13 COVERS: A DICK SPRANG Birthday Celebration

One of Batman’s greatest artists was born 107 years ago on July 28, 1915…

By JIM BEARD

I feel a kinship of sorts with legendary comic book artist Dick Sprang. Lemme explain…

See, not only is he one of my most favorite Batman artists of all time, but he was also a fellow Ohioan. In fact, he hailed from a small Ohio town only a half-hour or so drive from my hometown. I got to talk about that with Mr. Sprang when I met him at a show back in the 1990s—and he surprised me by letting me know he actually worked at a newspaper in my hometown as a comic strip artist! Seriously, I didn’t think the guy could get any cooler in my eyes.

Anyone who knows me well knows the Golden Age of Comics is near and dear to me. And personally, I think that era was endowed with a ton of greatness by Dick Sprang. So, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the man’s birthday than to look at a bunch of his Golden Age art. Which means 13 of my favorite Golden Age Dick Sprang Batman covers. Enjoy!

(Dates are pub dates.)

Batman #18 (August-September 1943). Some of Dick’s earliest published Batman work. If you’ll look past the unfortunate racial caricature of Japan’s General Tojo (by Stan Kaye), I think you’ll see some real flair for expression and fun in this one.

This was something of a jam cover. For the complete credits, click here.

Batman #20 (December 1943-January 1944). “Iconic” barely describes it.

Detective Comics #85 (March 1944). Dick was assigned a fair amount of Joker work in the Golden Age. I think it’s because he really had a knack for the character.

Batman #22 (April-May 1944). I love Alfred and I love that Dick had a hand in developing our favorite butler’s early adventures.

Batman #23 (June-July 1944). Another iconic cover, in my opinion. I really dig those big, big character images. (And what exactly is going on? Joker’s nervous? Frightened? Giddy with laughter?)

Batman #25 (October-November 1944). I mean, c’mon! It’s one iconic image after another with this guy! Just look at this one!

Detective Comics #101 (July 1945). We interrupt this comic book cover to bring you an important war loan message from Mr. Alfred Beagle…

Batman #30 (August-September 1945). That 7th War Loan really got around. (Love the jungle setting in this one, and the idea that Batman and Robin could possibly show up overseas to get new rifles to soldiers.)

Detective Comics #102 (August 1945). Take a moment to really look at this cover, especially that wonderful body language of Joker’s and that incredibly well-drawn miniature house. This is such an underappreciated Sprang cover, I think.

Batman #35 (June-July 1946). The war’s over and Dick Grayson’s trying his hand at writing and muscling in on my territory.

Batman #38 (December 1946-January 1947). I’m just going to say it: Dick Sprang was the Penguin artist of DC’s Golden Age. Fight me, Fanboy.

Detective Comics #153 (November 1949). Have to admit before I began this article, I didn’t realize this was one of Dick’s covers. Boy, do I love everything about it.

Detective Comics #156 (February 1950). This is the end, because for me it doesn’t get any better than this: One of my most favorite Batman stories of all time with one of my most favorite Batmobiles, all illustrated by the one, the only Dick Sprang.

MORE From JIM BEARD

— 13 COOL THINGS About SHELDON “SHELLY” MAYER. Click here.

— 13 COVERS: A CURT SWAN Birthday Celebration. Click here.

JIM BEARD has pounded out adventure fiction since he sold a story to DC Comics in 2002. He’s gone on to write official Star Wars and Ghostbusters comics stories and contributed articles and essays to several volumes of comic book history. His prose work includes his own creations, but also licensed properties such as Planet of the Apes, X-Files, Spider-Man, Kolchak the Night Stalker and Captain Action. In addition, Jim provided regular content for Marvel.com, the official Marvel Comics website, for 17 years.

Check out his latest releases, a Green Hornet novella How Sweet the Sting, his first epic fantasy novel The Nine Nations Book One: The Sliding World, and the most recent Batman ’66 books of essays he’s edited: Zlonk! Zok! Zowie! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Essays on Batman ’66 – Season OneBiff! Bam! Ee-Yow! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Essays on Batman ’66 – Season Two and Oooff! Boff! Splatt! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Guide to Batman ’66 – Season Three.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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8 Comments

  1. Great list Jim! I agree completely with you on Mr. Sprang. I don’t know where I read it, but someone compared him to Carl Barks, saying that what he was to ducks, Sprang was to Batman. The “Good Batman Artist”. I couldn’t agree more!

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  2. Seeing Robin behind the wheel of the Batmobile (Batman #20) trigged another Batman memory. Back in the day, I was showing my 3 year old one of the Filmation Batman cartoons. Bruce Wayne gets kidnapped and Robin pursues the kidnappers in the Batmobile. My 3 year old son reacted, “how can Robin Drive the Batmobile, he is just a kid!”

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  3. Sprang covers bring joy to my heart. Just as Curt Swan was THE Superman artist, so too was Dick Sprang THE Batman artist!

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  4. No Joker’s Utility Belt?

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