Jim Aparo Detective Comics #438

Detective Comics #438

Dec 1973 - Jan 1974 issue, DC Comics

Batman Strikes

Batman Strikes - Jim AParo Art

Detective Comics #438, Dec 1973 - reprint edition from Tales of the Batman - Archie Goodwin 2013 hardback collection.

A Monster Walks Wayne Manor
Written by Archie Goodwin, 12 pages
Art by Jim Aparo

In this 1973 Detective Comics tale, Batman/Bruce Wayne is living in a downtown Gotham City penthouse apartment, but when Wayne Manor (well outside of town in a rural setting) is vandalized by teenagers, Alfred decides to check on the closed-up manor house only to get attacked and nearly killed in the process. Police investigations don't provide an explanation for who did the attack, but they suspect someone is hiding inside the enormous structure.

Bruce Wayne hires a paranormal expert named Varnov to see if the mansion is haunted, at least that's what it appears to be happening, and a disgusted Commissioner Gordon (he thinks Wayne is being flippant about the near-death of his butler, when in fact we can see the angry emotion that clouds Wayne's face when no one is looking). Gordon then pulls out his investigating police officers and leaves Wayne and Varnov to solve the mystery in his unorthodox way.

Finally alone, Varnov suddenly gasses Wayne who keels over to the floor, and Varnov begins wrecking the room, trying to make enough noise to draw the attention of what is hiding somewhere else in the mansion, but when he turns back to look at the unconscious Wayne, he instead finds an angry Batman. Varnov then pleads for he and Batman to join forces and to pursue capturing the 'monster' in Wayne Manor, Varnov explains that it may hold the key to indefinite extended life spans, and could be worth a fortune in research and pharmaceutical development...

Goodwin's Writing

Archie Goodwin's 12-page A Monster Walks Wayne Manor Batman story contains more detail (and written narrative) than is usual in modern comic books where heavy reliance on visual storytelling is the norm. For example, Goodwin inserts "his cry was almost that of an animal" on page 11, an audible detail that is almost impossible to inform a reader visually. This appeal to an additional sensory (besides seeing) is a detail that helps to round out the story in a fundamental way not often bothered with by other writers.

Elsewhere, Goodwin uses abbreviated scenes with Gordon and short flashbacks with Alfred to establish what appears to have have happened to the hospitalized Wayne family servant. But once all of that is brought together, Goodwin (and artist Jim Aparo) get down to business and focus on the confrontation between Batman, Varnov, and the "monster."

Aparo

Artist Jim Aparo has a lot to do in a short amount of space, and he often resorts to the classic 6-panel grid page to fit it all in. In a way, DC Comics' is giving the reader a normal length Batman tale (which is basically 21 to 24 pages) but has packed it into a tighter format that doesn't waste a bit of space, but does lack a rounded cast of characters.

In this issue, Aparo's art is near his peak form, and Goodwin's writing is compact and contains wry observations and careful pacing, all of which makes for much better than average Bat-quality.

Jim Aparo Batman Art  - Detective Comics 438 - 1973


Jim Aparo in Detective Comics #438

Aparo's concise embellishing is marred by the awful gravure printing (see the page scan at the top. The better artwork repropanels are from the Archive Goodwin Tales of tyhe Batman hardcover compilation, 2013), but enough of Aparo's art comes through that you can see his skills near the top of his form.

One of Aparo's great talents was rendering consistent proportions within his personal anatomy system regarding the human form, which can be seen here, panel-to-panel. Another talent was that Aparo used fingers and hand motion as an expression of emotion from a story.


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