Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It's a Fine Line: Batman in the Bronze Age

Doug: You may have noticed a bit more Batman around these parts lately, and Neal Adams' work is always a welcome topic on this blog. So what say we just combine 'em, throw in some Marshall Rogers and a little Jim Aparo and see what we get? All of the picture references for today's post come from the wonderful World Wide Web, as my Batman collection over the years has dwindled.

Bob Brown --

Doug: We're currently looking at Bob Brown's work on the Avengers/Zodiac story, and some time ago we checked in on his Daredevil and the Black Widow. Brown actually drew quite a few issues of Batman and Detective Comics, and as I've said, he was always pretty solid if not spectacular. I know he's not for everyone's taste, however.

Karen: I don't think I've ever seen a Bob Brown Batman comic. But then my Batman collection is limited. This looks serviceable but that's about all.

Dick Dillin --

Doug: Dillin is of course best known for his long tenure on Justice League of America, but he, like Brown, showed up from time to time on Batman's solo adventures. I think one thing that most everyone will notice is the style of the cowl and the bat insignia. This panel definitely comes from the very early Bronze Age, when the comics still mimicked the 1966 television show. The ears were short, man!

Karen: I've always liked Dillin. But you're right, this has a heavy TV influence. I'm just waiting for Aunt Harriet to pop up.

Doug: Ha! We laugh about that, but let's face it -- how many Bronze Agers owe their entry into this hobby/interest to that TV show?

Dick Giordano --

Doug: Giordano's spot in Bronze Age history is, for most folks, as the sidekick to Neal Adams on Batman and the Green Lantern/Green Arrow run. However, his was a varied career, and every now and then he did his own pencilling. Many criticize (or laud, depending on your point of view, I guess) him for aping Adams when he pencilled. There are worse sins than aping Neal Adams.

Karen: No kidding, very much looks like Adams.

Don Newton --

Doug: I know Newton has many fans, and I am certainly no detractor. However, I don't think I know enough about his body of work to even foster an intelligent comment here.

Karen: Newton's another one of those guys that I've thought was serviceable but never got me excited about the art.

Ernie Chan --

Doug: I like this panel, because it's just through-and-through Ernie Chan. Many of you will recognize his work on Conan the Barbarian, either on his own or for his extensive run as the inker for John Buscema. But in the mid- to late-'70's he was the lead artist on the Dark Knight, in both magazines.

Karen: Chan is just not my cup of tea, regardless of who he's drawing.

Doug: I thought he was OK on the Batman books that I owned. I always resented him, however, for exerting too much influence over Buscema's pencils on the Conan run.

Frank Robbins --

Doug: We've never covered the Invaders on this blog, and I suppose at some point we need to. But one look to the left will tell you why I would not be partial to such a strategy. Robbins did quite a bit of writing on the Bat-books, but only a few times was he called on to pencil. Thank goodness...

Karen: I'm not going to say anything. I'm trying to keep my reputation as a nice person.

Doug: Mom always said...

Irv Novick --

Doug: Novick's one of the '70's artists readily recognized as one of Batman's prominent artists. As I commented above, you can tell which part of the decade this panel hails from. But that's OK -- it's still pretty powerful. There's quite a bit of action and emotion in this single panel. But it's kind of funny (not Hahaha) to me that it just seems like a panel from a DC and not from a Marvel. Thoughts?

Karen: It has me intrigued. I'd like to see more of his work.

Jim Aparo --

Doug: If anyone out there doesn't like Jim Aparo, I would like to know why. This guy wrapped the best of a whole bunch of artists, Adams and Novick included, into his own style. One of the stalwarts of the Caped Crusader's stable of pencillers, Aparo lasted well into the 1980's and illustrated several important stories.

Karen: This is 'Mr. Batman' to me. Aparo was drawing Batman when I first started reading it. I've always loved the tall, lean look he gave the Dark Knight. He had a very strong style, good story teller, and very dynamic too. He's the guy to whom I compare all other Batman artists.

Doug: I agree with you. While not an Aquaman fan (lordy, the King of the Seven Seas has surfaced (ha!) on this blog twice now in the past week!), Aparo's work on that title was great as well.

John Calnan --

Doug: You know, this isn't a name I ever would have come up with. When doing research and art collection for this post, I noticed that he pencilled many of the issues that I actually had at one time. Wow -- seriously, never would have named this guy. The panel at left is good -- no problems. But I had a hard time finding anything significant in color to pass along. So I guess I'll just have to plead "no memory" on this fellow.

