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|Interview with Jim Aparo|
COMIC-ART.COM: I'm speaking to Jim Aparo. It is April 12th, 1995. Now, Jim, you've been associated with Batman for a long time. Do you remember what year you first drew the character?
APARO: Steve, I believe it was in 1970, was the first time. It was a Brave and Bold, it was Batman and the Phantom Stranger. I was drawing the Phantom Stranger book at that time.
COMIC-ART.COM: Oh, is that how you got the assignment?
APARO: That's how, yeah. I was already on Phantom Stranger and they were going to team up Batman with the Phantom Stranger in The Brave and The Bold, so they said, what better guy to draw this than the guy who draws the Phantom Stranger? So that was my first attempt at Batman. I believe it was in the seventies.
COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, that seems right from the numbering of the issues you drew. And you subsequently began drawing Batman in The Brave and the Bold on a pretty regular basis, didn't you?
APARO: Yeah, then I--The books were being produced bi-monthly in those days so I got The Brave and the Bold assignment further down. I think it was after issue 100. I did issue 100. That was a thick issue, Brave and Bold. It had everybody in it, Green Arrow and the whole. And I don't remember when I got it full-time, but then I started working on Brave and Bold, you know, not too long after that one hundredth issue. They were done by other artists previous to that and that's how it came about doing that.
COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, it seemed like you did, not every issue, but you know you'd do like two or three issues and then maybe have a break, somebody else would do it, but you'd kept...
APARO: During my tenure you mean?
APARO: Well, most of the time, the only reason I had breaks is because they wanted me to do other stuff. Like I said, the books were bi-monthly, so in those days you could do it. Like now, you're working on a monthly basis so it's pretty tough. So basically I was drawing the book monthly, like when I got a break off of it is when I don't know if you recall The Untold Legends of Batman? There were four issues of that or three issues of that. I originally was supposed to ink all three books. John Byrne was supposed to draw them all, but he only did the first one that I inked over him, and then number two and number three I pencilled, inked and lettered myself, on The Untold Legends, so that took me away from The Brave and the Bold for at least three issues. So, things of that nature would crop up now and then. That's why I'd be off the book, but basically, I did the majority of them.
COMIC-ART.COM: Did you like doing the variety of characters teamed up with Batman?
APARO: Yes, I did. I thought it was great. Well, I really enjoyed it. My only problem was the war stuff, you know, I never was in the service. I came close during the Korean War, but naturally it was Sgt. Rock so all I did was dig out Joe Kubert's Sgt. Rock and there was all the research, but, yeah, it was good. I enjoyed it, the variety, I drew Wonder Woman and I drew Green Arrow and Green Lantern, and oh, a number. And the ones that I didn't draw, at least I did the covers, like, oh, what was that character, I can't think of him now, Dr. Fate was one of them, I believe, and there was a couple others that I never really drew them inside, but I did just the covers, but then all the other ones I had done anyway. You'd have to go look through the--I don't know how many issues you have available for yourself.
COMIC-ART.COM: Well, I'm looking right now at the Overstreet Guide for the art listings.
APARO: Yeah, that would list them there. That would tell you the issues I did. I did quite, I think somewhere along the line somebody wrote that I held the record, you know, on drawing Batman for so many years.
COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, it seems like you have done more Batman stories than almost anybody.
APARO: Yeah. Yeah. I was pretty fortunate. It's a character I've always liked. Batman was one of my favorite characters when I was growing up as a kid, so.
COMIC-ART.COM: So you read him when you were a kid?
APARO: Oh, yeah. Oh, sure. Who didn't? (Laughs)
COMIC-ART.COM: You know, he seems to be one of the most popular characters with professionals.
APARO: Yeah. Yeah.
COMIC-ART.COM: Everybody wants to do him.
APARO: Yeah, well, now, yeah. But there was a time there when before the movie came out, the first movie, nobody had any interest. They had so many artists and writers working on Batman, if you recall. Nobody wanted to do it, and then they didn't want to handle it. You know it was up there, but not up there, you know what I mean?
APARO: So, then once the movie broke, all hell broke loose, and it became very popular. This is the first film.
COMIC-ART.COM: Right, in '89.
APARO: It was very popular, yeah.
COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, and then you also did quite a number of Batman stories in Detective also.
