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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #199

The Reader Survey is now up, and immediately below this post, but I’ve provided you with a link anyway. Tell me how you really feel, dear readers. I do try to keep this as a semi-interactive experience. Also, I am running out of ways to keep linking to the archive without it being annoying.

The big #200 is tomorrow! But don’t count out today’s featured creator, a fantastic artist with an extraordinary style who can’t get work at the Big Two these days! As always, I explore why he’s great and then posit the old doubleyou-tea-eff to America’s leading comics publishers. Join me, won’t you? And maybe we’ll go visit King Friday or something.

7/18/07

199. Norm Breyfogle

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Since the topic of Batman came up, I figured it’d be cool to take a look at the other definitive Batman artist for me, and my personal favorite, Norm Breyfogle. He started his comics career in an issue of DC’s New Talent Showcase (which is a great idea and they need to bring something like that back), and quickly transitioned to drawing back-ups for American Flagg!, and front-ups for Whisper (with Steven Grant) and Marvel Fanfare.

Still, it’s Batman he’s best known for. And it’s clear why: no one draws Batman like Norm Breyfogle. His Batman was fluid, mysterious, seemingly able to shift his form, or become a shadow. Under Breyfogle’s pencil, Batman was incredibly agile and deft in combat. Norm gave Batman a vast range of facial expressions and emotions unhindered by the mask. From shock to fear to disgust to fury to his standard grim poker face to the occasional smirk or smile, Batman seemed to use his facial muscles to the max when Breyfogle was drawing him, unlike other artists. The Dark Knight could become a vengeful maelstrom or on the page, or appear as a guy in a cape. Breyfogle used whatever felt natural to the mood of the scene and to the essence of Batman.His art really came alive on newsprint, where the blacks were allowed to seep into the page and accentuate his amazing pencils. Some artists were hindered by paper quality, but not Norm.

With excellent scripts from Alan Grant, Norm drew my favorite Bat-run of them all. And the bizarre cast of characters, freaks, and villains that popped up during their Detective run were gorgeously portrayed! From the limbless hobo “Legs” to Scarface, the Ventriloquist, Anarky (boy, I love Anarky– he needs to appear more), Ratcatcher, the Clayfaces, Cornelius Stirk, and more, and have each one look unique and interesting. My favorite Grant/Breyfogle creation is most definitely Mr. Zsasz, the lunatic who scars a tally mark into his body with each kill. Breyfogle gave him wild, unnatural eyes, pointed knives with small circles of psychosis as pupils. A truly frightening depiction. I love it.

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His layouts were fantastic as well, defying conventions of panel borders and finding new ways to frame images. I’ll let the pages speak for themselves, however. Click to enlarge:

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Only Breyfogle could take what amounts to an twelve panel page and put it together like this. It’s fascinating work– this is one of my favorite pages of his.

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Remember what I said about Batman transforming on the page? There it is.

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Wonderful combat and emotion– Breyfogle strengths.

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Batman + Breyfogle = Greatness.

By the mid-90s, Norm was off the Batbooks, and onto creating other series, like Malibu’s Prime and Metaphysique, a book he created, wrote, and drew. He’d return to DC for a couple more Batman comics and a short-lived Anarky ongoing with Alan Grant. Then he skipped to Marvel for a few projects, and back to DC to draw the Spectre for a bit, though. His most recent work was seen at the defunct Speakeasy, drawing Of Bitter Souls. His art is still great.

I’ve read, uh, somewhere, that DC and Marvel won’t hire him back, however, because they’d have to pay him too much! And when offering to drop his page rate for them, they refuse. It sounds crazy. Maybe it is. I would love to see Norm back at the Big Two and drawing some cool comics again. Of course, I love seeing his work anywhere, so I shan’t complain! (He would totally draw a great Martian Manhunter, though. Really.)

I know I focused primarily on his Bat-work here, but trust me, the rest is great too. Don’t believe me? Hit up the links!

For more on Norm Breyfogle, be sure to visit his website, which contains a treasure trove of delicious art, including this sketch of my old favorite, OMAC!:

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My life is now complete for having seen this.

