Jim Aparo by Michael Netzer
|Born||James N. Aparo
August 24, 1932
|Died||July 19, 2005(aged 72)|
|Area(s)||Penciller, Inker, Letterer|
|Adventure Comics (Spectre)
The Brave and the Bold
The Untold Legend of the Batman
James N. "Jim" Aparo (August 24, 1932 – July 19, 2005) was an American comic book artist best known for his 1960s and 1970s DC Comics work, including on the characters Batman, Aquaman and the Spectre.
Aparo's style was primarily in the tradition of his influential contemporary Neal Adams, striving for realistic renditions of his subject rather than caricature or exaggeration. Aparo's muscular figures tended to be leaner than those drawn by most of his peers. He paid particular attention to detail in rendering vehicles, "street clothes", architecture, and landscape. He frequently tilted the viewpoint so that the horizon line in a panel was significantly angled away from level, and used props such as potted plants and furniture to emphasize depth in a setting. He was also known for inserting drawings of celebrities such as Humphrey Bogart, Peter Falk, Ed McMahon, and Fred Allen as background characters in heavily populated scenes.
Aparo was self-trained as an artist. He attempted to enter the comic book profession in his early 20s, approaching EC Comics, which declined to hire him. He then worked in the advertising industry in Connecticut, often drawing fashion illustrations for newspaper advertisements. He continued to pursue a career in comic books and comic strips while working in advertising.
His first break in the comics field was with a comic strip called "Stern Wheeler," written by Ralph Kanna, which was published in 1963 in a Hartford, Connecticut newspaper for less than a year. In 1966, editor Dick Giordano at Charlton Comics hired him as a comic book artist, where his first assignment was a humorous character called "Miss Bikini Luv" in "Go-Go Comics."
Over the next few years at Charlton, Aparo drew stories in many genres—Westerns, science fiction, romance, horror, mystery, and suspense. Most of his work was for standalone stories in anthology titles, but he also drew the historical-adventure feature "Thane of Bagarth" in the comic book Hercules; the superheroine feature "Nightshade" in Captain Atom; the science fiction/Western/comedy backup "Wander" in Cheyenne Kid; and the comic book adaptation of the comic strip The Phantom.
In the late 1960s, Dick Giordano left Charlton for an editorial position at DC Comics and offered Aparo a job drawing the Aquaman comic book. After an initial issue (#40) for which Aparo provided only pencil art, Aparo resumed producing pencils, inks, and letters for most issues of the series until its cancellation. Aparo continued for a time to provide art to Charlton for The Phantom, alternating between the two series month by month (both series were being released on a bimonthly basis at the time).
Eventually Aparo resigned his assignment on The Phantom and worked almost exclusively for the remainder of his career for DC Comics. Aparo's next series assignment at DC was Phantom Stranger. After Aquaman was cancelled, the bimonthly frequency of Phantom Stranger was insufficient to fill his typical production rate of one page per day, so DC assigned him several short jobs such as mystery stories for House of Mystery and House of Secrets.
In 1971, Aparo was assigned a fill-in job as the artist for The Brave and the Bold #98. This series routinely featured team-ups of DC's Batman with other characters, in this case, the Phantom Stranger. As the regular artist on the Phantom Stranger's own series, Aparo was considered an appropriate choice. Murray Boltinoff, the editor of The Brave and the Bold, soon assigned Aparo the regular artistic responsibilities for the series (beginning with #100), which he continued until its cancellation with issue 200, missing only a few issues. Aparo even "co-starred" as himself in The Brave and the Bold #124 (January 1976).
During the more than 10 years as the artist for The Brave and the Bold, its bimonthly frequency permitted Aparo to do many other significant works for DC. In addition to numerous covers, he served as the regular artist for a notorious series starring a ruthless avenging ghost called the Spectre, which ran in Adventure Comics, and which in 2005 was collected in a trade paperback edition (ISBN 978-1-4012-0474-7). He also provided art for a revival of Aquaman in both Adventure Comics and a continuation of the previously-cancelled Aquaman. He was assigned the solo Batman series in Detective Comics for a rather short time and drew occasional stories for anthology series. He drew The Untold Legend of the Batman, the first Batman miniseries in 1980, inking John Byrne's pencils in the first issue and providing full art for the second and third issues.
When The Brave and the Bold was cancelled in 1983, it was replaced with a series called Batman and the Outsiders, a superhero team led by Batman. This series, which Aparo co-created with writer Mike W. Barr, would be described by DC Comics writer and executive Paul Levitz as being "a team series more fashionable to 1980s audiences." It would run for several years, continuing with a Baxter paper spinoff titled The Outsiders that did not include Batman. For the final few issues, DC began to request that Aparo provide only pencils, and a long and nearly unbroken string of Aparo inking and lettering his own work came mostly to an end.
