A look at the career of comics artist Jim Aparo.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Flash #311

Jim did a lot of covers for DC, but was drafted to do only one cover for The Flash--issue 311, shown here. It's not the best Flash cover ever, but he was constrained by having to depict the Flash, err, constrained. But I like the little slices of history, and the trademark "anxiety rays" emanating from Barry's head! (Actually, a lot of comics artists used this effect, but I've noticed many readers associating this particularly with Jim Aparo's work. It's never seemed such a hallmark of his art to me, but it does seem to crop up a lot!)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Where Can You Buy Jim Aparo's Original Art?

Your first stop should be http://www.theartistschoice.com/aparo.htm

That's the site of Spencer Beck, Jim's long-time art agent. The pages Spencer has for sale--and there are many!--are sold on behalf of Jim's estate, so, although they may be of more recent vintage, profits are going to his wife Julieann instead of just to a dealer. There's a great variety of pages available at prices as low as $20, so go browsing and bring home some original Aparo art!

The Adventurers' Club at Diversions of the Groovy Kind

Now on display at the highly-recommended blog "Diversions of the Groovy Kind" are scans of both installments that Aparo drew for "The Adventurers' Club, an interesting short-run feature during an experimental phase of Adventure Comics in the early 1970s:
Jim was, in my opinion, at the peak of his skills around this time, and these rarely-seen tales are of the same artistic quality as his Spectre and Phantom Stranger jobs. They're unlikely to be reprinted, so go take a look!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Teen Tunes #4: More Monkees!

As promised, here's the Monkees story from the very rare Teen Tunes #4. These are from Jim Aparo's personal collection, which he shared with me to make copies from back in 1992. Steve Skeates was the writer for this two-pager which appeared in a black and white music magazine from Charlton back in 1967. More great caricature work from Jim in his humor mode! The writer for this installment is unknown, but the upcoming, final episode is a special treat from Steve Skeates. Until then, enjoy this one!
Click to enlarge:

Friday, January 23, 2009

Stern Wheeler at Dave Karlen's Original Art Blog

From Dave Karlen's Original Art Blog:

How many artists do you know that would draw a daily strip for free just to get the publicity? Well that is exactly what illustrator Jim Aparo did for The Hartford Times back in March of 1963.

Dave proceeds to give a brief rundown of the short run of Aparo's newspaper strip Stern Wheeler. The strip's definitely a rarity, since it was only published in a single newspaper for a few months nearly half a century(!) ago, but it's not completely unavailable for today's fans. A small publisher called "Spotlight Comics" published a single issue of reprints in the black and white boom of the late 80's. (They also published an excerpt in another comic called L. T. Caper. You'll only want that if you can't find the Stern Wheeler comic itself, unless you get a kick out of amateurish 80's-style vanity comic books.)
But lucky for you, it's not that difficult to obtain: Mile High Comics lists it for only $1.75 (cover price!) in near mint. That's a steal, if you ask me! Too bad the company didn't last long enough to reprint the entire run. Recommended for Aparo fans and lovers of classic style newspaper adventure strips.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Some Links to Aparo Tributes

Obviously, from the sites and blogs I've linked to previously, I'm not the first to devote webspace to the works of Jim Aparo. Here are some other tributes to Jim that have appeared online in the past:
Comics Should Be Good! posted a tribute to Jim on the 2nd anniversary of his death. This article also links to a nice tribute, with some good images, from Eric Weems here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Robby Reed Looks at Aparo's Phantom Comics

Jim Aparo's Phantom covered on the sensational, but now-defunct www.dialbforblog. This has been a favorite blog for a long time, with nearly 500 installments for you to enjoy, but this one, a focus on Jim's work on Charlton's The Phantom comic, is of particular interest. I'll be sharing some of my thoughts on this series one of these days, but for now, check out what Robby thinks!

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Phantom Stranger Blog!

As you might expect, you'll find more than a few Aparo-related posts at iamthephantomstranger.blogspot.com, a site specializing in the comic book appearances of The Phantom Stranger, a classic character on whom Jim Aparo left his very distinct mark. Your host "rob!" offers up a hefty dose of art samples from the Stranger's catalog, and with Aparo having done more PS work than anyone else, you'll see plenty of full-color scans to admire.
It's my opinion that Aparo was at the peak of his skills when he was drawing Phantom Stranger. Anyone who's not familiar with his work on this title--which until the recent volumes of Showcase Presents were not especially easy to come by--really ought to sample it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Blog I've Added to the List

Hey, how could I resist a blog called aparofan.blogspot.com, a.k.a. Aparofan's World of Comics ?
The focus is wider than this blog, as blogger Mike Middleton covers lots and lots of comics greats, but he has many posts devoted to the work of Jim Aparo scattered throughout the archives. Treat yourself to a look around there, whydontcha?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Nice Caricature of Jim...