APARO: Yeah, well then, what happened, I believe, I'm trying to recollect now because it's been about a year and a half I've been off Batman. We just switched over. I went from Batman to Detective. You know, it was an editorial thing. There was no problem with it. I was still doing the character. It didn't matter. And then I eventually got back on Batman again, and then we went into the Knightfall.
COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah. Now, when you were doing Batman in Detective initially, were you working with Archie Goodwin?
APARO: Uh, I did back when. Archie was editor, and I did a couple of books for him, but then I believe he left DC and went to Marvel.
APARO: Yeah. I did some early, early Detectives, but it was only just a limited run, maybe two or three issues and that was it.
COMIC-ART.COM: Have you mostly worked with Denny O'Neil then?
APARO: Yeah. Most of my tenure on Batman has been with Denny O'Neil and various writers. Denny, my editor, yeah. Denny and I are long-time friends, so...
COMIC-ART.COM: Well, Denny also seems to have a really good handle on the character from writing it and editing it so much.
APARO: Well, yeah, yeah. Well, he wrote it for a long time before he became editor. He wrote some of The Brave and Bold...Did he write it, or Bob Haney? Bob Haney was the writer when I was doing Brave and the Bold.
COMIC-ART.COM: What did you think of Haney's scripts?
APARO: I liked them. They were good, but then, you know, like any writer, I guess he ran out, then they started shifting writers around, but he did the bulk of them. I liked his stuff. He was good, and he was very versatile. He was a good writer. He got right to it. He didn't mess around. He just wrote the stuff and got right into it.
COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, well it seemed like with two characters you needed to get to the action quickly without a lot of exposition.
APARO: What do you mean? Oh, you mean the character that he's teaming up with?
COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, when you were doing the team-up? Yeah, right, right. Yeah, well, Bob Haney, I believe he created quite a few characters, I don't remember any of them offhand, but he was in comics a long time. But he was a very good writer, very versatile writer, and he could switch from character to character. I mean he would read up on it of course, and then just go into it.
COMIC-ART.COM: Do you have a favorite Batman writer?
APARO: Uh, well, during the end it was Doug Moench. Not really. All the writers I worked with I would consider my favorite. I know that's coping out, but it's true. Every writer brought something to Batman that the other writer didn't bring, and I can't actually say what it was, but it did. Whatever it did, it did, and they all, they all were good at it. So, most of your writers today writing Batman, and right now Chuck Dixon is writing Detective Comics and what else? Robin. He's writing Green Arrow that I'm drawing and Chuck is a very, very good writer, very versatile, very action-oriented. Doug Moench wrote Batman while I was drawing him. Doug is a very excellent writer, also.
COMIC-ART.COM: It seems like Moench's work is a little bit more literary.
APARO: Yeah, Doug does that, but Doug is a great storyteller and he's a great one for sound effects. (Laughs) He comes up with the sound effects words that other people haven't done. He's noted for that. When I used to do my own lettering I would always letter his sound effects the way he wrote them, you know, because that was the big thing about him. He enjoyed it. You know, he would come up with the weirdest things he could think of, but they worked.
COMIC-ART.COM: Do you generally letter the sound effects on your artwork?
APARO: I used to letter my own stuff.
COMIC-ART.COM: Oh, really?
APARO: Oh, yeah. Well, The Brave and the Bolds, most of them are pencilled, inked and lettered by me. The only thing I didn't do is write it and color it. Didn't you know that?
COMIC-ART.COM: Well, I knew that you usually inked yourself. I wasn't aware about the lettering.
APARO: Oh, yeah. I did the lettering too. Yeah, yeah. I enjoyed the lettering. I was a commercial artist before I got into comics.
COMIC-ART.COM: Well, given that you were doing more than the usual workload, how many pages a month did you average?
APARO: Well, no. I only averaged a page a day when I pencilled, inked and lettered. That's what it took. In other words, if you took away the inking and the lettering it was, you would break it down to two pages of pencils a day. So, by pencilling and then inking my own stuff and then lettering it, it was just a page a day, and that's quite a feat in itself.
COMIC-ART.COM: Oh, yeah, considering the total number of pages you must have turned out in your career.
APARO: Well, how many pages were in a book then? About twenty or something? Somewhere around there.
COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, I think it varied between to twenty-four.
APARO: It would probably take me a month, you know, roughly, a little under a month, because a month is what, thirty days. And you don't work weekends and Sundays, you know, so you're just talking daily weekdays.
COMIC-ART.COM: How long would it take you to do a cover usually?
