Friday, September 17, 2010

Original Art Stories: Norm Breyfogle's Marvel Fanfare Batman Story

Years before Norm Breyfogle landed in Riverdale to draw the adventures of Archie, he had a career with Marvel and DC. But even before that he was a young artist, trying to break into the comic book industry and spent time appearing at conventions and plying his wares. A meeting with Mike Friedrich soon saw Norm on the way to stardom and Batman, but even before Bob Violence and Whisper, Norm did something amazing and sold Marvel Comics a 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.


And just for fun, as a bonus, here's Norm inking the King himself, Jack Kirby, on, what else?  Captain American vs Batman!

4 comments:

George said...

You have no idea how much this article just made my day. I am so happy to be ablive to be able to read something like this. I knew about this story for years, but I never thought I'd get to see the original artwork.

How lucky am I to have Marvel Fanfare #29 signed by Norm Breyfogle. By the way, the main story in that is one of the Hulk by John Byrne. Great story in its own right. "Justice is served".

Can you tell us more about the "Art of Norm Breyfogle" book?

Thank you so much Danny.

Daniel Best said...

I can indeed. The text has been finished and is now being edited. Norm is checking it out and has said that he's happy with it, so it's full steam ahead. I'll reveal some more details on this blog in the next few weeks.

If I can't get a publisher interested in it then I'll do it myself, ala the Jim Mooney book.

George said...

Any idea why Norm originally drew Batman without a cape?

Norm Breyfogle said...

In the story, Batman removes his cape and fixes it to flutter at a window, distracting the crook, so Batman can attack from behind.