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Eric: Thoughts on Jim Aparo

Jim Aparo, who drew, inked and lettered literally hundreds of issues of Batman, Detective Comics, The Brave and the Bold, The Spectre, Batman and the Outsiders and the Outsiders has passed away at the age of seventy two, following years of semi-retirement and a bout with cancer.

Aparo was part of the same realistic school of art that Neal Adams was the most famous practitioner of. Aparo's figures were leaner than the rugged and muscular -- if realistically proportioned -- Adams heroes. You could get a sense that Aparo's characters really could exist in the world, especially when he drew his signature Batman characters.

His most famous comic was the infamous "Death of Robin" issue of Batman, where a jaded public in a publicity stunt voted to kill off Jason Todd, but for me -- despite my adoration of the early Batman and the Outsiders -- the seminal Jim Aparo issue was a Brave and the Bold that starred Batman (as always) and Sergeant Rock. Rock, who was getting on in years, was dressed in undress greens instead of his trademark fatigues and helmet. Which made sense -- it was the seventies, not World War II. And yet, somehow the older man who Batman was helping still conveyed the pure essence of Rock of Easy Company. It was the artwork that pulled it off. I seem to recall an issue of The Brave and the Bold that Aparo actually appeared in, too -- where he literally had to draw Batman's actions or they wouldn't happen, and disaster would strike. It was a pretty creepy issue, if I remember correctly.

Jim Aparo wasn't the kind of superstar that a Jack Kirby, a Steve Ditko or -- yes, indeed -- a Neal Adams were. He was a workaday craftsman who produced a finished page of comic art each and every day. And I mean a finished page. Like I said, he inked and lettered his own work. That's downright remarkable, if you think about it.

We live in a world where stylized comic book art has taken over from realistic. Whether looking at the exaggerated Bad Girl art, or the Image school, or even the beautiful -- but highly stylized -- Animated DCU work of Bruce Timm, you see a return to caricature. Jim Aparo didn't play that.

I'm going to miss him.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at July 19, 2005 11:25 PM


Comment from: Flower of December posted at July 20, 2005 12:03 AM

Is the one page a day thing that amazing? I've gotten the impression from Dave Sim's notes on publishing that one page pancilled, inked and lettered was the minimum to do before you could be considered ready to really work.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at July 20, 2005 12:12 AM

Dave Sim didn't draw backgrounds. I consider this cheating for these purposes. ;)

Kirby didn't letter, but he did manage to do everything else for about a page a day of Captain America, and he's revered for it.

Comment from: Steve Bryant posted at July 20, 2005 12:16 AM

Yes, the one page a day thing is pretty amazing. (and also bear in mind that most of Sim's heavy lifting was done by his longtime assistant, Gerhard)

In recent years (let's say 2025 years), one page a day of pencils was the industry standard of making a living. Add in inks and letters, and that's quite a feat.

Today, artists don't need to produce so many pages. Given better rates, a royalty structure and incentives, today's artists have the luxury of lavishing attention on theior pages.

Aparo worked in a naturalistic style and still managed fantastic "realistic" work on a deadline. Top notch.

There's a wonderful article on Aparo in the Charleton issue of Comic Book Artist (the run published by Two Morrows). The man gave every job his all, whether it was for the ridiculously low Charleton rates (under Dick Giordano, who later brought Jim with him to DC), or his better-paying (for the era) work at DC.

Another great that I wish I had gotten the opportunity to thank in person.


(I did get to meet the aforementioned Mr. Giordano and Gene Colan this weekeend. Lovely gentlemen, both. I thanked them for being innovators and educators.)

Comment from: Steve Bryant posted at July 20, 2005 12:20 AM

Not to pick a nit, Eric, but Jack is more revered for his co-creation of Marvel's line than for his rate of turning material around.

I believe that the fabled record for pages for Jack was like 8 pages of pencils in a day (I'm sure that Mark Evanier has written about it...I'm just to lazy to Google right now). Bear in mind, though, that he was working in a far less naturalistic style than Aparo, and that his backgrounds were significantly simpler.


Comment from: Eric Burns posted at July 20, 2005 12:46 AM


I didn't mean to imply that was the only reason Kirby was revered. Just that it was one of them. ;)

Comment from: Flower of December posted at July 20, 2005 1:42 AM

Oh yeah. forgot about how much of Cerebus was reliant on those backgrounds. Yes, it is cheating. I guess I'd just never been impressed with speed as much as I should have been.

Comment from: Cass posted at July 20, 2005 5:06 AM

Aparo... We will probably never see that sort of combination of talent and hard work in a comic again. Granted, there will be similar works, but his always had quite an unique flair to it that will be extremely hard to reproduce. God bless him.

Comment from: alschroeder posted at July 20, 2005 9:26 AM

He was always a professional, one of those artists you could depend on to do quality work, time after time.

We could use a few dozen more like him.---Al

Comment from: PatMan posted at July 20, 2005 2:09 PM

About the pages per day:

I was reading Uncanny X-men #1 recently, and I was pretty shocked to see all the cop-outs Kirby took to pencil as many pages as he did. My favorite was a panel featuring a longshot of Iceman throwing a snowball surrounded by a solid orange background. (in fact, the entire page was lacking backgrounds)

But what really shocked me was that it still looked better than some of todays "hottest" artists.

Comment from: gwalla posted at July 21, 2005 1:00 AM

Kirby is overrated.

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