Influence & inspiration: Jim Aparo


Last weekend was the Memphis Libraries Comic Con, which was a really positive experience, pretty much all I was hoping for from a more reading-centered con. There were lots of engaged readers & plenty of good interactions. Hopefully they’ll throw that party again next year, because this was the kind of con I’d happily table at again!

One of the things I like to do (if the venue allows it) is bring along a smattering of reading-grade back issues to my table, highlighting the work of my influences and inspirations. Giving customers something familiar is a good little icebreaker which makes it easier to steer the conversation towards my own comics.  Unfortunately, that ‘s not usually an option at most comic cons or art shows, where the focus is– as it should rightly be– on original creations. I sort this little collection not by title or character, but by creator, which helps bring home the fact that comics aren’t just a commodity, but also a means of artistic expression.  My dividers include a brief bio, what I like about that creator, and a selected bibliography: essentially a mini primer on some of my favorite creators! Like my all-time favorite comic book artist, Jim Aparo…

Jim Aparo (1932-2005, USA)

After attempting to break into comics as a young man, Jim Aparo worked in the advertising industry, where he drew fashion illustrations for newspaper ads. He continued to pursue a career in comics, and this experience paid off when he started working for Charlton comics in the late 1960s. There– and at his later long tenure at DC Comics– he drew stories (and was a prolific cover artist) across many genres: Westerns, science fiction, romance, horror, mystery, and suspense in addition to superhero comics. At DC, he gained his widest fame as a key Batman artist across a number of titles for over 20 years.

Jim Aparo is my favorite comic artist of all! Initially attracted by his fluid art style and dynamic pacing in some of the earliest comics I bought and saved (Aquaman in Adventure Comics), I began to notice his artwork in more and more comics. Only later did I learn that he was one of the few artists in mainstream comics that did all the artwork himself, serving as penciler, inker, and letterer for nearly all of his work. Seeing a page where all of the visual information (aside from colors) is done by the same hand really appealed to me, and is something I bring to my own artwork.

A selected bibliography:

  • Aquaman (artist, 1968-1971, 1977-1978)
  • The Phantom (artist, 1969-1970)
  • The Phantom Stranger (artist, 1970-1973)
  • The Brave and the Bold (artist on Batman team-ups, 1971-1983)
  • Detective Comics (artist on Batman, 1973-1975, 1990-1992)
  • Adventure Comics (artist on the Spectre and Aquaman, 1974-1977)
  • The Untold Legend of the Batman (1980)
  • Batman and the Outsiders (artist, 1983-1985)
  • The Outsiders (artist, 1985-1988)
  • Batman (artist, 1987-1990, 1992-1993)
  • Wrath of the Spectre (artist, 1988)
  • Green Arrow (artist, 1993-1995)

Speaking of “influences”, I first wrote about Aparo in this regard way back in APA-5 #307 (July 2000), for our “Influences” issue…

Jim Aparo, influencer