Fire & Water #236 – Jim Aparo Cover to Cover

To celebrate the birthday of the great Jim Aparo on August 24, Shag and Rob discuss some of their all-time favorite covers by the master comic book artist! Batman, Aquaman, The Phantom Stranger, and much much more!

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22 responses to “Fire & Water #236 – Jim Aparo Cover to Cover

  1. Aparo was one of the first artists whose style I could recognize without reading the credits. Even as a kid, I knew his art was slick.

    I am glad you said favorite covers and not best because mine are a little wonky and a little Anj-centric. In no particular order.

    1) Brave and the Bold 118 – one of my fave comics of all time. Batman and Wildcat slugging it out in the boxing ring while the Joker laughs on! My first encounter with Wildcat.

    2) Adventure Comics #439 – a ‘beach comic’ bought at a yard sale. Imagine being a 6-7 yr old kid and reading Fleisher Spectre! This image of the crook shooting a machine gun into the looming and very menacing Spectre is so compelling. Better yet, this was my first encounter with the Spectre. For all I knew he was the vilain ghost of the story and not the hero! So awesome.

    3) Brave and Bold #147 – Of course I need to pick a Supergirl image. Aparo really drew a very fetching Kara. But what I love about this cover is the look of pure joy on Batman’s face. This is going to be a fun adventure with the super-cousin, nothing serious like when Bats teams up with Kal!

    4) Legion of Super-Heroes #283 – It is weird to see Aparo doing something like Legion. He is so known for street level stuff (at least to me) that shiny future stories seem outside his wheelhouse. And yet here he is on one of a handful of Legion things he did, drawing a cover devoted to my favorite Legionnaire Wildfire. It is cosmic serendipity that one of my fave artists drew such a spotlight on one of my favorite characters.

    5) Ousiders #5 – the Christmas Carol issue. I just love this haunting look at the characters.

    Great show!

  2. I riffed on that Aparo cover when I drew and designed the Phantom packaging for Castaway Toys’ 8″ figure about 10 years back. I was trying to channel his and Don Newton’s run on the character.

    Castaway Phantom figure


  3. I love me some Aparo covers and I have to add a couple to the list.

    Dr Anj already picked one of mine by going for Legion 283. I love the Legion and it’s great to see Aparo drawing them. Wildfire is the key character and he is so atypical for Aparo. Love it.

    Love the World’s Finest wraparound. Do you guys ever go on the Comicartfans website? It’s a place where people share pictures of their original art collections. I have previously spent a lot of time looking at the original art for this cover. Marvelling at how beautiful the original art is and how assured Aparo’s line art is. It is so clean. No white-out, no corrections. He really was a genius. This cover also features my personal favourite image of Black Canary.

    B&B 182 is an odd cover for me. I first saw it in a UK reprint where they dropped the Hugo Strange colour hold. This means I’m used to seeing an odd dead space on this cover. Talking of UK reprints I want to highlight 2 Aparo covers I discovered when I was picking up Batman Monthly from my newsagent. Batman 324 and 329.

    Great choice of Outsiders covers but I have to go for BATO 19 where Geo-Force fights Superman reflected in a Christmas tree bauble. It is a masterclass in perspective and such a great Christmas image.

    When it comes to the Death in the Family trade. I love that image. It may be repurposed but not from the comic. I think it’s the final image from the run of house ads which featured Batman discovering Jason. This run of ads was the first time I saw Jim Aparo ink his own stuff (he was being paired with Mike DeCarlo on Batman and wasn’t doing his own covers) and I remember being blown away. There was a real spontaneity to his line which was really lost in DeCarlo’s precise linework. The use of literal dead-space really pulled out the emotion of Batman losing his Robin in a way that the story never quite managed. I really don’t understand why Aparo wasn’t doing his own covers on this Batman run.

    The Secret Origins cover is one of the best comics covers of all time so I feel a little guilty mentioning that Jim drew it based on an Ed Hannigan layout. There is no doubt that Jim made it soar but it isn’t exclusively his work.

    That Weird War Tales cover is great. If I see an old DC anthology title with a cover by Jim Aparo I will usually pick it up. I have a particular fondness for Weird War 105 which cover features the Creature Commandoes smashing a huge concrete swastika. It’s Nazis being beaten up by monsters by Aparo. What could be better?

  4. Great episode guys! I love when you do these types of things, and since Aparo is one of my all time favorite artists, it’s just gravy.

    I can’t argue with any of these covers, and why would I? Like you guys said, any Aparo cover is a step above just about every other artist. I really like how you pointed out what a fantastic DESIGNER he was. I don’t think he gets enough recognition for that. I would put him on par with Carmine Infantino and Ed Hannigan, artists who were so good they often designed covers for other big artists.

    A few thoughts:

    I believe that IS Talia Batman is “murdering” on the cover of Detective #444. It’s been a while since I read the “Bat-Murderer” saga, but I know her and Ra’s are part of it.

