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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 238: Detective Comics #583

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be looking at four writer/artist duos, as voted on by you, the readers! This week features Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle! Today’s page is from Detective Comics #583, which was published by DC and is cover dated February 1988. Enjoy!

The legend begins!

The readers spoke, and I listened: Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle received the second-most number of votes for the writer/artist duo I get to feature here, and as they almost never worked on anything together except Batman comics (there’s one exception that we’ll see), this week will be full of Batman! It’s a good thing I’ve barely featured any Batman comics this year!

Breyfogle doesn’t get to be too dynamic on this splash page, but it’s still designed well. Notice that the vanishing point is not exactly equidistant from both vertical panel borders – the streets converge slightly on the right side of the page. This both leans us toward the second page but also adds a bit of “realism” to the page, because just that skewing helps make it seem like an actual urban scene rather than a carefully constructed page. Breyfogle also puts Batman in a nice spot – he’s highlighted against a too-large moon, which makes him more visible and also backlights him, so Breyfogle can just draw a silhouette (and, of course, this reflects the symbol on his chest, which at this time was still surrounded by the yellow oval). If the buildings were situated perfectly so that they met in the center of the page, Batman would be pushed too far off to the left. He’s not in the middle of the page, but by shifting the buildings to the right, Breyfogle is able to balance the page with Batman’s presence in the upper left. As this is the 1980s, when urban life in America had still not recovered from the nadir of the 1970s (yes, I’m generalizing, but bear with me), you’ll notice the proliferation of skeezy places along this road – the only businesses that thrive in Gotham are liquor stores, bars, and strip joints, apparently. With their first issue, Grant and Breyfogle are announcing one of the general themes of their run, which is addiction and its horrible effects on people. There aren’t any illegal drugs on this street, but the creators plant the idea with the abundance of bars. Adrienne Roy’s colors are effective, too. She colors the modest buildings in the foreground with browns and dull reds, which gives them a bit of a seedy and decrepit feel, while the downtown area in the background shine with yellow and orange, symbolizing the brightness of the rich hiding the poverty on the streets. Meanwhile, Roy’s choice of red and purple for “10 p.m.” is interesting. No, the skies over cities never truly get dark, but they’re still not as bright as Roy makes them. What this color does is foreshadow the drug that Grant will build his story around – the title “Fever” against the background of purple and red sky makes Gotham seem like a seething town of sickness, which, of course, it is.

Grant (and Wagner, who wasn’t on the book very long) sets the scene but doesn’t give us too much information – it’s ten at night in Gotham City, and the night life is starting. It’s perfectly fine, but we don’t learn much beyond the time and place. The first few pages are meant to evoke the night in Gotham, so Grant is more concerned with establishing a mood, and the narration on this page is just beginning to do that. It’s certainly not a bad bit of writing, but it’s tough to consider it without the context of the next few pages.

This is the first of many excellent issues on Detective from this team. You can read more about it here, if you’re interested. Over the next few days, we’ll see more comics from this run, although over a few different titles. That’s just the way it has to be! You can always find non-Batman comics in the archives!

34 Comments

That’s crazy! I have literally never heard of Norm Breyfogle, even though I was certainly reading comics back then (and for a good 12 or 13 years before that). I guess I’ll find out who he is this week, huh?

buttler: That’s very odd. I think you’ll find that many people who read this blog consider him the quintessential Batman artist, even though that may be a function of their age when they read his comics. Even re-reading his comics these days, though, it’s very clear he’s a very good artist!

Yeah, it may be an age thing–the same reason that for me Aparo is the quintessential Batman artist. I wasn’t really Batman much anymore by the time Alan Grant came in, and I never really liked his writing.

…wasn’t really READING Batman much anymore, that is. Tho I guess that was obvious in context.

You just reminded me of how much I miss that yellow oval. I blame Frank Miller.

Norm Breyfogle is one of my favorite artists. I can’t believe you’ve never heard of him buttler. That seems like someone saying they’ve never heard of George Perez.

For a while at least, if I remember correctly, Breyfogle was drawing either Batman or ‘Tec and Aparo was drawing the other. It was a pretty good time for the Bat-books.

Wow, that’s quite a statement! I’m looking over Breyfogle’s credits, and it looks like if I wasn’t reading late ’80s/early ’90s Batman, there’s no reason that I would know him, except possibly his short run on Spectre. I mean, I’ve heard of Prime, but never actually read it.

buttler: Yeah, I wouldn’t quite go so far as to say his profile is as high as George Perez’s, and obviously his work wasn’t spread over as many titles as Perez’s, either. He came on the blog when I wrote about this run on ‘Tec and mentioned that he’s been working steadily, but not always for DC and Marvel, so perhaps he doesn’t have as high a profile as other artists. He did a nice Hellcat mini-series with Steve Englehart, though!