Aparo's next major work consisted of pencils for Batman and Detective Comics, where his art was almost always inked by Mike DeCarlo. Aparo returned to the Batman title with issue #414 (Dec. 1987) in collaboration with writer Jim Starlin. One of their first storylines for the title was "Ten Nights of The Beast" in issues #417 - 420 (March - June 1988) which introduced the KGBeast. Perhaps the most notable product of this period remains "A Death in the Family" (Batman #426-429, 1988–89), depicting the death of Jason Todd (Robin). The "A Lonely Place of Dying" storyline crossed over with The New Titans title and introduced Tim Drake as the new Robin. Aparo continued to draw Batman stories in Detective and Batman until the early 1990s. During this time he was the regular artist on Batman when Bane broke Bruce Wayne's back during the "KnightFall" storyline. In 1992, Aparo returned to do pencils, inks, and lettering for his Batman stories, but was soon returned to contributing only pencil art.
Also that year, Aparo was given his last regular series assignment for DC as pencil artist for Green Arrow issues 81-100. He and writer Kelley Puckett co-created Connor Hawke, the son of Green Arrow. Following that assignment, Aparo's work appeared infrequently, when Aparo was mostly assigned occasional Batman-related stories and covers in miniseries and specials. His published work in the late 1990s and early 2000s include a Batman Annual inked by former Marvel Comics mainstay Sal Buscema, a G.C.P.D. miniseries, a Speed Force Special featuring The Flash, an issue of a Deadman miniseries that revisited his "Death in the Family" story, and a single page of Green Lantern/Superman: Legend of the Green Flame written by Neil Gaiman in which he had a final opportunity to draw the Phantom Stranger for publication.
His final work for DC during his life was the cover of the trade paperback Batman in the Eighties, published in 2004. In 2006, unpublished Aparo art depicting the unused, alternate ending of the storyline "A Death in the Family," in which the Jason Todd Robin lives instead of dies, appeared in Batman Annual #25.
Aparo died early on July 19, 2005. Some reports attributed the cause of death to "a long battle with cancer", but his family's formal announcement attributed his death to "complications relating to a recent illness". The Associated Press obituary reported only that "Aparo died Tuesday at home after a short illness, said his daughter, Donna Aparo." DC Comics ran an Aparo "In Memoriam" page in Batman #644 (Oct. 2005) and Detective Comics #811 (Nov. 2005).
Aparo won a good deal of recognition in the industry for his work, including the Shazam Award for "Best Individual Short Story (Dramatic)" in 1972 for "The Demon Within" in House of Mystery #201 with John Albano.
Comics work (interior pencil art) includes:
- Captain Atom #87-89 ()
- Hercules #8-10 (1968–69)
- The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves #4-5, 7-8, 17, 66, 69 (1967–81)
- Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt #60 (1967)
- Phantom #31-34, 36-38 (1969–70)
- Scary Tales #22 (1980)
- Secret Agent #10 (1967)
- Space Adventures #2, 4 (1968)
- Strange Suspense Stories vol. 2, #1-2, 4 (1967–68)
- Thane of Bagarth #24-25 (1985)
- Adventure Comics #426-427 (Adventurers´ Club); #431-433, 435-436, 440 (Spectre); #441-452 (Aquaman); #459-461, 464 (Deadman) (1973–79)
- All-Star Western, vol. 2, #5 (1971)
- Aquaman #40-59 (1968–78)
- Aquaman, vol. 3, #52 (flashback sequence) (1999)
- Azrael Annual #3 (1997)
- Batman #414-420, 426-435, 440-448, 450-451, 480-483, 486-491, 494-500, 533-534, 558, 560-562; Annual #24 (1987–2000)
- Batman and the Outsiders #1-9, 11-12, 16-20 (1983–85)
- Batman: Blackgate Isle of Men (1998)
- Batman: Brotherhood of the Bat (1996)
- The Batman Chronicles #7, 14 (1997–98)
- Batman Family (Batman, Robin & Huntress) #17 (1978)
- Batman: GCPD, miniseries, #1-4 (1996)
- Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #142-145, Annual #1 (1991–2001)
- Batman: Shadow of the Bat #61, 68 (1997)
- The Brave and the Bold #98, 100-102, 104-136, 138-145, 147, 149-152, 154-155, 157-162, 168-170, 173-178, 180-182, 184, 186-189, 191-193, 195-196, 200 (1971–83)
- DCU Holiday Bash #1 (1996)
- Deadman: Dead Again, miniseries, #2 (2001)
- Detective Comics #437-438, 444-446, 500, 625-632, 638-643, 716, 719, 722, 724 (1973–98)
- Ghosts #1 (1971)
- Green Arrow #0, 81-88, 91-95, 98-100, 109, 123 (1993–97)
- House of Mystery #192, 201, 209 (1971–72)
- House of Secrets #93, 97, 105 (1971–73)
- Justice League of America #200 (among other artists) (1982)
- Mystery in Space #111 (1980)
- Outsiders #1-7, 9-14, 17-22, 25-26 (1985–88)
- Phantom Stranger, vol. 2, #7-26 (1970–73)
- Secret Origins (Phantom Stranger) #10 (1987)
- Spectre, vol. 3, #16 (1994)
- Speed Force (Flash/Kid Flash story) #1 (1997)
- Steel #33 (1996)
- Superboy and the Ravers #8 (1997)
- Teen Titans (Aqualad) #36 (1971)
- Time Warp #1 (1979)
- The Unexpected #127, 132 (1971–72)
- The Untold Legend of the Batman, miniseries, #2-3 (1980)
- Witching Hour #25 (1972)
- Wrath of the Spectre, miniseries, #4 (two new stories featured in this compilation) (1988)
- Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo
- "James N. Aparo SS#045-24-4682". United States Social Security Death Index. Retrieved September 20, 2013.
