In Appreciation

Jim Aparo

When I first looked at Jim Aparo’s art, I thought he was inspired heavily by Neal Adams, but it was just a coincidence. I liked his Aquaman and loved his Phantom and when Jim got to handle Batman team-ups in The Brave and the Bold, I was thrilled. He not only made each character look great, his backgrounds were filled with details and little cameos from film stars. His storytelling was top-notch, his Batman dark and moody. Jim excelled at super-heroes, supernatural, westerns, just about everything.

During my days editing Comics Scene I commissioned an interview with Jim simply because I hadn’t read one before and wanted to learn more about him.

When I joined DC, it was a delight to be able to call and offer him a story or cover. He was gracious and self-deprecating, and a thorough professional. He never missed a deadline nor complain about the work. In 1988, I had a chance to have Jim pencil the final three Spectre stories that never got done back in the 1970s, which was a particular highlight for me. (And here, 17 years later, I recently had the chance to collect all of Jim’s Spectre work in one volume, which was overdue if you ask me.)

I had heard he was ill and was warned the time was coming. You never want to hear it. You want to imagine the retired gent is in his Connecticut studio, doodling and handling the odd commission.

You’ll be missed, Jim.

Jimmy Doohan

Another of the original cast is gone and this one hurts.

While I loved Star Trek and thrilled to Jim Kirk and Spock’s exploits, I always found myself fascinated by Scotty, Sulu, Uhura and Chekov. My one and only fanzine article about Trek was entitled “It’s the Clerks who run the Government” – in praise of the supporting characters.

Jimmy’s Scotty was a caricature to be sure, especially as he got older and writers played to the hammy side of the actor, but he was also a pro. You could rely on Scotty in ways you couldn’t from other engineers.

Over the years I heard Jimmy speak and his life in the Canadian Air Force and early radio career and he was fascinating. He did any accent or voice at the drop of a hat and delighted in being with an appreciative audience. I managed to interview Jimmy a few times, first in college and then for Starlog and he always gave a good quote.

The last time we spoke was at a Shore Leave con some years back and we chatted for a bit about his new RV and how much more enjoyable that was for criss-crossing the country.

Jimmy was amiable and friendly and I suspect Star Trek curtailed a career that could have been richer in variety but did provide him with a following that he likely would not have had otherwise. In the final years I suspect he was content with that trade off.

We should all be so lucky.

8 comments

  • Paul1963

    Jim Aparo’s passing means that both the regular Batman artists from the period when I started collecting are now gone. At that time, in 1974, “Detective Comics” didn’t seem to have a regular artist on the Batman feature, but most stories in “Batman” were drawn by Irv Novick (and usually inked by Dick Giordano) and “The Brave and the Bold” was always drawn by Jim Aparo. I always appreciated Aparo’s work, particularly as I came to learn more about the amount of labor involved in producing a page of comics and realized just how unusual it was for any artist to pencil, ink AND LETTER every page of his published work. I was actually a little disappointed when other inkers showed up on his later work, but understood that the alternative was probably no Aparo artwork at all.

    Paul

  • gordon

    These were two of my favorites and both were very kind when I met them. Jim Aparo was so underrated–like Neal Adams except on a monthly schedule! He was quite humble when I met him and was happy to hear that he made some big royalties during his later years with Knightfall and all. James Doohan looked exhausted on a plane trip from genCon, but a handicapped girl was on the plane–so he turned on the charm and visited with her. Very classy! So sad to lose these icons from our lives.
    Sorry you couldn’t make the con. It’s humongous! But always nice to see some old pals!

  • I feel priviledged to have been able to see Jimmy one last time at his farewell convention. Although he wasn’t able to speak with the fans as he always had in the past, you could tell he was loving every moment of it.

    Doohan was a gem of a man and he will be missed.

  • I don’t think there were many more perfect comics artist than Aparo, particularly in the era in which he worked. Not only did he meet deadlines — other artists, whose work was not up to his speed, did — but he was a terrific delineator.

    The spouse and I often joke that some people look just like they had been drawn by a comics artist. The first time we did that was when we realized Mike Barr looked just as if he’d been drawn by Jim Aparo.

    I never met or talked with Aparo during my time at DC, but he was at the very top of the pantheon of creators whom I felt deserved to be appreciated by comics fans. His work will definitely be missed.

    Quick note about Doohan. I read in one obit that he had been asked by STAR TREK producers to choose the accent he wanted to use for the engineer character. He chose Scottish. One wonders what would have become of him or his character had he chosen French, or Spanish. (Sort of like John Ratzenberger’s accent for Cliff on CHEERS, which also was his own choice.)

  • mike weber

    Posted by: Mike Flynn at July 21, 2005 06:20 PM

    The spouse and I often joke that some people look just like they had been drawn by a comics artist. The first time we did that was when we realized Mike Barr looked just as if he’d been drawn by Jim Aparo.

    I was just remarking the other day that some specific comic would look a lot better if drawn by Aparo, and reminiscing about the glory days on Phantom Stranger.

    As to people looking exactly as if they were drawn by a specific artist — there is an actor (haven’t seen him in a lot of films, but he was a villain in Blue Thunder) who looks exactly as if George Tuska created him to be a villain…

  • mike weber

    I recently had the chance to collect all of Jim’s Spectre work in one volume, which was overdue if you ask me.

    Way past time for a collection of his Phantom Stranger work, too.

  • Kevin Dilmore

    I was stumbling late into your birthday blog when I saw your entry about Mr. Aparo and discovered that he had died. This is a tremendous loss for me as I look back on my formative comics years.

    Just recently, I remember our talking about how much I enjoyed Wrath of the Spectre. I leafed through it again tonight, and I still find myself staring into the pained faces of the bad guys and the ferocity of the big, green ghost himself. Powerful stuff.

    One of my absolute never-miss titles growing up was The Brave and the Bold. I loved knowing that every month, Batman would be fighting crime with someone new; maybe his partner would be a familiar face, and maybe not. No matter what, each issue was spectacular, and I was too young to really appreciate that Mr. Aparo was equally adept at portraying every character that graced its pages. Not every artist is good enough to draw every hero, but Mr. Aparo sure was. When I was learning about comics, his style was the first I could recognize without peeking at the signature or the credits box.

    We all have our versions of iconic images burned into our long-term memory. When I think of Superman, he’s drawn by Curt Swan. For Green Lantern, he’s drawn by Gil Kane. For Hawkman, it’s Joe Kubert. For the Flash, it’s Carmine Infantino.

    When I picture Batman in my mind, he’s drawn by Jim Aparo, and that likely will always be the case.

  • I went looking for a way to get in touch with Mr. Greenberger and I find out that one of the people who inspired me to become a comic book artist had passed away.

    Along with Neal Adams, Dick Giordano, Irv Novick and Gil Kane; Jim Aparo was one of the best. I have virtually everything he did for DC before he stopped doing full art and letters and count The Brave & the Bold as one of the most unappreciated books DC did, and it’s a crime that it is not better recognised. Haney and Aparo did some brilliant things in their book.