You can also find a really great interview with both Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle here, and a more general interview about Norm and his career here. Enjoy.

Be here tomorrow for the 200th episode extravaganza, in which I tell you about the greatest comics character ever created. In my humble opinion, of course.

16 Comments

I’m not very familiar with his work, so this was interesting. I love artists who play with the page layouts – I really like that first Batman page you show.

The only thing here that doesn’t work for me is the OMAC drawing – the face looks kind of weird. It’s kind of early ’90s-Image looking, actually, which just doesn’t work on OMAC for me.

Rohan Williams

July 18, 2007 at 6:44 pm

Awesome! Bring back Breyfogle!

Was there ever a better time to be a Batman fan than in the late ’80s/early ’90s, when you had the two movies, all the related merchandise, the animated series, The Batman Adventures, occasional appearances from Peter Milligan on the Bat-books, and Grant and Breyfogle weaving their magic all over the place? I say thee nay. Then again, nostalgia may be shading my memory a little…

Also gotta give props to Breyfogle for the Tim Drake Robin design. Great updating of a classic look.

I think Neal Adams designed the new Robin costume. Breyfogle was just the first to draw it in the comics. This, however, does not detract from Breyfogle’s awesomeness.

Yeah, Neal Adams designed the costume.

And yeah, I loves me some Breyfogle.

Somehow I doubt he is too expensive or blacklisted. I imagine its more a product of editors not wanting to put old artists on their books.

Wicked, wicked stuff. I REALLY want to see a trade of that run with Grant, and would actually pay for an Absolute version of it.

I should really reread this stuff. The Grant/Breyfogle stuff was my entry into Detective, too. But Lord God was it disappointing to collect binders full of WHO’s WHO entries and to finally come to Breyfogle’s terrible pinup of Batman at the end. Everyone has there off-days though.

The Kirbydotter

July 19, 2007 at 7:30 am

Grant and Breyfogle’s Batman was my favorite run too.
I think that no creative team since the Golden Age managed to add so many interesting and now classic villains to the Bat’s rogue gallery. Ventriloquist! Anarky! Mr. Zsasz!

Their versions of classic vilains were among the best interpretations of them. They are the only team to do an interesting modern version of the Penguin for one.

Plus Ace the Bat Hound!

And what was the name of the hunchback guy who went to live in the batcave? Can’t remember… But he was a touching character.

Breyfogle’s Batman was scary, and I like the fact that Grant wrote detective stories, most of his villllains didn’t even have super-powers but they were some of the most menacing Batman ever had to fight.

The first dozen issues of Malibu’s PRIME were very nice.

Even Breyfogle’s Batmobile design was great: try the first page of Detective #601, it’s still my favorite Batmobile ever. Like a Ferrari with a space shuttle booster crammed into it’s trunk.

hifidigitalboy

July 19, 2007 at 8:17 am

It’s been years since I regularly read comics. I totally forgot about Norm Breyfogle. Thank you so much for reminding me, yet again, why I love comics.

Kirbydotter: That would be Harold, whom Jeph Loeb later decided to turn into a traitor to Batman and then kill off. Fans wonder why so many people hate Loeb.

Harold was a great character–I first saw him in the Question (Which I believe was his first appearance.)

When the Denny O’Neil run of the Question ended Harold wandered off. And he wound up with Batman. I never heard he turned and was killed–that sounds like it was done for the sake of doing it.

Norm’s still roaring through AWESOME pages of artwork. He currently draws the upcoming series the Danger’s Dozen, due in the late fall!

He is a great person, more than matching his greatness as an artist.

Aditya Ezhuthachan

May 24, 2010 at 3:26 pm

I’m so glad I came across this. Thank you for this post. I actually just went online now specifically to try to remember Norm Breyfogle’s name because I also started reading Detective on his run and enjoyed so much about that experience. 20 years later, I still remember his artwork for how expressive it is. Everything you said about it is dead on.

Thanks, again.

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