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Biographies of the Stars

Dick Sprang
photo by David Applegate, courtesy of Gotham Graphics

Dick Sprang was born in Fremont, Ohio in 1915. The talented young man began a career in commercial art at the age of 15, painting signs and advertisements for the local businesses and posters for the lobbies of the two local movie theatres.

After high school, he worked for a short while on staff at the Toledo News, moving to New York City and plied his trade as a free-lance artist in advertising. He also began illustrating pulp magazines in 1936 as a free-lancer. This would prove to be the first step in a career as a pop culture icon.

After a few years in New York City he decided to try his hand at comic books and in 1941 he entered the offices of DC Comics with his samples, where he met the legendary Whitney Ellsworth, who gave Sprang a story to draw as a test to see how Sprang could handle comics and the rigors of a quick deadline.

He gave Dick a 3 page story to pencil, ink & letter, telling him to return in 4 days. When Sprang returned, Ellsworth was so impressed by the young man he immediately gave him a 13 page Batman story to draw. A heady feat since only 4 artists had drawn the Batman until this time. Sprang would later become one of the main artists for the character, their two lives (real and unreal) inextricably woven together from this point in history.

His first appearance as a Batman artist came with Batman #17. The issue had four stories and a cover by Sprang. It was not long before Sprang was doing the stories and covers steadily for Batman Comics, just as Wayne Boring was doing the same for Superman in Action Comics.

Having established himself as the preeminent Batman artist, DC felt that they needed to get more work from Dick and decided to let him just pencil stories and assigned him an inker. It was at this time he met famed DC inker Charles Paris, with whom he would work for nearly two decades. Charles Paris inked Sprang Batman stories almost exclusively the entire period of his comic book career, eventually leaving the field in 1963 and retiring to his 150 acre ranch in Utah.

In Utah he became interested in investigating western pioneer trails and western history, becoming a well known authority on the field. He has been involved in documentary art and the National Park Service used his services in creating oral history tapes for visitors.

In comics his name was largely unknown during the sixties and seventies except to comic book collectors who held this artist in very high esteem, so in 1984, at the urging of comic collectors who had befriended the artist, Sprang began recreating black & white & color versions of his comic book covers for collectors, to assuage a manic interest in his artwork in a relatively dry market (meaning there was very little original Sprang artwork available in collectors circles).

The response was so great that within a couple of years, collectors wishing to buy a recreation had to be placed on a "waiting list" on which the collector had to wait for one year, then later two and when Sprang finally decided to cease taking more orders, the wait was reportedly a whopping seven years!

But Dick was not about to leave his fans wanting. In 1995 Gotham Graphics commissioned Sprang to do full color paintings of the Batman for reproduction as limited edition posters. Beautifully rendered, these pieces are classics. He says he will continue to create more for his fans.

Since 1983, Dick has been a frequent visitor and guest at comic book conventions around the United States, where he is always surrounded by avid fans wanting to speak with the intelligent and affable gentleman whose comic work had so touched millions of comic book readers for almost fifty years.

He passed away May 17, 2000 in Prescott, Arizona

Batman & Robin & the Riddler

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