Sunday, May 29, 2011

Spotlight On: Jim Aparo

Doug: Jim Aparo is a journeyman sort of artist, and I say that not to denigrate the man, but let's be honest -- he's not going to make most people's "greatest artists of the Silver and Bronze Ages" lists. Nonetheless, Aparo was solid for many, many years, and I'd venture to say that for many of us when we think of Batman in the Bronze Age we see Jim Aparo's work right after we think of Neal Adams. Aparo was that prevalent in this period we love. Aparo was hired by Dick Giordano at Charlton and followed him over to DC a bit later. There's no mistaking the influence of Giordano and Adams on Aparo's work -- Aparo really gives off a pretty seamless appearance on Batman into the 1970's. You can read about Aparo's life and career here and here.

Doug: Aparo is perhaps remembered (I hesitated to say "best remembered") as the artist on the "Death in the Family" arc that saw the
1-900 phone number call-in death of the Jason Todd Robin at the hands of the Joker. While I doubt Aparo had much input on that storyline, I will say that he illustrated it with energy and care. It must have been an emotional tale to spin, and I think his output was not only professional but memorable.

Doug: So what are your thoughts on this stalwart? Who can we compare him to -- Sal Buscema, maybe? Not necessarily for style, but how about longevity and breadth of coverage over the DC Universe, similar to Sal's presence throughout the Marvel Universe. What's your favorite Aparo-drawn character -- Batman, the Spectre, Aquaman, or someone/-thing else? As always, thanks for your opinions!


Dougie said...

My favourite Aparo art is on B&B and BatO. Beside Batman, Aquaman and the Spectre, I like his renditions of the Metal Men, Plastic Man, Wildcat,Deadman, Phantom Stranger, Metamorpho, Halo and Looker.
I wish he had taken over JLA when Dick Dillin passed away.

Steve Does Comics said...

I love Jim Aparo. I've always preferred his Batman to anyone else's, including Neal Adams.

As for my favourite work by him, I have to go for The Spectre. It just seemed like a strip he was born to draw.

Edo Bosnar said...

Add me to those who consider Aparo THE Batman artist - and I would put him on my list of greatest artists, together with Sal Buscema. Absolutely loved his work on B&B, and pretty everything else he did. And I agree with Steve that Aparo was perfectly suited for the Spectre.

Rip Jagger said...

I of course prefer Aparo's Charlton work. He was a bit more muscular there on The Phantom, Nightshade and some of the horror tales, and soon after he went to DC. See Aquaman for that early style too.

When he took on Brave and Bold he brought a rock solid stability to the book, and his style became a bit leaner in its overall look and his storytelling sad to say after a time became a wee bit stagnant.

But that might be his relentless quality showing through. His style was distinctive, instantly recognizable and always dang good.

Later on when others worked over him, especially DeCarlo, a bit of that magic withered away I think. By doing the lettering and inking himself in the early days, he brought a idiosyncratic but still oddly classic look to all the work he did.

You forget how good he was, because he was always always that good. Impressive.

Rip Off

Roygbiv666 said...

As Rip Jagger said, Aparo not only pencilled, he inked and lettered. And still made his deadlines - lesson to be learned?

Also, my favorite Batman artist. He defines Commissioner Gordon too.

Anonymous said...

My favorite Batman artist. Neal Adams was groundbreaking, but fleeting. Whereas Aparo was there month in and month out throughout the 70's. When I think of Batman, I picture this classic Haney-Aparo image: Batman standing with his fist raised defiantly, yelling "Blazes!". Commisioner Gordon is in back smoking his pipe in that orangish trench coat.

James Chatterton

J.A. Morris said...

I only have a handful of Aparo issues & stories, I'd have to say he's my second favorite Batman artist(after Adams). And Batman is my favorite Aparo-drawn character.

I don't by many back issues, so it disappoints me that DC hasn't published many color reprints of Aparo's Batman stories.

While were on the subject, I have to say that I think 'Death In The Family' is one of the stupidest stories I've ever read. I'm a big fan of Starlin's cosmic stories, but this one is a mess. Ayatollah Khomeni hires Joker to be Iran's ambassador to the United Nations?
But Aparo's art looks good in 'Death'.
I didn't call in a vote on the "Kill/Don't kill Jason Todd" hotline, but I think he should have stayed dead.