APARO: I'd do it in day.
COMIC-ART.COM: For the whole thing?
APARO: Yeah. I would pencil and ink it. What has to be done on a cover first, is, you've got to submit sketches. And that takes time. You do two or three sketches, then you send down. There were no faxes then, you'd just mail it down, and then they would look them over and pick the best one and make whatever changes they wanted, and then they would call you up. I just had xerox copies here and then we would relate, see the change, and then I would pencil it out, and then ink it. And it would take a day.
COMIC-ART.COM: Do you use a fax machine now?
APARO: No. I don't have one. I just do xeroxes because my artwork is, you can't shove a page of artwork into a fax machine. It doesn't fit.
COMIC-ART.COM: Right. Right.
APARO: So, what I do, is like right now, as I'm talking to you, I'm pencilling Green Arrow, and you know, when I get so many pages done, I mail it in, along with the script. I'm not lettering any more now, I'm just pencilling, so I would fax my stuff and then I would mail it down, Federal Express it down to them, and I would have a copy here to continue on, you know, with the rest of it.
COMIC-ART.COM: Who's your inker on The Green Arrow book?
APARO: Jerry Fernandez. He's in South America.
COMIC-ART.COM: Does it feel strange having somebody else ink your work?
APARO: Yeah, it does, it's, you know, it's a different feel to it. It's there, and yet it's not there when you look at it. You know, a true fan would probably pick it up that I pencilled it. And it's okay. It's not bad. It's hard to envision it. You know, you're surprised when you look at it.
APARO: But, you know they do make changes in it, slightly, so it's not bad, really.
COMIC-ART.COM: Jim, let me ask you. You've worked on Batman a long time. Why do you think the character has lasted so long? What's your opinion?
APARO: I think because he's, he's susceptible to injury. He could die. He could be shot and killed, right? He's a human?
APARO: And that's the main thing, I think, why he lasted, and also he's supposed to be a great detective. In the old days, there was a lot of detective stories, that's what he was. But the idea of him working out and doing what he can do as a human being and still be injured and come out of there and keep going on. Superman is great, too, but Superman can't die. You can't relate to that. You can relate to Batman because you're human. And that's what I think, in my opinion that's why. Because he's a human being like everybody else, but he's far greater than we are because he's very athletic and he's very honed in on his senses, and much greater, you know, he has more powers, if you want to call it that, you know. As a human, he's more adept to it than we are because he's trained himself to that.
COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, he always seemed like Doc Savage to me in that way.
APARO: Yeah, yeah. I mean Doc Savage is a human being also, right?
COMIC-ART.COM: Sure, and he just...
APARO: He's still Doc Savage, that's the main thing. I hate to bring that word up, but that's true. They're human beings. And I think that's what, and so everybody can relate to that, though most people can't, we can all relate to that.
COMIC-ART.COM: That's true. It's like Batman is putting more on the line when he goes into a crime situation because he can be hurt or killed.
APARO: Right. Well, didn't he get hurt in the whatchamacallit?
COMIC-ART.COM: Oh, yeah, the Knightfall storyline, when he had his back broken.
APARO: (Bane) broke his back, right?
APARO: Yeah, that's the issue I drew. Yeah, yeah. His back was busted up by Bane, but yet he survived, didn't he?
COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, I was just looking at that issue. Was it tough to draw that bit, that page where he got his back broken?
APARO: No. No, no I didn't find it tough. You just sit down and you rough it out and then you start you start tightening it up. You know, it's not hard, really, not after you're doing it for so long.
COMIC-ART.COM: No, I guess I was just thinking it terms of you know, an emotional reaction, you know seeing that done to a...
APARO: Oh, you mean to me as a, emotionally, yeah, yeah. I had to put all the emotion I could into it. Is that what you meant?
APARO: Oh, okay. Yeah, yeah, it would be tough, sure.
COMIC-ART.COM: You know, like seeing an old friend get badly hurt.
APARO: Well, right. Well, I consider him almost like a brother, you know? All the years I worked on him, so. Yeah, it was tough. Yeah, it's an emotional thing. Every comic book is. Even Green Arrow right now, he's in the midst of a problem, it's emotional. That's how the artists and writers put their greatest input, when they start building up emotion, to actually live the characters, and you put yourself in that position and you do it, so that helps.
COMIC-ART.COM: Now working with different writers like Moench or Dixon, do you find yourself putting in more of your own storytelling ideas with different people?
