The 1990’s are infamous for comics that for lack of a better word, suck. After the awesome era that was the 1980’s the quality of comics started to go downhill at Marvel and DC due to many factors. The artwork became EXTREME thanks to artists like Todd McFarlane and Rob Liefeld. Many artists tried to emulate the style with over the top capes, cross hatching, and facial expressions. It was during this era that artist Norm Breyfogle emerged.
While some 90's comic art looked good with how over the top it was others came off as just ugly.
Norm Breyfogle is an artist who defined an era of Batman with his fabulous art style giving us some of the most iconic Batman artwork ever. He was born in Iowa City in 1960 where he started drawing at a very young age. During his college years he worked as a draftsman and technical illustrator while simultaneously doing work for DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and other smaller publications.
Norms big break came when he teamed up with writer Alan Grant to work on Detective Comics in 1987. Together they created villains such as the Ventriloquist and the Ratcatcher. The team later moved onto the Batman series where they introduced a new Robin named Tim Drake. The two eventually started their own series titled Shadow of the Bat where they debuted Victor Zsasz and Jeremiah Arkham. When the 1989 Batman movie came out many people took an interest in Batman comics once again, and Norm’s art is what they would see. While he still drew Batman in that classic long eared, blue colored Neal Adams style, Norm still added his own personal touch to it. He gave Batman a massive crazy looking cape, and drew him moving in a more phantom like way, almost like a shadow.
In my opinion Norm never gets the credit he deserves and often gets pooled in with other artists of the era. But for many he drew the definitive Batman for them. Even though I didn’t start reading comics until the early 2000’s I still would go back and read Norm's Batman run because I loved the artwork so much.
The work for Norm eventually dried up at DC where he then went back to freelancing, contributing his art to many companies such Archie Publications, Nike, and much more. He seemed disappointed with both DC and Marvel in his later career as he stated in an interview during the “The Batman Universe Specials” Podcast that “You can only pitch so many things and have them reject it before you just give up.” Although DC did bring him back to work on DC Retroactive: Batman and their Batman Beyond series, in my opinion Norm deserved better. There is no reason he shouldn’t be held up among the other great artists of his era.
Norm suffered a stroke in 2014 which lead to his early retirement as an artist due to his drawing hand becoming paralyzed. He sadly passed away in 2018 due to heart failure at the age of 58.
Norm Breyfogle is one of those artists that whenever I see his art I think, “Damn I hate that he’s gone.” because I feel there was so much more he could’ve, and wanted to give us. He truly definded an era of Batman for so many of us.