19 July 2005

Jim Aparo (1932-2005)

Jim Aparo was a comic book artist who died on Monday at the age of 72. His work appeared mainly at Charlton and DC. He's probably best known for his lengthy run on DC's The Brave and the Bold, which sounds like a soap opera but in actuality featured Batman and a guest star each issue. He's also responsible for the infamous early '70s Spectre stories that ran in Adventure Comics. As written by Michael Fleischer, well, one didn't fuck with the Spectre or his friends.

Aparo's art made those stories. A triple threat, he regularly penciled, inked and lettered all of his pages, which gave his art a highly distinctive look. I didn't buy every comic that featured his art, but I have more than a few in my funnybook collection. Aparo was an old school pro -- he wasn't flashy, but he had a solid grasp on the core principles of perspective, anatomy, design and draftsmanship. Legend has it that Denny O'Neil once said of Aparo that when his pages turned up at the DC offices, it wasn't necessary to look at them before sending them off to the printer, because Aparo was such a dependable craftsman.

When I was 6, I caught a serious case of pneumonia which put me in the hospital for four days. My parents and both sets of grandparents bought me a bunch of comics to pass the time. Now, when my parents bought me comics, they didn't ask what I wanted, they just went to the pharmacy gift shop and bought a buck's worth. They knew I liked Batman and Spider-Man, so I usually ended up with one or the other or both. I got an issue of B&B (#118, pictured) that featured Batman and Wildcat. The Joker made the two box each other while wearing cestus (metal gloves with spikes on the knuckles). As rendered by Aparo, it was about as gruesome as a comic could get and still be approved by the Comics Code Authority. I still have that comic, but I read and reread it so frequently that the cover fell off.

I never met Jim Aparo, of course, but damned if I didn't feel a little pang of remorse when I saw that he had passed away. Rest in peace.

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