APARO: No. What I do is, I follow their story and they give me the opportunity to draw the angles that I want. Is that what you're talking about, story?
COMIC-ART.COM: You know, picking your camera angles.
APARO: Yeah, they don't, they know that I will do my best with it, and the story, you've got to draw it so that it works. I mean they write it on paper but you've got to do it in pictures. They do supply what they want to see. You know, they do write, say, well like Batman himself is lying on the floor right now and he's ready to pull himself up. They will say all that, but then it's up to you to interpret at what angle you want to take it at. Is that what you're saying? Is that what you mean?
COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, how you interpret the scripts, I guess.
APARO: Yeah, right, yeah. No, they don't really tie me down that tightly.
COMIC-ART.COM: Jim do you use much visual reference, like, you know, if you have to draw the sewers or something?
COMIC-ART.COM: You know, like the sewers under Gotham, you know, the tunnels?
APARO: Yeah, well there aren't many pictures of sewers under Gotham...Yeah, I do use reference when I need it. I basically I do many, many times. I've gone to really extremes. There was a Batman I did a while back that, whatchacallits, Marv Wolfman used to write Batman?
COMIC-ART.COM: Oh, yeah. A long time ago.
APARO: Okay, yeah, when he wrote it, there was a sequence, Batman was on a train and he had to uncouple the cars and I said, to myself, now where am I going to get a picture of a couple? Right? I'm not going to go down to a railroad yard. There aren't any around here, so remember there was a movie with, Silver Streak it was called, with Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder?
COMIC-ART.COM: Oh, sure. I remember that one.
APARO: And there was a scene in it where they uncouple the cars. So what I did was rent a video. I ran the video, I watched the movie again, and when I got to that scene, I stopped it, and I sketched it and I had it, and I drew it, so that's reference. So, whatever it takes. Reference. I have magazines, I have National Geographic, I have file folders that I clip pictures of buildings out of and street scenes, and trucks and cars, you know, pages of that stuff. You've got to save all that stuff. You've got to have it as an artist.
COMIC-ART.COM: What's more important to you, realism or atmosphere?
APARO: Uh, reali--Both, both. Realism and atmosphere. You know I've always been as realistic as I possibly could be, and both them, yeah. Yeah.
COMIC-ART.COM: Of the younger generation of artists, is there anybody around who's really caught your eye.
APARO: They're all good. I like Howard Porter that does The Ray. I think he does a great job. He's very stylized, but I like that. And he's good. He's very good. I don't, there's a lot of them that I look at. I do like what they do. There's a lot of them, that to me, they're putting in too much detail. Maybe that's what the reader likes because ever since The Terminator came out, that's what they've been doing, right?
APARO: All these bulky costumes. Hey, that's what sells, fine. But, telling the story is important, I mean in pictures, with the dialogue alone, to be able to do it and make it work. And I like Graham Nolan, who's currently drawing Detective Comics.
COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, he's got a real clean style.
APARO: Yes. Yes. And, who inks over him? Scott Hanna. So they work well together. Scott inked over me, too, in one of the Batman Knightfall books. You know, I had quite a few inkers on me in that book.
COMIC-ART.COM: I bet.
APARO: Yeah, yeah.
COMIC-ART.COM: What about Kelley Jones's stuff in Batman? It seems like it's got a lot of atmosphere.
APARO: Yeah, it does. Kelley is a very atmospheric artist. He's in the genre of the old horror books, the EC books.
COMIC-ART.COM: Oh, yeah.
APARO: Do you look at those?
COMIC-ART.COM: Oh, sure. I love that stuff.
APARO: Graham Ingels. I don't know if you're familiar with his work, the Old Witch?
COMIC-ART.COM: Yeah, yeah.
APARO: Yeah, Kelley embodies that, you know, the very black, and it fits Batman. He's doing it quite well. That style fits.
COMIC-ART.COM: You know one thing I thought was interesting about Kelley is he said he was trying to evoke the atmosphere of a Warner B-movie from the thirties, and that's the kind of thing that Bob Kane and Bill Finger and those guys were doing back in the old days.
APARO: Well, that's what they were doing. That's the way they drew. They were doing that all the time, really.
COMIC-ART.COM: It just seems funny, that the more they come back to...
APARO: They stay the same, don't they?
APARO: Yeah, that's right. Absolutely.
We thank interviewer Steve Ringenberg for this transcript