Legendary Batman Artist Norm Breyfogle Passes Away At Age 58
Norm Breyfogle needs no introduction for many comic fans. The man’s unique style, insane amount of content, and universal praise made him one of the defining aspect of late 80s and 90s DC.
Norm’s artistic talents where on display at DC when he was just 17, having his submission of a Robin costume being featured in Batman Family 13.
Breyfogle’s first professional work was in 1984’s DC’s New Talent Showcase, as well as some work with First Comics and Eclipse Comics. He got the chance to showcase his ability to draw superheroes with Marvel Fanfare 29 in 1986.
After just 4 years of work starting with New Talent Showcase, Breyfogle was given art duties on Detective Comics and was paired up with the great Alan Grant. Breyfogle had worked on a horror anthology when at First, and this new duo leaned into that big time.
Alan and Norm kicked off their run with Detective Comics 579 in 1987.
Over the course of 1987-1993 Breyfogle and Grant worked on 37 issues of Detective and in the process created: Ventriloquist, Anarky, Cornelius Stirk and Ratcatcher. They also brought all the Clayface incarnations together in the Mudpack arc, giving the original, Basil Karlo superpowers for the first time. The two played up the moody environments, the nigh-mythical aspects of Batman, and the horror of the evil that lurked in Gotham city. These are the guys who created a villain named Ratcatcher, and made him terrifying, having his rats rip people to shreds in a matter of seconds.
Breyfogle could make the whole world seem dark and malignant, while also nailing the tangible street level element of detective stories like these. He played with gore and would often cover Batman in shadows, and yet his Batman always still had blue on and his symbol was more yellow than ever. That ability to merge horror and superhero so amazingly is far from easy, other Batman artists who I think are amazing still have some trouble combining those two elements. Breyfogle did is seamlessly.
Amidst that their run on Detective Norm and Alan left to go over to the Batman title in 1990 starting with issue 455. The Batman writers and editors had created Tim Drake, the third Robin, but now that he was set up in Lonely Place of Dying and Grant and Breyfogle’s Rite of Passage (which was the last arc the two did in the Detective run right before switching books) he would need to begin completing his journey to becoming Robin.
In this time Breyfogle and Grant where among the first to have Tim as an active Robin, they gave Batman another ally Harold, Batman’s mute mechanic who subverted the horror themes of the book, as well as bringing in Sarah Essen from Year One and setting up her and Jim’s marriage.
In 1992 Grant and Breyfogle where moved over to the new title Shadow of the Bat. Breyfogle only stuck around for this first arc and a few issues down the line, but in just these first 5 issues the team created Jeremiah Arkham, Victor Zsasz, and Amygdala. The two worked together on two Anarky mini series, one of their creations who the two had a big soft spot for.
Norm dedicated the majority of his career to Batman, and truly shaped him for an entire generation of fans artistically. Norm passed away September 24th, our thoughts are with his family and friends. I highly encourage people go out and buy Legends of the Dark Knight: Norm Breyfogle. The first volume is out of print, but the second one is being released this November and his work is easy to find in single issues. The man’s art is distinct, memorable, and his impact on Batman is an immense one.