Neal Adams passed away at the age of 80. He was a legend in the world of comics. Hands down the most influential artist of my generation, and then some. Whether you want to acknowledge his lengthy partnership with Denny O’Neil and their attempts to bring a new kind of realism and relevance to characters like Green Arrow, Green Lantern, and of course, Batman. His slick, commercial, style, coupled with dynamic, impossible camera angles, re-calibrated my five-year old head as to what comic book art really was.
It’s hard to put into words what reading those comics were like. I think what makes them stand out is that they are such a stark contrast to all of the other super heroes in mass media. Adam West’s Batman, this was not. Reading those issues, and especially the Denny O’Neil Batmans, it felt like I was getting away with something.
If Adams had wanted to just draw and get paid, that would have been just fine, but he realized that he had some clout, and he used it to help his fellow creators. Specifically, he shamed DC into paying Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster for their continual use of Superman. He was a staunch advocate of creator’s rights, and it’s not a stretch to imagine that we very likely wouldn’t have gotten Vertigo if it hadn’t been for him.
Over the years, I would hear a story here and there about him being difficult, or opinionated, or just a garden variety asshole. I always shrugged those off, and said, “Doesn’t matter. It’s Neal Adams. He’s earned the right to be difficult and opinionated, especially to the suits.” Of course, I heard many more stories of how he treated his fans, with generosity and respect. I never got to meet him, and I really regret it.
He drew everything. Some of the most high profile books of the Bronze Age were drawn by Neal Adams. His artwork leaps out at you, and you can tell at a glance that it’s one of his drawings. He was, along with Bernie Wrightson, my favorite comic book artist. And he has earned his rest. Thank you, Neal. For everything. Even Skateman.