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Neal Adams – RIP

Comic book and comic strip artist Neal Adams has passed away.

Neal Adams
June 15, 1941 – April 28, 2022

From The Hollywood Reporter:

Neal Adams, the legendary comic book artist who reinvigorated Batman and other superheroes with his photorealistic stylings and championed the rights of creators, has died. He was 80.

Adams died Thursday in New York of complications from sepsis, his wife, Marilyn Adams, told The Hollywood Reporter.

When Neal burst onto the comic book scene it was a revelation and a revolution.

The Hollywood Reporter continues:

Adams jolted the world of comic books in the late 1960s and early ’70s with his toned and sinewy take on heroes, first at DC with a character named Deadman, then at Marvel with X-Men and The Avengers and then with his most lasting influence, Batman.

His influence brought some power that he used for the good fight:

“My father was a force,” Josh Adams said. “His career was defined by unparalleled artistic talent and an unwavering character that drove him to constantly fight for his peers and those in need. He would become known in the comics industry as one of the most influential creators of all time and champion social and creators’ rights. When he saw a problem, he wouldn’t hesitate. What would become tales told and retold of the fights he fought were born out of my father simply seeing something wrong as he walked through the halls of Marvel or DC and deciding to do something about it right then and there.”

Paul Levitz eulogy for Neal Adams.

Comics has lost a force of nature. Neal Adams was a magnificent artist, but that might have been the least of his talents. It would have been enough if he had just been an artist, of course: being one of the two newcomers to comics in the 1960s (with Jim Steranko) that rekindled the aspirations of a generation to reshape the pages of comics; drawing the definitive Batman that Neal would argue with his customary modesty would make possible billions of dollars of revenue for the company; moving the world of American comic art back from design (exemplified by Carmine Infantino) and exaggerated cartooning (as leaped from the pencil of Jack Kirby) to a new balance of dynamism and illustration; and entertaining so many millions of us.

Neal was unstoppable.


As a very talented teenager Neal began his comics career trying to break in at Archie Comics submitting samples to their superhero comic books and then as an assistant to Howard Nostrand on the Bat Masterson comic strip in late 1959.


When that ended Neal entered the field of commercial and advertising art.

As Prof. Mendez tells it:

Adams had been famously turned down at DC after his graduation from School of Industrial Arts, his sample pages revealing a wild, exuberant storytelling sense even then but still very raw.  Under Wexler’s critical eye, Adams, in only a very short time, became as slick and polished as any artist at Johnstone and Cushing.  And, to top it off, he reached this level in under two years.  He often tells the story of his co-workers sighing a breath of relief when he turns 20.  It had been embarrassing for these industry-tested veterans to be bested by a teenager.

At age 21 Neal was given a nationally syndicated comic strip spun off a popular TV series.

Ben Casey ran for three and a half years with Neal contributing to the writing toward the end. As a grizzled old timer at age 25 Neal’s talents were recognized by many comic strip veterans who called on him to assist and ghost their strips in times of need.

In the 1960s, after Ben Casey, Neal would help out on Lou Fine’s Peter Scratch, Stan Drake’s The Heart of Juliet Jones, Al Williamson’s Secret Agent Corrigan, and John Pentice’s Rip Kirby.

And he went back to advertising.

It is about this time that Neal thought it would be a good idea to transform the look of comic books, which were still being imaged mostly by cartoonists who had been around since the 1940s and ’50s.


After devoting a half dozen years to comic books (and still contributing to comic strips like Leonard Starr’s Mary Perkins and a one-off on Wally Wood’s Sally Forth and Cannon) Neal spread his now very famous wings to book covers, record albums, and other commercial products while still keeping a frequent presence in comic books.


Neal returned to comic strips in 1978 drawing the last five weeks of Big Ben Bolt and then a little later with Buck Rogers in 1981.

Neal’s last appearance on the funny pages was Funky Winkerbean October 2, 2016:

Comic Art Fans has a gallery of hundreds of Neal Adams artwork.

Ger Apeldoorn has hundreds of Neal’s comic strips, both syndicated and advertising.

Last of the Spinner Rack Junkies spotlights Neal’s National Lampoon contributions.

And don’t pass on visiting Neal Adams’ own website.

Neal will remain an influence on comic art for decades to come. Rest in Peace.




Community Comments

#1 Steve Greenberg
@ 7:44 pm

What an amazing talent. I was stunned when I first saw his work as a teen.

Just wondering, did he receive Reuben Awards (including Divisional ones) for his work? He must have been honored more than once.

#2 Kip Williams
@ 9:19 pm

Stunned, yes! Stunning work that lit up the page and made the writing look better. No inker could hurt his work, either. I wished he’d draw more, but respected what he did for creators like Siegel and Schuster.

I have that Chip Martin page, which I tore out of BOY’S LIFE (carefully!), having decided it was the work of Adams. So many of those pages and covers are familiar to me. I was sore that DC put him on covers and other artists on the interiors, because the cover he drew based on the story was more interesting than the story itself. I think my copy of the SUPERMAN cover up there has the indentations of ballpoint pen where someone used Neal’s work (and carbon paper) for a boost to their own stuff. I swear, it wasn’t me. I’d remember the pose.

Neal Adams and Wallace Wood were the two top names for me, outsized figures in a field of giants.

#3 Janet Ober
@ 9:39 pm

Wasn’t the Funky Winkerbean 2016, not 1916?

#4 D. D. Degg
@ 10:32 pm

Thanks Janet – corrected. I guess researching all those 20th Century strips had me stuck in the 1900s.

#5 Janet Ober
@ 6:31 am

D.D. Degg. I had to look back and forth a couple of times to figure out what seemed off. Age related for me.

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