    World’s Finest #255 is a comic I’ve never had the pleasure to read or own, although I’ve always been intrigued by that cover! So I can’t tell you who that “original” Batman is. I doubt it’s Thomas Wayne (that was a 1950s story), but I can guarantee it’s Zany as hell. This is the WF era where Haney introduced Superman’s hunchbacked brother, for Pete’s sake!

    B&B #182 is indeed, my favorite comic of all-time. You guys said it all, well except for when I was a kid I wasn’t sure the image of Hugo Strange wasn’t a real photograph! It looked like one to my 7 year old eyes. What a great cover, and the story…masterpiece.

    A few Aparo covers that leap out at me.

    Brave and the Bold #186: That large image of the Penguin looming over Gotham, firing his umbrella at Batman and Black Canary rushing to meet his challenge. How could a Bat-fan NOT buy this comic? Plus inside, Canary in her undies as drawn by Giordano. A whole new world opens for young Chris.

    B&B #184: Bruce Wayne screams in anger at his parents grave, ripping off his cowl and declaring they deserved to die, and so must Batman! The Huntress looks on, stunned! And this image is IN the book, also drawn by Aparo. Another homerun from this later period of B&B, this time written by Mike W. Barr.

    B&B #200: How can I NOT love this cover? It’s Aparo’s chance to draw a Dick Sprang-like Batman, and his own Batman too! Plus Robin (I always loved his Robin) and that great 1950 Batmobile again!

    Best of DC #30: What a great design on this digest cover! Batman is large in the foreground, pointing toward the familiar figures of Martian Manhunter, Robin, Batgirl and Elongated Man, but behind them are a bunch of Detective heroes I never heard of or saw before. The depth of field on this one is great.


  5. Wonderful episode, I’m so jealous you lads got to talk cover art. What a stunning collection of covers, I like Aparo’s discrete compositions even more than his storytelling, which was exemplary.

    The bat in the corner of the Phantom Stranger #21 was used on all the DC Mystery books at the time.

    I love the Super-Spectacular and double-logo trade dress. The bigger the logo, the more I like it, it’s so delightfully Golden Age.

    I love the way Shagg pronounces ‘buoy’ as ‘booey’! Is that a US thing?

    The Adventure Comics #436 Spectre cover has just one element too many, the observatory at top right – it’s competing with the grim ghost’s head for attention, and making things just a tiny bit cluttered.

    My picks: Adventure Comics: #446, Arthur saving the US flag for the Bicentennial while riding a seahorse – camp as tits!

    Adventure Comics: #452, the one with Black Manta jeering as Garth readies to skewer Aquaman, it’s so dramatic, the composite drawing the eye in to the narrative.

    Also, #459 of the same book. It’s so cheery and dynamic.

    Brave and the Bold #197, Batman and Catwoman, just gorgeous, with the looming scarecrow and the heart made of capes.

    Batman and the Outsiders #17 – supehero hieroglyphs, wow

    1. Speaking only for my own opinion, I don’t think “booey” for “buoy” is regional, so much as a heavily-conscious effort of the part of some speakers to differentiate this word from sounding like “boy.” My dictionary, at least, considers both pronunciations acceptable.

  6. Thanks for a great episode, guys! I do love these artist spotlight episodes. Like you said, an audio podcast doesn’t seem like an ideal format to cover anything art-wise but it works just fine when you cover someone like Jim Aparo. I just saw the title of this episode and I immediately pictured Aparo’s signature style in my mind (mostly his faces, specifically the noses or someone smoking a pipe). It was great to hear all your different perspectives on his art and I would very much like to hear more artist spotlights in the future.

    I’m similar to Anj above in that Jim Aparo was one of the first artists who I could tell who drew a comic without having to look at the credits. To me, his Spectre, Batman, and Joker are firmly entrenched in my mind as THE definitive look of those heroes.

    I had the exact same feeling as Shag about Aparo and the Metal Men! I hunted down old Metal Men comics as a kid and though I don’t remember the insides so well, I do remember the Aparo covers that I just assumed he was the artist for the entire series.

    The best part (or worst for my wallet) is that each of these covers makes me want to buy the comic and find out what happened inside. For Detective Comics #444, did Batman shoot her with her own gun? Her holster is empty and my imagination went wild. Also, I think I will have to get a copy of World’s Finest #255 just for the fact Aparo draws Captain Marvel (at least on the cover). One of my favourite artists draws one of my favourite characters! Fantastic!

    I hope to hear more of these artist spotlights in the future or even a roundtable where you discuss your favourite artists and/or writers that you’ve enjoyed over the years. Keep up the great work!

