Friday, April 27, 2007


Neal Adams drew some of the finest super-hero comic book pages during the 1960's and 1970's, in a much praised, bold, cinematic, and realistic style that owes much to some earlier purveyors of such material, but the style was made the signature of Neal's work in comic books, and makes him hit near the top of many people's lists of "best" and "favorite" comic book artists, comic strip artists, or cartoonists.
Neal drew samples of "Adam Strange", the DC character, when Neal was a boy, and submitted them to DC. He did not land a job there then, but he did have some early super-hero work published by ARCHIE COMICS.
I believe that Neal's big break came drawing the syndicated newspaper feature of BEN CASEY, based on a hugely popular tv program of the 1960's, and this was a truly woderful showcase for Neal's style. Vince Edwards, who played the tough, uncompromising tv doctor, was much like Adams' later portrayal of SUPERMAN. The strip was written by Elliot Caplin, brother of the famous cartoonist behind LI'L ABNER, Al Capp, and there were truly topical themes in the strip. Adams was the perfect artistic choice for delineating this maverick medic, and the work was foreshadowing his future, much loved comic book work.
Neal went on to produce pages drawn along the lines of MAD Magazine cartoonist work by Mort Drucker, for THE ADVENTURES OF BOB HOPE and THE ADVENTURES OF JERRY LEWIS, of all things, for DC COMICS, but these are really fun to look at!!!
The next big phase of Neal's career that I know of still found him drawing pages for DC, including some gorgeous covers for WORLD'S FINEST COMICS and DC SPECIAL, but it was shortly after these, that Neal really hit the nail on the head with comic book fans, when he took over drawing the character "Deadman", co-created by the late Arnold Drake and Carmine Infantino, in the pages of DC's STRANGE ADVENTURES. The series centered on the wandering spirit of a murdered circus acrobat who was stuck wandering Earth to find his killer, and the series had him going from place to place and helping people he encountered along the way.
"Deadman" would inhabit the body of the person he was trying to help, or their friends or enemies bodies, and do things that would assist the troubled individual. Neal drew some beautiful pages for the feature, which was later "borrowed", in my opinion, for the plot of the famous movie, GHOST, with Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, and Whoopi Goldberg.
Around this time, when the DC series GREEN LANTERN was on the brink of being discontinued, Neal was given the opportunity to re-invent it with writer Denny O'Neil, and the team, along with such inkers as Bernie Wrightson (for one issue), Frank Giacoia (same) and Dick Giordano (for the rest, I believe) made GL a conservative and otook the recently altered character GREEN ARROW, portrayed him as a passionate liberal, and sent the two of them traveling the country, a la the movie EASY RIDER.
These issues of "GL/GA" seem rather dated today, but remain very popular with many fans, and are among the best drawn of the "realistic" style of comic books ever, and have been reprinted numerous times, in many formats, from standard comic book format to "luxury, slip-cased hardcover book editions", and all good comic book fans ought to read these.
I do want to pint out that Neal was almost certainly, in my opinion, influenced by such artistic predecessors as Stan Drake, Leonard Starr, and John Prentice, as well as advertising illustrator Tom Scheuer, and the work of the ad agency, Johnstone & Cushing. All of this has been covered elsewhere, in other discussions of Neal's career.
Neal also drew some brilliant issues of X-MEN around this time, for MARVEL COMICS, but that title was failing as well, and DC discontinued GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW, for multiple reasons I suspect, and MARVEL dropped X-MEN, which would become, ironically, one of the copany's most successful series from the mid-1970' s forward to now, and become the basis for several blockbuster theatrical features and more than one animated cartoon for television.
The next big thing for Neal would wear a long cape and a symbol with a bat on his chest...

--additions, edits, and MUCH more will follow

1 comment:

John Sack said...

How about a photo or portrait of the artist.