The Ultimate Artist: Neal Adams R.I.P.


Very little comes as a shock any more. I woke up late, checked my e-mails and found an alert from downthe tubes: In Memorium, Neal Adams. Another of the ‘gods’ of my youth goes from us. It’s only to be expected: I am now 66, and the men and women whose worl stirred me were all older. They will go before.

I asume I don’t need to explain Neal Adams for you. He was comics’ premier artist, drawing the most real and dynamic of scenes, in demand from the fans. He took Batman back to the night. He redesigned Green Arrow. Dealers in back issues would flag comics he’d drawn and these would be more expensive, often twice as much as the issues either side of a guest pencilling. I remember finding two Adams’ Batman or Detective in Dave Britton’s comics shop on Peter Street whose name I’ve forgotten, at 45p each, buying them, and walking down Deansgate almost trebling at my audacity in buying two comics that were 45p. Each.

Adams was a fan favourite alright but only to the fans. The general audience comics then had were less enthused. Adams only drew a dozen issues of Green Lantern/Green Arrow and it was cancelled for low sales (admittedly, the comic was in trouble before he and Denny O’Neill took it over).

The run is probably the most famous run of Adams’ career. The art’s superb but the comics haven’t weathered well, their earnestness too blatant. Now we have neither of the creators, nor its editor, Julius Schwartz.

I’m not the person to speak of Adams’ career. After those days at DC in the Seventies, and some memorable work at Marvel on The Avengers and X-Men he took advantage of the independent boom of the Eighties to take control of his work, most of which he also wrote. He wasn’t half the writer as he was the artist.

But he was yet one more who was there when I needed stimulation, and my head expanding, and my eagerness satisfying. He is, once again, another good one gone.

P.S. Reading other’s tributes has reminded me of one thing on Neal Adams’ list of credits that I should not have forgotten. In 1978, he went in to bat for Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, the creators of Superman but then two old men, living in impoverishment and virtually forgot. Thanks to Adams’ energy, determination and advocacy, there is now and for over forty years never has been an interation of Superman that does not have his creator’s names indelibly applied, and whilst they were still not party to the uncountable billions their character has earned, Adams’ efforts secured for them an easeful and comfortable old age. Without him… it doesn’t bear thinking about, and I should have said that without needing to be prodded.

4 thoughts on “The Ultimate Artist: Neal Adams R.I.P.

  1. Neal was a tremendous influence on my taste in comics. My favorite comic book artist is French (Philippe Druillet, from Heavy Metal), but Neal & Jim Steranko are my favorite US artists. Since (and I think I’ve mentioned this before) I follow artists exclusively, when Neal left a comic I generally stopped reading it because whoever replaced him could not live up to his excellence. Ra’s al Ghul is, not only my favorite Batman villain, but my favorite comic book villain overall. And that is mainly due to Neal’s rendering of him. My favorite Neal, though, was his run on Deadman. The character has simply never been the same. I was nearly distraught to read of his passing yesterday.

    1. I am growing, not immune, but inured to the passing of heroes. The age has come when we will have to accept we will lose them, one by one, and console ourselves with what we have received from them, and thank the world for that rather than curse what will now never be.

      1. Absolutely. I’m 6 years older than you are, and the bad news keeps coming. That it is inevitable, and that in many cases they were no longer working due to age, is scant consolation. At least it’s less painful than losing someone who is still at the height of their powers. It’s been 9 years, and I’m still mourning Iain Banks, taken from us far too soon. Hell, I’m still mourning my personal guitar hero, John Cipollina, who died in 1989 at the age of 45.

  2. I met Iain Banks once, not just at a signing but afterwards, in the pub. He knew one of the group I was with. He told us a long joke with a seriously funny punchline that I suspect wouldn’t work outside of the UK. You’ll recall my recent post in shock at the death of the cricketer, Shane Warne, who was thirteen years younger than me. The one I most mourn was Terry Pratchett, because not only did I lose him I lost dozens upon dozens of friends who I visited with regularly.

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