  7. Great show, gentlemen, and really enjoyed your discussion. I won’t add an exhaustive list of my own, since, first and foremost, I think both of you had great lists of covers, many of which I would include in my own top 10 list of Aparo covers.
    I’ll just add that a sentimental favorite of mine has always been the cover to DC Super Stars #7 – that’s the first Aquaman comic I ever had, and I love in particular the image of Aquaman and Aqualad on that leaping dolphin.
    Also, since you mentioned Aparo’s also stellar work at Charlton, here’s one of my favorite SF covers he did, for Space Adventures #4.

    By the way, I’m surprised Rob isn’t familiar with the covers to Detective #s 444 and 448, i.e., the ‘Bat-murderer covers, since the cover to the latter was also used for Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest #9, one of the few I have in my current collection. It collects the complete five-part Bat-murderer by Len Wein, with art by Aparo and then Ernie Chan. Since I’ve read it more recently, I can also answer some of the questions that came up here in the comments (from Chris and Mike): yes, the woman being shot is in fact Talia, and yes, Batman is shooting her with her own gun. And I won’t divulge any more details…

    Otherwise, I have to say, if anyone here wants to do a Metal Men podcast that focuses on the revived series from the 1970s, i.e., #s 45-56, drop me a line…

  8. Awesome show, guys. If you guys didn’t know, there is a hardcover collection of Aparo’s Phantom work for Charlton, but the printing on it isn’t all that great.

    My first Aparo was B&B 133 from April 1977. I’m still shocked my mom would buy me a comic with a character named Deadman on the cover. Anyway, even at that young age I was then, Aparo sky-rocket up the charts as one of my favorite Bat-artist. I just can’t get enough Aparo. One thing I will point out: Aparo did the covers for some issues where Jose Luis Garcia Lopez did the art. You know Aparo is good if the editor didn’t get Garcia-Lopez to draw his own covers and subbed Aparo. Not many artists can stand up to JLGL…Aparo could.

    The Bat-Murderer story is collected in the Tales of the Batman : Len Wein book. Instocktrades isn’t sponsoring me, but that is something from them that I’ll recommend.

  9. Yes! An episode all about one of my absolute favorite comic book artist, the amazing Jim Aparo! Seriously, I actively looked for his work as a kid, and would swap with my friends if they had any issues with his art that I didn’t. Most of my friends had a bewildering defect in their ability to appreciate Mr. Aparo’s work, so it was easy for me to get any of his books that they’d ended up with and somehow didn’t want. All that aside, these covers you’ve both picked out are, of course, fantastic to behold, and I can only imagine how hard it was to narrow the pack down to only this many! If I had to pick two favorites from this bunch, I’d go with the “Strange Suspense” and “Weird War” issues. As far as I can recall, I’ve never actually seen the “Strange Suspense” cover, so that was a pretty kick ass surprise leading off this episode’s gallery! “Weird War,” on the other hand, was a huge favorite of mine growing up. The issue you’ve spotlighted came out a little before my time as a collector of that series, but I did eventually hunt it down and acquire it (and then lost it over the years, of course). Man, I wish somebody would do a “Weird Wars” podcast……. Anyway, thanks for the excellent episode!

  10. Excellent show Rob and Shagg. Batman: A Death in the Family was one of the first TPBs I ever got, and that cover, with Batman cradling Jason in his arms in the black background, was one of the most striking images ever. Aparo was the Batman artist when I started collecting and his art was amazing, even in the latter years of his life. Collecting Showcase Presents Brave and the Bold gave me a lot more great Aparo art and it is fitting you covered a few of the great covers in this episode. Look forward to seeing some more discussions like this down the line.

  11. I am horribly negligent in reading Aparo’s earlier work. I’ve seen some here and there, and later was able to get a few back issues, but not a lot. My comic collecting was only kicking into gear around when Batman and the Outsiders started, but that got me on the ground floor for that series, and straight up, Aparo is my Batman artist.

    Not an Aparo story, but I was lucky enough to have Mike W Barr sign BATO #11 and #12 at Baltimore Comic Con last year. And yes, it’s a great cover!

    Writing this on Aparo’s birthday, so I’ve downloaded a few comics from the DCU app to celebrate. Detective #444 included, plus the followup Shag mentioned, #448. So much good stuff to read!

    This was such a fun show. I enjoy hearing you guys gush over artwork, it doesn’t matter to me that podcasts aren’t a visual medium. It’s fun to hear you having a good time. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Great Episode and what awesome covers. That Secret Origins issue is something I remember very well. I’ve always liked the Phantom Stranger and when I think of comics he’s in, this comic always comes to mind.

    The Weird War cover is pretty amazing. That is something I would buy just for the cover alone.

    Awesome list guys.

  13. Loved the podcast. Miss Aparo.

    This episode isn’t really about Aparo’s storytelling, but as Martin Gray said, it was exemplary. I hope I haven’t said this to you all before, but I remember, as a kid, realizing how important the artist was to comics when I realized I’d never read an Aparo story I didn’t enjoy.

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