Today is Norm Breyfolge’s birthday. Who is he? To me, his is a name that needs no introduction. It is possible that many comic fans today have forgotten or perhaps, not even heard of him. Norm Breyfogle is a Comic book artist that left a huge impression on me in a way that no other artist has. He is fondly remembered for his lengthy run on Detective Comics, Batman & Shadow Of The Bat.
Sadly Breyfolge suffered a serious stroke in December of last year that left left side of his body paralyzed. This is especially devastating to him because he is a left handed artist. On top of that his financial situation when it comes to medical care is rocky at best. So much so, that Breyfogle has had to turn to crowd funding to help foot the bill. Norm is showing signs of improvement of late but his comics career may be over.
I thought it best to pay tribute to a man that helped define the look of a character I love, and remind him that his art may be temporarily lost but it is not forgotten.
Norm Breyfogle has worked on a plethora of characters over his career but he is most associated with Batman. Particularly his partnership with writer, Alan Grant. Together they made Batman one of the best selling comics at a time when he was not, if you can believe it. They also added a large number of iconic characters to the Caped Crusader‘s world like Scarface: The Ventriloquist, Zsasz & Anarky.
The great thing about Breyfogle was that his art complemented the words perfectly and it allowed He & Grant to develop a consistency in the work. As a kid I was initially drawn to the art of those stories more than anything else. In fact my brother and I marveled at the way Norm drew a fight sequence. There was so much creativity and variety in every panel. You really got a great sense of the skill Batman had when dealing with multiple enemies. To this day I haven’t seen an artist that can craft a fight scene better than Norm, Here is a classic example of that energy and dynamism.
Another staple of Norm’s art was his penchant for drama. He certainly came from the school of Jack Kirby where everything had to be big and alive. Subtle wasn’t in the cards. This really made the pages explode with urgency and life. He also combined the athleticism and realism that Neal Adams gave Batman. Of course Breyfogle’s anatomy wasn’t as perfect as Neal Adams but that was sort of the point.
You have to give a nod to Steve Mitchell, whose inks helped accentuate Norm’s pencil’s all the more. Alan Grant & Norm Breyfogle’s Detective Comics & Batman run proved so successful that DC gave them their own series. At the time that series was Shadow Of The Bat. Fan favorite character Anarky got his own mini and eventually ongoing series. By the mid nineties Batman veteran scribe, Denny O’Neil wrote a graphic novel chronicling the origin of Bat Villain, Ra’s Al Ghul. Norm was hand picked for art on this endeavor and he did not disappoint turning in, perhaps his best work ever. It was an evolution for him. It combined the style that fans came to expect mixed in with a painted style.
Eventually Norm left the Bat books and that allowed him to do other things. He even managed to create, write and draw his own series called “Metaphysique” It was Norm’s baby and a true labor of love. It had a similar look to Birth Of The Demon but it was still it’s own thing. The book ran for only 6 issues but was well received.
Sadly I lost track of Norm’s work through the late 90’s and the bulk of the 2000’s. He did a few things here and there like draw a fill in issue of Black Panther, which I proudly own. No matter how rare or random it was, I always jumped at the chance to pick up anything Norm drew. Fortunately in 2011 DC put out a small collection of one shots called DC Retroactive, celebrating past comic icons telling new stories. Naturally Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle were called up to tell one more tale in the world of Batman. The result was a surprisingly more streamlined look to his art. Norm inked his own work this time and it looked different but still as exciting as I remember.
It’s entirely possible that while some people may not have remembered Norm’s interior work, they unknowingly might recognize his cover art. I can’t begin to list all the iconic covers Norm has done over the years. Here are six of my favorites.
Even as I post these and look at them I can’t help but smile and be taken back to my childhood.In July of this year DC will be putting out LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT: NORM BREYFOGLE HC.
I strongly urge all those out there that are comic fans to check out this man’s work. I thank you Norm Breyfogle for a treasure chest of memories. By the way, Happy Birthday.