Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Neal Edward Adams was born on Governors Island, a 172-acre island a half mile from the southern tip of Manhattan in New York Harbor used by the US Army, on 15 June 1941. His father deserted the family when Adams was only 13 and, with college financially out of reach, he attended the School of Industrial Art, a vocational school in Manhattan.
Graduating in 1959, and turned down by DC Comics, he submitted samples to Archie Comics where Joe Simon was creating a superhero line. A sample of The Fly earned him his first professional appearance when a panel from his sample was used in Adventures of The Fly #4 (Jan 1960). Adams was soon drawing fillers for Archie's Joke Book Magazine and was recommended to Howard Nostrand, who needed an assistant on "Bat Masterson", a syndicated newspaper strip based on the TV series.
Adams gained some much needed experience on the strip and turned to advertising, working for Johnstone & Cushing for a year. The company specialised in comic strip advertising and Adams found himself working on AT&T advertising strip "Chip Martin, College Reporter" for Boys' Life and similar work for the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company.
Adams, following a recommendation by Jerry Caplin (brother of Al Capp), was asked to produce samples for a new strip to be based on the popular TV drama Ben Casey. The strip was successfully pitched and was syndicated from 26 November 1962 with a colour Sunday strip added on 20 September 1964. The TV series came to an end in March 1966 and the strip followed on 31 July 1966.
Adams attempted to return to advertising work but needed to fill in, ghosting a few weeks for Lou Fine on the syndicated hardboiled detective serial "Peter Scratch", Stan Drake's "The Heart of Juliet Jones" and was hawking around a strip of his own, "Tangent". He was offered work by Peter Scratch-creator Elliot Caplin on a proposed adaptation of Robin Moore's The Green Berets but Adams – opposed to the war – suggested Joe Kubert, who accepted the job.
Adams made his first splash in comic books drawing horror stories for Warren Publishing before exploiting the gap left by Kubert at DC Comics. After producing a handful of war and horror stories for anthologies like Our Army at War, Adams found himself working on The Adventures of Jerry Lewis and The Adventures of Bob Hope.
After producing a few covers featuring Superman and Batman for Action Comics, Lois Lane and The Brave and the Bold, Adams produced his first team-up story, "The Superman-Batman Revenge Squads" for World's Finest Comics in 1968. However, it was with the supernatural hero Deadman that Adams found his first real success. He took over the artwork with Strange Adventures #206 and illustrated the stories and covers for eleven issues, also taking over the scriptwriting with issue 212. Adams also briefly drew (and even more briefly wrote) The Spectre in 1968.
Adams was assigned numerous covers at DC and, in 1969, also began working for Marvel Comics, pencilling several issues of X-Men, then under threat of cancellation. He, along with writer Roy Tomas and inker Tom Palmer, are credited with turning the characters around, all three winning the Alley Awards (Best Pencil Artist, Best Inking Artist, Best Writer). That same year Deadman entered the Hall of Fame and Adams received a Special Award for "the new perspective and dynamic vibrance he has brought to the field of comic art."
Awards could not save X-Men, which folded with issue 66 (Mar 1970). Adams continued to draw horror comics for Marvel (Tower of Shadows) and Warren (Vampirella), but it was his debut on Batman which was to cement his place in comics' history. He debuted in Detective Comics (Jan 1970) with a story by writer Dennis O'Neil and, in the next eighteen months, introduced the characters Man-Bat and Ra's al Ghul. Adams' talent to draw realistic figures helped ground the series in the real after years of camp adventure that had overtaken the comic book following the success of the 1966-68 TV series. Adams and O'Neil gave Gotham back its brooding hero and reestablished characters like The Joker as a homicidal maniac rather than the prancing buffoonery of the ABC TV show.
Adams and O'Neill also performed a similar revamping of Green Lantern and Green Arrow. Green Lantern was renamed Green Lantern/Green Arrow with issue 76 (Apr 1970) and took the two characters on a journey across America that ran for two years and encompassed one of the pair's most controversial stories in which Green Arrow's ward, the clean-cut Speedy, was revealed as a heroin addict. The series ended with issue 89 (May 1972) ... the frustrating truth being that controversy in comics rarely translated into sales to the broader public. Speaking in 1978, Adams told The Comics Journal, "It takes a good year to get somebody used to a new idea, to get a market used to a new idea ... It takes a while for the news to get around. By the time the news got around to Green Lantern / Green Arrow it was cancelled."