But to get back to the page for a second: You’re right, Greg. That bright pinkish purple is a really weird choice for late at night, and isn’t a palette I’d associate with Gotham at all. But then, that nondescript low-buildinged street doesn’t look much like the Gotham I’ve seen either, aside from the types of businesses on display. It looks like how I’d imagine the seedy side of Akron, Ohio to look.

Breyfogle did many real good things , even launched a new bat-tittle in the 90’s ( i’m sure we’ll see that greg)

Before the hellcat mini for marvel , Breyf did 2 interconnecting annuals ( avengers ..and .. west coast of FF.. cant remember.. but sure would have been great having him on the avengers regular title).

Prime was an interesting take on Cap Marvel (Shazam)

what i reaaly like is the elsewords he did.

He mostly work for Archie nowadays…

Greg, i hope we’ll have pages showing the differences the inkers did to his work (under-rated Kim de mulder on this page, Steve mitchel later on the run .. and himself)

ollieno: I don’t write too much about the different inkers, except for one big example later in the week. I’ve gotten better about writing about pencil work and coloring, but I’m still not super-confident I know what I’m talking about when it comes to inking. I do write a bit about it, though!

Buttler hadn’t heard of Breyfogle? I gotta sit down for a second. My world is agog.

He never really had a high enough profile, though, I suppose. Never the hot artist like the Image guys, and then once Image burst onto the scene, that style overtook things and someone with actual talent like Breyfogle got swept under the rug.

But yeah, he did the Life With Archie (not sure if he’s still on it) magazine, with the 2 different futures of Archie married to either Veronica or Betty. Very weird, depressing stuff, but the art (of course) looks great.

I totally buy that buttler’s second comment, that he “wasn’t really Batman much anymore” WASN’T a typo, though. I’m picturing him in the costume now. Hee hee!

Dammit, Travis, I thought I had successfully saved my secret identity from that unconscious slip. Don’t blow it now!

The Crazed Spruce

August 25, 2012 at 5:47 pm

Brefogle is easily my second-favourite Batman artist (after Aparo, of course), but I’m a bit disappointed that the pairing of Bob Kanagher and Joe Kubert didn’t get much traction in the polling. They did some awesome war stories together.

Ah, well. I guess I’ll have to settle for some excellent Batman pages this week…..

The Crazed Spruce

August 25, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Man, for my second-favourite Batman artist, you’d think I’d learn to spell his frikkin’ name….

(That should be Breyfogle.)

The Crazed Spruce

August 25, 2012 at 5:51 pm

And, of course, that should be “Bob Kanigher”. *hangs head in shame*

It’s ok, the Crazd Spuce. We know who you mean.

Dang, sorry Buttler. I’ll be your Robin and keep your secret, how ’bout that? Pixie shoes and shaved legs, man!

Breyfogle and Aparo are the definitive Bat-artists for me. Parobeck is also a favorite. Yes, I became a comic nerd in 1992.

This run is particularly terrific; but the Batbooks from this period up to Knightfall were generally great.

This was one of the earliest comics I bought with my own money, and it rocked my little world. The Grant/Breyfogle team did fantastic work for years, and it’s a damn shame that virtually none of it has been collected. I keep hoping to see Breyfogle pop up on one of the current Batman books, but he is working on the Batman Beyond digital-first series, so that’s something.

I finally had the chance last year to sit down and read the whole Grant/Breyfogle run on Batman, from their beginnings on Tec, through their all too brief stint on the main Batman book and the launching of Shadow Of The Bat and LOVED it. Wonderful stuff all around. It really left me kicking myself for missing it the first timer around. I started reading comics seriously circa 1989 but got so burned out on all things Batman during that “Summer Of The Bat” that I didn’t touch a Batman comic for years.

I was being a bit hyperbolic when I said not knowing who Breyfogle was is the same as Perez, I’ll admit. It’s more that they’re both Top 10 artists for me. And while I know Breyfogle hasn’t had as wide of variety of titles as Perez, his Batman run is very iconic at this point. Buttler seems pretty knowledgeable in the realm of comics, so it’s surprising he’s never heard of him. I don’t mean that as an insult or anything, it’s just surprising.

Hey Jazzbo, I made clicky with the link in your name (some funny stuff there). Is that Bat Tuesday birthday one on your actual birthday? If so, we’ve got the same b-day! YAY US!!!

