Categories: Arts, Contemporary United States, Popular Culture, Southington

Drawn to Superheroes

Batman and the Outsiders #1, cover art by Jim Aparo
Batman and the Outsiders #1, cover art by Jim Aparo, 1983, DC Comics Inc.

For decades Southington was home to one of the most iconic artists of the 20th century. Not known for his work with clay or canvas, James Aparo took a childhood passion and turned into a renowned career. Working as an illustrator at DC Comics for over 30 years, Aparo drew for such legendary series as Aquaman, The Brave and the Bold, Green Arrow, and The Spectre. He is most famous, however, as the man behind the modern incarnation of Batman.

Jim Aparo

Jim Aparo

Born in 1932, Aparo grew up as a comic-book fan in New Britain. He loved to read comics featuring Superman, Batman, and Captain Marvel and spent many hours studying and copying comic strips.

Charlton Comics Launches Aparo’s Career

As a young man, Aparo worked in advertising while he drew comics as a hobby. In 1963, Aparo managed to get a comic called “Sternwheeler” published in the Hartford Courant. He used this as a stepping stone to land a job with Connecticut-based Charlton Comics in 1966. There, he illustrated westerns as well as science fiction, romance, mystery, and horror stories.

Aparo’s big break came shortly after, when his editor, Dick Giordano, took a job at DC Comics and brought Aparo along with him. Aparo worked out an arrangement with DC that allowed him to work from a studio in his home in Southington and correspond with his employer through the mail.

His early days at DC had him illustrating such famous series as Aquaman and The Phantom Stranger. Although Aparo completed a semester at Hartford Art School, he was mostly self-taught and earned a reputation for realism in drawings, using items within them to create the illusion of depth, and for occasionally sneaking in renderings of celebrities like Humphrey Bogart into large group scenes. He even incorporated drawings of himself into his work more than once.

Batman, Green Arrow, and Other Pop Culture Icons are Artist’s legacy

Aparo’s most famous work became his renderings of the superhero, Batman. Aparo created many of the iconic renderings most modern fans associate with the image of Batman. He worked on a variety of different titles that featured Batman, including The Brave and the Bold and Batman and the Outsiders, but perhaps most famously, in 1988, he depicted the death of the Jason Todd character as Robin in “A Death in the Family.”

James Aparo retired in 2001 and passed away after a short illness in 2005. His influence on American popular culture, however, continues to shape modern film and comics through his depictions of some of the most iconic figures of the comic book genre.

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