Aparo was my first "favorite" artist. Back when I though Kirby was just a bit too weird (to say nothing of Ditko), I thought Aparo had a great, versatile style that set him apart from the rest -- and I still do.
For years he drew THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD, the DC team-up book that paired Batman with...well, with everyone, from an old version of Sgt. Rock (above) to the Legion of Super Heroes to Zatanna to the Blackhawks to Supergirl to the Joker to Black Canary to the Hawk and the Dove (an especially fine issue written by Alan Brennart -- whatever happened to him?) to the Huntress to the (grown up) Earth 2 Robin to Kamandi to just about everyone. And Aparo could do it all, from the past to the future and everything in between. Inking (and lettering!) his own work, he gave it a distinctive, lush look, more like Caniff than your run-of-the-mill comic book artist. The guy knew faces, he knew anatomy, he knew how to stage a scene and he knew how let white space (or black space) add balance and drama to a panel. Solid but never boring. His pages moved, man, and you always knew where they were going. His drawing was beautiful, but his storytelling was even better.
His Batman ranks with the best versions of the character. He gave him an athleticism and a sense of drama that fit perfectly with that more innocent version. It's too bad that his best-selling comic was that lame-ass "Death of Robin" mini-series, because he did much, much better work (with much better stories) on THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD, AQUAMAN and THE SPECTRE. Most of these will require a trip through the back-issue bins (and it's worth it) but DC recently collected THE SPECTRE in a trade, and it's good stuff -- with Michael Fleischer's strange, violent scripts perfectly brought to life by Aparo.
That is a self-portrait of Aparo on THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD cover at the top of this entry. "Small War of the Super Rifles" is a typically wonky Bob Haney story that is just as "meta" as the cover suggests. Batman and Rock are investigating the theft of some experimental rifles by a Gotham terrorist group called "The Thousand." The group realizes it can stop Batman and Rock by forcing Aparo to draw them getting killed in the comic book (that's apparently depicting the story that's happening to all of them, right at that moment!) so he hides out at a friend's lighthouse on Long Island and, with the help of Haney and editor Murray Boltinoff, finishes the book and saves the day. It's as strange as the movie ADAPTATION or Grant Morrison's last issue of ANIMAL MAN, but remember -- this was a comic book from 1976, when kids were the ones who read the damn things. In fact, this is the first time I've read it in at least 20 years, and I never realized just how surreal it actually is. But Aparo's art, as always, grounds the action and makes it completely understandable and believable. In fact, I'll let his last panel from the book close out this entry. Rest in peace, Mr. Aparo. You will be missed.