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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #197

And now, a look at one of the finest artists to ever grace a comics page. It’s hard, you know, to encapsulate an artist’s worth and career in such a small space as one of these entries. That goes double for this fellow. (As always, the archive is here. The reader survey is forthcoming.)

7/16/07

197. Jim Aparo

Jim Aparo 2.jpg

This Thursday will mark the second anniversary of Jim Aparo’s passing. I didn’t intend for the timing of this entry to work out that way, but here it is. Mr. Aparo’s art has an interesting effect on me because his name was one of the first I learned when I began to notice credit boxes in my comics, and his art was probably the first I could recognize just by glimpsing it. His figures were rock solid and distinctly hewn. His style was leaner and meaner than Neal Adams’, realistic but still reminiscent of old adventure strips. He penciled, inked, and lettered a huge quantity of his work. That, my friends, is commitment. Always a consummate professional, that Jim Aparo.

His start in the comic book industry happened at Charlton, where he drew a cool run on the Phantom, but it was at DC that he would find his home. The cool thing about Jim Aparo is that he defined everything he drew. He drew the definitive Spectre and Phantom Stranger. He drew one of the definitive Aquamans (along with Nick Cardy and Ramona Fradon). And, of course, he drew the definitive Batman, or my definitive Batman, at any rate.

One might not think his style would fit the genre, but he did draw quite a few supernatural stories in his day, the best of which were his Spectre and Phantom Stranger stories (the latter of which can be found in a Showcase volume). Whether mysterious or vengeful, these characters became fully-realized thanks to his art.

Jim Aparo 9.jpgJim Aparo 8.jpgJim Aparo 7.jpg

And, of course, I love Aquaman, so I can’t let Aquaman slip by. Boy howdy, was Mr. Aparo’s Aqua-art terrific. His Aquaman was strong and confident, in command of the oceans. When Aparo drew him, the character was put through hell, and his son was killed, but he kept on fighting. It’s great work.

Jim Aparo 5.jpgJim Aparo 6.jpg

Batman, however, is where Aparo shined. He drew the character in multiple titles for years on end, and his art never faltered. Aparo drew the death of Robin. He drew the breaking of the Bat. And, with scripts by Bob Haney, he wrote the raddest comic of all time, which you may know as The Brave & The Bold. Aparo worked his way through the entire DC Universe in this title, providing the art for bizarre but brilliant stories that set readers’ brains on fire. The series was distilled comics greatness. Heck, Aparo himself guest-starred in one fantastic issue, #124, seen at the top of the post. Here’s a page from it, borrowed from Erik Weems’ lovely tribute to the artist at Art & Artifice:

Jim Aparo 1.jpg

Aparo’s Batman wasn’t a myth, or a shadowy, wispy figure; he was clearly a man, flesh-and-blood, wearing a costume. His Batman was real, fully-formed, and intimidating. He was big and powerful but could be hurt, could be worn down. That didn’t make him any less unstoppable, however. And yes, Aparo’s Batman also hit people so hard that they exploded. That’s some muscle he’s packing. “Aparo!” should become a sound effect.

Jim Aparo 10.jpgJim Aparo 11.jpg

Be it in Brave & the Bold, Batman, Detective, or the Outsiders, Mr. Aparo drew a Batman to be reckoned with. He drew the Batman I remember, the Batman my childhood was captivated by. Batman and Aparo go together like Mike and Ike or peanut butter and jelly or kicks and faces. They made beautiful comics together.

Jim Aparo 3.jpgJim Aparo 4.jpg

Three cheers for Jim Aparo. He made comics awesome, and for that, we honor his memory, two years on. Can words really do his art justice? No– but I did my best.

For some more good Aparo stuff, check out this neat little Comic Book Artist interview. It’s good stuff.

23 Comments

It’s not quite my taste, but yes, it’s eminently Batman. It takes a whole lot of skill to make that much power look that graceful.

“flesh *in* blood”? My head just went APARO!

Seriously, though, I love Aparo’s early DC stuff. He seemed very much to have had an admiration for Neal Adams, a la Sinkiewicz’s early Marvel stuff. Looking forward to a Showcase of Aparo’s Brave and the Bold someday….

Wow. Never heard about that meta-textual B&B tale until now. Fun stuff.