But yeah, knowing that buttler hadn’t heard of Breyfogle…well, I think we all should maybe gather in the corner, shake our heads at him, sigh heavily, mutter about what a shame, what a shame it is, and then generally shun him. Just for a little while, maybe. And every time he comes over, says hi, tries to see what we’re all doing, we’ll just…ignore him, or tell him there’s something shiny over yonder.

For his own good, mind you. For his own good.

Man, I get weird this late in the day.

I should probably mention that I too hadn’t at least registered Norm Breyfogle before. I might even had read something by him but generally I wasn’t reading regular Batman during that period (and I also admit I am more familiar of Grant’s work for 2000AD).

Ha! Yeah, it wouldn’t be so strange with something like the X-Men that I avoided for decades at a time, but dangit, I like Batman.

Looking at the covers, I’m pretty sure I did read one issue of Breyfogle’s run on Detective Comics, because although I knew by then that I didn’t generally like Alan Grant’s writing, I was intrigued by the character of Anarky, despite his being kind of a V knockoff. And obviously Breyfogle’s name would have been right there in the credits, so maybe it would be more accurate to say I never noticed him. As AS put it, it just hadn’t registered.

LouReedRichards

August 26, 2012 at 10:30 am

I’ve never cared for Breyfogle’s art at all, in fact I’m actually always surprised at how many ardent supporters he has. I’m not trying to be a troll about this, it’s all just a matter different tastes.

I’m really looking forward to hearing people’s opinions about his work for the next week. Who knows, by the end of it I might even be a fan.

I’ve heard many-a-time how legendary the Grant and Breyfogle run has been, but has Alan Grant written anything else worthwhile? I mean he has written A LOT, but I never hear much about his other stuff.

From what I’ve read, LEGION was pretty good, Anarchy (the ongoing) was pretty bad.

BitBiteOuch: Well, I’m definitely the wrong person to address that, but I’ll do it anyway. I always found his more gonzo work, like Demon and Lobo, really irritating, but I get the impression that they’re well regarded by others. Also Judge Dredd’s not my thing and I didn’t much care for his sections of 2000 AD, so I formed an impression early on that Grant’s just not my man. And I have to confess, I stayed away from Alan Davis’s stuff for a long time just because I got their names mixed up.

That said, I was a faithful L.E.G.I.O.N. reader, although I was tricked into it because I was a big Keith Giffen fan, and that was a time when Giffen and his collaborators were doing some of their best work on JLI and Legion. And I have to say, I continued to really like that series, despite all the high jinks with Lobo.

Travis: Yes, that was posted on my actual birthday. So we’re birthday buddies!

And we’re both very, very disappointed in buttler. So that’s at least 2 things we have in common.

LouReedRichards: I hate when people are called trolls just because they have a difference of opinion, so I certainly won’t call you that now! Perhaps this week might change your mind, even slightly. We shall see!

BitBiteOuch: I really don’t know if a lot of Grant’s other stuff is any good, because for years I didn’t read his 2000AD stuff, so I can’t really speak to that (and diving into Judge Dredd stuff is daunting). I think I have a more favorable opinion about Anarky than most people, although they’re certainly not great comics. I wouldn’t call them pretty bad, though. Grant just wrote an OGN about the War of 1812 which wasn’t bad. Again, it wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad.

Yay, Jazzbo and I are birthday buddies!!!

And very very disappointed in butt***, yes. I can’t even spell his name out entirely.

LouReedRichards has an awesome user name, so we’ll give him a pass on not being a Breyfogle nut.

Actually, I’m not so huge on him as some people. It’s dang cool looking, but it’s not necessarily my fave Bat art.

‘least I’ve heard of him, tho. SHAME!!!

I kinda like Grant on the Demon and Lobo. I’m not sure what all he’s done between about ’96 and the last few years, but he wrote an adaptation of Treasure Island in the last couple years that, iirc, Cam Kennedy drew. And he also gave GMozz and Mark Millar advice at the beginning of their careers, and they were dicks about it in an interview later on. Jerks.

‘least I don’t confuse him with Alan Davis, either, though. butt***, wth? SHAME!!!

Life with Archie isn’t always weird (though the alternate universe story certainly was) or depressing (though it frequently is). But what it is consistently is the best comic on the market today. Breyfogle is not currently doing art for it, however.

For me, I first got into the Batman comics around 1989 or 1990 because of the Tim Burton movie coming out. Picking up the current issues of Batman and Detective, the two pencilers on those were, of course, Jim Aparo and Norm Breyfogle. So they ended up becoming the definitive Batman artists of my teenage years. And, of course, they are both incredibly talented.

I really liked Breyfogle’s art on Birth of the Demon

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