DIRECT COMMENTS: The celebrated Mr. K honors one of comics’ greatest artists, who was born 89 years ago…
Paul Kupperberg — comics writer, novelist, historian and 13th Dimension columnist — has a spectacular new publication out: Direct Comments, collecting about two dozen never-completely-published interviews from the ’70s to the ’90s, mostly with some of DC’s greatest creators. We’re talking folks like John Byrne, Denny O’Neil, Jerry Ordway, Jim Aparo, Dick Giordano and many, many more.
You can order the $16 paperback through Amazon — and to spotlight this treasure trove of comics-history gold, we’re running a weekly series in which Paul pays tribute to his favorite works by 13 of these creators. (The series mostly runs weekends, with a few exceptions.)
Last installment it was Carmine Infantino. (Click here.) This time: Jim Aparo. — Dan
By PAUL KUPPERBERG
“I’m a more or less a self-taught artist. I completed all my elementary schooling, junior high and high school, where I took all the art courses that were available. Fine arts, interior design, anything they had, but there was never any comics or cartoon courses. They weren’t recognized at the time, so it was mostly straight stuff, but that gives you a good background in the basics. I also took a course at the Hartford Art School, a life drawing class. After about half a year, I was pretty well into it, drawing pretty well, and the instructor took a look at what I was doing and said that there wasn’t much more they could offer me by way of instruction. All I did was keep drawing on my own, studying all the comics, all the styles, learning as I went.”
— Jim Aparo, Direct Comments: Comic Book Creators In Their Own Words
For my first pass, I selected about a third of the close to 90 covers Jim Aparo (August 24, 1932 – July 19, 2005) did for The Brave and the Bold between #105 (January/February 1973) and #200 (July 1983). I’d first seen Jim’s work in the Charlton Comics of the 1960s before he popped up drawing some of my favorite DC characters, the Phantom Stranger and Aquaman, in the late ’60s/early ’70s, which led him to take over the Batman team-up title from the likes of such predecessors as Neal Adams and Nick Cardy.
Nick held his own on the demanding Brave and Bold, which was edited by Murray Boltinoff and scripted by Bob Haney, neither of whom gave a wet fart for the rest of DC’s continuity. The “Haneyverse” Batman/Bruce Wayne was his own man… which was whatever man was needed for the current story.
“I got The Brave and the Bold… because of Phantom Stranger,” Jim told me in the 1990 interview that appears in Direct Comments: Comic Book Creators In Their Own Words. “The book starred Batman, of course, and they wanted to team him up with Phantom Stranger, so editor Murray Boltinoff, said “What better guy to draw this than the artist on The Phantom Stranger?” I’d never drawn Batman up till then, so it was a big thing for me. … After Aquaman was cancelled, they switched me over to Brave and Bold on a permanent basis. I had a long association with Brave and Bold.”
Jim would take over pencilling Batman in 1987 for another long association with the Caped Crusader, including the infamous “A Death In the Family” storyline where fans voted to kill the Jason Todd Robin, and “Knightfall,” where Bane broke Batman’s back. But that Haney/Aparo era of B&B will always be my favorite depiction of the Dark Knight. Ever!
I finally whittled my list of covers down to the requisite 13, but it wasn’t easy… and I did keep the covers of both the issues of B&B I wrote because it’s my column and I want to. Also, they’re good! Jim only drew the interiors of one of those issues, #175’s Lois Lane team-up from 1981. When I finally had the opportunity to meet him at a convention in Chicago 15 years later, I led with that fact, and before I could finish the sentence, Jim said, “I remember that one, with Lois Lane and Metallo. That was a fun story.”
Here then, MY 13 FAVORITE JIM APARO BRAVE AND THE BOLD COVERS, in chronological order:
The Brave and the Bold #107 (June/July 1973). The composition of this one is a bit wonky — the way this is set up, it looks like Black Canary is staring straight at the off-panel gunman — but the depictions of her and Batman are spot on.
The Brave and the Bold #118 (April 1975). Pardon the cliché, but you can feel the power in those blows!
The Brave and the Bold #119 (June 1975). Batman has a real “What the–?!” moment in a piece that could have used a lot less trade dress and a lot more Man-Bat.
The Brave and the Bold #124 (January 1976). Featuring an actual quote from editor Murray Boltinoff!
The Brave and the Bold #145 (December 1976). Aparo uses the compelling conceit of featuring the supernatural hero as an ominous, observing shadow on the wall.