With the exception of his work on Batman, Adams became a more sporadic contributor to DC, although he was involved in a number of 'event' comics, such as the inter-company crossover, Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man (1976) and Superman vs. Muhammad Ali (1978), the latter a 72-page story teaming Superman with boxer Ali to battle aliens.
In 1971, Adams and Dick Giordano, an inker with whom he often worked, set up Continuity Graphics Associates Inc. to produce storyboards for movies and produce comic art for advertising. A studio was set up in New York through which dozens of artists passed. Advertising work would often be passed around various artists with Adams and Giordano inking the main figures. This team effort was often credited to the "Crusty Bunkers", including numerous inking jobs for DC Comics, in the period 1972-77.
Adams was also the art director and costume designer for Warp! (1973) a Broadway play by film director Stuart Gordon and playwright Lenny Kleinfeld.
Adams also took time out to study a film course at NYU and filmed a full-length horror film, Nannaz, on a $30,000 budget. It starred Adams, his children Jason and Zeea and comic personalities Gray Morrow and Denys Cowan and told the story of two children who protect an invention of their father's from crooks with the aid of a toy monkey. It was reputedly released via Troma Entertainment in Europe in 1986 or 1987 under the title Death to the Pee-Wee Squad.
In the 1980s, Adams was tempted back into comics and produced Ms. Mystic (1982) and Skateman (1983) for Pacific Comics, the latter lasting only a single issue which was cited as the worst single comic of the past 25 years by Kitchen Sink Press's World's Worst Comics Awards (1990). Ms. Mystic, a witch in the modern world, appeared only twice from Pacific before transferring to Adams' own company, Continuity Comics in 1987.
Formed in 1984, Continuity launched a number of titles, including Zero Patrol, a reworking of a Spanish series by Esteban Maroto (2 issues, 1984-85) and Echo of Futurepast, an anthology which serialised a number of creations that Adams had planned as books to be published in Europe, including a Dracula-Werewolf-Frankenstein team-up by Adams (based on a 1975 comic book and record set, A Story of Dracula, the Wolfman and Frankenstein from Power Records), "Bucky O'Hare" by Larry Hama & Michael Golden, "Tippie Toe Jones" by Lindley Farley & Louis Mitchell and "Mudwogs" by Arthur Suydam.
Continuiuty entered the superhero market with Armor (1985-92), Revengers (1986-89), Toyboy (1986-89), Samuree (1987-91), Zero Patrol (1987-89), Ms. Mystic (1987-93), Urth 4 (1989-90) and Megalith (1989-93). A 1993 relaunch saw a number of series revert to issue one and new titles appear, the Continuity line-up now including Armor, Cyberrad, Earth, Hybrids, Megalith and Ms. Mystic, with Samuree, Shaman and Valerie, She-Bat added soon after. Continuity were caught up in the collapse of the speculative comics' boom in 1994 part-way through a company-wide crossover. At the time, Adams was also involved in a court case – with Michael Netzer over the rights to Ms. Mystic – which was dismissed in 1997.
One Continuity success was Bucky O'Hare, which became an animated TV series in 1991-92 under the title Bucky O'Hare and the Toad Wars! on which Adams was credited as executive producer. Adams has worked as a concept designer on movies such as From Beyond (1986), Dolls (1987), Circuitry Man (1990), and the Skeleton Warriors TV series (1994-95).
Adams continues to work with Continuity Studios to produce material for companies, including motion capture comics (such as Astonishing X-Men: Gifted, scripted by Joss Whedon, in 2009 and the upcoming Neal Adams' Blood, based on his Dark Horse Presents series), animatics and CGI. He has also recently been involved with the Disney Educational productions to produce They Spoke Out: American Voices against the Holocaust, an online educational motion comics series that relates the stories of Americans who protested the Nazis or aided Jews during the Holocaust. The first episode was screened in April 2010.
Neal Adams' Monsters, the long-promised story featuring Frankenstein, the Werewolf and Dracula, appeared as a hardcover book in 2004. Adams has occasionally returned to mainstream comics including stories for Giant Size X-Men #3 (2005) and Young Avengers Special #1 (2006) for Marvel and Batman: Odyssey (2010-12) for DC. It was recently (May 2012) announced that Adams would be co-writing (with Christos Gage) The First X-Men, a 5-issue mini-series which Adams would be drawing. Adams has also been involved in a 5-part Wolverine project.
Adams has been twice married, to Cory Adams and Marilyn Adams. His children include daughters Kristine Stone and Zeea Moss and sons Jason (a sculptor under the name Spyda), Joel and Josh Adams.
Examples of Neal Adams' artwork can be found at the Illustration Art Gallery.