A look at the career of comics artist Jim Aparo.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Jim Aparo Fan Club Presidents meet...Jim Aparo!



At the convention in Chicago, July 5, 1992, Chris Khalaf, Jim Aparo, and Mike Gallaher meet for the first time. We must have spent about 16 hours chatting with Jim over the course of the convention, gathering all sorts of great stories, seeing his artwork in progress, introducing him to Grass Green for the first time, man, just so many great memories of hanging out with our favorite artist and finding him to be one of the sweetest, gracious guys you could imagine. At that time, Jim wasn't known for appearing at a lot of conventions, other than yearly appearances at a small Hartford convention, so Chris and I considered ourselves fortunate to meet up with him in Chicago (we were also fortunate that, for some strange reason, Jim wasn't swamped with fans, giving us lots of opportunities to hang out with him!).

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Last Monkees!

After only three 2-page stories in their pop music magazine Teen Tunes, Charlton apparently lost the license for official Monkees comics to Dell, who were about to begin a short run of four-color Monkees comic books with art by, I believe, Jose Delbo. Charlton saved the best for last, though, as Jim Aparo was teamed with Steve Skeates, writer, to produce this mini-masterpiece. In Skeates' only job as Monkees scripter, he challenged himself to use as many titles of Monkees songs in the script as he could fit. How many can you spot?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Texas Rangers

And another not yet now in my collection: Jim's cover for Charlton's Texas Rangers #72. Jim didn't contribute any interior art for this one. What's interesting here is that Charlton's now letting Jim do the lettering on the cover. He didn't have that latitude at DC, but Charlton let him do quite a lot of cover blurbs. Jim was an ace letterer, and the effect usually worked quite well when he was allowed to fill in the text.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Career Girl Romances

Here's an Aparo job so rare that it's not in my collection...yet! Career Girl Romances #40 has an Aparo cover and an 8-page story illustrated by Jim.
Our cover girl here strikes me as very reminiscent of the girls that John Romita used to draw when he was one of DC's primary romance artists...and, for that matter, when he was drawing groovy chicks like Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson on Spider-Man! The jazzy backing musicians, though, are a bit more in the Aparo style.
This one's from 1967, during Jim's first year in the comic book business, toiling away at Charlton. At this stage, Aparo's line work is delicate, which was generally expected of artists on romance comics. The inking is, in fact, barely recognizable as Jim's, but he was doing what was expected as he started to make his way in the business.
Note that he's drawn a left-handed guitarist here...I wonder if he was working from some photo reference of a lefty, or whether he just opted for a figure that better suited the cover composition? Whatever the case, I've got to give him credit for drawing a more convincing guitarist than many comics artists of the era that attempted to depict musicians. The microphone position is a little off, and the drum kit is sparse, but over all, it's a good stab at drawing a combo with a sexy girl singer, don't you think?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Don Maitz?

Don Maitz is a fantasy artist of significant renown, perhaps most famous for illustrating the pirate on Captain Morgan rum.
Chris Khalaf told me back in 1991 that Maitz had supposedly done work as an assistant to Jim Aparo in the 70s. When Chris and I met Jim for the first time in 1992, we asked him about this rumor.
Jim confirmed that he knew Maitz, and that Maitz had visited his studio when Maitz was a greenhorn, but quite strongly declared that Maitz had never served as an assistant. According to Jim, the only person that ever touched his art (other than meddlers at DC that very occasionally fiddled with what he turned in) was his wife, who occasionally wielded a brush to fill in blacks. I couldn't resist telling him about Dave Sim's comments about how he had allowed his wife to do the same on some early issues of Cerebus, with disappointing results. I told him how it was plainly obvious which pages Sim's wife had "blacked", and he was a little bit flabbergasted at my insistence that, yes, having a non-artist spot blacks could yield very bad results. Maybe Jim was just better at specifying black spots in the pencil art than the young Sim was, because I couldn't begin to guess on which pages Julieann Aparo splashed ink.
And yes, Jim Aparo knew very well who Dave Sim was...I was quite surprised to learn how familiar he was with all of the talents working in the burgeoning comics business of the 80s and 90s. He was certainly not out of touch with the new blood that was expanding the boundaries of comics. Jim was a sharp fellow, who paid close attention to the art form.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The History of the DC Universe Poster

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Here's a bit of Aparo work that's not especially easy to come by. The History of the DC Universe was a two-issue prestige format miniseries published after Crisis on Infinite Earths, laying out the post-Crisis history of, well, the DC Universe. The miniseries was compiled into a hardback--back when it was exceedingly unusual for DC to publish hardbacks--and the hardback added a "jam" poster featuring a variety of characters drawn by different DC artists, with many of the artists asked to draw a character that they were especially associated with. Aparo was, naturally, one of those asked to contribute, adding the Phantom Stranger to the assembly of heroes in this fold-out. Despite being the Aparo fan that I am, I had to resist shelling out the bucks for this compilation, having bought the miniseries. I picked up a copy eventually, just so that I could have this (somewhat) rare piece of Aparo's published art. If you missed out, here's your chance to look over a terrific All-Star work. And it's a fun test of your art-spotting eye to match the artists' signatures to their contributions: Can you spot Dave Stevens' character? Dan Spiegle's? Gilbert Hernandez's?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Don't miss Aparofan's Aparo commissions!

Mike Middleton (a.k.a. Aparofan) has posted some commisioned drawings that Jim did for him, including Batman, Spectre, Phantom Stranger, Green Arrow, and Aquaman. Check them out here, and visit Mike's blog frequently; there's always good stuff to see there!

Heroes Against Hunger

This page was pencilled by Sal Amendola, who did a few stories for DC back in the 70's, and inked by Jim Aparo. It's from "Heroes Against Hunger", DC's contribution to the African hunger fundraising effort of the 80's. I think Jim and Sal were a pretty compatible pair, but Sal did very little work, and is largely forgotten. It's worth another look, anyway. Kinda weird to see eyes in an Aparo Batman, though, isn't it?

A trivia quiz excerpt...

Back in 2007, I included the following question on a trivia quiz on the comicbookresources.com classic comics forum:
7. Jim Aparo drew many covers for DC. Mark “yes” or “no” indicating whether he did or did not draw at least one cover for each of these series:

a. Flash
b. Weird War Tales
c. Weird Mystery Tales
d. Legion of Super-Heroes
e. Showcase
f. Secrets of Haunted House
g. Metal Men
i. Robin II
k. Green Arrow
l. Ghosts
m. DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest
n. Limited Collectors Edition

In previous installments here, we've seen that you should answers "yes" to (a) Flash and (d) Legion of Super-Heroes...but can you answer the rest of them correctly?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

So what kinda name is "Aparo", anyway?

For those who are curious about the name, it is, in fact, Italian. A lot of Italian-Americans rose to prominence in the comic book business in the 50's and 60's: Dick Giordano, Joe Giella, Frank Giacoia, Vince Colletta, Mike Esposito, Tony Tallarico, Art Capello, Frank Chiaramonte, Rocke Mastroserio...it's a long list! Aparo's certainly a worthy fellow to these many fine contributors to the comic book art form.
"Aparo" is of Sicilian origin, from aparu, an occupational name meaning "beekeeper".