The Batman Comics artist was 80 – The Hollywood Reporter

Neal Adams, the legendary comic book artist who invigorated Batman and other superheroes with his photorealistic styles and advocating for creators’ rights, has passed away. He was 80 years old.

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

Adams rocked the comic book world in the late 1960s and early 70s with his bracing, edgy approach to heroes, first in DC with a character named Deadman, then in Marvel with X-Men and The Avengers. , then with its most enduring influence. , Batman.

During his run Batman, Adams and the Writer Dennis O’Neil brought a revolutionary change to heroes and comics, delivering realism, kinetics, and a sense of menace to their storytelling in the wake of campy Adam West– featuring the ABC series of the 60s and the years of the hero aimed at children’s readers.

He created new villains for the rogues gallery – the Man-Bat and Ra’s al Ghul as well as the latter’s daughter, Talia, who became Batman’s lover. Father and Daughter, played by Liam Neeson and Marion Cotillardwere key characters in the Batman film trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan.

The Batman run also revived some villains who had gone stale, neither did the Joker, who became less comedic and more the murderous maniac that modern readers and moviegoers know and love, truly taking his place as the archenemy of the Caped Crusader.

“We took a harder edge. We decided Joker was just a little crazy,” Adams told Abraham Reisman for a 2019 Vulture article which claimed that without this classic story, 1973’s “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge” in Batman #251comics such as The killer joke and representations by Jack Nicholson, health book and Joaquin Phoenix would not exist.

“It was no secret that we did Batman well,” Adams said during a panel at San Diego Comic-Con in 2010. I was doing, that we want it to be more realistic, more gritty. And that’s how we remember – whether it’s true or not – that Batman should be. And when we did that, everyone s said, ‘Ah, that’s it. We don’t need comedy anymore.

Adams, also with O’Neil, proposed a then-controversial turn for Green Lantern/Green Arrow, tackling social issues such as drug addiction, racism, and overpopulation and creating Green Lantern hero Jon Stewart, who became one of DC’s first. Black icons. Their 1971 two-part story “Snowbirds Don’t Fly” remains a watermark in moving toward more mature readers.

It was at this creative height in the mid-’70s that Adams quit drawing for the Big Two, as DC and Marvel were known, and started Continuity Studios, an artists’ studio that produced comics, art and music. commercial art and storyboards, among other services. The comics division created independent characters such as Bucky O’Hare and Ms. Mystic.

He also proved to be an influence on generations of artists, giving many a boost or breakthrough in the industry. He acted as a mentor to Bill Sienkiewicz, who would draw an influential series of Moon Knight and New Mutants, and Frank Millerwho would reinvent Batman himself more than a decade later with The return of the dark knight.

“It wasn’t until I sat at tables at conventions next to the same people that I watched treating my dad with such respect that I realized he was their dad too,” his son Josh said. Adams in a statement. THR. “The most undeniable quality of Neal Adams was the one I had known of him all my life: he was a father. Not just my dad, but a dad to anyone who got to know him.

Adams also worked tirelessly to promote better working conditions and, radically at the time, the rights of creators, especially for their work. He recognized the value of creators early on and was a thorn in editors’ side, demanding compensation for himself and others when their characters were adapted off the page.

Him, with Stan Lee, formed the Academy of Comic Arts, hoping to create a union that would fight for benefits and ownership on behalf of writers and artists. Lee wanted an organization that was more like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and the two went their separate ways.

In the late ’70s, as a new federal work-for-hire law was passed, Marvel, and then editor Jim Shooter, handed out contracts that said freelancers couldn’t claim the right to work. author on their creations. As detailed in Reisman Lee’s 2021 biography, true believer, Adams circulated a copy of the contract, scribbling on it: “Don’t sign this contract!” You’ll sign your life!” While it caused a ruckus and a wake-up call, the effort didn’t have the intended effect as Marvel flexed its muscles and threatened anyone who tried to unionize with an indie well drying up. .

Adams had better luck going up against corporate lords in two other areas. He helped change the practice of comic book publishers keeping original art by artists or even shredding it and throwing it away, prompting companies to establish art return policies, which allowed artists to benefit from a second source of income. Biggest example: Marvel rendered art pages to Jack Kirbythe co-creator of Fantastic Four, Thor, X-Men and Hulk.

He also proved to be a champion of two writer-artists who laid the foundation for DC, Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. When he learned of their plight – a push factor was hearing they couldn’t attend a Broadway musical starring the Man of Steel – he led a lobbying effort that eventually led to greater recognition for the couple, a designer label in comics and other media that continues to this day, plus a pension.

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Neal Adams at work in the early 1970s
Courtesy of the Adams family

Adams was born in New York City on June 15, 1941, and attended the School of Industrial Art in Manhattan. He set his sights on comics early on, and as he continued to be shunned from DC in the late ’50s, he did comedy gags for Archie Comics. He also worked in commercial advertising, bringing a comic book art style to his endeavors which would later influence his work on DC and Marvel and help him stand out. Adams also worked for several years in the 60s on a daily comic featuring Ben Casey.

At the end of the decade, he finally landed in DC, doing first covers, then backup stories, then finally main stories. When he was assigned Deadman in the title strange adventures, he had pretty much established his style, and it was only a matter of time before the industry took notice. Deadman became a surprise hit and won him an Alley Award for “for the fresh perspective and dynamic dynamics” he brought to the medium.

During Batman’s heyday, when Adams was blowing readers’ socks off every month, he was also causing a stir in DC offices with his art.

“At that time, if the work came in early enough, it would sit in flat files in production for maybe three or four weeks before someone picked it up and made the lettering fixes,” the editor recalled. the then, Paul Levitz, at the 2010. Comic-Con Panel. “The great books that were always coming, people were coming and they were looking at it. And when they came to deliver their art, they stopped in production, [saying,] “Do you have Neal’s latest work?” or “Let me see what’s in the Detective drawer.’ And it becomes a “Can you do better?”

“My dad was a force,” Josh Adams said. “His career has been defined by unparalleled artistry and an unwavering character that has driven 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 an advocate for social and creator rights. When he saw a problem, he didn’t hesitate. What would become stories told and retold about the fights he fought was born out of my dad simply seeing something bad as he walked through the halls of Marvel or DC and decided to do something about it. about it immediately.

The entertainer also understood the value of fan support and was a fixture on the convention scene, where he was lovable, cantankerous, and a repository of comic book history who enjoyed being a storyteller.

In addition to his wife of 45 years and Josh, survivors include two other sons, Jason and Joel; daughters Kris and Zeea; grandchildren Kelly, Kortney, Jade, Sebastian, Jane and Jaelyn; and great-grandson Maximus.

His three sons and Zeea work as artists in the field of comics or fantasy.

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