Sprang, Dick

Richard W. "Dick" Sprang (July 28, 1915 - May 10, 2000) was an American comic book artist and penciller, best known for his work on the superhero Batman during the period fans and historians call Golden Age of Comic Books. Sprang was responsible for the 1948 redesign of the Batmobile and the original design of the Riddler, who has appeared in film, television and other media adaptations. Sprang's Batman was notable for its square chin, expressive face and barrel chest.Sprang was also a notable explorer in Arizona, Utah, and Colorado, whose discoveries included the "Defiance House" of the Anasazi ruins, and whose correspondence and records are stored with the Utah Historical Society.Dick Sprang was born in Fremont, Ohio, and became a professional illustrator at an early age, painting signs and handbills for local advertisers. According to comics historian Jerry Bails, Sprang worked throughout the 1930s for Standard Magazines, "screening scripts" as an editor, as well as contributing artwork to Standard, Columbia Publications and Street and Smith, while still in high school. He joined the staff of "the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain in Toledo, Ohio" shortly after graduating (circa 1934), continuing to produce magazine work concurrently. He left the newspaper in 1936 to move to New York City, where he began illustrating for the pulp magazines — the Western, detective, and adventure magazines in the era of the late 1930s. From the late 1930s to the early 1940s, Sprang continued to work as a freelance illustrator. Between 1937 and 1938, Sprang provided assistance on the King Features Syndicate comic strips Secret Agent X-9 (layouts) and The Lone Ranger (pencil assists). In 1938, he also wrote briefly for the Lone Ranger radio series. Late in the decade, with the pulp magazines in decline, Sprang gravitated toward comic-book illustration. Continuing to seek comic-book work, Sprang submitted art samples to DC Comics editor Whitney Ellsworth, who assigned him a Batman story in 1941. Anticipating that Batman creator Bob Kane would be drafted to serve in World War II, DC inventoried Sprang's work to safeguard against delays. Sprang's first published Batman work was the Batman and Robin figures on the cover of Batman #18 (Aug.-Sept. 1943), reproduced from the art for page 13 of the later-published Detective Comics #84 (Feb. 1944). Sprang's first original published Batman work, and first interior-story work, appeared in Batman #19 (Oct.-Nov. 1943), for which he penciled and inked the cover and the first three Batman stories, and penciled the fourth Batman story, inked by Norm Fallon. Like all Batman artists of the time, Sprang went uncredited as a ghost artist for Kane. Sprang thereafter worked almost entirely on Batman comics and covers and on the Batman newspaper strip, becoming one of the primary Batman artists in the character's first 20 years. In 1955, Sprang got the chance to draw Superman, when he replaced Curt Swan as the primary artist for the Superman/Batman team-up stories in World's Finest Comics, on which he worked until his retirement in 1963. Sprang also worked on a couple of stories for the main Superman comic, "including the tale that introduced the first, prototype Supergirl".Sprang's work was first reprinted in 1961, and "nearly all subsequent Batman collections have contained at least one of his efforts." However, his name never appeared on his Batman work during his career, due to stipulations in Bob Kane's contract. These stated that Kane's name would remain on the strip, regardless of whether he drew any particular story, and this restriction remained in place until the mid-1960s. It was subsequently revealed, however, that Sprang was Kane's favorite "ghost".Sprang moved to Sedona, Arizona in 1946, where he became interested in western pioneer trails. He spent much of his spare time between 1946 and 1956 surveying the northern Arizona and southern Utah area, especially Glen Canyon (before it was flooded). In 1952, along with Harry Aleson and wife Dudy Thomas, Sprang discovered the "Defiance House," an Anasazi ruin believed to have been previously unseen by non-natives. He was also interested in photography and became a noted expert in the field of western pioneer trails; Sprang's voice can be heard on several National Park Service oral history tapes. In 1956, he moved to Wayne County, Utah, where he ran cattle on a 150-acre (0.6 km2) ranch. In 1963, Sprang retired from full-time comics illustrating. He relocated from Utah to Prescott, Arizona in 1972, where he remained until his death. Mostly unknown to comics readers during his career — uncredited on Batman and Superman, Sprang placed his name only on the handful of other stories he drew, such as in Real Fact Comics — Sprang began to receive notice from comics fandom in the 1970s, when he became a regular attendee at comic conventions and later began drawing and selling reproductions of his Golden Age comics covers.During the 1980s (circa 1984-87) he devoted some of his time to recreating comic-book material for the burgeoning collector's market, before returning to comics in 1987 for "occasional assignments". In 1990 he did the covers for Detective Comics #622-624. In 1995 and 1996, he produced two limited-edition lithographs depicting the Batcave ("Secrets of the Batcave") and the Batman cast of characters ("Guardians of Gotham City").(Copyright: Wikipedia)