Jim Aparo by Michael Netzer
|Born||James N. Aparo
August 24, 1932
New Britain, Connecticut, U.S.
|Died||July 19, 2005
Southington, Connecticut, U.S.
|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 the comic strip 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. Aparo was one of the artists on the double-sized Justice League of America #200 (March 1982).
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:
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.
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.