Yet another sad passing I found out later, thanks a lot New York Times! But, better late than never.
The legendary comic-book artist Neal Adams died last Saturday at age 80 and for us nerds, he was a big deal. Back in the Silver Age, he was one of the rare talents who got to work for the Big Two simultaneously. It doesn’t sound impressive today since writers and artists constantly crate works for DC, Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, Archie and etc. without having to be exclusive to one publisher. Obviously, only editors are locked down. Anyway, when Neal was a relative newcomer, you could only be on one team at a time and it was major news if you defected to the other like Jack Kirby did.
Despite working on the X-Men before they were revamped by Dave Cockrum and Len Wein via 1977, he will be remembered mostly for his DC material. For me the big two were his redesigns of Batman after the Sixties TV show had run its course and Green Arrow resembling a blonde Errol Flynn minus the sexual predator and Nazi sympathies. With the former, Neal got rid of Batman’s gut, made him taller looking, muscular and the bad-ass vigilante we know him for plus it was the main design everyone has followed until I’d say the Jim Lee reboot circa 2011. On the latter, a personal fave, I loved how he eliminated the non-green parts of the costume, gave him the goatee and more realistic elements a professional archer wears. With the late Denny O’Neil giving Ollie a left-wing, charitable position (aka “woke”), Green Arrow was no longer a cheap-ass Batman knockoff. Together Denny and Neal went on to do the legendary Green Lantern/Green Arrow team-up run of the Seventies which tried hard to bring relevance to superheroes with real-world issues: poverty, racism, overpopulation and drug usage.
Another legacy was his son Joel Adams who I met at a convention. Through him I purchased my hilarious King of the Hill meets Doctor Who print because Joel was a character designer on King and through his skill he made the modifications to Mike Judge’s creations so they could be animated more plausibly. When he told me the story about this, his co-workers warned him that he’d fired for altering the show creator’s designs. HA! Mike thanked Joel profusely and was even more thrilled to know he was Neal Adams’ son! Ergo, Joel’s design sense was in his DNA.
Thanks for everything Neal! You were instrumental in affecting superheroes and comics throughout my life. Your style, your flair and your skills kept the Silver Age rolling to influence the many who’ve followed in your big footsteps.