Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Byrne Robotics: Jim Aparo R.I.P

Haven't seen this confirmed anywhere else, but... damn. Jim Aparo was a favorite artist of mine. I first encountered his work on Batman and the Outsiders, a team book far removed from the current incarnation of The Outsiders, in that it was actually good. Easily my second-favorite DC team book of the period, after New Teen Titans. He drew characters who looked like individuals, who communicated action and emotion and personality through body language. Not as flashy and sparkly as a George Perez or (later) Jim Lee or Todd McFarlane or whoever, Aparo was probably a better storyteller than all of them combined. His work, when he was inking himself, as he did for most of his career, always made me think of what it would look like if Milt Canniff (of Terry & the Pirates and Steve Canyon fame) were drawing superhero comics.

As time wore on, he stopped inking himself, and his art didn't look quite as good (he always seemed to be inked by Mike DeCarlo, who inked with a much finer line than Aparo used on himself). And, eventually, he retired from comics. But it's still a shame he's passed on.

Sadly, I had just emailed DC about a month ago asking them to reprint more of his stuff. In Batman in the Seventies and Batman in the Eighties, they describe him as the second most prominent Batman artist of the period, after Neal Adams, but he's represented with some shrunken reproductions of covers, a pin-up, and a three-page Outsiders sampler story that isn't even comics, it's illustrated prose. (He's the cover artist of the 80s book, but still, none of his stories...) DC did reprint his classic run on the Spectre in Wrath of the Spectre, including some follow-up stories he did in the 90s that pale in comparison (Mike DeCarlo's inking again). Those stories are great, and show why his work ought to be showcased. And it still ought to be, but it's a shame he won't be around to see it.

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