A look at the career of comics artist Jim Aparo.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ghostly Tales #79

Here's a lovely Charlton cover that they reused a time or two. One thing interesting about Jim's Charlton covers is that they often had him do the lettering, too, while at DC, they generally did not. This is Jim's lettering (well, below the logo, anyway), and I've always felt that his lettering was integral to his style, making this cover all the better. The lightning-streaked sky is something he would use again many a time, and the grassy lawn has technical hallmarks you'll also find in a lot of his works. I really like the way the scruffy ink lines add texture to the tombstone, too. This was good training for his upcoming work on Phantom Stranger, with all its lightning, capes, and spooky settings.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Flash Poster

This was a poster I saw in a comics shop in Memphis in the early 80's: a Jim Aparo Flash. The dealer didn't know anything about it, but he had it up on the wall and sold it to me. I still haven't tracked down its complete explanation, but I know it was one of a series of four promotional posters of DC characters. One of those might have been an Aparo Aquaman.
As far as I can determine, the art was original for this production, rather than cribbed from a previously-published source. I've got to admit, Aparo wasn't at his best doing The Flash: the motion lines are a bit silly-looking, and the pose isn't nearly dynamic enough. But you know, posters like this played by different rules than, say, cover art. The important thing was giving a good look at the character and his costume, and conveying the premise of his powers. And the costume alone is so eye-catching that this makes for a pretty snappy-looking piece of art, especially at large size.
[In the comments, Scott detects that this is in fact recycled art, from Brave & Bold #151. How did I miss that all these years?]

Aparo's Aquaman Aester Agg at Gorilla Daze!

Allan Harvey at Gorilla Daze highlights a classic Aparo panel from Aquaman #50, in which Jim integrated the names of several of his peers in the panelologic profession into the background. One name--"Pike"--is listed twice, by accident. In demonstration of Jim's characteristic loyalty to his employer, the writers, artists, and editors are all folks known for their DC work. Jim had plenty of appreciation for the fine folks at Marvel, who tried a time or two to woo him away, but he would have felt it highly inappropriate to plaster names like Kirby and Buscema into a DC book at a time when they weren't doing any jobs there. I asked Jim about this panel because I was confused by the inclusion of "Barr" in this panel. The only person I could think of was Mike W. Barr, his partner on Batman and the Outsiders. That was the only name Jim could think of at the time, too, but I pointed out to him that Barr was not a professional at the time--he might not even have been letterhacking yet, then. We remained stumped. It was only later that I concluded Jim had probably been tipping his hat to science fiction artist George Barr, who had done a few jobs for DC around that time and therefore qualified. Jim might have been a particular fan of Barr's SF book cover and magazine work, since he was a science fiction buff, and assumed that Barr would eventually have a larger role in the comic book industry than he ever went on to actually have.
In the comments, reader Scott suggests that Aparo intended to salute Ken Barr, not George Barr. I believe Scott is correct, and I think I had come to that same conclusion before, but in putting this post together, could only think of George Barr. I knew it was someone who'd been known for cover paintings, and who had done some war comics for DC. I found some comics credits for George, but not war comics, and figured I just wasn't finding those elusive few credits. Ken did far, far more comic book work than George ever did, including some of my favorite covers for the Marvel black and white magazines in the 1970's, and was active at DC when Aparo drew this page, making him the much more appropriate fit. Thanks for the correction, Scott!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Playful Signatures

Before we dive into a look at Jim Aparo's evolving signatures, let's take a quick look at a couple of examples where he got a little playful with the way he signed his covers.
First, here's The Brave and the Bold #152, starring Batman and The Atom:
Now look a little closer at the signature, down there to the right of the UPC box:
Cute, hunh?
And next, let's turn to Weird War Tales #53:
War comics were not a genre Jim delved into very often; aside from some war-themed team-ups in B&B, this is about it! Jim was supposed to do a backup for Blackhawk when Mark Evanier was writing it, but it didn't happen. I'd have enjoyed seeing him play in the battlefield more often: he certainly had the devotion to research that would have yielded convincing results.
Come back soon to see "A Survey of Signatures", where we examine Jim's more familiar marks!