That Egyptian-heiroglyph cover to the Outsiders is really sweet. Here’s a link to one of my all-time favorite Aparo covers from his earlier Batman (solo) run:

http://www.comics.org/coverview.lasso?id=31389&zoom=4

Andrew Collins

July 16, 2007 at 7:24 pm

Aparo is my all time favorite comic artist. That issue of Batman you have showing with Mr. Freeze on the cover was one of the first 2-3 comics I remember reading and to this day his Batman is what I picture when I think of the character. I wish TwoMorrows would clear whatever problems occurred that has been preventing them from releasing the Aparo art book and biography. I would love to see something like that…

Jim Aparo drew my firstest Batman comic ever.

I really dig that Egyptian cover!

FunkyGreenJerusalem

July 16, 2007 at 10:56 pm

‘Because Bob Kanighan’, ‘Aparo!’… you’re setting out to create new comic book lingo aren’t you?

The beauty of Jim Aparo’s one-man-band era is that his pages were so wonderfully organic. When the penciller is also the inker and letterer, every page is a designed piece that plays to his strengths in all three areas. The B&B’s from that time — especially the 100-page era, shortly after he took over the book (Batman and Mr. Miracle, Batman and Metal Men, Batmasn and Aquaman, Batman and Spectre, Batman and Sgt. Rock, Batman and the Atom) — those are simply the most amazing Aparo art pages ever.

I miss him still. I hope he knew how many of us admired his work.

The Kirbydotter

July 17, 2007 at 8:12 am

Jim Aparo!
This is such a great call!
One of the most underrated artist of this medium!

Jim Aparo never was one of the “hot” artist.
Neal Adams’s Batman was more dynamic. Marshall Rogers’s was cool. These two were shooting stars.

Jim Aparo was the North Star. Reliable, steady, defining the character he was assigned to do. Always giving his best, regardless of the quality of the script the had to work with. Just like Curt Swan on Superman. We took these guys work for granted. Until they weren’t there anymore. We then realized how Jim (on Batman) and Curt (on Superman) were so important to DC’s two most important characters. They did so much, that not having them anymore left a big emptiness. They never will be artists like these with such an unsurpassed quantity AND quality of body of work.

I suddenly have an urge to go through my long boxes to find some BRAVE AND THE BOLDs and BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS.

Jim Aparo drew my firstest Batman comic ever.

Me too! I bet he drew a lot of “firstest” Batman issues for many readers. I will always consider Aparo to be one of the definitive Batman artists. He really could tell a story, and he drew some of the moodiest Batman comics of the 1980s.

Here’s a scan of one of my favorite Batman covers by Jim Aparo…

http://www.comics.org/coverview.lasso?id=37273&zoom=4

Macabre horror and romantic love in the same image. Aparo was a master at establishing mood.

I got this issue signed by interior artist Joe Staton (himself a great draughtsman) but regrettably I never had a chance to ask Aparo for his signature. I did get a couple of other books signed by Aparo a few years beforehand, at least. Really nice guy.

You could do a year of posts of the top 365 Jim Aparo drawings and still have enough material for a decade.

Jim Aparo, an early favorite for this fan, which was a good thing as his work could be found in many places. But I love his work on B & B and was sad when that series ended as iwanted to see more Aparo artwork.

I can’t wait for a showcase collecting all that good stuff. Batman and Mr. Miracle escaping from an egyption tomb booby-trap is one I shall always remember.

Since Batman was one of the superheroes I cut my superhero teeth on, and most of those issues were by Jim AParo–I like his art–he is one of the artists in the running for “THE” Batman artist–I wouldn’t complain.

His style was fluid and definite at the same time–you could tell what was going on without having to decipher the art–good call including him…

I believe Jim Aparo was the artist on the first Batman comic I ever bought – 489. Perhaps I came in at the tail-end of his career, but I found that his art in the issues I saw suffered from the same problem you recently castigated Ed Benes for: all of his characters had the same face. All the same, I admired him for his dedication and workrate.

Lemme chime in with a “Me Too!” it may not have been my firstest comic ever, but the above-featured Batman #286 was definitely the first comic cover ever to stand out in my mind.

