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Neal Adams

Really, really sad to hear about the passing of Neal Adams. I think most of us can agree that he’s a highly significant figure in comics history.

I thought Neal was sure to be around for another 10-15 years, and producing decent art more or less till the day he died. The latter is virtually true—he was working on commissions as recently as ten days ago—but sadly, he had been fighting the effects of a sepsis infection for the past 11 months. That’s a tough battle at any age.

His later work is probably the stuff that will come to mind for some folks, and that’s… well, a small part of the story!! Neal’s art, for the past 30-35 years, has been generally solid and consistent, sometimes quite beautiful, if seldom a match for his peak stuff from the late ’60s through mid-’70s. But, it might be his increasingly eccentric writing that’s gained the most attention in recent years.

Batman: Odyssey, from 2010-11, which ran for 13 issues over two mini-series, had a lot of people scratching their heads. The distinctive and occasionally stunning visuals were a given, but Neal’s writing—barely flirting with conventional structure or internal logic—made the series something of a cult item. His writing only got weirder and more esoteric later on!

Batman Odyssey 7

Just for the record, I find this later stuff very entertaining… but I don’t think it should overshadow Neal’s pinnacle works. Neal was most assuredly a much better artist than a writer.

So, what would I would pick as Neal’s best work? The obvious choice would be his massively influential work on Batman (mostly with Denny O’Neil and Frank Robbins). Some of those books are absolutely brilliant. Or for social relevance, maybe the classic Green Lantern/Green Arrow run with Denny…? All excellent work. But no.

X-Men 56 cvr

I’m gonna pick his work on X-Men, with Roy Thomas (#56-63, 65). At their best, I think those books are hard to beat; Tom Palmer’s inking is more attractive and supple than Dick Giordano’s (who did most of the Bats tales); some of the splashes and covers are magnificently executed; Neal’s hit & miss storytelling experiments are in full flow and, when it works, it really works.

X-Men 62 pg7

Fave single piece of art? A tougher pick—but his wonderful cover for Legion of Monsters is right up there.

Legion of Monsters #1 (1975)

Top “why on earth haven’t I read this yet” pick has to be Monsters (2003)—Neal’s love letter to the Universal Horror canon, collecting the episodes from the 1980s Echo of Future Past anthology series in a single volume. Maybe I’ll sit down with this over the weekend.

Neal Adams Monsters

This is a really big loss. Almost all of the old-time comic book greats have left us now.

1 thought on “Neal Adams”

  1. I was lucky enough to attend a party at Adams East Side apartment just after the first Star Wars film was released. Crusty Bunkers present. Great conversations overhead about comics and film. Certain things that he shared with me about arts and crafts have stayed with me and guided me over the years. A great, uncompromising mind. Thanks Neal, you will be missed.

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