll agree, Parobeck’s run on Batman stands as one of the best and most influential of all time.

He did a Dr. Light story for Secret Origins as well. Good stuff, and he is missed.

Vincent P Bartilucci

March 8, 2007 at 4:50 pm

Mike Parobeck’s work was fantastic. One of my prize possessions is an original page of art from Parobeck’s JSA run – the page where Kiku, the last Bahdnesian, (accidentally) says “Cei-U” for the first time. It’s so cool!

I love that JSA series (and El Diablo, and The Fly, and Batman: TAS …)

I love Kiku (Johns: Kill off that J.J. Twerp!)

And I love Mike Parobeck’s art.

As I said earlier, I was a huge, huge fan of Parobeck.

The thing that I first noticed about him — and it continues to intrigue me to this day — is how he always managed to make his work in the Timm-verse books distinctive and personal without going outside the established style. He never showboated or tried to draw attention to his work — but when you were reading a Mike Parobeck Batman Adventures, you always knew it. No offense to Ty Templeton, Rick Burchett, Timm himself or any of the talented folks who worked on those titles, but it was always Parobeck that impressed me the most.

Years later, I tracked down lots of his other work, and am still doing so today. I’m never less than amazed with how effortless he makes it look.

A shame he’s not still around — he was one of the bright, shining lights in the sometimes-very-dark 90s.

The Kirbydotter

March 9, 2007 at 10:50 am

I was such a fan of Mike Parobeck’s work.
I even thought I was the only true one until I read Newsarama’s homage some time ago. I’m glad to learn that they were a few of us.
I followed and bought every title he drew.
Yeah, even Impact’s the Fly which wasn’t bad at all…as long as Parobeck drew it.
I was SO angry when DC cancelled his version of Justice Society!
You did a good analysis of his work here.
The Newsarama homage was also very nice and it’s cool that you linked it here.

I remember being allergic to the Image style of artwork that was so popular at the time.
A ‘cartoony’ artist like Parobeck wasn’t ‘hot’ for most of the time of all too short career. He began to gain some recognition only at the very end of his life when the Bruce Timm’s Batman Adventures style of art became cool. Parobeck had been doing this style way before it strted to influence comic book mainstream.

I also agree that Puckett and Parobeck’s Batman was the best being published at the time (back when Batman was a series of long-boring-and-depressing crossovers like KnightFall/Knightquest/KnightsEnd and other nonsenses).

Puckett and Parobeck’s Batman is to be added to the definitive Batman hall-of-fame along with Neal Adams, Jim Aparo, Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers, Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle, Doug Moench and Kelley Jones, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale.

I would also like to mention that Mike Parobeck was a very generous artist and gave away an original piece of artwork every month to a lucky fan-writer of BATMAN ADVENTURES.

In many ways, he was an old school type of guy.
And considering how I worship the classics, that’s the best compliment I can give him. He’s up there, somewhere, with the best: Kirby, Toth, Swan, Big John Buscema, Eisner and too many of the best.

Am I the only one who wish that Heaven is a place where these guys are still producing great comicbooks?

Ah crap. I didn’t know he was dead. Batman Adventures was such a neat book. And I say this not givin’ a damn about cartoons. I’ll definitely keep my eye open for the other stuff he did, now that BR told me what it was.

I was a BIG fan of his work. I am an Illustrator/Art Teacher-Instructor on the collegiate level now; and I have ALWAYS been a fan of Parobeck’s work.

The Impact comics were some of the best work of his EVER!! His storytelling was impecable; his style clean and easy to follow.

Much needs to be said about the “less-is-more” theory in art. Sometimes TOO much detail robs the viewer of the essence of comic art: TELLING A STORY WITH PICTURES.

Even though the circumstances surround his death are unfortunate; He is truely missed.

As a kid I collected all the Impact Comics stuff being printed, they felt fresh and different than the other stuff on shelves, I really enjoyed it. Maybe it was because it spoke to a younger audience, and being 1991, I was only 10. Parobeck grabbed me with The Fly, and I ate it up. When I returned into the comics scene, and even got back into my illustration hobby, I noticed I was more fascinated with the less detail kind of guys like Mignola and Bruce Timm. I started picking up Batman Adventures, and happened to notice a very familiar name… I didn’t even realize Parobeck did these books, but the blending of the Bruce Timm’s Batman look and Mike Parobeck is perfect.
I really wish I was able to meet Parobeck, he has really influenced me as an artist. Hopefully DC will collect the Batman Adventures into a book, or even the Impact line of books.

I may be a little late replying to this, but I was google-ing down some Batman Adventures comics and went to his wiki page to be shocked to learn that he died. I always wanted to know why he stopped penciling Batman Adventures because his art could not be replaced just like that.

Like the article says, his art was truly a breath of fresh air. Kelly Puckett hardly had to write anything because Mike’s pictures said so much. There’s so many panels with no dialogue, because his pictures spoke a thousand words.

The Batman Adventures was my favorite comic book as a child and is probably the main reason I became a comic book collector. I wouldn’t have my 7000 or so comics if it weren’t for that one Batman Adventures comic I picked up so long ago.

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