...found during some web surfing. It's by an artist named "Bira", on a blog that appears to be in Portuguese--I don't know if the artist is Brazilian or Portuguese or, perhaps, some other nationality (although the text of the cartoon is in English, so maybe the drawing originated somewhere else?). It seems to have been posted just after Jim's death in 2005.

Jim Aparo at ilustrasite.blogspot.com

Monday, January 12, 2009

Bond...James Bond

Another cover from The Comic Reader (issue 180), this time a back cover. Aparo does Bond.
Back in the 70's, there was a bit of a stir with rumors that James Bond was coming to American comics (I don't count the "Doctor No" issue of Showcase, which reprinted a British Classics Illustrated. That was a really awful comic book, with none of the panache of the 60's film series.) If there had been a Bond comic back then, Aparo might arguably have been
the best choice for the job, though. I'm sure he would have loved that assignment!

Finally, Teen Tunes #3: The Monkees!

Yes, in Teen Tunes #3, Miss Bikini Luv was replaced by The Monkees in the 2-page black & white comics section of Charlton's pop music magazine! While this is obviously an officially-licensed appearance, Charlton didn't hold on to the rights for long. After three 2-page stories in this and the following couple of issues, The Monkees moved on to a new comic book from a different publisher: Dell Comics published 17 issues starring the Pre-Fab Four starting in 1967. No offense to Dell artist Jose Delbo, but I think very few fans would disagree that Charlton's writer (unknown) and artist Jim Aparo did the better job at translating Davy, Mickie, Peter, and Mike onto the comic book page. Dig Jim's terrific caricatures and manic cartoonery! Could Jim handle humor comics? Judging from this, I can only say "I'm A Believer"!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Aparo in the 30th Century!

Here's an interesting cover with Jim Aparo art that's easily overlooked: Legion of Super-Heroes #300. Easily overlooked because it's a "jam cover": different artists contributed different characters to the picture. Aparo was a curious choice to participate, since he couldn't really be considered one of the classic Legion artists; he had illustrated two earlier covers for the series, and he was probably assigned those only because DC didn't have a job ready for him when he showed up in the New York offices on a particular day.
But which character did he draw on this cover? Can you spot the Aparo figure? Here's a hint: it's a character he had drawn for a different series just a month earlier!

Friday, January 9, 2009

More Bikini Luv from Teen Tunes!

And here's the story from the second issue of Teen Tunes. Miss Bikini Luv returns for her final spotlight in the pop music magazine, before being replaced by a surprise feature, coming soon to this blog! But for now, enjoy Jim Aparo at his cartoony best (click to view each page!):


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Unpublished Deadman Art

The infamous "DC Implosion" was a cancellation of several mid-70's DC Comics series shortly after a highly-publicized expansion (officially called the "DC Explosion") of both page count and number of published comics. One of these cancellation victims was DC's recently-revived Showcase, which had been scheduled to launch a single-issue Deadman solo spotlight in issue 105.
Unfortunately for Aparo fans like me, Jim was the artist on that feature.
DC did later find a home for that story, which had been completed before the Implosion. It was published in Adventure Comics #454, a "Dollar Comic" with a larger page count than the standard comic book of the time, and featuring several different stories in an anthology format. Adventure had already been running a Deadman series by Aparo and writer Len Wein, but those stories were shorter than the Showcase spotlight had been scheduled to run. So when this tale found a slot for later publication, revisions were made from the originally-prepared story: the page length was shortened by a total of two pages. Today we present (from, I am sorry to say, less-than-high-quality scans) the unseen panels from the uncut version, as taken from DC's highly-limited release, the legendary Cancelled Comics Cavalcade.

Showcase 104 page 4

The published version included the first two panels of this, page 4 of the story. It did not include the bottom four panels, where Deadman spots the "stupid kid" on the ledge.

Showcase 104 page 5

The published version deleted page 5, seen above, entirely.

