Original Art Stories: Norm Breyfogle's Marvel Fanfare Batman Story
You read that right. Norm sold Marvel a story featuring one of DC Comics flagship characters. How did this happen and when was this printed? Back in 1986, just before Norm began work for First Publishing, he submitted a story to DC where he’d done some work as part of Sal Amendola’s New Talent Showcase. The story featured Batman taking down an oversized villain in a school where the villain has taken two young children hostage. During the story Batman has to rely on his wits and fighting skills only as he can’t use anything in his utility belt for fear of accidentally hurting the children. The story has a happy ending as the children, one of whom had bullied the other, see Batman use brain and brawn, thus setting them both onto different paths and securing their friendship.
Although the story was a short one and would make a good back-up feature, DC passed. Not to be deterred Norm merely cut the Batman images out, replaced them with freshly drawn Captain America figures at the request of Marvel Fanfare editor Al Milgrom. Milgrom slotted the story into Marvel Fanfare #29, where it was presented as a back-up to an all splash page Hulk story written and drawn by John Byrne. Breyfogle’s art solution also solves the mystery of why every page from the story features a cut out, pasted in image of Captain America, a question that has raised several theories over the years.
Even though Marvel bought and published the story the fact that Captain America acted, well, less like Captain America than an earlier story by Rogers McKenzie and Stern and drawn by Frank Miller. In that story Captain America acted more like, well Daredevil or Batman than Captain America. Norm’s subterfuge was noticed. "The funny thing about that story was that DC didn't like the artwork, and didn't like Norm's work," Mike Friedrich said later, "(so) Al Milgrom over at Marvel had Norm redraw the story as a Captain America story. Al says that after Norm's story ran, editor-in-chief Jim Shooter said, ‘This story was all wrong for Captain America - he acted like Batman.’" “As I understand it,” said Norm years later, “when Shooter made that statement he didn't know the story's origin as a Batman story.”
And what happened to all of those cut-out Batman images? Norm told me years after the event that he threw all of the Batman illustrations in the bin shortly after he cut them out. So unless you have access to the dump where they ended up, it’s no use looking for them. Luckily Norm did scan a few pages before he cut them out, and you can see those pages here, for the first time ever.
These pages, and many more, the bulk of which have been unpublished, unseen or are simply rare, will be appearing in the forthcoming Art Of Norm Breyfogle, which will be appearing at some point in 2011. Watch this space for more details.