I always thought Jim Aparo’s art was at its best in the early 70s Brave and Bolds. I’m thinking of when the price range was from 20 cents to 30 cents. That’s sort of my range for buying back issues, though I have a collection that spans the entire series. This is also probably the best or at least most entertaining way to view Batman in his manifestation of “good ol Batman”. He’s out in the daylight, he shows up in court, and (what I always find the funniest) he travels by regular airline!! Can you imagine being on a long overseas flight and looking up from your current 1975 issue of People magazine to see….The Batman sitting next to you?!?! “Hello Batman, where are you traveling to?” He turns his reflective eye-slits toward you and answers:

“I’m going to extradite a known arms smuggler and drug kingpin from his hideout in the area known as Deadmans Quadrangle. Its a region known for the
many planes and ships that dissapear near there. We should be flying over it any moment now.”

…….”Far out.”

Far out indeed.

It is a little bit like watching a 1966 Batman TV episode except with the 1989 Michael Keaton’s grim Batman instead of Adam west. I really like these comics from a purely nostalgic bent, and also I LOVE Jim Aparo’s rendition of the Batman, Grim and statuesque looking. My favorite issues have the Phantom Stranger, Wild Cat.Dr.Fate, The Huntress and Robin of Earth 2. Brave and the Bold #115 which has the Atom reanimating a brain dead Batman to find his killer may be the very best story/art of the whole
series.

Much love to J. Aparo and crazy B. Haney

Jim Aparo drew my first ever Batman–Brave & The Bold #192, with Superboy guest starring. Then, years later, he drew Batman: Death In The Family, which got me back into Batman.
Funny enough, I always thought he was a solid artist, but I never realized how GREAT he was until 2007, when I re-read Death In The Family. Then, I went back into my collection and realized he was even better back in the 70s and early 80s. On Brave & The Bold, he was still inking his stuff (and sometimes lettering), and his work took on an organic, fluid feel that was something like Will Eisner’s stuff.
Yes, his Batman was ‘cartoony’ by today’s standards, but that infamous Aparo Batman look–the long, slender neck, the high forehead, the stoic expression, will always be the real Batman too many. And in case anyone mistakes the praise heaped on Aparo for his dedication and reliability as a coded way of saying his work didn’t look good (ie: “she has a nice personality!”), I think his 70s stuff is BEAUTIFUL (the Brave & The Bold cover link above featuring Catwoman is one glorious example.)
Also, without being too hyperbolic, I am really starting to think that Aparo’s storytelling skills may among the finest the industry has produced. I had also thought that Kirby was the unquestioned master of page layout, but Aparo seemed to take such care with it, that he may have surpassed Kirby and the other comic book pioneers that invented the conventions he was employing.
No matter who wrote the story, I can read, re-read and re-read again any Jim Aparo story, simply because of the way that he told it.

-Mike-EL

I found this site quite by accident, but I feel the need to chime in. Mr. Aparo’s rendition of Batman is the one that fills my modest collection the most. Batman, Detective Comics, The Brave & The Bold, Batman & The Outsiders…. when he was drawing, I was buying. His Batman was my Batman. Those stories and that artwork were my escape from the real world as I was growing up… I couldn’t wait for the next issue at my local drugstore (no comic book stores in my area). So, while I don’t have rare issues or many comics without UPC codes. I do have the stories. And, like you, I can read and re-read over and over the legacy of what he’s left us. Growing up in the 70′s and 80′s, with a comic book in hand, are as fond as they could ever be.

Thanks Mr. Aparo wherever you are…

Scott

Thanks for posting the Aparo draw Batman dead or die stuff, one of my all-time favorites!

jim was my hero.i learned to draw coping his stuff.his art was powerful yet graceful at the same time. the comic world has lost another genius.

Hello there! Quick question that’s completely off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My web site looks weird when browsing from my iphone4. I’m trying to find a theme or plugin that might be able to correct this issue. If you have any recommendations, please share. Cheers!

Same with me as with the author of this appreciation: Jim Aparo was also my first favorite artist, and teh first whose work I could recognize without reading the credits. As an 11-year old kid in 1972 that made me feel smart. He was a master of moods and settings. Gotham City in the wee hours, the action taking place under the cone of light from a streetlamp. is specialty ! It’s cold and windy. But wait, how do you draw ‘windy’ ? Jim knew how. Scraps of newspaper up-ended in the gutter. A whisp of Jim Gordon’s gray hair, fluttering horizontal to his head. How did he draw ‘cold’ ? Jim Gordon clutching together the collar of his trenchcoat. Hey, I think Mr. Aparo used the Commishioner as his weather vane ! Brilliant artist of the highest caliber.
40 years later, I guess I woudl say he is still my favorite all-time comic book artist.

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