|Died:||July 19, 2005|
|Occupation:||Artist, Cover artist|
James N. "Jim" Aparo (1932 - July 19, 2005) was an American comic book artist best known for his work on various Batman stories for DC Comics. 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 primarily 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 there were a few notable continuing series that featured Aparo art:
- Thane of Bagarth was a historical adventure that ran as a backup in "Hercules".
- Nightshade was a superheroine that ran as a backup in "Captain Atom".
- Wander was a science fiction/Western/comedy that ran as a backup in "Cheyenne Kid".
- The Phantom in the comic book of the same name. Aparo produced covers and story art sporadically from 1969 to 1974.
Aparo was notable for being one of the relatively few artists in mainstream comics at that time to serve as penciller, inker, and letterer for all of his work. These tasks were typically divided between two or more artists, leading most of his contemporaries to specialize in a single area, and allowing editors to pipeline the preparation of comic book art in order to speed production.
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. The editor of Brave and Bold soon assigned Aparo the regular artistic responsibilities for the series, which he continued until its cancellation with issue 200, missing only a few issues.
During the more than 10 years as the artist for Brave and 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. 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.
When Brave and 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, ran for several years, continuing with an Outsiders series that did not include Batman. For the final few issues, DC finally requested 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. 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). Aparo continued to draw Batman stories in Detective and Batman until the early 1990s. For a while in 1992, Aparo was again asked to provide pencils, inks, and lettering for his Batman stories, but was soon returned to contributing only pencil art.
In 1992, Aparo was given his last regular series assignment for DC as pencil artist for Green Arrow issues 81-100. 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 Legends of the Green Flame written by Neil Gaiman in which he had a final opportunity to draw the Phantom Stranger for publication.
In his retirement, Aparo sold many of the original art pages produced over his long career. His most recent work for DC was the cover for the trade paperback Batman in the Eighties, published in 2004. TwoMorrows Publishing plans to publish The Brave and Bold Art of Jim Aparo, a book that will focus on Aparo's work. Recent internet comments from Eric Nolen-Weathington, one of the book's authors, indicate that the publishers hope for a release of the book in 2007.
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 (through his art agent Spencer Beck) attributed his death to "complications relating to a recent illness" and the AP obituary reported that "Aparo died Tuesday at home after a short illness, said his daughter, Donna Aparo."
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). He was also nominated for the R.A.C. "Squiddy" Award for Best Artist in 1991.
Phantom work by Jim Aparo
|1||"The Phantom of Shang-Ri-La"||Wood||Aparo|
|2||"The Pharaoh Phantom"||Wood||Aparo|
|3||"The Phantom's Death"||Arneson||Aparo|
|4||"The Cliff Kingdom"||Arneson||Aparo|
|5||"The Giant Ape of Tawth"||Arneson||Aparo|
|6||"The River That Never Ends"||Di Pluhm||Aparo|
|7||"Very Special Timber"||Di Pluhm||Aparo|
|8||"Bandar Betrayers"||Di Pluhm||Aparo|
|10||"Disband the Patrol"||Di Pluhm||Aparo|
|11||"The Dying Ground"||Di Pluhm||Aparo|
|12||"The Phantom's New Faith"||Di Pluhm||Aparo|
|13||"The Trap"||Di Pluhm||Aparo|
- Losing Batman's Greatest Ally - report about Aparo's death
- Jim Aparo Batman and Spectre Art - Page about Aparo's DC work
- http://edrhoades.com/phantom/tributes.htm (photo by Ed Rhoades)
- Jim Aparo talks about The Phantom
This article, in the version of October 19, 2007, includes information from Wikipedia: Jim Aparo.