One of the most influential comic book artists of the 20th century, Neal Adams, died at 80. Along with Mike Grell, Carmine Infantino, and Curt Swan, Adams was one of a handful of artists I could identify without looking at the credits page.
Looking at modern pencilers like Jim Lee, you can see the influence of Adams. When Neal Adams drew a character, he would emphasize certain things. His Joker is an excellent example of exaggeration for effect.
A great joy from my childhood was going through my father’s banker’s boxes and pulling out issues of Batman that featured stories vastly different than what I was seeing as reruns on television. In the 1970s, DC and Marvel used to produce oversized anthology books that, instead of being priced at 15 cents or a quarter, cost an unbelievably expensive one American dollar. I remember a Batman version with a stylized Batman penciled by Neal Adams on the cover. For years, that image was the go-to image of an exciting Batman patrolling Gotham City.
Adams was instrumental in reviving Batman as the “Dark Detective” in the wake of the campy Adam West television series. With writer Denny O’Neill in 1970, he sparked a trend in socially relevant comics with Green Lantern & Green Arrow’s road trip across America. Adams gave many budding artists their start in the business and was a champion of creator’s rights.
It’s making me sad that the artists and creatives that filled my young life are now leaving us. This is, of course, the way life goes. Leaving a legacy as Neal Adams did is the silver lining to this dark cloud. I can always revisit the art and the stories and, for a little while, remember a simpler time.