Batman Artist Norm Breyfogle Needs Some Heroes.

She's right, you know.  It's time to stop fighting dinosaurs and give a comics creator a hand.

She’s right, you know. It’s time to stop fighting dinosaurs and give a comics creator a hand.

December 17, artist Norm Breyfogle was hospitalized due to a stroke. For many Batman fans, Norm Breyfogle stands out as one of the top artists from late 20th Century where he was the penciller for Detective Comics from 1987 until 1993 as well as working on the Batman series from 1990 to 1992. He also was one of the co-creators of Prime for Malibu Comics’ “Ultraverse” line of characters. Prime is the hugely muscled buy above, fighting a dinosaur.

I made no effort to draw like Mr. Breyfogle…his visual style is too unique. Having never attempted to emulate it, I didn’t want to start now. As I go through the post, I’ll be dropping in some art by him, hopefully to stimulate interest in helping out this gifted creator.

The fact is…Norm Breyfogle is a pretty excellent artist. After suffering his stroke, he had some pretty serious issues, most notably with his left hand. Being a lefty, that’s a pretty big deal. That hand has drawn Batman punching out countless thugs…but this week, speaking from a Michigan nursing home bed where he’s recovering his stroke, Breyfogle told an interviewer that his left hand’s heroic act that day was managing to lift a glass of water.

Breyfogle's distinctive visual style on Batman.

Breyfogle’s distinctive visual style on Batman.

Like many comic book artists before him, Breyfogle is experiencing the brutal reality of being in the industry, where freelance artists with marginal or no insurance can find themselves crushed under medical bills from career-altering illness or injury.

Thousands of fans have donated more than $90,000 to an online fundraiser to help address $200,000 in medical bills. The Hero Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to helping comic book creators in need, is also extending a helping hand along with Batman’s publisher DC Comics, which announced the publication of a hardcover anthology of Breyfogle’s Batman work due for July.

Norm's Stephanie Brown Robin.

Norm’s Stephanie Brown Robin.

Looking at the pieces above, it’s pretty clear that his line work, that his entire visual style, is unique. You look at a page, and you can pretty much tell that Breyfogle drew it, in the same way that John Byrne’s linework is distinctive, or Dave Gibbons. Sadly, he has no idea whether he will regain full use of his left hand that’s drawn hundreds of heroes throughout the years. He has vowed to learn to draw with his right hand, if necessary.

That’s…incredible mental fortitude. That’s the kind of guy you just have to respect.

Despite such Epic Level courage, he faces a grueling recovery from the stroke…which numbed his entire left side. Luckily, his vision and intellectual faculties were not affected. Still, Norm must re-learn such basic motions as walking, and work to regain use of his hand. That therapy will take at least half a year and comes with a hefty six-figure price tag.

The generous fan donations to date will cover only a “month or so” of the rehab he needs, and that’s not counting his living expenses. It’s a tough road, and one that many comics creators have had to face. Peter David, a beloved comics writer, had a stroke in 2012. Thankfully, he recovered, but he also needed help from Hero Initiative, fans, and other creators.

Breyfogle's co-creation, Prime, now owned by Marvel Comics.  He looks cooler fighting the dinosaur Norm's way.

Breyfogle’s co-creation, Prime, now owned by Marvel Comics. He looks cooler fighting the dinosaur Norm’s way.

Breyfogle, a political liberal, is a fan of Obamacare, but was uninsured at the time of his stroke. “Stupidly, I did not sign up for Obamacare,” he says. “I just never got around to it. I was on the hamster wheel of meeting deadlines. I was in denial.”

That’s where The Hero Initiative comes in. Jim McLauchlin co-founded the organization 15 years ago, inspired by a similar Major League Baseball program to help ex-ballplayers from the days before giant contracts. Since then, the Initiative has aided about 70 comics artist and writers with approximately $750,000 in emergency funding. I know Jim, and have for about twenty years…he’s exactly the kind of person you’d think he is, what with setting up that kind of organization.

McLauchlin says fans often assume that major comic-book corporations are heartless and don’t care about the artists who helped build them, but that assumption is far from the truth. “The greatest supporter of The Hero Initiative from Day One is Marvel Comics,” he says.

That’s a wonderful thing to hear, especially from someone that I trust. Marvel in fact, would be able to help Norm out by putting Prime back into print…except the deal that bought the characters from Malibu Comics is structured in a way to make that unworkable. That’s pretty sad, all told, since that material has not seen print since the mid 90’s at best. It’s not marvel’s fault…even though Joe Quesada played it close to the vest, it’s fairly clear that the problem is due to some machination in the sale by Scott Rosenberg. Scott, unlike Marvel, is not well known for playing well with creators, and is somewhat legendary on that front.

Again, a shame. The visual style of Prime was both of its era, and unique.

Prime, by Norm Breyfogle.  Not fighting a dinosaur.

Prime, by Norm Breyfogle. Not fighting a dinosaur.

Fans still remain a crucial part of the recovery as well, whether through direct donations or through purchasing his work in reprint…such as the upcoming DC hardcover in July. Breyfogle apparently gets pretty emotional when he speaks of the “immense financial response from my fans. I’m just overwhelmed by it…I love every one of them.”

So…once again…this is a kind, good hearted man who had created many, many excellent comics. He’s given me personally hours of enjoyment. When I worked together with Skybox on the Ultraverse trading cards, he was this nice, energetic, thoughtful guy, with positive feedback for everyone who loved comics. He could use a hand…quite literally, True Believers.

So…you can donate directly to his recovery here, in case you missed the links. Or, if you don’t want to scroll up, but like the idea of Hero Initiative, which helps all comics creators in trouble…click here.

And directly to you, Mr. Breyfogle, should you read it…I hope that you have a fast and easy recovery.

Next Issue: Flash 75th Anniversary…with a heavy handed metaphor!


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