SEMI-REGULAR MUSINGS FROM THE SEMI-REGULAR MIND OF WRITER J.M. DeMATTEIS
Wednesday, September 26, 2018
I just heard that Norm Breyfogle, one of the definitive Batman artists of all time, has passed away.
I had the pleasure of working with Norm on The Spectre and he was a wonderful collaborator: his drawing was powerful, his storytelling impeccable and he really thought about the stories.
Norm would call me up just to ask questions and discuss the philosophy underlying my scripts. He had a questing mind that dug deep—and that depth was reflected in his dynamic artwork.
A terrible loss and, at only 58, way too young.
My heartfelt condolences to Norm's family and friends.
Posted by J.M. DeMatteis at 7:05 PM
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I've been a Norm Breyfogle fan since I was in middle school. Norm happened to be the artist on the Batman series right when the first movie (with Michael Keaton) came out (I think he was doing detective and Aparo was doing Batman). When that movie came out the comic book series took off. When you read a title for the first time as a kid, you often associate the style of that character with who is drawing him at the time. I cannot begin to tell you how many comic book pros tell me that Steve Ditko is the definitive Spider-Man artist. Well, as a child of the 1980's I'm here to tell you that Norm Breyfogle was my definitive Batman artist.
I ended up writing Norm (like a hand written letter on paper letter) and he wrote me back. We exchanged a few letters and as technology grew so did my correspondence with him. At one point he had his own website with a message board (similar to yours but you could actually post your own topics). It was a lot of fun. He actually entrusted me to have admin rights on the board to remove some unwanted posts.
We would have some great conversations. He'd share his poetry, and thoughts on religion and the metaphysical.
I knew he had a stroke a few years ago, but I didn't realize that he was still struggling with health issues. I'm devastated by this news. I only met Norm once in person, but he was always so kind and caring when it came to corresponding to his fans.
The best way I can describe how much his art meant to me was, he was the only artist I ever commissioned to draw my family:
He drew this for me about 12 years ago. I have many other commissions and original art pages (from Spectre) in my collection, but this page of all the pages I own (and I am fortunate to own some great ones) means the most to me.
I unfortunately learned the news of his passing through your post here. Right now I'm just really in shock. I have a lot more things I'd like to say, but right now I just can't believe it.
Thank you so much for sharing that. Good to know that Norm was so kind to his fans (and I'm not the least bit surprised.)ReplyDelete
The family portrait is beautiful. What a treasure!
Feel free to share more Norm memories when you can.
I was writing to Norm back in 2002 and telling him how inspirational the Spectre comic book series was, and that I wanted purchase some of the original art pages from a few key issues. For sentimental reasons, I wanted art from issues #20 and #25, and visually, I wanted art from issue #19 (where he fights Darkseid...the only issue you didn't write in that series I believe).ReplyDelete
There was one specific page from Issue #19 (Pg. #7) where Hal Jordan (as the Spectre) lets loose and totally eradicates Darkseid. It was intense. I was telling Norm how awesome that page was and he told me that he originally drew the page very differently. He actually had Darkseid torn down to a skeletal frame, but the editors of the series rejected the image and wanted Darkseid less devastated. Norm re-drew Darkseid and they pasted up the part of the art that was acceptable to get the final image. Norm owned the final printed page, but not the originally drawn image. Once he told me that story, I wanted to at least see the original.
Norm explained that the way art was divided up was that the penciler of the series would get 2/3's of the original art back upon printing while the inker would get 1/3. He believed the inker of the series had the unused original page. That was Dennis Janke. I asked Norm if he could supply me with Dennis's contact information, which he did provide after getting clearance from Dennis.
I wrote to Dennis and just told him how much the series meant to me and asked if he'd be willing to part with the page if he did indeed own it. He responded by telling me that he didn't sell any of his art. I told him I understood and just asked if I could see a picture of it because I was curious. Three days later I got a package in the mail from Dennis Janke containing the original art. He wrote to me telling me that he didn't sell any of his art but occasionally would part with a page for a true fan (which I guess he deemed me because I still have it in my collection 16 years later).
There's no way Dennis would've been able to really comprehend what a fan I was of that series without Norm vouching for me privately. I own both those pages because of the generosity of both of those men, and I'm truly grateful.
Here's a link to the gallery where I have all of my Spectre art:
and here is a link to the unpublished Spectre vs. Darkseid battle:
Notice I have several pages with Miklos Karis (aka Rabid). I always had a special place in my heart for that character. That was one of my favorite issues of that series, and the way Norm and Dennis illustrated those final two pages of that beautifully written series always stuck with me. Even with all of the torment and pain he suffered, in the end, he was redeemed. Very beautiful.
Thanks, George. That art you linked to is beautiful and captures the essence of what made Norm's work so wonderful. His pages were dynamic, emotional, fluid...and the storytelling was clear as a bell.Delete
Can I ask what it was about Rabid that captured you?
I am someone who has very strong opinions about things. When I like something I typically love it, when I dislike something I typically hate it. So when the story starts off and you hear about this murdering behemoth, to me there's no story. It's very simple, this monstrosity has killed a bunch of innocent people and must pay the price. Why is the embodiment of redemption even following this piece of garbage? Then as the story progresses and you understand the character more and more, you start feeling compassion for this damaged man. By the end, my view took a complete 180. I don't change my opinions very often, and to see this issue play out and for me to go from "he's got to pay the price" to "he should be redeemed" was very memorable.Delete
Those final pages where you see Miklos in the electric chair surrounded by the souls of those he killed, and then again showing Miklos in his true form (before the ravages of those doctors experiments) really stuck with me.
In a nutshell, this story reinforced something I was beginning to understand more deeply at that time in my life, and that's that no one is beyond redemption.
Coincidentally, I just got back from attending the Baltimore Comic-Con (I met you there twice), where I got to meet P. Craig Russell (Cover Artist on issue #25). I had him sign this issue (as well as few others), so now I have you, Norm and PCR all on it. It's one of my treasured possessions.
Thanks so much for sharing that, George. Means a lot to me.Delete
Now I want to go back and reread that story!
Being an older comic fan my go to was usually Neal Adams for Batman, but I remembered when Breyfogle started doing Batman and I loved that stylized artwork so I bought all of those. I am sad that he has left us and it hit me really hard. This is the first time I've felt like addressing the impact he had on me as a comic book fan. I love his Batman. Pretty sure he helped created The Ventriloquist which is one of my favorite Batman villains.ReplyDelete
I think you're right about that, Douglas.Delete
Norm will be missed by so many. I hope he knew how much he was admired and appreciated.