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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.
66. Mike Parobeck
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Tomorrow: Mike Week continues!
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