American comic book artist (1915-2000). At the age of 15, he was getting regular work around his hometown of Fremont, Ohio, painting signs, doing artwork for newspaper advertisements, and creating posters for local movie theaters. After high school, he worked for a while for the Toledo News before moving to New York City to try his hand at freelance advertising art.

By 1936, Sprang was contributing illustrations for the pulps, and in 1941, he sought work as an artist with DC Comics. His samples and audition so impressed the brass at DC that they immediately started him working on the top-selling "Batman" books, and he soon became one of the most prominent of Batman's pencillers.

Sprang's work was much lighter than previous Batman art. His Batman and Robin sported happy smiles, his Joker was as notable for his prominent chin and cheekbones as for his toothy grin, and absurdly gigantic props littered almost every story. In fact, the opening credits of the campy "Batman" TV series were done in Sprang's signature style.

Sprang stuck with comics until 1963, when he retired to his ranch in Utah, where his interest and expertise in Western history allowed him a second career as a Western artist and oral historian. Demand was still high among comic collectors for more Sprang work, and in 1984, he began recreating some of his comic book covers for collectors. Response was enthusiastic, and a lengthy waiting list quickly developed -- by the time Sprang finally decided to stop taking orders, the wait for his cover recreations was reportedly seven years long. In 1995, Sprang created some paintings of Batman which were released as limited edition posters. They were, again, quite popular.

Sprang died in 2000 at his home in Arizona. I'm glad he lived long enough to see the brilliant "Legends of the Dark Knight" tribute episode of the Batman cartoon in 1998.

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