Art For Art’s Sake #157: Remembering And Celebrating The Genius That Was Neal Adams

It’s not been a good year so far for losing the greats of comics. And the end of May, beginning of April was a double blow, losing George Perez and the great Neal Adams.

Adams in his office at Continuity Studios, 2008. Photograph: Nicholas Roberts/AFP/Getty Images

We can’t do anything to soften the blow of losing a titan of the medium with Neil Adams passing on April 28th of this year at the age of 80, but we can celebrate his life and his work here in a very special Art For Art’s Sake.

His artwork revolutionised American superhero comics, his co-creations included Ra’s al Ghul, Man-Bat, and John Stewart, but Adams was also a passionate and powerful voice for creators-rights, responsible for helping to secure recognition and pensions for Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. He was also the co-founder of the graphic design studio Continuity Associates.

From Deadman in 1967, Adams’ incredible skills at drawing dynamic yet more realistic superhero figures was obvious.

But it was perhaps his early ’70s hugely influential and game-changing runs on Batman and Green Lantern/Green Arrow with Dennis O’Neil that he’ll be most remembered for in the comics world.

After the cartoon camp of the ’60s TV series, O’Neill and Adams brought a new darkness to Batman, re-establishing the Dark Knight as a vital force in superhero comics, and a legacy that’s continued from Adams, through Miller and beyond, but it’s Adams that laid the groundwork.

From a panel at San Diego Comic-Con, Adams said this about the re-invention of Batman:

“it was no secret that we were doing Batman right, it was as if the memory of DC Comics went along with the statements that both Denny and I were making, that we want it to be more realistic, more gritty. And that’s how we remember — whether it was true or not — that Batman should be. And when we did it, everybody went, ‘Ah, that’s it. We don’t need comedy anymore.’”

The re-inventions continued in the classic GL/GA 14-issue run in ’71/’72 included such influential tales as ‘Snowbirds Don’t Fly’, where Green Arrow discovers that his teen sidekick, Speedy, is hooked on heroin, and ‘Beware My Power’, with the introduction of DC Comics’ very first black superhero, John Stewart’s Green Lantern. Hugely important and influential in a run that re-defined both characters, breaking barriers, and making them socially relevant for a new time.

Whilst at DC, Adams also freelanced at Marvel, with similarly iconic runs on both Uncanny X-Men and The Avengers.

At his height, in the mid-’70s, Adams turned his back on DC and Marvel, setting up Continuity Studios and going on to produce comics, commercial art, storyboards, and design work for years.

One of comics greats, he was also a man who gave back to the medium and the industry. He mentored artists, including Bill Sienkiewicz and Frank Miller, but it was his work for creators’ rights and championing the causes of older artists that is a huge part of his legacy. He was instrumental in getting companies to return artwork to artists, including Jack Kirby, and he led the effort to get DC to recognise and support the creators of Superman, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Adams, along with others, eventually forced DC to recognise the vital contributions of Superman’s creators with a creator tag and pension rights.

Adams returned to DC and Marvel in 2005, later creating Batman: Odyssey and The First X-Men. And although the years had passed, the obvious skill and incredible talent was still there, indeed, the Batman: Odyssey series is said to be one of the works Adams himself was most proud of in a long, long career of greatness.

Adams passing at 80 was a huge blow to the medium and particularly the American superhero genre, but his artwork and creativity lives on, so we can celebrate the dynamism, the beauty of his art, the skill in every panel that Adams brought to the page.

He was a master at every facet of art — his range of expressions, the dramatic use of lighting and shadowing, the seemingly facile command of anatomy and, of course, the trademark finger-pointed-in-your-face foreshortening was all just unbelievably next level. – Jim Lee

So, time to celebrate a life in comics… first with Neal Adams’ Deadman (and reprint edition art)

 

 

Adams’ reinvention of Batman…

 

The iconic Green Lantern/Green Arrow series…

Superman Vs Muhammed Ali

Uncanny X-Men

The Avengers

 

Continuity Comics…

 

 

Batman: Odyssey

 

And we’ll end where we began… with Adams’ return to Deadman in 2017…

It’s not been a good year so far for losing the greats of comics. And the end of May, beginningCOMICONRead More

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