FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION: DC’S LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT: norm BREYFOGLE
This post is Filed Under:
Home page Highlights,
Interviews and Columns
by Robert Greenberger
I’m not sure when I first met norm Breyfogle but it had to be sometime in the mid-1980s as he was transitioning from a discovery in new talent showcase to DC Comics’ regular artist on Detective Comics. I’m sure at our first meeting I apologized for saddling him with Tyroc in Who’s who #24. I certainly appreciated how he had quickly grown as an artist, enjoying his work on first Comics’ Whisper.
From 1988 through 1993, he was a regular artist in Gotham City, working mainly with Alan grant and churning out idiosyncratic stories that remain strong reads even today. Their work was typically overshadowed by whoever was on Batman, which was the main engine of the Bat office during those years.
Norm went on to a long, varied career, most recently seen in issues of Trinity of Sin: The Phantom Stranger. Then, unfortunately, he suffered a stroke in December and like so many freelancers, lacked medical insurance. The comics community has come out in his support, donating funds through You Caring and he is at home, recuperating now, still in need of our support.
Legends of the Dark Knight: norm Breyfogle
Thankfully, without saying much about it, DC has scheduled Legends of the Dark Knight: norm Breyfogle to arrive this summer.
Detective Comics #579
Breyfogle cut his teeth in Batman annual #11 with “Love Bird”, a Penguin tale written by Max Allan Collins. norm was then assigned to Detective Comics with #579, a Mike W. Barr story featuring the old-time foe the crime Doctor. His lengthy run began in earnest with issue #582, a tie-in with the weekly Millennium event, pairing him with Jo Duffy. The following issue began his long working relationship with Alan Grant. grant was at the tail end of his collaboration with John Wagner at this point with Wagner coming and going over the next few issues. Here, we meet the memorable Ventriloquist and Dummy. You had to feel sympathy for poor Arnold Wesker, a timid, not-very-good performer, whose life was usurped by the demonic, wooden dummy.
Batman faces the Ratcatcher in Detective Comics #586
Following came the Ratcatcher then the Corrosive man and Mr. Kadaver, not the most memorable foes, but ones who would recur for years and years to come. Editor Denny O’Neil was still getting a feel for Norm’s work, using a variety of inkers early on including Pablo Marcos and Ricardo Villagran. norm even got to ink himself here and there but settled in to a long, fine looking relationship with Steve Mitchell.
In 1988, norm was drafted to illustrate the back-up story to Batman annual #12 which is one of the very few comic scripts I wrote and has the distinction of being the sole solo Jason Todd as Robin.
Detective Comics #604
When the duo did play with established rogues, the two put their stamp on them such as the memorable Mudpack stories, bringing Basil Karlo (Clayface I); Preston Payne (Clayface III); and Sondra Fuller (Clayface IV) together for the first time.
Norm’s run had a break but he returned with grant for issues 601-607. What’s interesting to see here is that he’s finally installed as the regular cover artist and his distinctive design sense is finally on display monthly. The first three issues bring Jason Todd and Etrigan the Demon back to Gotham for supernatural caper. The final four issues here is the memorable Mudpack adventure.
Detective Comics #603
In an interview with Jeffery Klaehn, norm said, “My holistic approach (not only to comics but also to everything else) leads to a certain malleability in all my techniques, so that I rarely repeat page designs, opting instead to allow each page to evolve its own unique identity, based on the intention of the story’s script. I believe this fluidity is why I can do many different genres without it looking forced or inappropriate, as well.
“Style usually or typically isn’t planned; it tends to grow naturally out of practice and in the artist’s adaptation to the demands of the job. I’d say that my version of Batman grew out of my drawing abilities and how that meshed with the parameters of the Batman mythos as interpreted by Alan grant (who wrote most of the Batman scripts I drew). Although my favorite past Batman artists had their impact on my drawing, I never tried to copy anyone’s style directly (not even Neal Adams’). Instead, I consciously chose to let my own muse direct me.”
It should be noted that grant and Breyfogle also gave the world the teen who would be Anarky, allowing them to explore political ideologies in the guise of action-packed stories. He is also credited as a co-creator of Mr. Zsasz (who has been seen on Gotham so hopefully there’s bonus offer money coming his way), Jeremiah Arkham, Amygdala, and Cornelius Stirk, all recurring players ever since. The Grant/Breyfogle team was solid and dependable, deserving of the spotlight so when DC added shadow of the Bat to the schedule, they moved from ‘Tec to there.
While the pair played good soldiers in the mega-events that were common to the era, they rarely contributed the pivotal stories. An exception would be the revelation of what fate befell Tim Drake’s parents, making him the latest orphan to become Robin. They also gave us the hunchback genius Harold, who may have been an antagonist at first, but soon became a positive fixture in the Batcave and a sympathetic player in the cast for years to come.
Detective Comics #590
Norm brought an angular dynamism to Batman, Robin and the rest of the cast. He had a strong design sense not only for the characters but the architecture, too. Gotham was visually unique in his hands and each new resident was a modern day descendant of the grotesque villains of the golden Age. With Grant, each new opponent was flawed, fractured, and twisted, an outcast of society. For dozens of issues, they were never less than entertaining and more typically than not thought provoking.
I highly recommend this book to those who like solid storytelling and good Batman tales.
Legends of the Dark Knight: norm Breyfogle
Classic comic covers from the Grand Comics Database.