Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Death of a Legend

Sometimes we let news pass us by. Sometimes, in pre-emptively mourning the loss of a great like Jerry Robinson (who is very much alive if ignored -- see Comic Con report below), we miss news of the passing of another figure who loomed larger than life in our past.

From the time I first read The Untold Origin of the Justice Society I have been a big fan of three things. The first was the Spectre, the dangerous manifestation of G-d's wrath in the DC Universe. The second was the Justice Society itself. But the third was something, or rather someone, real. That person was Jim Aparo (a great interview with Aparo discussing his early days with Charlton can be read here)famous for his work on the Spectre and on the Batman character. It was my interest in the Spectre that led me to be a fan of Aparo's, as he didn't actually do the art in "Untold Origin."

You can see from this Adventure Comics cover one of the reasons I so loved the Spectre character. He combined the "horror" element of the old EC books, but made even more explicit the moral lessons against crime. One thing Wertham forgot to mention in his critique of "Crime Stories" was that EC comics, and everyone else, usually ended with a twist where the "baddie" always got what he deserved. And in Spectre comics that sometimes meant getting gutted with giant scissors or melting like wax.

While many people, rightly, focus on the importance of Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams in the reinterpretation of Batman as the "Darknight Detective" in the early 70's. The reinterpretation that is considered the only "real" way to look at the Batman by most modern readers. Frank Miller's work, among others, was heavily influenced by the O'Neil/Adams work. Some overlook Jim Aparo's role during this era. He was a large part of the bullpen of young talent that was a part of this dynamic revolution of the Batman away from the campy/sci-fi version of the late Silver Age. Aparo, unlike Adams, continued to work on Bat-stories well into the "Modern Age." He drew the famous story where Batman seals the KGBeast in a wall in the sewers of Gotham, leaving him to drown and die (echos of Poe). And when DC Comics decided to kill the second Robin (Jason Todd), it was Aparo whose pencil did the deed.

So here I sit...saying goodbye to another great one.

From Spencer Beck

The Aparo Family has asked me to send this information out to all parties. It is with the deepest regret I have to inform you of the passing of the legendary Jim Aparo early Tuesday Morning, July 19, 2005. Mr. Aparo, who was 72, died from complications relating to a recent illness. All Funeral arrangements will be a private ceremony for Family and Friends of Jim.

Aparo, born in 1932, was primarily self-trained as an artist. After years of working in commercial fashion design in Connecticut, 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.

Aparo was notable for being one of the relatively few artists in mainstream comics at that time to serve as penciler, inker, and letterer for all of his work. These tasks were typically divided between two or more artists.

In the late 1960s, Aparo moved on to National Publications/DC Comics, which is where he came to fame in the Comics Community. Originally starting at DC on the Aquaman title, he then moved on to also work on the Phantom Stranger and DC's horror titles.

In 1971, Aparo worked on his first Issue of Brave & The Bold. Issue 98 featured the Phantom Stranger teaming up with Batman. Beginning with Issue 102 Jim was then the regular artist on the series and provided pencils & inks on almost every issue from 102 until the end of the series with Issue 200. Jim's work on Brave and the Bold was his favorite work of his time at DC as he truly considered the series his "baby." Also during this period Jim did one of the seminal runs on The Spectre, where his realistic style made the Ghostly character truly come to life.

After the end of Brave and the Bold, Aparo was co-creator for Batman & The Outsiders and also worked on the regular Batman and Detective Comics Series throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. most notably doing the Pencils on the "Death in The Family" storyline, which featured a phone-in vote deciding the fate of Robin II, Jason Todd.

Following a run on the regular Green Arrow Series, Aparo moved into semiretirement, contributing an occasional special or cover and doing a few private commissions before he eventually decided to move into full retirement.

He is survived by his wife Julie, his 3 children, his 4 Grandchildren and two step-grandchildren.

The Aparo family has asked that in lieu of Flowers or gifts, anyone wishing to honor Jim's legacy make a contribution to any worthy charity, as Jim believed that all charities were worth donating to.

For those wishing to send along their condolences and best wishes to the family, a P.O. Box has been set up for the family to receive cards. The address is:THE APARO FAMILY
P.O. BOX 28

Thanks to all who have loved Jim's work and have supported his career.

Spencer R. Beck

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