Thursday, April 9, 2009

The World's Finest Artist

It's a joke that's not even very funny, but it's one of the first things I remember when I think of the artist I am discussing today. Namely, what comic book artist has a name that is also a sentence? The answer : Dick Sprang.

I don't know a whole lot about Dick Sprang, and please, you don't have to fill me in. I'll research it myself if I get the urge. All I want to discuss today is Sprang's definitive run on the title World's Finest Comics. And "definitive" is not too strong a word, because he is the artist people most associate with the Superman/Batman team-ups in the book. Yes, even more than a legendary talent like Curt Swan.

Dick Sprang wasn't the first artist on the Superman/Batman team, but his tenure breathed a new life into the feature. He was working in a heavily stylized style typical of the "Bob Kane" school used for the Batman titles, but he brought something else to the table. His characters were lively and colorful and seemed to display genuine personality at a time when such a thing was rare. It's even rarer when you consider that not a single story Sprang pencilled during the main portion of his career was ever signed.

It's perhaps a testament to Sprang's abilities that his replacement on World's Finest, Jim Mooney, couldn't match the level of vitality Sprang brought to the strip. I only bring this up because Mooney was no slouch himself, with an impressive career in his own right. And yet? Yet, it's hard to argue that his run on WFC was just a shadow of what Dick Sprang brought to that comic.

I've been reading the two volumes of DC's Showcase Presents : World's Finest over the last couple of weeks, and Dick Sprang's artwork is the kind of thing that can bring joy to a cloudy day. If you're unfamiliar with his work, and have a love of solid cartooning, take a peek and see what you think.

Want to read more?

Dick Sprang @ Lambiek.net
POV Online column about Dick Sprang by Mark Evanier
Dick Sprang @ Who Drew Batman?

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