Now referred to as "the good Batman artist," Dick Sprang began working for DC Comics in 1941 creating some of the most memorable BATMAN and DETECTIVE COMICS covers and stories during his tenure there until 1963.
He drew the first appearance of The Riddler in DETECTIVE COMICS #140 (Oct. 1948) and is the co-creator of the Riddler next to Bill Finger (who co-created half the Bat-Universe). Sprang was responsible for the 1948 redesign of the Batmobile. Sprang worked on World's Finest Comics featuring the team-up of Superman and Batman-replacing artist Curt Swan. He also worked on an issue that featured the first prototype Supergirl.
Dick’s last comic work was during the Silver Age, appearing in DETECTIVE COMICS #308, dated October, 1963. In 1984, after being out of the comics field for twenty-one years, Dick was re-discovered by Fandom and began doing cover recreation commissions on a limited basis for various collectors. In 1987 he was hired back by DC to do special pin-up pages and occasional covers for DETECTIVE COMICS, which he then was able to sign his name to. After working anonomously in comics for many years as a "Ghost" artist for Bob Kane, Dick finally received some long overdue credit for his artistic contributions to the four-color genre.
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.
Michael Uslan (producer of all the Batman Movies) considers the Batman Forever as being the closest in spirit of the Dick Sprang drawn, Bill Finger-written stories (featuring not only Batman, but also Robin as played by Chris O' Donnell in Batman Forever) of the 1940's and 1950's.
Bob Kane also confessed that Dick Sprang was his favorite "Ghost" artist.
Dick Sprang was born in Fremont, OH and began getting jobs with local advertisers as an illustrator at an early age. Sprang worked through the 30's for Standard Magazines. Straight out of graduating Dick landed a job on the staff of The Scripps Howard newspaper chain in Toledo, OH. Sprang said this about his time there.
"I was in the art department, where we had to meet five deadlines a day. We had five editions on the street that, in part, carried different advertisements for jewelry stores, furniture stores, and so on. We had to draw the items they sold, plus editorial cartoons, and editorial illustrations. I had to work with engravers, and I mastered the technology of printing. I learned the value of meeting a deadline. "
DC Comics and Batman
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 ".
During the time that Dick Sprang began illustrating Batman, he taught his wife — Laura A. Sprang — to letter, and she subsequently lettered most (and colored some) of his subsequent work under the pen name "Pat Gordon". In addition to lettering (and coloring) her husband's artwork, Laura Sprang also worked freelance as a photographer for Film Funmagazine, "hand-lettered titles for industrial films," worked on the titles of Navy training films during World War II, and produced theatrical posters for 20th Century Fox.
During the 1950s, "Gordon" continued to letter for DC on stories featuring Superman, Batman, Superboy and others, before leaving the company circa 1961.
Later life and recognition
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 km ) 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 3 limited-edition lithographs depicting the Batcave ("Secrets of the Batcave"), the Batman cast of characters ("Guardians of Gotham City") as well as "Riders of the Storm".
*parts from Wikipedia