Karen: No idea who he is, but the art reminds me of the old Hostess Cupcakes/Twinkies/Pies ads. That's not really a good thing.

Doug: Another slice of Bronze Age life, those ads were...

Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez --

Doug: You'll all identify this as a model sheet, which it most certainly is. And if you run across some of the others that Garcia-Lopez drew, they are all just as beautiful. Garcia-Lopez was the "house artist" for many of DC's mass marketed items, like licensed items that became toy packaging, etc. While I didn't find a good sequential example of his work, I'm sure you've run across his stuff on New Teen Titans, etc. Solid, solid artist.

Karen: Always liked Garcia-Lopez. Very distinctive look, clean, and as you say, solid artist all the way around. His stuff worked with pretty much any character you could think of. His Batman looks great.

Marshall Rogers --

Doug: We're also in the midst of a little 3-Saturday series from the Englehart/Rogers collaboration from Detective Comics, and I don't know about you, but I'm really enjoying it. I've seen it said elsewhere on the 'net that no one drew Batman's cape like Rogers, and I'm not so sure that I wouldn't echo that. I think his "real people" are finely rendered, and his fight scenes are well-choreographed. And then there's Silver St. Cloud...

Karen: Great stuff. He and Terry Austin made a terrific team. Of course, I think Austin is one of those inkers that makes anyone look better. But Rogers was an excellent penciller.

Mike Grell --

Doug: I was surprised to see Grell's name on several of the credits in these books. When I think of Mike Grell, like you, I'm probably seeing his work on the Legion and on Green Lantern/Green Arrow. But this is a nice sample at left. I know some of our readers were detractors of Grell when Karen ran the Grell-Cockrum Face-Off a couple of weeks ago. But for me he's always been a fine draftsman. Not without his faults, mind you -- but you could do a heckuva lot worse.

Karen: I don't see anything wrong with the sample. But then, I do like Mike Grell's work. He reminds me a bit of Aparo here, with that lean look to the Batman which I favor.

Neal Adams --

Doug: I have no further comment. None needed.

Karen: I have one comment: beautiful.

Rich Buckler --

Doug: We've discussed Rich Buckler around these parts many times. I'll stand by former comments that he's just a well-rounded artist. The panel at left looks like his style -- not flashy, but strongly straightforward. And I appreciate the backgrounds in the first panel. Not all artists take the time to fill in the mood of a scene, but this first panel is nice.

Karen: I have no complaints about Buckler's work here or pretty much anywhere else. He's a very solid artist.

Doug: There were a few other artists worth mentioning for their body of work in the 1970's, but I didn't notice that they did much in the way of interiors. The two most prolific artists I'm thinking of would be Michael Kaluta and Nick Cardy -- both did extensive cover work on both Batman and Detective Comics.


Jonathan Stover said...

Mike Golden and Mike Grell both did some nice work on the Batman Family titles. Walt Simonson also did a ton of Bat-work in the 1970s, including an interesting piece from early 1970s Detective Comics (reprinted in The Art of Walt Simonson, if yu can find it)that looks like a dry run for Frank Miller's broad, short-eared Batman of The Dark Knight Returns.

As to Garcia Lopez, much of his best work from the period was from the Superman titles, including some nice stuff early in DC Comics Presents. He also pencilled Batman vs. The Incredible Hulk.

The Everlovin' Crop said...

i'm probably one of the few people who really enjoyed frank robbins's work on batman. i really liked the caniff-esque, quirky look of the art... for me it really worked with the dark and moody batman. and while i love the work of neal adams, i really liked that robbins was doing something you just didn't see elsewhere in comics.

never cared as much for his work on invaders, though... a big part of that was the inking. colletta was fine for some things, but his style just didn't mesh well with robbins at all

J.A. Morris said...

I'd say my favorite is Aparo, beating out Adams simply because he drew so many more Batman stories. I wish there were more high quality color reprints available of the Aparo-drawn Batman,I guess DC has decided his not "essential" enough.
Calnan was the artist on the first several Batman comics I ever bought back in '77-'78, I always saw him as okay, not great, but he'll always be a "sentimental" favorite.

Just curious, is that drawing by Calnan from this issue?:

I ask because I collect Holiday themed issues. I've talked about setting up a blog dedicated to Holiday comics(not just Christmas/New Year's, but other Holidays too),maybe this year I'll get on that.

Anonymous said...

Everlovin' Crop - you are not alone in enjoying Robbins!

I liked his work on Batman and Captain America and especially The Shadow.

