Neal Adams, one of the most influential comic book artists of all time due to his transformative work on Batman, the Avengers and the X-Men, died Thursday of complications from sepsis. He was 80 years old.
Adams was one of the few artists who, early in his career, worked at both Marvel and DC Comics, helping chart the visual path for some of comics’ most popular characters. His most lasting influences would be on DC’s Batman, making him a darker character that moved away from the ’60s camp, and on Marvel’s X-Men, which, despite being canceled in 1970 due to low sales, was considered an artistic triumph that led to an ultimate revival, when it would become one of the company’s flagship titles.
During his career, Adams co-created the characters Ra’s al Ghul, Man-Bat and John Stewart for DC Comics and the agent/hero of SHIELD Mockingbird and the villain Sauron for Marvel. In terms of popular stories, Adams drew Marvel’s Kree-Skrull War saga of the 70s and “Superman Vs. Muhammed Ali Comic,” one of the last full stories Adams drew at DC before open his own company, Continuity Associates, which focused on creating storyboards for films.
Adams was politically active in and beyond the comics industry and he helped lead efforts on behalf of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and their families to receive credits and financial compensation from DC. . He has received numerous prestigious awards and inductions into halls of fame such as the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame from the Eisner Awards in 1998, the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame from the Harvey Awards in 1999, and the Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame. in 2019.
Adams was born on June 15, 1941, on Governors Island, New York. He grew up on military bases ranging from Brooklyn to Germany. After high school, he was discouraged when his work was not embraced by DC Comics publisher Joe Simon while working at Archie Comics. But he pushed on and eventually gained recognition, having a panel of his work published in “Adventures of the Fly” #4.
Like many in the 1960s, Adams was also paid to do illustrations through comic books, with a first appearance on November 26, 1962, in a comic strip for the TV show “Ben Casey”. His early comic book work was in Warren Publishing’s black-and-white horror comic magazines, under editor Archie Goodwin. Adams got his start there as the penciler and inker of writer Goodwin’s eight-page anthology story “Curse of the Vampire” in Creepy #14 (April 1967).
In 1967 Adams went to DC Comics where he drew covers for war comics and contributed to “The Adventures of Jerry Lewis” and “The Adventures of Bob Hope”. His big breakthrough came a year later when he began drawing Batman, and in 1970 DC publisher Julius Schwartz gave him the Batman comics, alongside writer Dennis O’Neil. The pair also collaborated on a popular Green Lantern series which tackled issues such as racism and drug addiction.
“My father is a force”, wrote Josh Adams in a Twitter post. “His life has been defined by unparalleled artistry and unwavering character, which has motivated him to keep fighting for his colleagues and those in need.”
Adams brought a touch of realism to the superheroes in the comics that appeared on the page, both physically and in terms of powers.
Of Batman, he said in a 2016 interview with The Times, “I want women to fall in love with him and I want men to respect him. I want him to look like he’s training. That’s what I want to see. I know that sounds a little pedantic, but that’s what I wanted.
On Superman: “For me, the character of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster was Superman. He got a little fluffy and powdery along the way and got a little godlike at the same time, and I think we want to go back to being a man that you fall in love with and love as a pal. …I don’t like magic, you know what I mean?