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Paying Tribute to a Master
Interview by James W. Powell
Posted October 3, 2005

The Brave and Bold Art of Jim Aparo coverThe late Jim Aparo is often considered to be the greatest Batman artist of all time. But while his work on The Brave and the Bold might be considered his greatest achievement, there are at least two out there who feel Aparo's other work should not be overlooked. That's why Scott Beatty and Eric Nolen-Weathington have teamed up to publish The Brave and Bold Art of Jim Aparo, an in-depth look at the man and his art.

Beatty has co-authored a number of Batman-related books that influenced his appreciation of Aparo, including Batman: The Ultimate Guide to the Dark Knight. Nolen-Weathington, editor and designer of the Modern Master book series, has been an Aparo fan since his youth. So it's only natural that these two creators gravitated toward one another to create a book devoted to one of their favorites.

I recently caught up with the pair to discuss their upcoming book....

 

 
 
 
 
James W. Powell — Of all the great artists and comic creators in the history of the medium, what is it about Jim Aparo and his work that called out to you to make this book?

Eric Nolen-Weathington — Well, Jim Aparo was the first artist I really keyed into as a young comic book reader. One of my earliest comics was Adventure Comics #442, which featured an Aquaman story drawn by Aparo, and I just loved that comic. These days I don't really have a "favorite" artist, per se, but back then Jim Aparo was my guy.

Flash forward to 2002: While I was trying to come up with a project for TwoMorrows that I could call my own, one of the ideas I came up with was a book on Aparo. For various reasons I ended up doing the Modern Masters book series instead, but with the hope that one day I would have the time to do a book on Aparo. Then, luckily, along came Scott...

Scott Beatty — Exactly. I approached Eric at one of the summer cons about a year ago and inquired about producing a book devoted to Jim and his art. Jim has always been one of my favorite artists. The Brave and the Bold was hands-down my favorite comic book as a kid. And during the last few years I've noticed too many "greats" in the comic book industry relegated to a dark corner of "Artists' Alley" at the shows while the "Flavor of the Month" has autograph lines around the block. Working on this book was my chance to honor a hero of my mine in the real sense and, ideally, introduce a whole new audience to one of comics' all-time greats.

Aparo Self IllustrationPowell — Your book doesn't just focus on Aparo's well-known work on The Brave and the Bold but also looks into his work on other DC books as well as his career before comics. Can you tell us a little about the process you went through when deciding what to include in the book? For example, was it always your intention to showcase Aparo's entire career instead of focusing only on his work at DC?

Nolen-Weathington — I think Scott and I were on the same page right from the start. Wouldn't you say, Scott?

Beatty — Absolutely. Jim's B&B work took up a good chunk of his career, but he spent an extraordinary amount of time rendering all the other Bat-Titles. His Aquaman is as fondly remembered as Nick Cardy's. And nobody beats his work on The Phantom Stranger or The Spectre. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Batman and the Outsiders or Jim's work on A Death in the Family, one of the all-time best-selling Bat-Collections featuring the death of Jason Todd. But even these runs are merely scratching the surface of Jim's long and illustrious career.

Nolen-Weathington — Also, a friend of mine by the name of Michael Gallaher used to put out "The Jim Aparo Fan Club Newsletter," along with Chris Khalaf. Michael was kind enough to let us print the Aparo checklist he's compiled over the years, and it is by far the most complete checklist you'll ever find.

Jim Aparo: Geo ForcePowell — How did the two of you work together on this book? Was it completely collaborative, or did you both fill specific roles?

Nolen-Weathington — Basically, we talk things over and give each other ideas, then we each let the other do what we do best. We're not done yet, so it's an ongoing process, really.

Beatty — Eric and I are both such complete fans of Jim's work that our mutual appreciation pretty much fills in any gaps the other might miss. Jim was himself on board for the project. Unfortunately, he passed away before we could complete the book and show him the final product. We've every hope that the book will do Jim justice and honor his profound contribution to the medium. Of all the books I've written about comics, this one makes me remember why I appreciate comics so much... mostly because it's about a creator who was undeniably one of the nicest guys in the business.

Powell — You've stated that Aparo supported the creation of this book. Does that mean you both got to work with him for the book?

Nolen-Weathington — Unfortunately, I never spoke with Jim, which I truly regret, but Scott did.

Beatty — Jim and I talked briefly and he sent biographical material, but for various reasons and scheduling conflicts we didn't have the opportunity to sit and talk at length before his untimely death. Jim was a shy creator and never one to toot his own horn, so to speak, so I always got the impression that he felt a little unworthy of the accolades we planned to heap upon him.

Powell — The Brave and Bold Art of Jim Aparo is B&W. Did you do this to showcase Aparo's art? To keep the book affordable? Also, did you ever consider doing it in color?

Nolen-Weathington — For me, the most interesting thing about reading these career retrospectives is seeing the artwork in its various stages. I really like seeing how an artist works. I want to see his pencils; I want to see his inks. If Jim had done any professional coloring, I would want to see that, too, but he didn't do any coloring. Basically, we want to present Jim's art in its purest state, and at the same time, let his fans see it in a way most of them never have.

Beatty — My God, Jim's doodles would be worthy of a retrospective! As Eric said, black and white is the purist distillation of Jim's work, so why not present it as Jim submitted it?

Jim Aparo The Brave and the Bold coverPowell — How do you think Aparo influenced today's artists?

Beatty — I think it really depends on the artist. When I wrote Ruse for CrossGen, I knew several Wizard Top Ten artists who worked for the company and had original Aparo pages pinned up in their cubicles. Jim was clearly an artist who was appreciated enough to seek out his work and keep it within eyesight for inspiration.

Nolen-Weathington — I think his biggest influence comes from his storytelling abilities. Jim really knew how to keep the story moving, but interesting as well, and he never sacrificed the story for the sake of a nice image. That's what drew guys like Alan Davis and Bruce Timm to his work.

Powell — What can fans expect to learn from reading your book?

Beatty — Mainly that Jim was a major force at DC, an artist who drew titles for extensive runs and with nary an interruption. He was a cover artist of the highest order, a consummate professional, and one of the best-regarded and well-liked men in the business.

Powell — Would you say that your book is more about the art, the man, or both?

Beatty — Definitely both. I'm always of the mind that your life and art go hand-in-hand. You can't understand the creator without knowing where he comes from.

Nolen-Weathington — Exactly. And I think his story is an interesting one, too. His ultimate goal was to become a comic book artist, but he was in his mid-30s before he achieved that goal. I think that had a strong influence on the development of his style and his career.

Powell — You've discussed a little about how this book came about, but can you tell us a bit about the research you both put into the book and some of the steps you went through to go from Aparo fans to publishing a book.

Beatty — Mainly, the book includes research into Jim's long and illustrious comics career with anecdotal information and reflections about Jim from his family and peers. Eric and I are both HUGE fans of Jim's art, so this has always been less work than a labor of love to honor an artist we admire so much.

Nolen-Weathington — The research on my part consists of just going through as much of Jim's work as I can to find the best images for the book - and you certainly can't really call that work, but it is time-consuming. Tracking down the originals, or at least good copies of the originals can sometimes be a bit tricky, but the Internet is a huge help. After having put together five volumes of the Modern Masters series, I have built up a long list of art collectors who are happy to help out.


The Brave and Bold Art of Jim Aparo will be available on Wednesday, October 19, 2005.

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