I agree on Invaders. Kind of ironic that his work on a Golden Age-themed book didn't work so well. (Although his Destroyer always looked good.)

david_b said...

Frank Robbins, I personally could not stand, but he is distinctive and that's always got merits.

Grell I could never stand, since he always drew everyone running the same way, and his flying angles were always the same.

Jim Aparo..? I thought I would like him on Aquaman, but nope. He was alright as a Batman artist in the early 70s, as Bats got darker and more cosmopolitan in nature, but he seemed to me to be aping Adams a bit too much. The further into the 70s he got (like his work on Brave & Bold), it seemed to just wear on me.

He's an artist that would make me miss Adams or someone else all the more, much like Buckler's FF work which MADE me wish John Buscema was still drawing.

Inkstained Wretch said...

Okay ... (clears throat) I was never much of a fan of Jim Aparo, though that may be because I knew him mostly from the latter-day Brave and the Bold issues and Batman and the Outsiders. Both comics just seemed a mite too silly for me. While his Batman was good, I never liked the way he drew/designed the other heroes and villians.

I was also put off by the way Aparo drew the Joker. He made the clown prince of crime's features way too exaggerated, particularly the chin. (Seriously, how was he able to use his jaw?)

Having said that, I love, love, his run illustrating the Spectre stories for Adventure Comics. His style there seemed a bit more serious and restrained.

Anonymous said...

I didn't care much for Robbins either at first. Seemed like he always ended up illustrating my favorites (The Shadow, Captain America, etc..). However, I came to appreciate him when the Invaders came along, especially after Frank Springer started inking. Of course, now I enjoy coming across an issue he did, just because it's so different.

My favorites were Adams of course, Irv Novick, Marshall Rogers, and Aparo (when he did his own inks) except for his Joker.

While I really liked Mike Grell at the time, just try standing or posing like one of his subjects without straining something. :)


jefsview said...

Don Newton was a god of the late Bronze age. His style is similiar to Alan Davis, yet he had a flair all his own. I believe you reviewed an Avengers Annual with Don's linework, but it wasn't his best.

Don's DC work was fantastic and stood out, since he was like no one else. He was always in shadows of more established pencilers, and never fell into a classic storyline (except the original Jason Tood Robin/Killer Croc debut). Don't work on World's Finest's Shazam was all kinds of groovy.

Like Gene Day, Don Newton was taken too early.

I always like Irv Novek on Flash more than Batman; Jim Aparo was THE Batman artist, just because of B&B. Loved Simonson's very brief, early run (loved his manhunter ever more), and it was always a treat to see Rogers or Golden on a main Batman title. Frank Robbins -- either love him or hate him -- you always remember Frank Robbins. and damn but I hated that he wasn't John Byrne, but Damn I love the way his characters move and dance.

Don Newton -- seek out his work. It's worth it.

Edo Bosnar said...

I commented on this on Groove's blog a few days ago - to reiterate, for me the top 2 Bat artists - of any era - are Aparo and Rogers. Everyone else, good as they may be, comes after, even Adams.
Don Newton, by the way, ranks pretty high for me as well. I definitely agree with jefsview that Newton is one of those underappreciated luminaries of the Bronze (or any other) Age.

RANDYW said...

I know this comment comes a year and a half after the post (I just found it today while looking for research materiel for an article for Back Issue! magazine.
Irv Novick was the main Batman artist right before and after the Neal Adams run. In fact many of the Adams Batman covers from 1969-70 have Irv Novick interiors.
I object to anyone's harsh appraisal of Ernie Chan (aka Chua). He did some amazing Batman work on both the "Underground Olympics of `76" storyline and the Trial of who killed Batman in the issues 292-296 - I believe those are the correct numbers).
The other mentioned artists I love for the same reason everyone else does though you don't give Dick Dillon or Bob Brown enough credit for their amazing contributions to the Batman comic book legacy.

Randy Wiggins

Doug said...

Randy, thanks for stopping by.

You'll get no apologies about Chan from either Karen or I -- a blog is subjective, after all. We're equal opportunity laud/skewer around here. It's our show, and we'll give our impressions as we see fit. Personally, I'll stand by my comments as written.

As to Brown and Dillon, this post was merely a series of capsules and not any sort of definitive evaluation of any artists' work.

I think if you check out the rest of our blog, you may get a better vibe as to what this place is all about. Please make no harsh judgements based on one post -- there are almost 900 others to help you form an educated opinion.



Related Posts with Thumbnails