The Brave and the Bold #147 (February 1977). This looks like the type of cover an editor commissions when he still has no idea what’s in the issue other than the guest star. Nonetheless, a fine pin-up shot of the team we’d apparently been begging to see.
The Brave and the Bold #156 (November 1979). Another cover that could have used fewer logos and more headspace. But Jim manages to squeeze Dr. Fate in there in a pose and style that suggests more than a passing nod to the previous work on the character by Walter Simonson.
The Brave and the Bold #163 (June 1980). The first of two covers for issues of B&B that I wrote, which I likely would have selected even if I hadn’t been involved in it. (Dick Giordano drew the story itself, so win-win, me!)
The Brave and the Bold #175 (June 1981). Again, another strong contender for a favorite even if I hadn’t written it. I love the way he focuses attention on Batman in the foreground with heavy lines and shadows, with the weight of the drawing decreasing to fine lines in the distance.
The Brave and the Bold #183 (Feb. 1982). I mean, right?
The Brave and the Bold #196 (March 1983). Drop the trade dress and this image is suitable for framing.
The Brave and the Bold #199 (June 1983). Giant red Spectre eyes exaggerated for effect aside…
The Brave and the Bold #200 (July 1983). Jim’s cover for the final issue of B&B. It was sad to see the venerable title take its last bow. Fortunately, the venerated artist behind it would shortly be back, on Batman and the Outsiders.
NEXT: The Man from Missouri
“Roy (Thomas) sent me the Marvel writer’s test, which consisted of scripting the dialogue over photocopies of a Marvel story. I took the test, mostly as a lark, and Stan (Lee) offered me a job. So, I mounted my trusty steed, in this case an old Ford station wagon, left a note telling my editor at the newspaper that I quit — the most irresponsible thing I’ve ever done — and took off. I would have killed me if I was him. But I got to New York and the settled into the job for Stan. About six months later I went freelance.”
— Denny O’Neil, Direct Comments: Comic Book Creators In Their Own Words
— PAUL KUPPERBERG: My 13 Favorite Collaborations With CARMINE INFANTINO. Click here.
— The Complete INDEX of DIRECT COMMENTS Features. Click here.
Direct Comments is available now at Amazon. Click here.
Paul Kupperberg has been writing comic books from Archie to Zatanna for 45 years at DC, Archie, Charlton, Marvel, Bongo and others. He is also the author of Paul Kupperberg’s Illustrated Guide to Writing Comics (Charlton Neo Press); I Never Write for the Money… But I Always Turn in the Manuscript for a Check (Comics Career); the comic book industry-based murder mystery The Same Old Story, the short-story collection In My Shorts: Hitler’s Bellhop and Other Stories, JSA: Ragnarok, and his latest, the YA fantasy/time travel adventure Emma’s Landing, all from Crazy 8 Press and all available on Amazon, or signed and personalized direct from Paul (email him at firstname.lastname@example.org for details).
August 24, 2021
Happy birthday to the late Mr. Aparo.
August 24, 2021
Were fans really clamoring for a Batman/Supergirl team up? Weird. Now I want to read it!
August 24, 2021
The Brave and the Bold 119 cover is one of my picks for a Top 20 All Time Cover, regardless of company and character. I even printed a copy out and put it on the wall in my den. Looks great! Jim Aparo was (and always will be) one of the 2 best Batman artists (along with Neal Adams).
August 25, 2021
Thanks for the article – Jim Aparo was one of the all-time greats! Some of my favorites were B&B #111 with the Joker, #121 with the Metal Men, #186 with Hawkman and my personal favorite #125 with the Flash!
August 26, 2021
Since they involve Aparo covers, Kupperberg’s picks are terrific — but not as great as THIS list (which are NOT listed in order of greatness, but memory; although 119 is definitely first): 1) B&B 119; 2) B&B 115; 3) B&B 111; 4)B&B 112 ; 5)B&B 116; 6)B&B 118; 7) B&B 108; 8) B&B 109; 9) B&B 107 10) B&B 124; 11) B&B 132; 12) B&B 191; 13 B&B…tough call (135 or 177: BOTH very dynamic…as was 120).
By the way: Tell Kupperberg that his wish for 119 was granted on the back of the first LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT: Jim Aparo book! Now, DC needs to publish one of those “poster-sized” art books (like they have done for several other artists) containing some of the best of the best of Jim Aparo (AND, of course, include the cover for 119).
September 1, 2021
The Brave and The Bold #145 was first I got of this title. With a WHITMAN logo.
My favorite Aparo B&B cover, #182.