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Neal Adams: Renaissance Man Part II

Print 'Neal Adams: Renaissance Man Part II'Recommend 'Neal Adams: Renaissance Man Part II'Discuss 'Neal Adams: Renaissance Man Part II'Email Rik OffenbergerBy Rik Offenberger



At the beginning of the Renaissance, artists were also scientists and philosophers. Legendary artist Neal Adams is reviving that tradition. He took time away from his work at Continuity Studios to talk to SBC about his work on Batman, his career and how the universe works.


Road to Gotham City: Part Two (of Five)

To read Part One click HERE.
To read Part Two click HERE.
To read Part Three click HERE.
To read Part Four click HERE
To read Part Five click HERE.


OFFENBERGER: This was a big change from what you had been through before.

ADAMS: Change?

OFFENBERGER: Before you couldn’t get any work and now you walk in and they hand you a script.

ADAMS: The truth is that had I been able to walk into DC Comics, they would have given me a script. The problem was that they were so paranoid at the time. They were so whacked out, they just figured it wasn’t going to happen. They didn’t have a future. There wasn’t anything wrong with me. I was fine. They were totally screwed up.

OFFENBERGER: They hadn’t even seen your work?

ADAMS: It was hard getting into comic books because the comic book business was so terrible. Life wasn’t hard for Neal, Neal did fine. Any advertising agency I went to would give me work. I got a syndicated strip — probably the youngest guy to ever get a syndicated strip.

Archie welcomed me. Archie was the beginning of the new world of comic books. They were looking to do different things and recognized talent. Comic strips and comic books have never mixed. When people in the comic strip business are looking for people to do a new strip, or to revive an old strip, they never go to the right people because they never know what is going on. For example, Flash Gordon — they needed a new artist for the strip. Who were they going to go to? Well, anybody who knew comic books would say Al Williamson is the ultimate imitator of that style. He was the perfect person. They gave it to Dan Barry, who was more soap opera like. I don’t know what the right term is.. more Alex Toth, who was exactly the wrong person to give it to. [Barry] did a good job, he did an interesting job, but it wasn’t the Flash Gordon that we remember. Then they gave the Sunday strip to Mac Raboy, another wrong person to give the strip to, when Al Williamson was there ready to do either one.

It’s the people in the comic strip business who don’t know what is out there. They were incapable of seeing past the other. Same with the people in comic books. If somebody had a syndicated strip and was suddenly available to do a comic book, logic says you give them a good book. Well, you can’t count on that. The fact that I did Ben Casey didn’t even mean that the people in comic books knew who I was. So when I was looking for work at DC Comics, it was if I had fallen out of the sky. They were unaware that Ben Casey was out there in 165 papers across the country for three and a half years. They were unaware of the level I had gotten to, doing that strip. I had gotten awards from around the world for doing that strip and brought a level of art to it. I went into the comic book business and it was like 15 guys in a closet who never spoke to anybody. They had no idea who I was. And suddenly I show up out of nowhere and [start drawing comic book covers], and everyone is like, “What the hell is going on?”

OFFENBERGER: That it really surprising, you would think it would be the same circle of people.

ADAMS: I was offered a comic strip based on Robin Moore’s The Green Berets about Vietnam. Elliot [Caplin], who was going to write the strip, said, “Look Neal, you are working with my brother so I can’t interfere with that. But if you have time on your hands and it’s possible for you to do this other strip, I have this other strip. I am pretty sure I can sell it and you’ll make more money then you do on Ben Casey.”

Now of course he was undercutting his brother there, but he thought maybe it was possible to do two strips. And it was possible because I had worked out certain techniques. I could do it. I had a three-hour lunch with the fellow who wrote the book. By the end of the lunch I was so disgusted with what was going on with Vietnam, I realized I was definitely not the guy. I talked to Elliot and told him in all honesty I am really not for this war, so I don’t think I am the right guy for this spot. He said, “I am so out of the comic book thing, who would you recommend?”

In my brain I was laughing to myself and I said, “Joe Kubert.” Kubert was the ultimate war artist. [I told Elliot] ahead of time, “You’re used to guys like Stan and myself. You are not going to like Joe’s stuff right off the bat. He is going to have to do a couple of weeks of dailies and in three weeks you are suddenly going to get it, and understand why Joe Kubert is Joe Kubert. You are going to want Joe Kubert more then anybody else in the world, I promise you this.”

He said, “You have never lied to me before, so I’ll call him.” Four or five weeks later, he called me on the phone and said, “Exactly what you said happened. I gave him the script, he did the script [and] I didn’t like it. It was crude and course and rough. By the time I got to the third week I was totally in love with it. He is not like Stan and you, but this is great stuff and I think we can sell this.” And sure enough he sold the strip. Joe stopped doing war comics and started doing the Green Berets the syndicated strip.

OFFENBERGER: Then you took Joe’s place at DC?

ADAMS: No.

