Thursday, June 18, 2009

Egyptian Aparo

Indulge me--I'm an Egyptian buff. I've been studying learning how to read Middle Egyptian (the language of the familiar hieroglyphs) for a couple of years now, and it's been a fun hobby to pursue. So it occurred to me that it might be fun to visit the occasions that Jim had to evoke the land of the Pharaohs. Four covers came immediately to mind:
The Phantom #32:

Our friend Scott has warned us about this issue: "Not even Aparo can save this one." Maybe not, but it's really cool seeing the design of the Pharaoh Phantom here. By 2009, comics fans have seen countless translations of their favorite heroes' costumes into period garb: pirate Batman, western Wonder Woman, barbarian Superman, post-Medieval Marvels, but this is surely one of the earliest whole-hearted attempts. Yeah, the World's Finest team made plenty of costume changes in their time travels, but those were always minor adjustments, like putting feathers on the cowl of "Indian Chief Batman" or a fur cloak over the familiar costume to depict "Caveman Superman."

The Brave and the Bold #112:

Y'know what else we've seen a zillion times by 2009? Other comics artists' renditions of Jack Kirby's Fourth World characters. But with this issue, Jim Aparo becomes the first artist other than Kirby to tackle The World's Greatest Escape Artist, Scott Free, Mr. Miracle. And an exceptionally fine job it was, too! Not much Egyptian content on this cover, other than the sarcophagus and the vault reminiscent of pyramid interiors, but I sure love those poses, even at the unfortunately reduced size necessitated by the 100-page size.

Batman and the Outsiders #17 and 18:
"BATO" and its Batman-less followup had more than its share of unusual and innovative eyecatching covers. With member Metamorpho's roots in Egyptian (he gained his powers and his unfortunate appearance from exposure to a mythical "Orb of Ra" hidden inside a pyramid), writer Mike W. Barr had a good opportunity to send the gang to ancient Egypt, in a sequence that gave Jim the opportunity to produce these two winners:

Most of the hieroglyphs on #17 are authentic, although chosen mostly at random, so they don't say anything meaningful so far as I can tell. Obvious exceptions are the "bat" and the "lightning" glyphs. My favorite touch is Jim's resurrection of one of his old signatures, the "JA" in an oval. In Middle Egyptian, characters were enclosed in an oval like this (a "cartouche") only when writing the names of gods and pharaohs. And Aparo is certainly comic book royalty!

1 comment:

  1. Great feature Michael. Though I can't say I was around during its heyday, the Egyptian influence over comics is really one I miss. It's easy to forget the enormous hold that the "mystery of Egypt once held over of comics, particularly those of the Golden Age. Hawkman, Dr. Fate, Ibis, Zatarra, Captain Marvel, Plastic Man and countless other half-forgotten characters of comics early years spent many an adventure battling mummies, lost in claustrophic and cursed pyramids, or engaged in arcane contests with ancient sorcery from classical Egypt. I suppose today such tales seem merely old fashioned or quaint when put up against epic multi-issue battles with the likes of Galactus or Darkseid. But I was an Egypt fanatic as a kid, and it makes me wistful to see that the old mysteries and lure of this land no longer seem to have much a hold over the four-colour world.

    Good luck in the advancement of your hieroglyphic studies. And continuing kudos on your wonderful blog! Craig/Benday-dot.