Kelley Jones Remembers and Honors Batman Artist Norm Breyfogle

Norm Breyfogle has died.

Norm Breyfogle is the first to leave us, of those who were part of the legendary Denny O’Neil’s stable of creators.

When I first was brought in to work for Denny, I was well aware of who was working there, and it was intimidating to be sure. Graham Nolan and Chuck Dixon producing one of the greatest runs on Detective, Alan Grant and Norm, an awesome team to be sure on the Shadow of the Bat, there was also Kelley Puckett and Barry Kitson, the great Jim Aparo and Dick Giordano, Jim Balent and Archie Freaking Goodwin! Every time I sat at the board I knew I had to always give it my all, because… those guys…you know?!

For the next several years I got to be a part of what felt like a great baseball team. It was incredible seeing these guys all create what now is legendary work. But all things come to and end, and those days in that office did. As happens in the freelance experience we all tend to drift apart, and we all did.

From time to time I’d see and hear from all my alumni, except for Norm. Norm had drifted the most. Then one day Norm called. Out of the blue.

And from when I picked up the phone and said hello Norm just started talking, because Norm hadn’t changed a bit. Thank God!

He called to see who to contact at DC about getting a statue based on his version of Batman, and perhaps getting his Detective Comics reprinted in hardcovers.

While I was flipping through my rolodex, (you don’t know what that is? Ask your grandparents!) Norm was telling me he felt his work stood the test of time, it held up, it deserved to be seen again because in large part of all the time he spent in art classes and study he did. All his art education. Norm said it all showed in his work.

I told him he was wrong. Norm gave a quiet ‘Wha?’ I said that that was nonsense.

Through the phone I could hear Norm’s rapid and predatory breathing, waiting to pounce on whatever foolish thing he’d thought I’d say. Something artsy fartsy he probably thought.

I told him I don’t care for the technical stuff when I look at your art, or any art. I could care less actually. It’s not important. Just drawing every day will teach everything.

Norm was flustered (Norm was never flustered in front of me before!) Norm disagreed! (Boy did he too!) Norm launched into the importance of all the technical dilly dally of comics art, putting forward great artists of the past and so forth to make his point. Norm was in his element, debating was among one of his favorite things to do.I  quietly said he was still wrong.

“Then what?” he said very heatedly (okay not heatedly…it was a lot hotter than that!)

I responded by saying art is created with emotion. You can learn three point perspective or color theory in some boring art class, but you can’t teach emotion. I said that I break every rule and stomp every convention to get the impact I want. To get the reader to respond and react.

More importantly I told him its how to look at art. How to receive it. And he was one of the artists I had the most powerfully emotional reaction to. Okay…that is pretty artsy fartsy. But its true!

Many artists deliver the mail well, I said, damn few make you want to tear into it. I told Norm I tore into his work. He liked that. He loved it actually.

This led Norm to talk philosophically about comics and art (Norm loved to talk philosophy!) and actually agreed with me. But in Norm fashion, he asked for the contact info and we hung up. (DC made a fabulous statue based on Norm’s version, and [easyazon_link identifier=”1401258980″ locale=”US” tag=”boundingintocomics-20″]reprinted his stuff in a great hardcover edition[/easyazon_link], go get it!)

I didn’t hear from Norm after that, we drifted again, like I said.

Norm later had a debilitating career ending stroke.

We texted several times when he recovered some what, just basically asking how he was doing. The last time we texted, he responded to my asking how he was doing by saying he envied me. Not envious of any of my success or projects or such. Only because he couldn’t draw anymore, the stroke took that, and I was still able. I could totally understand. It broke my heart.

Then the awful news that Norm died.

Years from now, long after we are all gone ourselves, people will read Norm’s work, and have the same emotion we do now to his art. Norms legacy will continue because of the emotion he evoked.

So see Norm? No one cares what you may have learned in some stuffy art class.They care that you knocked them out page after page.

I was 100% right!

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