There’s huge risk to slip into rhetoric and elegy when someone decide to talk about a comic book legend and if the one who has this duty is a comic book fan and the legend he has to talk about is Neal Adams, the risk will become reality for sure. The writer could explain why Adams is factually the artist who embodies the superhero comics tout court. He could explain why a drawing of Batman made by Adams, today as forty years ago, is definitively Batman; he could explain
how Adams created drawing and layout standards that induce instantly addiction in hundreds of thousands of readers across the world and influenced hundreds of drawers (at least two generations) who owe him their profession, at least graphically speaking.
Gian Piero Travini will carry this burden, I could lose myself in describing comic books, scans, close ups that rape the reader, splash pages and smartly stunning covers drawn with amazing technical abilities but designed with a market oriented mind. I’ll tell, briefly, about his professional rise and fall (maybe, frankly speaking, much more a sinusoid) and about his personality.
A LIL’BIT O’ HISTORY part 1
Neal Adams was born in 1941; at the age of twenty he was already a pro and before he was thirty he had widely showed his talents as illustrator and comic artist by drawing for DC the comic books and covers that created his myth, with a quality already superior to the average.
Almost immediately co-opted in the covers making with stunning and effective results, Neal realized stories for series not-so-famous, he succeeded in instilling in every series he “touched” new life and he succeeded in creating a strong public response. From the mid sixties to the mid seventies he drew mostly Batman (World’s Finest, The Brave and the Bold, Batman), Deadman and Green Arrow stories. Those comics are the superhero’s graphic establishment as we can imagine him today, as Gian Piero will explain, the ABC’s two generations of drawers have learned by heart, hoping to understand “how it goes”…
From the mid-seventies Neal Adams decided to take advantage of his professional experiences as copywriter founding the advertising studio that he called Continuity (with Dick Giordano) and gradually leaving the superheroe comic books to follow his new activity full time. Continuity also created along the years several comics, often drawn by Adams himself, but it finished into the market contraction spiral at the end of nineties.
In the recent past, as he stated in a long interview published at the end of the special, advertising orders for Continuity went down and Neal returned back to draw comic books for DC…
Continuity is a studio that elaborates different advertising projects for different clients.
Thanks to an audio and video recording studio it is organized to develop animation projects (video comics trailers realized in spectacular way, starting from drawings with a singular technique) and even classic advertisement projects (for magazines, jingles, videos…).
I had the chance to watch Neal’s colleague while he was working on this trailer and precisely taking care to let the moon on the background seem real enough at the beginning of the story.
In all the process of creation Neal Adams has central role, he bears the artistic responsibility of anything that is produced by the studio and, recently, he redirected Continuity towards comics, attending a few conventions in the States and even in Europe to make his name known (it sounds like blasphemy) to young comic readers who weren’t around in the seventies (with Batman:Odissey and with the miniseries Marvel’s The First X-Men).
Within conventions, advertisement, animation, there are brand new comics published by Continuity born from the will to strike back… we talked with Neal Adams about all of this for two hours (frankly he spoke, we listened).
A LIL’ BIT O’ HISTORY part 2
Neal Adams adventure on the drawing table, that seemed finished at the end of the nineties with the Continuity publishing division (which published mature, violent and dark superheroes almost all drawn by Adams himself and written by his favourite author, his colleague Peter Stone) closed, started again with Batman: Odyssey, a miniseries (in two separate runs) strongly criticized for its script (made by Adams himself) that is graphically a small Paradise Lost found again, counting the will of the author to put in practically all characters he drew and to conceive a story that brings a moral message as well as action and thriller, bravely managing between multiple situations.
Now, after The First X-Men, he returned to Marvel as well.
The name of the author will guarantee that the next “orders” will bring only top characters; it will be a commonplace but, after having ravaged our finances to put our hands on the deluxe reprint of his sixties and seventies comics, we looked forward to it.
As his Superman says in Batman: Odyssey, maybe it is time that Adams makes a comeback (Adams is the name of the hat that Clark Kent put on his head before leaving Batman cave).
Batman: Odyssey miniseries (Adams’s comeback after some years with an important job for a Major) is written by him even (but we wont cover that particular aspect of his works) and, most of all, it sees as inkers a group of drawers all of them his descendants on an artistic level (Bill Sienkiewicz, Scott Williams, Michael Golden, Paul Neary, Kevin Nowlan, without mentioning Josh Adams, his real son). Briefly Batman: Odyssey is totally made in “Continuity Studio”; same Studio I had the chance to visit last October
NEAL ADAMS THE MAN
If you take a look at Batman:Odissey you will notice a narrative device used to tell the story. Bruce Wayne speaks directly to the reader (whose hands can often be seen). You will know by reading the interview that Bruce Wayne essentially resembles Neal Adams.
Bruce Wayne gesticulates as him, speaks as him, he entertains, he hams, he fiddles with something in his hands. He asks you to wait for a second because, if you are patient, he will explain you how the things were. He avoids telling things just to get back later and explain them. But, most of all, he tells stories. We have a man who always worked and always looked for a way to work; it could sound like a commonplace but maybe it isn’t.
We have an artist who always accepted orders (he drew for Archie Comics, he drew Jerry Lewis comic books…) without saying anything, putting his art into the editors requests and never considering himself “the best” (in this regard it’s singular what happened when Stan Lee asked him to draw a series for Marvel Comics, eventually firing the actual artist already employed in it – see here).
There’s a businessman who, secure of his name, his lengthy experience as a copywriter and as an illustrator, has created an organization which creates multimedia products for the advertising market. We have an illustrator who has no problem to enter the fray with rampant teenagers from everywhere to return to drawing superheroes.
Talking with him you can feel that he is very self-confident; something that surely didn’t come only with mature age. Someone cannot become Neal Adams, you are Neal Adams from the beginning (or you are not). So there are no doubts to believe that during the seventies he was one of the first to act in practical terms, speaking as well known author taking in this way even a risky position, to defend the economic rights of the comics’ authors with conventions, meetings and debates with the publishers.
When you have him in front of you, you can catch what’s lies beyond those solid pencil signs, beyond those huge jaws and those sex bombs that blow your mind (you can get it both in the meaning of fists and of scantily-clad women…).
Neal Adams fought another battle to obtain the original drawings by Dina Gottliebova Babbitt, survived the Holocaust in Auschwitz concentration camp due to her drawing skills. Joe Kubert, Neal Adams and Stan Lee merged their arts to create a short six-pages story ((here you can read the pdf version of the same)) to attract the media attention on the absence of reply to Dina’s requests from the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum which has her original drawings ((for more details you can check here on New York Times).
The involvement of Neal Adams in the Holocaust has generate a project for his studio: Continuity produced 10 motion comics with the Disney which tell stories of American citizens who fought, during the war, the silence and general indifference about the Holocaust. They Spoke Out: American Voices of Protest Against the Holocaust are stories realized with Continuity’s typical motion comics style meshing animation, comics, archive footage ((you can find more details on official website here)).
Even these collateral aspects (not mentioning his battle for the Expanding Earth Theory) ((Neal Adams explain his support to the Expandig Earth Theory ; see the video linked below) show the depth of the man, freeing him from the technical and narrative qualities of his work.
See what Continuity Studio creates here
Here you can see Moebius, Joe Kubert and Neal Adams in a French TV SHow (1972)
Neal Adams sketchs a Batman here
Neal Adams sketchs another Batman here
Here you can see the video of Neal expaling his point of view on Expanding Earth Theory