Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Comics And Hall of Fame – First Inductee – Neal Adams

Neal Adams
So everyone has a Hall of Fame and almost every sport’s team has their own individual Hall of Fame or something of that ilk. I can envision a great one for comic books, but right now there is no physical comic book hall of fame. If I’m wrong, let me know where it is, it could be very cool.

I can envision it with a wing for the Golden Age, the Silver Age, the so-so age (or the Bronze Age as it is called by some) and the modern age, which seems to get longer and longer. So how about a modern age and now starting with 2009 the post modern age. I don’t know but we seem to love breaking things down into groups and stuff and the modern age is so long in tooth that it appears to be a silly name for this time frame.

My grand vision has ideas for speaking tours talking about how comic books came about, the pre-WWII stuff, the after WWII stuff, the Comics Code, the Silver Age, the direct market, the creation of Image, the bankruptcy of Marvel, the corporatization of comics, the new creator owned era, digital age and other things. You know lots of stuff, art exhibits, motion comics, comic book movies, TV shows, cartoons, all the toys and it goes on and on.

Before Neal Adams
Neal Adams first X-Men page
So with that fantasy showplace as the backdrop I we need to have people being inducted into that grand Hall of Fame. In fact I challenge my fellow blog contributors to do a post now and again nominating a person or two. Now the first nominee should either be a twosome like Seigel & Shuster, Simon & Kirby or perhaps Lee & Kirby. Yet I’m going to go with Neal Adams. Not that the other guys are not deserving but lately I have been thinking about what comic books are today and their popularity as movies. I was trying to think who represented a sea change in comics taking them from the province of 8-12 year old boys into a world where comics are written more for an adult crowd that is still heavily dominated by males. For me that guy is Neal Adams.

Great Page Designs

Neal’s dynamic art has had such an impact that you can almost credit him with making Batman into the beloved character he is today.

Before Neal Adams hit the scene the photo realism style of art had not been part of the comic book world. Neal made the characters feel like real people. It was a dramatic change and elevated any book that had his art. It was even more then just his style, it was also his layout and design work. Some of Neal’s designs still stand today as the most innovative done in a comic book. Again Neal was not only pushing the envelope on the art he was throwing away the standard book and smashing the barriers of the Kirby four panel grid or six panels which was the standard. Today it is five rectangle boxes down a page. His work on X-Men was stunning and his work on Batman redefined the character and is still the standard for Batman.

Not a fan of the re-coloring on the Bat collections
Denny O’Neil’s great scripts would have never had the impact they had without Neal Adams at the art helm. In fact I would go so far as to say that Neal allowed comics to look more adult and that had the impact of pushing the writers to start writing comics that a more adult audience could enjoy. The Joker’s Five Way Revenge was a harsh story for its time and established the Joker as a homicidal maniac. It may seem odd now but the Joker was not the madman he is today and the revamping of Batman and his rogue’s gallery can be attributed to O’Neil and Adams. As much as I would like to credit O’Neil I have to give Adams the credit for making Batman into a creature of the night and finally wiping away the stain of the sixties Batman show. Now it is 40 plus years later and no one could imagine a different type of Batman. Hell the first Nolan film owes a lot to these guys.

If you look at a lot of Neal’s work from the time it will not appear to be as “adult” as it was when it was published. You have to remember it was an era when comics where just starting to graduate from the province of young boys. It was this transitional time that helped to change everything. Given that Batman is perhaps the most important character for DC comics at this time, none of it would have happened as well as it did without Adams artwork leading the way.

Neal Adams has also been a champion of creator rights and pushed DC into giving some money to Seigel & Shuster.  

This series made Ras and Talia
Neal helped to lead the charge against DC and for creator rights in general. Back when the first Superman movie by Donner was being made and everyone was talking about all the money that was to be made, Neal acted as an advocate for Siegel & Shuster going in and almost demanding DC pay them something. While Jerry Robinson is credited for leading the charge, Neal’s name had great cache at the time and garnered a ton of publicity for the case. At the end of the day Siegel and Shuster were given a yearly stipend of $20,000 per year and other benefits. They did not end up rich, but were said to have lived comfortably from that time forward. The rights issue over Superman is still an ongoing battle as the money is bigger and bigger at this point. Still Neal was doing what he felt was the right thing to do. He also was a major person to even push for more creator rights. Of course Neal had a healthy business with advertising art, but still Neal was willing to speak up at a time when most creators had the fear of god in them as they were worried about losing there jobs.

From Thrill Kill Reproduction of Original Art
Neal was involved in branching off and doing his own comics.

It was not as big as Image, but Neal launched Continuity Comics. Sadly a misnomer as the books never hung together at all from what I remembered. They all had Neal’s name all of them, but it appears they were produced by committee. That was probably the stable of artists that worked for the ad agency he ran. I’m guessing it was a way to try and keep everyone busy and maybe a way to pay the guys wages for slow ad days. I would love to know what the true deal was because Neal was a creator’s right man as an employee, but appears to be not so much about creator rights as the publisher. Still it was a bold venture and another chapter in Neal’s comic career.

Another page - the art just shines
Neal Adams is also a wild and wonderful character whose ideas and thoughts are always interesting and sometimes his openness allows him to be subject to some ridicule. Neal is infamous a believer in the expanding earth theory, which borders on creationism for its lack of any scientific validity. Still I get the idea of having some pet theory that sounds good, especially when you have been involved in comic books for many years. Sadly much of Neal’s current work appears over the top crazy and I have promised myself to read Batman Odyssey one day as a complete series and see if I can get Neal’s idea for the story. It could just be an out of date story telling style or it could be more akin to some of Grant Morrison’s crazy story telling or it could just be a creator who is out of touch with modern audiences. My concern is that new fans seeing this material will wonder what was so great about Neal Adams.

The bottom line for me is that Neal Adams with his work on Batman, Ras As Ghul, Talia, Deadman, Specter, X-Men, Avengers, Green Lantern/ Green Arrow helped to make comics into the industry that we are today. His work had a more adult feel to them then almost anyone else’s work at the time. I believe that it helped to bring Batman back to a creature of the night and was a precursor to the grim and gritty heroes that we have today. In other words Neal led us to Born Again, Dark Knight and Watchmen which would change the face of comics for decades. Heck Batman is still surviving off what O’Neil and Adams did in the seventies.

With that I now inductee Neal Adams as our first member of the Comics And… Hall of Fame.

(Applause sounds)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jim,
    I'm Roger Rautio of the Comic Book Hall of Fame. You're right there is not one physically, yet but it is in the works, along with the Comic Book Hall of Fame Annual Event with live inductions. Online, we currently have about 16,000 fans and growing (facebook is ComicbookHof)You can contact me at comicbookhalloffame@live.com for more information.

    Many Thanks,

    Roger Rautio
    Executive Director
    The Comic Book Hall of Fame