Several decades ago, my friend Rick Obadiah and I founded a little publishing company called First Comics. During our tenure together we printed some pretty decent work. Part of my business plan for editorial was to foster and employ new talent – priming the pump, as I told our investors. I knew exactly when and where I wanted to build this door, and if you’ll permit me to drop a few names I think that also worked out pretty good: John Ostrander, Timothy Truman, Julia Lacquement, Mark Wheatley, Linda Lessmann, Marc Hempel, Bill Reinhold and about a dozen others went through that door.
And then there was this guy Norm Breyfogle.
We were working on a creation of Steven Grant’s called Whisper. Eventually, as it must to most comic book series, it came time to bring in a new artist. Every editor in every medium gets more submissions than he, she, and they could possibly evaluate. Usually, the really good stuff gets noticed and the really great stuff gets remembered.
Norm Breyfogle was easily remembered. He was brought in on First’s fourth issue, and Whisper’s future was set. So was Norm’s, to nobody’s surprise. He went on to such projects as Prime (one of my favorites), Bloodshot, Life With Archie, and a very lengthy run on some guy called “The Batman.” In fact, it was his work on Whisper that got him the Bat-gig, and he stayed on Blue Longears for eight years. By that point I was in New York working for DC Comics and somehow lucky enough to share a large office with Batman editor Denny O’Neil. Synchronicity makes the world go ‘round.
Drawing Batman brought Norm’s life at the time full-circle. His first published art – a fan drawing – made it into Batman Family #13, when he was a mere 17-year-old.
Norm suffered a stroke in late 2014 that left him paralyzed on his left side – worse, he was left-handed. This ended his career, but he did seem to be improving, communicating with friends and collaborators and trying to develop his creator-owned properties. When the word came down on Wednesday, well, we certainly would have been shocked anyway, but we all had hoped for the day when he could get back a little to the convention circuit and receive the proper respect his brilliant work deserved.
Batman has attracted many an A+ lister artist, pretty much since day one, and Norm Breyfogle was on that hallowed list. Batman’s 80th birthday just won’t be the same.