Markley’s Fevered Brain: Jim Aparo – One of the Best


Wayne Markley

Wayne Markley


by Wayne Markley

Jim Aparo self portrait from Brave and the Bold #124

Jim Aparo self portrait from Brave and the Bold #124


When I was young, my favorite comic was Green Lantern as drawn by Gil Kane. I was crushed when I got issue #76 and it was by some new artist named Neal Adams, and not my beloved Gil Kane.  This is significant because it was not that long after I fell in love with the art of Jim Aparo.  I would argue Aparo’s early art for Charlton Comics was a mostly his own style, but when he came to DC and took over Aquaman, The Brave and the Bold, and Phantom Stranger, his style seemed to me to be very much in the style of Adams; particularly on The Brave and the Bold.  We have been fortunate that DC has collected a fair amount of Aparo’s work in recent years, though not all of it yet. I am still waiting for a collection of his work on the Phantom Stranger and a nice hardcover collection of his legendary run on The Spectre, but hopefully these are coming at some point.  I would also note Aparo was one of the very few artists at the time who penciled, inked, AND lettered his own work.

Jim Aparo's Complete The Phantom

Jim Aparo’s Complete The Phantom


His earliest work was for a short lived newspaper strip called Stern Wheeler. From there he went to work for Charlton Comics where he did a number of short stories for their various anthology titles, including science fiction, fantasy, horror and romance stories.  His first work for Charlton was for their teen comic Go-Go in a strip called Miss Bikini Luv. Go-Go only lasted nine issues, and they are very hard to find.  I have been looking for them for years. Aparo also worked on a backup feature in their Hercules book called Thane of Bagarth. There were three comic book collections of Thane over the years, but they are long out of print.  He also did Nightshade for Charlton, which ran as a backup in the pages of Captain Atom as well as Wander in the pages of Cheyenne Kid. But perhaps his best work for Charlton was his run on The Phantom.  When Charlton took over The Phantom comic from King Comics (who took it over from Gold Key) with issue #30, Jim Aparo came on board as penciler, inker (and letterer) with issue #31 through #38.  Not all of these issues have Aparo art, but all have at least Aparo covers.  Hermes Press published a hardcover collection of all of Aparo’s Phantom stories in a full color hardcover. This is a nice collection that suffers all of the flaws of all Hermes books, but it does give you all of Aparo’s work in one place.  This is not a complete reprinting of all of the Charlton issues, but is the stories and art that Aparo did for Charlton’s Phantom comics. There are also a number of extras including reproductions of Aparo’s original art and more.

Aquaman: The Search for Mera Deluxe Edition

Aquaman: The Search for Mera Deluxe Edition


In 1968 Jim Aparo took over Aquaman for DC Comics, and from the great Nick Cardy, with issue #40.  It is interesting to note that Aparo was still doing The Phantom for Charlton. But as both Aquaman and The Phantom were bi-monthly, he would do Aquaman one month and The Phantom the next.  On Aquaman he drew a long story called The Search for Mera.  This was a story about Mera being abducted and Aquaman’s quest to find her. It was written by Steve Skeates and has recently been collected by DC in a beautiful oversized full color hardcover. This story ran in Aquaman issues #40-48 and comes in at a little over 200 pages.  I am hoping DC does a second volume with Aquaman #49-56 where the book ended in 1971.  It should be noted though that all of the covers for the stories reprinted here were by Nick Cardy.

Showcase Presents: Phantom Stranger Vol. 2

Showcase Presents: Phantom Stranger Vol. 2


Next for Aparo was The Phantom Stranger. He took over the book with issue #7 and continued until issue #26 with a number of different writers (He did not draw issue #18).  The stories are a mixed bag with most being supernatural in nature and some work better than others.  On the other hand, the art gets better and better with every issue as Aparo style grows and grows.  As a plus, a number of these issues have spectacular Neal Adams covers.  This is another group of stories I cannot wait for DC to collect in a nice color hardcover.  These stories were collected in black and white in Showcase Presents:  Phantom Stranger Vol. 1 and 2.

Batman: The Brave and the Bold: The Bronze Age Omnibus Vol. 2

Batman: The Brave and the Bold: The Bronze Age Omnibus Vol. 2


In 1971 Aparo drew The Brave and the Bold #98 (Batman and the Phantom Stranger) and it was so well received that Aparo became the permanent artist on The Brave and the Bold with issue #100 through the end with issue #200. While Aparo did not draw every issue he did draw almost all of them.  In the early issue his art looked very Adams-ish, but as the title went on it became pure Aparo.  Over the next ten years Aparo got to draw almost every DC character at one time or another.  There are far too many great issues for me to go into depth here but we are fortunate that DC has collected all of  Batman: The Brave and the Bold stories in to deluxe full color omnibuses. Volume One collects issues #74 through #109 and reprints all of Neal Adams run and the early part of Aparo’s stint on the book.  There is also a second volume of Batman: The Brave and the Bold which reprints issues #110-156, almost all of which are by Jim Aparo, and is a who who of the DCU. A third omnibus is available for preorder now.

Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo Vol. 2

Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo Vol. 2


There is also the Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo HC series of books.  These are three full color volumes reprinting all of Aparo’s Brave and the Bold work as well as some of his work on Detective Comics.  The first volume reprints Brave and the Bold #98, #100-102, and issues 104-122. Over 500 pages of beauty in full color. (This volume is out of print so it may be hard to find.) In Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo Volume 2 it reprints more issues of The Brave and the Bold, #123-145, 147-151, and Detective Comics #437-438. Again over 500 full color pages of Aparo art.  The third volume of Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo collects Brave and the Bold #152, 154-155, 157-162. 167-169, 173-178, 180-182, Detective Comics #444-446, 448, 468-470, Batman Family #17 and various covers from all of these titles.  Almost all of the Brave and the Bold stories were written by Bob Haney (at least through #150) and almost all of these stories are self-contained.  It was amazing how in each issue Haney and Aparo were able to create a unique story that perfectly fit Batman with another character from the DCU. At times the guest stars might be a bit out of character compared to their own titles, but every story is entertaining and the art is always perfect. Aparo had an amazing ability to make whatever he was drawing look like it was perfect, be it a cityscape, a jungle or a desert.  Every issue was a whirlwind adventure. I loved these stories as a kid and they still hold up today.

Batman and the Outsiders Vol. 1 HC

Batman and the Outsiders Vol. 1 HC


Following the conclusion of The Brave and the Bold, it was replaced with Batman and the Outsiders.  This took a team of heroes that were put together in The Brave and the Bold #200, were led by Batman, and featured new adventures.  These were stories that mostly took place outside of Gotham City and were so large that Batman needed a special team that were not the JLA to get things done, as sometimes they had to skirt the rules.  DC has also done two hardcover collections of this series, with volume one reprinting Brave and the Bold #200, Batman and the Outsiders #1-13, and New Teem Titans #37.  Volume two reprints issues #14-23 and the Annual #1. I did not enjoy Batman and the Outsiders as much as I liked The Brave and the Bold as it lacked the variety of the B&B and the stories were good but more like Mission Impossible than what came before.  On the other hand, there is a ton of beautiful Aparo art in these two collections.

Deadman Vol. 4

Deadman Vol. 4


While there are thousands of pages I have already covered here by Aparo, there are a few other collections of his work that I consider well worth reading, although they can be difficult to find.  The first of these is Deadman Vol. 4.  A few years ago, DC collected all of Deadman’s various appearances into five trade paperbacks.  Vol. 4 collected Jim Aparo’s Deadman stories from the pages of DC Special Series #8, Adventure Comics #459-466, and DC Comics Presents #24 (which is not Aparo, but is by Jose Louis Garcia Lopez).  I always thought Aparo’s Deadman was second only to Neal Adams in terms of look and style.  Deadman looks so good in these stories.

Aquaman: The Death of a Prince

Aquaman: The Death of a Prince


There are also two collections of Aquaman that feature Aparo’s art.  The first is Aquaman: The Death of a Prince.  This trade came out in 2011 and collects Adventure Comics #435-437, 441-455, and Aquaman #57-63.   This is the complete saga of the death of Aquababy and the effects it has on the family. A powerful story that sadly is out of print and is pretty pricy to buy on the aftermarket.  The second Aquaman book with Aparo stories is the Aquaman: A Celebration of 75 Years. While this books collects Aquaman stories from a number of creators, it does reprint Aquaman #40 by Aparo.  This is a great collection as it has over 400 pages of Aquaman from his first appearance in the 1940s to his Rebirth appearance. Some wonderful and long forgotten material here.

Wrath of the Spectre

Wrath of the Spectre


The final collection of Aparo’s work is once again from Adventure Comics, this time issues #431-440 and is called Wrath of the Spectre.  Again this book is out of print but it collects Michel Fleisher and Jim Aparo’s complete revival of the Spectre from the 1970s.  They went back to the origin of the Spectre and told stories of the vengeance spirit who was not kind and used excessive violence to dispense justice.  Criminals would be killed in any number of ways, including being turned into glass and then being shattered, or turned into wood and then being put through a band saw.  As much as I would love to see these stories in a deluxe hardcover, as they are great, I fear that in today’s politically correct world, these stories will not be reprinted anytime soon.  Well worth seeking out if you can find a copy of this trade.

There are also a number of other Jim Aparo stories out there in the pages of Batman and Detective Comics that are slowly being collected.  He also did a number of issues of the 1991 Green Arrow series. Plus, he did all sorts of short stories in House of Mystery, House of Secrets, Unexpected, and other comics. I think he peaked with his work in The Brave and the Bold and Deadman.  I would rate his Phantom Stranger right there at the top and Aquaman coming a close second.  I would hope DC could do one more volume collecting all of these various stories Aparo did in one last HC, and include the Spectre, and the Adventure Club, and the various one off Batman stories he did.

Go-Go #9 cover by Jim Aparo

Go-Go #9 cover by Jim Aparo


To me, Jim Aparo is one of the most underrated artists out there, particularly from the modern era of comics.  I loved all of his work, but I would note that I thought his art was best when he inked it himself.  To me his art was never as sharp when someone else inked him.  I met Jim a few times over the years and he was always very soft spoken and always seemed baffled why I (or any one) was such a big fan of his work. He said it was a job he enjoyed and made a decent living at, and since he was famous for producing at least a page a day, he was a reliable artist.

I hope you will seek out some of these books.  Jim Aparo was so talented and I really think he deserves wider recognition.  If you have read any of these books, what do you think? Is he as good as I think? If you disagree I would love to know why.  I can be reached at MFBWAY@AOL.COM or on Facebook at Wayne Markley.  All of these praise (and the words) are mine and do not reflect the thoughts or opinions of Westfield Comics or their employees. As always…

Thank you.