Showcase 104 page 6

The published version deleted the first two panels, and joined the rest to the portion of page 4 that had been retained. That worked out quite neatly, removing Deadman's rescue of the boy (and, perhaps unfortunately, the demonstration of his supernatural abilities and acrobatic skills), and the absence of the sequence was indetectible. But I always wanted to see what was cut, and there it is.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Covers for The Comic Reader

Jim Aparo contributed several covers (and at least one back cover) to The Comic Reader, a much-beloved--and much-missed!--comics fandom-oriented publication published in the 70's and 80's (and maybe the early 90's? I can't remember when it finally ended).
Here are three of them for your enjoyment:

Issue 101: Jim Aparo drawing ...

...the Original Captain Marvel! Jim probably wouldn't have been the ideal choice for the series' artist, but DC had updated the Shazam Family to a more realistic look around that time, and if this sample is any indication, Jim would have been just as good a choice as Don Newton, who was assigned the task (he was the "New Artist on Captain Marvel!" mentioned on the cover, not Jim Aparo). And as we've seen in the Bikini Luv pages previously, Jim could have retained some whimsical cartoony touches that might have eased the shock of transition for some readers.

Issue 113: This might have been prepared...

...as part of a newspaper strip proposal Jim did for a science-fiction series called--don't laugh--"Zip Tyro". Or maybe it was just a tease he whipped up for the magazine...I don't know. But it's a nice job, reminiscent of the EC science fiction covers. Jim was a big SF fan in real life; it's too bad he didn't get to do more of this kind of work!

Issue 130: Familiar territory for Aparo...

...Batman and some of his most notable enemies. It's not that special, but it's a nice rendition, with the trademark Aparo Angle on the horizon.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Hidden Words in Aquaman?

Here's an interesting page. Click and have a look at this scene from Adventure Comics #441. Can you guess what's unusual about it?
There's probably not much chance that you guessed, unless you've recently read the published comic. Here's the story:
Back when I was first assembling the complete Jim Aparo Checklist in the early 90's, I forwarded a copy to my pal Chris Khalaf for corrections and additions. One of his corrections was: "Aparo didn't letter Adventure 441. Ben Oda did." I took another look at the comic, and sure enough, Chris was right. That wasn't Aparo lettering. (At the time, I didn't have the skill to recognize Oda, but after this incident, it was suddenly simple to spot Oda).
But why? In this era, Aparo always did his own lettering, along with the inking! And these were Aparo's inks...I couldn't imagine what situation would have arisen to require his pencilling the pages, then sending them in for lettering, then getting them back for inking! (And I didn't know it at the time, but I later learned that his usual technique was to do the lettering first!) It was a mystery.
The mystery was solved when I moved to Nashville for a year in 1992. At one of the local comics shops, I found a stack of original art that included one Aparo page: the one shown--sort of--above. The answer was simple: Ben Oda's lettering was pasted over all of Jim's original balloons and captions. Aparo had lettered, pencilled, and inked the entire job, but after his part was done, editor Joe Orlando had, for some unknown reason, rejected Paul Levitz's script, and had David Michelinie rewrite the entire comic. Oda then lettered the new script and pasted it over Aparo's work.
Look close through the issue as published and you'll see several traces of evidence, such as orphaned word balloon "tails" and obvious touch-up with white paint and ink.
The version linked to above is what I found when I stripped Oda's paste-ups off of the page. It's the original Levitz script, in Aparo's lettering, unseen for decades!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Miss Bikini Luv from Teen Tunes #1

In 1992, Jim Aparo surprised me by loaning me (by mail) his personal file copies of Teen Tunes issues 1-5. This was a pop music magazine published by Charlton. It featured the typical profiles of popular musical groups, with pinups, lyrics, etc. It also featured, in each of the five issues, a 2-page comics section, pencilled, inked, and lettered by Jim Aparo. In the first two installments, the star was Miss Bikini Luv, which was Jim's very first assignment at Charlton, in the Go-Go comic book (actually, that job in Go-Go was his first professional comic book assignment, period)!
Although his work on Go-Go is relatively well-known (at least it's documented in the Overstreet Price Guide!), Teen Tunes is long forgotten, and nearly unknown. Here's your chance to see that first story, from that extremely rare and hard-to-find magazine. And just wait 'til you see what feature took over the slot as of issue 3! The rest of Jim's contributions to this magazine are coming soon to this blog!
Click on the thumbnails to read 'em!