RIP Norm Breyfogle

The definitive Batman artists on the late 80’s and most of the 90’s, Norm Breyfogle, has sadly passed away at 58. Norm was one of those Batman artists who pop up every decade to redefine the character and indeed, if you’re around 30-40 and started reading comics as a kid then Breyfogle’s Batman is probably the first version you saw.

I loved Breyfogle’s work. It dropped at a time when DC Comics took risks, even with their prize cash cow Batman, who at that point in the late 80’s with the first Tim Burton Batman film was enjoying success like never before so dropping Breyfogle as the main artist in Detective Comics, DC’s secondary Batman title then written by Alan Grant and John Wagner was a comfortable mix of the old and new as Breyfogle took inspiration from the likes of Neal Adams, Carmine Infantino, Nick Cardy, and then newer artists like Alan Davis and Todd McFarlane, but quickly developed a style purely his.

Throughout the 90’s Breyfogle made Batman his own, and with Alan Grant they carved the last great version of Batman before the character turned into someone who could do anything, beat anyone and the idea of a detective fighting evil in his city slipped away.

With writer Alan Brennert he drew Batman: Holy Terror, an alternative version of the Batman myth where Bruce Wayne has been brought up within the church in a story which published today would probably cause merry hell. In fact I doubt with America swinging so far to the right that a company like DC would even commission this.

Breyfogle went to great heights in the 90’s and it’s forgotten he was one of Malibu’s Big Star Names when they launched the Ultraverse with his own title, Prime, being one of the flagship titles.

In the 2000’s things changed. DC sacked Alan Grant from the Batman titles while Breyfogle’s art didn’t fit a DC establishing a house style and a changing editorial structure which Grant in particular was a severe critic of. This left Breyfogle in some barren times before in 2014 he suffered a stroke and was left crushed upon the rocks of the American healthcare system.

After I had my own stroke I chatted with Norm a few times on social media and did my own wee thing to raise his plight but from conversations it was clear a mix of worry about finances and post-stroke pain (something that without painkillers leaves you in constant chronic pain when it hits) but there was always humour and a will to do better. Sadly he’s no longer around to spread his humour and at 58 left the world far, far too early. He leaves behind a body of work I hope is reappraised as be some of the very best superhero work of the last 25 years, and I hope that his death highlights the problems comics professionals have with working without a safety net, especially in a country like America. If anything that may mean no other professional has to struggle as Breyfogle did and that’s a good way to remember a man who gave so much to the industry.

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Running up that hill-The ongoing story of my stroke/cancer

Yesterday I was in extreme agony. I could seriously only focus for 30 minutes or so a time without the aid of painkillers or having to lie down so I went to bed early, dropped a couple of herbal sleeping tablets (not that type of herb before you ask) and slept eight hours in one stretch which is virtually unknown to me since the stroke in February.

I woke up this morning feeling better, in fact there wasn’t an acute stabbing agony going up my thigh to my hip and then spine as there has been for the last ten days or so. My back still hurts, there’s still a dull ache in my thigh but I ventured out the flat today which was good though walking down steps is really quite painful but walking up them is fine. As this stands I’ll take this as an improvement though I’m not going to beat Usain Bolt or The Flash anytime soon.

flashinfantino

Hopefully I’m at a situation where the arthritis or sciatica becomes manageable til it’s diagnosed and a medical solution helps me out. Thanks for the good wishes, it is appreciated when things hit a bad phase but I’m going to ask everyone to send some good wishes to someone else too.

That person is Norm Breyfogle.  Norm’s a comic book artist best known for his wonderful work on Batman in the 1980’s and 1990’s, his work on Batman:Holy Terror (written by the equally wonderful Alan Brennert) is some of the best stuff you’ll see in a superhero comic of any era.

batmanholyterror

Norm suffered a stroke which affected his left side (mine affected my right side) but because he’s in the US, he doesn’t have the support of something like the NHS which we have here in the UK, which I’d be honest in saying had I lived in a country without something like the NHS I’d probably be dead, or on the way to a grave right now instead of moaning about a sore back.

I follow Norm on Facebook, he’s a genuinely decent bloke but he’s suffering post-stroke pain, something it seems isn’t widely discussed in the US, yet has been discussed with me in the months since mine and indeed, the NHS has done plenty of research into. His problems lie in getting painkillers which for me would be a simple visit to my GP and at worst, cost me £30 every three months with all my other meds while I still live in England, when I move to Scotland they’ll cost me nothing.

I mentioned in my previous blog about how there’s always someone worse off than you, Norm’s one of those people, so chuck some cash to the Hero Initiative who help comic creators in need. Or buy the rather nice hardback of his Batman work DC Comics released, or if you’re an editor working in comics have a thought in perhaps seeing what he can do for you as although he can’t draw anymore, he can still write and as I’ve discovered when your body isn’t fully working as it used to, your brain goes into overload.

Strokes are horrible things. I’m considering myself fairly lucky. Some others out there aren’t and they could do with a wee bit of the support some of us take for granted.