- Goldstein, Hilary (July 19, 2005). "Losing Batman's Greatest Ally: Jim Aparo passed away Tuesday, but will never be forgotten.". IGN.
- Amash, Jim (August 2000). "The Aparo Approach: Jim Aparo on his comics debut at Charlton Press". Comic Book Artist (TwoMorrows Publishing) (9). Archived from the original on July 31, 2013. "The whole EC Comics line. I banged on their door and I couldn't enter. I got in there and got as far as Al Feldstein but they weren't hiring; they weren't hiring me anyway."
- Markstein, Don (2010). "Stern Wheeler". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Retrieved September 20, 2013.
- "Jim Aparo". Lambiek Comiclopedia. February 5, 2010. Archived from the original on September 20, 2012.
- Jim Aparo at the Grand Comics Database
- The Brave and the Bold #124 at the Grand Comics Database
- McAvennie, Michael; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1970s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 159. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9. "The Spectre re-materialized in the pages of Adventure Comics. This time, however, he brought along an all-out wrathful disposition, delivering punishments that not only fit the crimes, but arguably exceeded them." "[Michael] Fleisher and [Jim] Aparo's run lasted only ten issues, yet it was widely regarded as some of their finest work, and the character's seminal period."
- Manning, Matthew K. "1980s" in Dolan, p. 187 "Written by Len Wein, with art by John Byrne and Jim Aparo, The Untold Legend of the Batman...delved into the origin of the fabled Dark Knight."
- Manning "1980s" in Dolan, p. 202 "Despite being the final issue of this particular series, the book wasn't closed on Batman's team-ups. Although Batman was through working with partners, it was time to think bigger, and in a special sixteen-page preview insert written by Barr and with art by Jim Aparo, the Outsiders debuted. A super-hero team of Batman's own creation, the Outsiders would soon star alongside Batman in the new monthly series Batman and the Outsiders."
- Levitz, Paul (2010). "The Bronze Age 1970-1984". 75 Years of DC Comics The Art of Modern Mythmaking. Taschen America. p. 462. ISBN 978-3-8365-1981-6.
- Manning "1980s" in Dolan, p. 215: "[The Outsiders] saw the popular team given the enhanced quality of a Baxter-format series...written by Mike W. Barr and drawn by Jim Aparo."
- Manning "1980s" in Dolan, p. 233: "Using the Cold War as their backdrop, writer Jim Starlin and artist Jim Aparo crafted the four-part storyline 'Ten Nights of the Beast'."
- Manning "1980s" in Dolan, p. 235: "Written by Jim Starlin, with art by Jim Aparo and haunting covers by Mike Mignola, 'A Death in the Family' proved a best seller with readers in both single-issue and trade paperback form."
- Manning "1980s" in Dolan, p. 241: "With the pencils of [George] Pérez, Jim Aparo, and Tom Grummett, [Marv] Wolfman concocted the five-issue 'A Lonely Place of Dying'...In it, Tim Drake...earned his place as the new Robin."
- Manning "1990s" in Dolan, p. 259: "'Knightfall' was a nineteen-part crossover event that passed through the pages of Batman by writer Doug Moench and artists Norm Breyfogle, Jim Aparo, and Mike Manley."
- Manning "1990s" in Dolan, p. 267: "Future Green Arrow Connor Hawke debuted in the zero issue of Green Arrow, courtesy of scripter Kelley Puckett and penciller Jim Aparo."
- Beck, Spencer (July 19, 2005). "Jim Aparo R.I.P". ComicBookBin.com. Archived from the original on July 17, 2012.
- "James Aparo, 72, Comic Book Artist, Is Dead". The New York Times. July 22, 2005.
- "1972 Academy of Comic Book Arts Awards". Comic Book Awards Almanac. Archived from the original on March 4, 2012.
- Jim Aparo at the Comic Book DB
- "DC Profile #76: Jim Aparo" at the Grand Comics Database
- Jim Aparo at Mike's Amazing World of Comics