Neal Adams Interview – Part 1

00) Photo 15-10-12 23 30 55 We were lucky to be received at Continuity Studios by Mr. Neal Adams for an interview. He donated us his time and he spent two hours to tell us stories; because, as he told us, he loves to tell stories, to write stories, to draw stories…

This is what he told; we cut somewhere a few words and phrases. We cut also long periods regarding “science” items in order to balance the interview and have the same focused on comic books and Neal Adams career. Anyway you can find the complete interview at the following links in our You Tube page. In the video  you will be able to understand how Neal Adams is also a great performer and entertainer.

Mr. Adams, your work on the most important superhero Comic Books impressed so well so many readers that…
You are saying I am The Beatles of the comics? That’s good. I am The Beatles of comics. All four.

And you don’t have to share money with any other else…
Well, me and Ringo, we are like that (he links his fingers).

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I read a few interview of yours and I re-read a few comic books of yours before coming here. I did my homeworks and I feel that the “red line” that pass across your life is “passion”. First passion is the one you have for comic books.
Sure. Perhaps. I would say storytelling, which you can’t do very well in illustration. My interest is in illustration as well. But you can’t tell a story very much in illustration. Well, maybe Norman Rockwell can, I can, certainly people can, but the opportunity to tell a story is greater in comics than it is in illustration. So from that point of view I fell I am a comic book illustrator. To a greater or lesser degree, not making one better than the other but that is the application of my ability because I like to tell stories. Telling a story is more important to me than the art

1) bencasey_8_29_63At a certain point of your career you drew and also wrote your stories…
Actually I did it even in the beginning. I did Superman Vs Mohamed Ali, I did most of the Deadman stories I drew, I did the  Ben Casey stories when I was a teenager and I did advertising comics. I wrote advertising comic books and advertising material. I am actually very experienced in writing.

Did they at DC at that time just asked you to draw?
It is not that they asked me only to draw, is that I was not being paid sufficiently well to make an effort to write and draw. I would periodically write a story; I did it for Marvel Comics… But at the time you noticed I was not inking the stories as well. I was basically doing the thing they were paying me the most which was to pencil the comic book, not to write or to ink it. Periodically I would also ink certain stories. If I felt touched to them or if I felt my  mojo is working properly I would ink but I didn’t have other people write stories because I taught they were better writers than I was. It was all practical. I had to make a living, sitting down and writing takes a certain kind of mindset. I was doing advertising art very very much…

2) bencaseyWhen you reached DC Comics, in fact, you already had a job…
Although I worked in advertising for years, advertising isn’t as regular as comics, as job. You can do an advertising job and don’t have another one for two or three weeks. What is good about comic books is that they fill in the time; there was always job on my desk so if I did advertising which paid me maybe four or five times much money… so what happened was that when I finished an advertising job I would have picked a comic book job so I would have a continued income… I was raising a family, I had five kids, I have grandchildren now.
And so, in a time when artist were paid so poorly they had to scratch for living and do other works I did well. I’ve been done well all my life. Since I was in High School because I was never an artist in the sense that I would sacrifice for art. I was practical.
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You said there is a way to put “your art” in a commercial market…
And yet, if you are anything at an artist you can always find the way to express yourself. Well, the good thing about comic books was that they were more free; the bad thing is because they paid so little I didn’t get that much than an opportunity to write doing a comic books. But I was fortuned enough for both National (DC) and Marvel Comics to get the two best writers that they had so  I really have anything to blame for…

You said that after a few years you arrived at DC you were able to choose the jobs..
I would say, quite a bit before that. Almost immediately. I was always… I was made an effort to please and things that I did I was quite happy to do but when I asked to do something they pretty much agreed…

VIDEO 4) Popular Mechanics (1958)2

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I have read the funny story about Stan Lee asking you which title you wanted to draw for Marvel and you asked what was their worst selling title…
Well, was interesting that Stan Lee was asking what I wanted to do and he said I can do anything. Obviously you have artist that were working on different titles and he said “No, no, you can do any book you want” and I said “Wooo… why you are saying that Stan” and it seems a kind of brutal but he said “Well, to be perfectly honest Deadman is the only (DC, drawn by Adams at that time – ndr) book at Marvel that we read” (-Neal Adams was drawing the title). Pretty much he was going to let me do anything… and he turned up very well for Marvel we have to say because after those 10 books (X-Men nn.56 to 65 -ndr) we created the legend of the X-Men that is going on to today.

You told me that you loved comics at the beginning of your career because you liked storytelling. What about now?
Yes, I love to tell stories. I love to tell stories in interviews, I love to tell stories in classrooms, I love to tell stories in conversations, and I love to tell stories on paper. I think that that’s what mankind is. I mean one of the thing that I find interesting is that so few people like to study History, and History has great stories… in fact if you would study filmmaking outside of the dramatic family-friend oriented movies or television shows or the super-hero genre you have historical novels, stories and television shows and movies… Alexander the Great, all these stories that make up the bulk of our literature so it’s not just me that likes to tell stories. We all like to tell stories and to view stories. Frank Millers’s 300 is a retelling of famous story… All artists like to tell stories and the sad thing is that now until the comic book we have been kept very much away from telling stories. The idea of painting a painting and putting on canvas, putting a frame on and putting on somebody’s wall to me is a total waste of an artist time and effort. I mean, we were meant to communicate so we have gone through this process historically painting on walls of caves to tell a story to doing frescos and tile pictures that tell stories in our own homes to painting on walls and telling stories in Egypt or Mesopotamia, wherever… Telling stories was in fact what you were reading. What you were reading is somebody images are words, somebody images are pictures; essentially you are reading a comic book. It’s a strip.
6) nat20046You read a little pictogram and than you see the pictures of the man and his wife and whatever… essentially is not a series of drawing, it’s a series of storytelling. He wasn’t until the dark ages, until we went into this crushing religious oppression for a thousand years that we essentially destroyed the storytelling. Well, in ancient Greece, in Rome, stories would be on vases… and so we were storytelling people until the dark ages and when art came out of that time. Suddenly it turned to wall decorations; rich people were paying people to make wall decorations and make statues for the religious and paint ceilings and that is all that artists were able to do… We not only went into a dark ages of culture, we went through a dark ages of art. And all those things you see into Museum are the very small attempts to bring art back to the only path whatever available. That was not what artists should be doing and really was an awful time. I try to imagine myself living in Rembrandt’s time where turning somebody’s face away from the front of the painting could loose me the commission and in fact even when I try to faces to the front what was I doing? Painting somebody face. Biiig deal. Really, really big deal.

