Growing up in New Britain, Conn., Jim Aparo always wanted to be an artist. With only one semester of art school, he became a comic book legend, illustrating the exploits of Batman for more than a decade.
In the late 1980s, Aparo illustrated one of the greatest Batman comic-book novels, A Death in the Family, considered a milestone in American comic book art.
He was born Aug. 24, 1932, just before the dawn of the Golden Age of Comic Books. Superman first appeared when he was six. Aparo grew up loving the cheap, colorful magazines. Many, however, viewed them as disreputable. They were called ‘sadistic drivel’ and ‘the ten-cent plague.’
In 1954, a U.S. Senate subcommittee held televised hearings on how comic books led to juvenile delinquency. The next year, housewives in Norwich, Conn., held a public comic book burning.
None of that deterred Jim Aparo. He took art classes at New Britain High School while studying and copying comic books at home. He also took a semester at the Hartford Art School, but mostly he taught himself. After high school he started doing work for an advertising agency. Meanwhile, he submitted drawings to comic book publishers. For years he got nothing but rejection.
Finally around 1966 Jim Arparo got his big break. His work was accepted by Charlton Comics in Derby, Conn, a comic book publisher that existed from 1946 to 1985.
The Charlton Comics editor gave him his first assignment: a teenage comic strip character called Miss Bikini Luv. Eventually he was working full-time for Charlton. When his editor, Dick Giordano, moved to DC Comics in 1968, he brought Jim Aparo along with him and assigned him Aquaman.
That ultimately led to a 10-year stint illustrating a series that featured Batman, often with another DC superhero – a real challenge for an artist to research and render a different superhero every month. He also drew The Brave and the Bold, Green Arrow and the Spectre.
Aparo was an early adopter of the work-from-home ethos, producing most of his work at his home in Southington, Conn.
He won the Shazam Award from the Academy of Comic Book Arts for his 1972 work on The Demon Within for the House of Mystery series.
He illustrated his last cover in 2004 and died at home on July 19, 2005.
Images: Jim Aparo By MichaelNetzer – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16861406. A Death in the Family uploaded by Jimmy to Flickr, CC by SA 2.0. This story was updated in 2022.