A month or two ago there was some random twit spouting off on social media about how Jim Aparo was a terrible artist. Now (as my friend Michael Bailey is fond of saying) you can’t argue taste, but you can school an snot-nosed little fanboy on what art quality really means, which is what most people did. While I’d say that Norm Breyfogle is my favorite Batman artist of the era I began reading Batman and my favorite Batman is that of Marshall Rogers’ from the 1970s, I always considered Jim Aparo the standard. When I started reading Batman books, my reference point for the character’s look as the merchandising art done by Jose Luis Garcia Lopez (praised be his name) and Aparo’s Batman looked like that. In short, it was comforting to know that when Jim Aparo was on Batman, you knew you were getting something of solid quality.
In these two issues, he’s heading toward the end of his long run on The Brave and the Bold, the classic team-up title that had been running Batman stories for the majority of what would be a 200-issue run. In issue 188, Robert Kanigher scripts a story featuring his character Rose and the Thorn where the two heroes take on Neo Nazis and in issue #196, Kanigher gives us a team-up with Ragman that tells that hero’s origin story (and at one point, a store named Amazing Fantasy was selling this for $9.00 … and to think, I got it for less than $5 as a two-fer with issue #182).
The Ragman story is all right. I remember this character getting some hype in the early 1990s because of a miniseries, but I was never really that interested in him and the one thing that makes #196 worth reading is Aparo’s artwork. Issue 188 is a little better, only because it’s got some good villains in Neo Nazis who are trying to bring about the Fourth Reich (this is from July 1982, so they might be Illinois Nazis) and there’s also a kind of goofy scene in the beginning where Batman takes some kids from the city to clean up a polluted lake that’s right out of a PSA of the time. I know that Batman doing charity work with troubled youths probably sounds crazy as hell, especially to “true” Batman fans who would look at that and say “The Real Batman Doesn’t Do That,” but it’s one of those fun comic booky things that you can’t help but enjoy.
This series would be canceled with issue #200 to make way for Batman and the Outsiders. I am going to assume that sales were low and DC thought that people would be more interested in reading stories about Batman and a team of teen superheroes, especially since Robin was starring in the Wolfman-Perez New Teen Titans. I can’t say whether or not BATO was a good idea because I have only read one issue–the issue that crosses over with NTT–but these team-up stories that are written by classic writers still give you what you paid for them.
Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?
Issue #188: Donate; Issue #196: Sell