In Memoriam: Comic Artist Norm Breyfogle

Art by Norm Breyfogle as part of the character's 1992 re-design. Via 20th Century Danny Boy

Art by Norm Breyfogle as part of the character’s 1992 re-design. Via 20th Century Danny Boy

We’re sorry to report the passing of award-winning American comic artist Norm Breyfogle, aged 58, and artist perhaps best known for his work on DC Comics Batman and Detective Comics, who worked with a number of British creators over his much-admired and influential career.

Commenting on the news, Alan Grant, who wrote many of the Batman stories Norm drew, said he was “absolutely heartbroken to hear of the death of a great artist and a good friend.

“I worked with Norm for a dozen years or more on batman and he is still the definitive Batman artist for me. A good friend we spent many hours in philosophical discussion.. a speciality of Norm’s! He’ll be greatly missed by myself, family, friends, fans and the comic world.”

Also paying tribute, fellow artist Dave Gibbons described him as “a great storyteller whose Batman was definitive for so many.”

“With his dynamic and expressive style, he was one of the beloved, definitive Batman artists,  who brought him to life for generations of appreciative comics fans,” said artist and publisher Jim Lee.

Born in 1960 in Iowa City, Iowa, Norm liked to draw from a very early age, taking private lessons from commercial artist Andrew Benson from aged 12 and winning his first award at a town and country art show. The Daily Mining Gazette, a newspaper in Houghton, Michigan,  where Norm was living at his death, profiled him in 1976 as “Norm Breyfogle: Near Master Cartoonist at 16.” During his time in high school, he co-plotted, wrote, and illustrated a comic book titled Tech Team for Michigan Technological University.

A Batman illustration by Norm Breyfogle, drawn during his senior year of high school. Via the Norm Breyfogle - The Art of Batman Facebook Group

A Batman illustration by Norm Breyfogle, drawn during his senior year of high school. Via the Norm Breyfogle – The Art of Batman Facebook Group

After high school, Norm attended Northern Michigan University, studying Painting and Illustration, also working as an Illustrator for a local magazine and also for a graphics company. Moving to California in 1982, he worked for various companies as a draftsman, and later for United Space Boosters as a technical illustrator designing a training manual for the Space Shuttle program.

In 1984, Mike Friedrich (President of Star Reach, the comics talent representative agency) saw Norm’s work hanging at the San Diego Con Art Show and began a professional relationship with Norm that lasted until 2001. Norm also at this time worked on two issues of DC’s New Talent Showcase.

A page from "Pacer" for New Talent Showcase, written by Dave Hudak, art by Norm Breyfogle. © DC COmics

A page from “Pacer” for New Talent Showcase, written by Dave Hudak, art by Norm Breyfogle. © DC COmics

He then drew issues of First Comics’ American Flagg, penciling a back-up story titled “Bob Violence”, in 1985. and drew for Tales of Terror, a horror anthology published by Eclipse Comics. Following that, and still breaking into the comic scene, Norm wrote, illustrated, and lettered a Captain America story that still sticks in my memory, for Marvel Fanfare #29 in 1986.

A page from Norm Breyfogle's Captain America story for Marvel Fanfare #29. © Marvel

A page from Norm Breyfogle’s Captain America story for Marvel Fanfare #29. © Marvel

He then drew Whisper for First Comics in 1986-1987 – his first monthly book – before landing a big series he’s always dreamed of: Detective Comics, starring Batman, published by DC Comics.

Batman Villains by Norm Breyfogle

Batman Villains by Norm Breyfogle

Teamed with writer Alan Grant, Norm helped repopularise Batman and revive the sales of Detective Comics. He drew the Batman for six years (1987-93), penciling Detective Comics from 1987-1990, then moving to Batman to introduce the new Robin from 1990-1992, and finally starting a new Batman series for DC titled Shadow of the Bat from 1992-1993.

Cover art for Batman #465 by Norm Breyfogle

Cover art for Batman #465 by Norm Breyfogle

During his time drawing the Dark Knight, he co-created the villains Ventriloquist and Ratcatcher with writers Alan Grant and John Wagner, and the characters Anarky, Jeremiah Arkham, Victor Zsasz, and Amygdala with Grant alone.

 The original pencil/inks for Batman 459 by Norm Breyfogle

The original pencil/inks for Batman 459

Detective Comics #590 - Norm Breyfogle

The cover of Detective Comics #608, one of Norm Breyfogle's favourites on the book

The cover of Detective Comics #608, one of Norm Breyfogle’s favourites on the book

During his six year run on the character of the Batman, he also did a few Batman one-shots, two of them being Batman: Holy Terror (an Elseworlds story) and hand painted Batman: Birth of the Demon.

“I loved doing Batman, but I frankly wish I’d gotten the gig a few years later, after my skills had matured a little more” Breyfogle said in an interview for  the Superman Homepage. “I look at a lot of that stuff now – especially my drawn faces – and wince.

“But all things considered, that was a wonderfully dreamlike time in my life, and I’m grateful that DC gave me such a grand opportunity.”

He drew a few more stories featuring Batman in 1993 before moving on to Prime, a new series for Malibu Comics’ Ultraverse line, co-created with writers Gerard Jones and Len Strazewski. He helped popularise the character, before leaving after a full year to create, write and illustrate his own creator-owned original character, Metaphysique, between 1994 and 1995.

