We’re sorry to report the death of legendary American comic artist Neal Adams, aged 80, due to complications from sepsis.
Starting out in the business aged just 16, some of his notable works include Batman, Green Lantern/Green Arrow, Strange Adventures featuring the character, Deadman, The Brave and the Bold, for DC Comics; and The Avengers and X-Men for Marvel.
He also co-created characters Ra’s al Ghul, Man-Bat, and John Stewart for DC Comics, and was the founder of Continuity Comics.
“Adams jolted the world of comic books in the late 1960s and early ’70s with his toned and sinewy take on heroes,” notes Borys Kit for Hollywood Reporter, “first at DC with a character named Deadman, then at Marvel with the X-Men and the Avengers, then back at DC with his most lasting influence, Batman.
“During his Batman run, Adams and writer Dennis O’Neil brought a revolutionary change to the hero and the comics, delivering realism, kineticism and a sense of menace to their storytelling in the wake of the campy Adam West-starring ’60s ABC series and years of the hero being aimed at kiddie readers.”
“The body of work Neal Adams produced near the end of the Silver Age caused something akin to a revolution in comic art,” notes artist Arlen Schumer of Neal’s work in a tribute on Facebook. “If Jack Kirby’s approach was the ultimate in larger-than-life, stylized exaggeration, Adams’ was the opposite: a unique blend of dynamic anatomy and photographic realism that made the fantasy worlds of superheroes visually believable in ways never before seen.”
“He was a master at every facet of art,” agrees artist Jim Lee. “His range of expressions, the dramatic use of lighting and shadowing, the seemingly facile command of anatomy, and of course, the trademark finger-pointed-in-your-face foreshortening was all just unbelievably next level.
“And it all seemed so very magically alive. Neal’s work has influenced every image I have created and continues to be the gold standard I aspire to when I put pencil to paper.”
Neal also worked tirelessly to promote better working conditions and creators’ rights. He helped lead to the modern industry’s standard practice of returning original artwork to the artist, who can earn additional income from art sales to collectors. In 1978, he co-founded the Comic Creators Guild.
In 1987, he won a legal battle with Marvel that returned artwork to him and legendary artist Jack Kirby, and he helped lobby for Superman creators Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel to receive overdue compensation from DC Comics.
“Neal Adams was both an unstoppable force and an immovable object,” notes a shocked Bill Sienkiewicz in a moving tribute, acknowledging it would to take him some time to process the loss. “The world just lost an amazing artist, a brilliant storyteller, a wild creative force of nature, a man who forever changed the comics medium and the culture of entertainment. His impact was beyond seismic; it also changed the course of my very existence.
“His work saved my life. Literally. Without his work, without him, there wouldn’t be me, at least not the me that I am today. Neal was my artistic father, mentor and dear dear friend.
“I miss him.”
Speaking personally, Neal Adams early work on Batman and Deadman were some of the most memorable American comics I bought as a teenager, often grabbing a new issue of the caped crusader’s latest adventures simply for Neal’s striking covers. A powerful force in American comics, a huge influence on many of the artists I have worked with down the years, he will be much missed, but his legacy will live on.
Our sympathies to family and friends at this difficult time.
Neal Adams, born 15th June 1941, died 28th April 2022
• Neal Adams Almanack (Facebook Group)
Borys Kit notes how Neal influenced multiple generations with his style and co-created such characters as Ra’s al Ghul, the Man-Bat and one of DC’s first Black superheroes, Green Lantern John Stewart
Thomas, who succeeded Stan Lee as Marvel Comics’ editor-in-chief, was one of many showing their appreciation of Adams and shock over his death.
Writer Alex Dueben offers a remembrance of Neal Adams’s impact on comics, and how he lived his life.
A round up of tributes compiled by Joel Meadows
In 2021, Bill Cox hosted a special Live Art Sale with Comic Art Legend Neal Adams. They not only presented new artworks for sale by Neal, but also chatted with him about his impact on original comic art collecting and his storied career in comics
Comic archivist Paul Gravett notes Neal Adams’ formative work on the ‘Ben Casey’ medical soap opera newspaper strip oddly languishes still without a complete book compilation of the Sundays and dailies. Adams offered PDFs of stories to buy on his site here