So we are now living in the true Renaissance. This is the true Renaissance, not that. That is the birthing of art again but this is the Renaissance.

They knew how to do things but they were not doing anything…
Well, what were they doing? It’s like, look at the Mona Lisa… I understand how somebody tries to make something out of the Mona Lisa but it is a boring piece of crap. Who gives a crap? I mean, no, I don’t see a smile on that face I am sorry… We try to make something out of it but is only crap. I am not the kind of person that is usually impressed by crap. I don’t know why.

7) DC-Universe-Illustrated-By-Neal-AdamsI told you how much you shocked young readers with your 70’s comic books, Ok, this is a stupid question but I am confident that a smart answer will help… How do you feel to be considered a real icon in the superhero comic books field? You are considered a teacher from so many actual artists but you didn’t teach them in classes…
If you teach the lessons than the lessons hold. I mean, if the lessons are good they work for all time.

That’s why your 70’s comic books are still used as “books” in comic book schools.
Well, and that’s why they have been reprinted and they are keeping reprinting all the time. And they are raising the price. It is printed and printed again because it is a lasting document. And you have to understand that I started learning my lessons at a very young age and I was pretty much a sponge to learn from other people. You know, people have ego and everyone has ego and my ego in some way was terrible and wanted to express himself. But when I ran into information and views that were different than mine I was nothing but a spunch. My ego just went out of the windows. And all I was interested was earring other people opinions and views and how to do things and I just wanted to find out why people did things. For me it was a fu**ing wonderful life of learning and finding things out. And it happens also now. I’ve had a meeting with my family and we are discussing what we gonna do in the next convention and I learned more than what I was able to express because they had observation that I have not seen so now I’m learning from them. I don’t have a big ego, really.

8) 1292207-1291858_batmanodyssey001.cbz___page_1_super_superYou feel yourself more responsible in what you do and say now since your “icon” status?
No. Screw. Couldn’t care less. My responsibility is to myself. And to the work that I do. And I assume that anybody who is an artist has the same responsibility. We all share that sense of trying to impress people with the works that we do and hoping that people will be effected by it because that’s why we do it. Once that happens than you move to something else. Well, I did Batman Odyssey and a lot of people criticize it but in the end I was very very happy. When it happens I ask them if they just read what has been told in internet and I ask if they read the 13rd chapter. How could you have a negative view without reading the last chapter. You understand what I mean?
In comic books I attempt to do new things all the time. I told that I was going to write a book that has 12 chapters (than became 13); you are not gonna know what the book is until you read all 12 chapters. It is not a series of stories. It is like Ulysses. They said I don’t understand the first book… It was a book in 13 chapters. That’s the way it will be looked at in the future because will get the heads together and they they will find the 13rd chapter and they will say Oh My God I have to go back to the first chapter because all the stuff was there to get to the thirteen chapter… We talked about hydrogen power, we talked about a person approach to life and death. All these things and major, major issues and all you were doing it was reading a comic book. Well there is a moment you have to wake up.

I did a story for The Spectre: it was called Stop that kid before he wrecks the world (you can read the whole story here). And it was about a creature from other space who entered to a little boy and started to commit all these disasters. Spectre tried to stop him but he had to stop all these disasters before he can stop the kid but in the end he was faced with the decision of… if he tried to withdraw this creature from the little boy the little boy will die. So the little boy was the sacrificial lamb and the kid could do terrible things. Only The Spectre could undo them; so Corrigan, his alter ego, was saying “look, just face it, you are going to kill the boy; that’s the only choice” and so he realized that was in fact the case because the power that this kid had was so great that he would have to keep after him his life and so he ad to make that choice. And that is the trouble: he says “no, I’m not going kill the boy. If I have to spend the rest of eternity just stopping what he does that’s what I’ll do. I’ll not kill the boy.”

wreckThe point is that his moral background was based on the concept that he would sacrifice everything not to destroy his own and that was the plan of this creature that was to take the greatest good on earth which at that time was The Spectre, corrupt him and then destroy the world through corruption. To me that was a kind of comic book worth reading. That’s a moral lesson and I think in many ways that the end lesson of values is what I do with Batman. You know Batman at the 13rd issue seems to kill the character but he doesn’t. He actually gives him some new life and Robin who doubted him at a certain point… and Batman said “show biz, kid, just show biz….” and of course he said “I told you; I will never kill anybody. Do you think that if I give you my word I am gonna go back on it? Never. So he went through this whole process to come to the same place. Good story, good idea. I liked that.

END OF PART 1

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