A stunning double page spread from Metaphysique #5 by Norm Breyfogle. © Norm Breyfogle

A stunning double page spread from Metaphysique #5 by Norm Breyfogle. © Norm Breyfogle

The six issue mini-series received acclaimed reviews (Metaphysique was also the title of a previous two issue anthology which collected work Norm had written, penciled, and inked in college; this two issue Metaphysique was published in 1992, by Eclipse Comics). But the title came to an end after Marvel bought Malibu

“Prime was wonderful,” Norm recalled. “It was a heady time in comics and there was good money involved. Unfortunately that bubble burst half-way through my run on Metaphysique and I had to re-negotiate my contract and do the last three issues for free, which I did because I needed to finish the story for aesthetic closure’s sake.

“The saddest part of the end of the Ultraverse is that after Marvel bought all the characters they stopped publishing them. They still own the copyrights, of course, and I’d be happy to draw Prime again, but Marvel has rejected all proposals to revive those characters. Don’t ask me why; I haven’t a clue.”

In 1996, Norm illustrated another short run on Shadow of the Bat for DC Comics, and penciled an Anarky mini-series for DC, which lead to a regular series in 1998.  He also returned to Batman, co-plotting and penciling a one-shot titled Batman: The Abduction, and also penciled a few Superman stories during this time.

In 1999, Norm began work co-plotting, penciling, and inking Batman: Dreamland, (written by Alan Grant), a sequel to 1998’s Batman: The Abduction. He also penciled and inked an Elseworld’s story (written by Pat McGreal) involving the Flash, titled Flashpoint. During this time, Anarky, despite the great stories and wonderful artwork, was canceled.

In 2000, Norm penciled a pair of annuals for Marvel Comics, which led to a mini-series titled Hellcat.

Incredibly Norm Norm found himself without comics work for the first time in over 13 years in 2001, forcing him to sell his house and return to upper Michigan where he grew up, but he took advantage of the time off before the move to learn to type and use a computer, and began work on a novel. But the comics world soon pulled him back, with more work for DC Comics on The Spectre which he drew for a year until it was cancelled.

He worked pencilled and inked Black Tide, published by Angel Gate Press in 2003 and began work on an illustrated children’s book for the local Society of St. John Monastery in 2004, put together a couple printed sketchbooks showcasing his work, and continued writing his novel. He also wrote over 40 poems and over 1300 haikus in a five month marathon.

In 2005 Norm penciled and inked the interiors and covers of the new on-going monthly title Of Bitter Souls from the production house Relative Comics, published by Speakeasy Comics (and, later, published by Markosia) and written by Chuck Satterlee.

In 2006-2007 Norm penciled and inked the main story interiors and the covers for the comic book The Danger’s Dozen, published by A First Salvo. He also began a professional relationship with the London-based art agency Debut Art and created numerous illustrations for many venues outside of the comics milieu, for clients from around the world.

In 2007 Norm provided illustrations for Stephen Pytak’s second prose novel, The .40 Caliber Mousehunt, and penciled and inked a “New Look” story arc for Archie Comics publications in 2008 – 2009.

In 2009, Norm accepted the offer to pencil the interiors (and to pencil and ink the covers) of two brand new titles from Archie Comics, Archie Loves Veronica and Archie Loves Betty. He also began work on 21 full-colour illustrations for Stephen Pytak’s third novel, The Wild Damned.

He returned to DC to draw DC Retroactive: Batman – The ’90s, written by Alan Grant, in October 2011, and contributed art to DC’s Batman Beyond Unlimited digital comic series from 2012–2013.

 

Pencils for Batman Beyond Unlimited #6 by Norm Breyfogle

Pencils for Batman Beyond Unlimited #6 by Norm Breyfogle

Sadly he suffered a stroke in December 2014 which left him unable to draw, just before he was due to work on Judge Dredd for the first time, for the 2015 2000AD Free Comic Book Day special, prompting a crowdfunding campaign to help him that included replacement artist Mike Hawthorne donating his fee for drawing 2000AD to the cause.

“Artist Norm Breyfogle’s undeniable impact on the Dark Knight will live on in the hearts of his fans,” a spokesperson said for DC Comics. “Our thoughts are with his friends and family.

“The definitive Batman artist for a generation – but of course, he did so much more than that,” notes writer Al Ewing. “His mastery of line, flow, storytelling and emotion – both subtle and operatic – shone through in every panel.”

Norm Breyfogle, born 27th February 1960, died 24th September 2018. Funeral arrangements will be announced by the Erickson Crowley Peterson Funeral Home.

WEB LINKS

• Official Site: http://normbreyfogle.com

• If you are on Facebook, then join the discussion of Norm’s work on Norm Breyfogle – The Art of Batman

• 24th Century Danny Boy has Norm Breyfogle’s 1992 re-designs for Batman here and his 1990 re-designs for Robin here 

Read a wide-ranging interview with Norm titled “Welcome to the Comic Book Work Force! (Sucker!)” about the comics industry

• Industry professional tributes to Norm Breyfogle on comicbook.com and CBR

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Batman © DC Comics

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.



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