Karen said...

Aparo is the artist I most associate with Batman. This despite the fact I didn't get very many Batman comics as a kid. I prefer his long, lean, angular Batman to these heavy-muscled 'roid versions of him that seem so prevalent now.


Terence Stewart said...

Aparo's Batman is the definitive version for me, but it was his work on The spectre in Adventure Comics that really wowed me.

Favourite Aparo cover? The Brave & the Bold #182

Fred W. Hill said...

As I've mentioned before, I didn't buy many Silver or Bronze Age DC comics, but from I did see it seems from the late '60s to the '80s his Adams' influenced style dominated many of their titles, the way Kirby, or his style, dominated Marvel during the Silver Age. BTW, I never read that "Death in the Family" story so I had no idea that's where that Joker page came from, but I agree with J.A. about the stupidity of having Khomeni hiring the Joker as an ambassador. I suppose it was Starlin's idea of a joke about the insanity of religious fanatics.

david_b said...

Any one picking up B&B's in the 70s would always enjoy Aparo.. I saw more Aparo Batman than any other artist, but frankly I wasn't a fan.

I started picking up vintage Cardy Aquaman's a few years back, but I couldn't take the Aparo art when he came on-board..

I somewhat agree what critics have said, that he's a light-weight Adams. I saw Aparo as a logical and 'right choice' for the move towards the more 'urban Batman', but I just got tired of the rendition over time.

I'd agree his Spectre work was nice, though.

Shane said...

Not an Aparo fan. Everybody looked the same. I know this is true for most artists, but for Aparo, it was more so. He is distinct, but bores me a little.

pete doree said...

Aparo a 'journeyman artist' who's not going to make most people's 'greatest artists of the silver & bronze age'lists?!
Whaaat?!! Is there another Jim Aparo I don't know about?
Firstly, Don Perlin & Don Heck are journeyman artists. No style, no verve, just bland, simple storytelling that does the job and no more. Aparo, by comparision, is stylish, pristine and super slick.
Also, his characters had a visual measure of cool only equalled by Gil Kane. Even his background characters looked like they just stepped out of a Rat Pack movie.
His run on B & B with Bob Haney is one of the great runs of the Bronze Age, and as much as I like Our Pal Sal, there's simply no comparision. Sal could look good, but he could also look really bland, depending on who inked him. With Aparo, you got the total designed package of pencils, inks & letters with an unmistakable sheen to it. Again, stylish is the word. Sure, by the '80's, his stuff was getting weaker, but that's the same for all artists as they get older. B & B ( and The Spectre, and The Phantom ) are as good as Bronze Age comics get.

david_b said...

Pete has some really good comments, it's (as always..) down to the inking. I think Aparo does a suitable, stylish job, far better than Heck, Robbins, or any other 70s DC artists. His body movements and fight scene's were always pretty dramatic, but I personally was never a big fan.

I agree he's a lot like Sal Buscema - Sal's near my FAV Marvel artist, expecially from Cap&Falc and Defenders pages, but even with later Cap (post-ish 200) and in MTU, I couldn't handle the inking for Sal, just too sharp and rigid.

Inkstained Wretch said...

I think Aparo lost a step or two in the 80s. I never warmed up to his work on Batman and the Outsiders, which struck me as a little too cartoonish, though that may have been a reaction to the weird rogues gallery that series had.

In the 70s though, he was one of the greats. I have almost the entire run of Spectre stories in Adventure Comics. He also did one of my all-time favorite covers: Phantom Stranger #33.

William said...

I didn't read a lot of DC in the 70's, so I mostly remember Aparo from Batman and The Outsiders. I also remember his work on B&B.

I guess in a debate on who was the greatest Batman artist of the 70's (after Adams) it would probably be a toss up between Aparo and Marshall Rogers. I personally prefer Rogers.

Anonymous said...

Jim Aparo was fantastic. His Batman is the definitive one for me. His run on B&B was classic.

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