I was doing stuff for Jim Warren. I was out of the comic strip business, but the problem with the Warren stuff was that I got a little too intellectual and experimental, putting a lot of work into the pages, and it really wasn’t [paying off]. The effort I was making was for no real reason, except it was fun and I was having a good time. So I thought, “Now things have changed. Now maybe I would get some work at DC Comics.”

I noticed that over at Marvel, Jack Kirby and Stan were doing better comics. [I thought,] “Maybe DC is looking and thinking that I could get some work over there. Well, who should I work for?” I really didn’t like most of the comics [at DC] but I did like war comics, and I knew the artists who did them, so I thought, “You know, now that Joe is not working there, they’ve got Russ Heath and they are plugging other people in where Joe used to be. Maybe I could kind of shift into a Joe Kubert kind of thing and do some war comics, and kind of bash them out.”

I had gotten one of Joe’s samples in High School and Joe knocked them out pretty quick. It was a way to make money. So I went over to see [DC Editor] Bob Kanigher and I showed him my stuff, and I did have that feeling that they were missing Joe – a guy who could draw and do that rough, action stuff. So he gave me some work. In a short period of time I had as many stories as I wanted to do. We had a run in or two, Bob and I. Well, we had one run in.

OFFENBERGER: What happened?

ADAMS: Well, it wasn’t much of anything. He decided to art direct my stuff. I brought it in and he told me what he didn’t like about it, and things I should change. I recognized that this Bob Kanigher was the guy I had heard about before and he was a little rough on folks. So, I closed the door to his office and I said, “If we are going to work together, why don’t we have a little private conversation, you and I.” So I closed the door and I said, “Bob, I have read your stuff for years. There are some things about [your work] I like and some things I don’t like. I’ll make a deal with you. I will never mention the things I don’t like about your writing and you don’t try to art direct my work, because if you do, I am not going to work for DC any more. He said, “Well that’s fine, no problem.” And from that point on we had a really terrific relationship. Well, I didn’t hit him or anything.

OFFENBERGER: How did you go from war comics to Batman?

ADAMS: They pretty much wanted me to do anything I could. Like I said, it was as if I had fallen out of the sky. I could do whatever was needed. I did an Elongated Man story. I did Spectre. I was taken off Spectre and I did Deadman. I did a lot of covers. Since I was a little kid I wanted to do Batman but it seemed [DC] had a certain way of doing Batman. It had to do with some type of contract they had with [Batman creator] Bob Kane. So I went into [DC Editor] Julie Schwartz’ office and I said, “I’d sure like to try a Batman story.” And Julie said, “Get the hell out of my office.” I went down the hall to Murray Boltinoff’s office. He edited a book called The Brave and the Bold. Murray wanted me to work on anything. He was scrounging around for some kind of thing for me to do with him. I did Jerry Lewis comics and Bob Hope comics for Murray. It was the best money I ever made in comics. I could pencil 10 pages in a day.

OFFENBERGER: That’s amazing.

ADAMS: They paid the same as they did for the other pages, it was insane for me not to do them. I said to him, “You’ve got this comic book called Brave and the Bold where you have different heroes teaming up with Batman. Can I do an issue or two of that?” He said, “No problem. Next one up, you’ve got it.” I said, “Only one thing, I don’t want to change anything in the writing, I just want to every once in a while change locations and time of day.” I wanted to change the time to night because it just seems silly to have Batman walking around in his underwear in the daytime. Murray said, “That’s fine, no problem.” So, I took the script and I started drawing Brave and the Bold.

After a couple months, Julie Schwartz corners me at DC Comics, he has a handful of letters and he stops me in the hallway and he says, “How come all these fans say the only Batman at DC Comics is in Brave and Bold?” I said, “Well, Julie, in Brave and Bold he’s really Batman. He is not walking around in the daytime in his underwear, he is skulking around at night.” He said, “What makes you think you know how to do Batman?” I said, “Julie, it’s not me who knows how to do Batman, it’s me and every kid in America who knows what Batman ought to be. The problem at DC Comics is that no one knows what Batman is.” He said, “Get back here. Now you are going to be drawingBatman.”

Julie opened the door for me to do Batman. He asked me if I would like to work with Denny O’Neil. I said that would be fine. He seemed to be a nice young man. So, I started doing Batman with Denny.

OFFENBERGER: It certainly turned out to be a very legendary run.

ADAMS: You know it’s funny how things happen. You don’t really do things on purpose. It not like I thought, “This is going to be legendary.” I was doing fine on Brave and Bold, truth be told. Bob Haney’s scripts were good; he really packed a lot of stuff into his stories. I got to do Batman/Flash, Batman/Aquaman, Sgt. Rock. I was having a great time.

End of Part Two. Look for Part Three tomorrow.


To read Part One click HERE.
To read Part Two click HERE.
To read Part Three click HERE.
To read Part Four click HERE
To read Part Five click HERE.



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