Michael J. Parobeck was born in Ohio in 1965, and educated at the Central Academy of Commercial Art in Cincinnati. He began his comics career in 1987, debuting in a charity comic called Quest For Dreams Lost. In 1989, he started picking up work for DC Comics, for example short stories in Secret Origins. His first ongoing assignment was El Diablo, followed by The Fly, Justice Society of America and Elongated Man. However, his most popular work would be a three-year run on Batman Adventures, a Batman title based on the animated TV series. Midway during his Batman run, he was diagnosed as having Type 1 diabetes, while also dealing with severe childhood trauma. As a result, he had a hard time with his new medical disorder, instead burying himself deeper into his work and neglecting his insulin injections. He died from complications resulting from his diabetes in July 1996, only 30 years old.
Parobeck’s style was quite unlike a lot of the comic book art of the early 1990s, when the order of the day was beefy exaggerated anatomy and heavy cross-hatching. His fluid animation-inspired drawing style was always coupled with clear, clean layouts, great senses of design and drama, and accessible, attractive characters. You would often see characters with a wide smile on their faces and imagine they were drawn by someone who genuinely loved what he was doing. Among his influences are John Byrne (Parobeck referred to him as being “the reason that I got into this field at all.”), Jaime Hernandez and Alex Toth. And thanks to his distinctive style, Parobeck himself became an inspiration to others. Mike took the time to help other young artists (including David Mack) who he would correspond with letters of advice and encouragement.
Unfortunately, not much of his work remains in print today, which is truly a shame. Batman: The Dark Knight Adventures collects the first six issues of his Batman Adventures run (and it’s a steal at $7.95), but that’s about it. For the rest of his body of work, you’ll have to hit the back issue bins and the online mail order companies. It’s well worth the effort, though.